I've never been a fan of pop music. Not Top 40, not ballads. That being said, this review should give you an idea the impact of this new CD by Stage and TV star John Barrowman's newest offering, 'Another Side', had on my listening habits lately.
When you work in the music industry, you develop a certain attitude regarding the more mainstream pop music, and it's usually not a good one. Usually pop music is considered a commodity... I admit I'm jaded in my preferences and it's immensely difficult to get an emotional reaction out of me that this CD did. I'm new to the whole John Barrowman experience, more from a TV standpoint with his appearances in 'Doctor Who' and 'Torchwood', and a smattering of soundtrack titles,(Producers, etc) so I'll start with a light review on the titles that I liked and then detail which ones I think are the true gems of this collection.
The majority of the tunes, 'Time after Time, Every little thing she does is magic, If you leave me now", are all done well, but the following tracks really stood out for me.
Knowing that John picked these titles himself because of their meaning to certain events and times in his life gives you an idea of his listening preferences, and judging from his age, and where he grew up (Scotland to US), in the Midwest, I'm sure his poor adolescent ears were inundated with the likes of Air Supply (All out of Love) and Barry Manilow (Weekend in New England) among other Top Pop hits. Normally I'd give all of these titles a miss, even from their originators, but there's a difference to these that I'll reveal.
John is a natural professional. His timing, his phrasing, range, and his delivery are superb. He makes these tracks sound so effortlessly done, that you wonder why everyone isn't making records. I'd listen to any of these titles performed by him, before I'd submit to the original singers' versions, and knowing some of the stories behind the tracks is even better. For example, John asking permission from Carly Simon to perform "You're so Vain" over the phone and listening to her sing it herself, and melting into the floorboards with joy. Little bits like this is what make the CD very special.
What CD that John does would be complete without a Barry Manilow tune, "Weekend in New England" and quite frankly, I'd never really liked this song, but he performs it with such emotion and finesse, that I prefer it over the original version. See a trend happening here?
Also, all the pop tunes aside, I have to give him kudos for changing gears, and perform (with an amazing arrangement) of legendary singer Anthony Newley's "Feeling Good" from the play, "Roar of the Greasepaint, Smell of the Crowd".
I was worried that the Ballad-heavy CD might make him sound too much like the usual Middle-America white-bread singer, and wondered, "Does this boy have any Soul?" He gives Newley credit for his interpretation and proves that that he DOES indeed have soul.. He moans, growls and belts out this sultry and smoldering version of this Broadway classic, and it made me want to hear him do an entire CD of "Porgy and Bess" just to show he could indeed rip one into the stratosphere. And the little mischievous chuckle at the end didn't hurt either.
Last and certainly not least, is Rodney Crowell's country classic, "Please Remember Me"..which at first listen, had me blubbering like a five-year-old as I drove down the interstate, a heartbreaking version that Rodney should be more than proud of. I'm not a country music fan either (my tastes lean towards more esoteric offerings) but it actually made me look up Rodney's music repertoire, to see what other incredible songs he'd written. And that is the mark of a true musician, to inspire others.
So in parting, I'll have to say I was deeply touched by several of the songs on the list, some more than others, because of the delivery, emotion and overall immaculate performance, and just to let you know, it's been a very long time since ANY song I'd listened to made the waterworks flow, and for that, John Barrowman, I take my hat off to you, this music snob has been converted.
formerly with :
MCA Records, Scotti Bros-Records/Relativity-Sony Records,Sounds Karma Rec.