“I’m not a man who finds gestures of affection the natural thing to do”
Over the past decade or so, writer and lyricist Robert Gould has worked with a wide range of composers from across the globe and amassed quite the contact list of performer friends, so the progression to recording a collection of his songs feels like a natural one. Words Shared With Friends thus takes in collaborations from the USA to Sweden and Israel, with excerpts from eight different shows and some stand-along songs, and features a roll-call of exciting musical theatre talent including the likes of Laura Pitt-Pulford, Kit Orton, Joe Sterling and Rebecca Trehearn.
The 16 numbers range from impassioned musical theatre to straight up pop-rock songs and through the diversity, it is the British composers who shine most. Sarah Galbraith and Kit Orton duet gorgeously on ‘I Cannot Lose You’, a newly written song from Orton’s own My Land’s Shore; Joe Sterling breezes through the effortlessly perfect pop of ’Reasons’ from the self-penned Roundabout; and Ben Stott captures the bruised fragility of Ben Messenger’s ‘Here It Comes Again’, a ruefully beautiful ballad of self-reflection and resignation.
The Americans are well represented too. The breathless romance of Ty Kroll’s ‘The Rainbow Room’ is expertly conveyed by Sarah Galbraith and Dean Heller’s ‘Where Did The Summer Go?’ is gorgeously rendered by Rebecca Trehearn, probably the standout performer on the whole disc with her two exquisite contributions (Christopher J Orton’s ‘Perfect’ being the other). Not everything works quite so well though – Jordan Lee Davies indulges himself a little too much on the opening ‘If I Close My Eyes’, his performance serving his vocal capabilities rather than the material and lyrically, ‘The Blanket of my Love’ never quite recovers from its title despite Pitt-Pulford’s best efforts with duet partner and composer Jonathan Eiø.
But these are just little niggles in what an accomplished collection and one of the best musical theatre albums of the year so far. In contrast to the singularity of a composer’s vision, it is the collaborative spirit on display here that really shines through. tied together by the silver threads from Gould’s lyrical pen. Whether composers or performers, the breadth of talent showcased here can’t help but put a smile on one’s face and raise hopes for a rich future for new musical theatre writing.