“We will hear the song no-one’s ever heard”
Fans of Julian Ovenden have had rather a good year of it: he’s about to star in the musical version of Finding Neverland in Leicester (I’m there in a couple of weeks), he’s popped up in concerts such as this one, and twice at the Proms (I’ve still got it on my iPlayer so may get round to seeing it soon), oh and he’s released an album called If You Stay. It’s a collection of largely 1960s songs and if one has to categorise it, it’s probably easy listening, but easy listening with a lot more orchestral bombast than might be expected.
Right from the outset as stirring strings announce an arrangement of ‘It Hurts To Say Goodbye’ that turns it into a Bond theme, complete with powerful vocals that glide effortlessly like smooth toffee. It’s clearly a favoured method as other songs are equally 007ed, ‘In A Broken Dream’ responding particularly well. Chirpy summeriness abounds on tracks like ‘Up, Up and Away’ and ‘You’ve Made Me So Very Happy’, ‘I’m Not Coming Home’ has a swinging confidence that I love and John Barry’s ‘Just To See Each Other Again’ is given a lovely treatment here, making much of the album a pleasant listen.
As the overall mentality behind the collection does seem to be a bit people-pleasing, the song choices don’t always get it right. ‘The Last Waltz’ is as unforgivably cheesy as might be expected, and the rendition of ‘If You Go Away’ doesn’t respond to Ovenden’s vocal here, altogether too flawless where some colouring and fragility would have been better placed. Pleasingly, this delicacy does appear in places, like on Randy Newman’s gorgeous ‘When She Loved Me’.
Though the abiding feeling at the end of listening to If You Stay might be a little overwhelming for some, for me it is like the satisfaction of eating a large piece of chocolate fudge cake. Not something to do too often or too repeatedly and some might name it a guilty pleasure, but there’s nothing guilty about enjoying this CD.