“Nothing’s simple at all”
Acoustic Overtures is the debut album from writer/composer Dougal Irvine, one of the group of up-and-coming musical theatre composers with address books full of West End stars that we’re blessed with at the moment, featuring a selection of his songs recorded by a bunch of familiar faces. Irvine’s show Departure Lounge played at the Waterloo East theatre last year, but this CD wisely steers clear thereof (the soundtrack for that show has already been released anyway) and focuses on new material, including new shows which have been developed through the Perfect Pitch development scheme.
Irvine came to musical theatre from a rather circuitous route and resultantly comes across as a breath of fresh air, Departure Lounge was accompanied by just two guitars but it doesn’t feel at all like a gimmick but the organic development of this sound. These songs have been more fully orchestrated but there’s still a raw freshness to the voice coming through in most of the songs. I have to say I was a little disappointed with the way the album opens with two jaunty cabaret-type numbers, it’s not that they are bad but rather they don’t feel representative of the musical theatre compositions that make up the bulk of the recording. Ashleigh Gray’s ‘Two Faces’ and Daniel Boys and Cassie McIvor come together well on ‘Silence in the Rain’.
The album builds to a much stronger second half though. ‘Tir Na N’Og’, a characterful duet with Irvine, reinforces how beautiful and interesting a singer Samantha Barks is, especially when singing modern material: the announcement of her joining the Oliver! touring cast though means we will have to wait a while before that becomes a reality on stage. Michael Jibson’s restrained vocal makes ‘Simple’ devastatingly effective and Julie Atherton brings her inimitable comic style to ‘We’re Having A Baby, Baby’ which is a pretty much insane song, but she pulls it off.
But it is the final two tracks that suggest the depth of Irvine’s songwriting talent that will hopefully translate into musical theatre success. ‘Mermaids’ is a delicately entrancing duet, the gorgeous voices of Annalene Beechey and Rebecca Lock intertwining intricately. And ‘We Need Love’ is a rousing four-part number that will bring the curtain down on the show In Touch in great style with its combination of heartfelt emotion and soaring vocal lines, realised perfectly by Sarah Earnshaw, Sarah Lark, Stuart Matthew Price and George Ure. With both these numbers, Irvine demonstrates how well he can capture moments of striking theatre through song, particularly with multi-voice songs, and doing it in a genuinely original way: Acoustic Overtures thus gets a top recommendation from me.