Album Review: Out Of Context: The Songs Of Michael Patrick Walker (2011)


“One night is sometimes all it takes”

Michael Patrick Walker is probably best known as the co-composer of Altar Boyz, a big off-Broadway hit, and though his 2011 album Out Of Context: The Songs Of Michael Patrick Walker contains a new version of one of the songs from that show, it contains much more besides, a collection of songs written for musicals in development, with other cut and stand-alone material, sung by the requisite company of Broadway colleagues doing their stuff.

On this evidence, Walker fits fairly neatly into the school of new musical theatre writing spearheaded by the likes of Jason Robert Brown – not in a particularly derivative way but rather in its fresh modernity and lyrical sparkiness. And as ever with these collections, the range of interpretations from singers both familiar and new to me brings a pleasing diversity to the collection which has been orchestrated and arranged by Walker in a real labour of love.

I’m not sure many things Kelli O’Hara sings sound rubbish but ‘Moonflower’ here is delicately beautiful, Lisa Howard’s ‘Irene’ is properly soul-stirring, ‘Someday’ is a witty take on a 5’3 teenager venting about his school bully given real character by Noah Galvin, and the elegant strings of Telly Leung and Michael Arden’s ‘Different Kind Of Man’ evokes a beautiful emotional maturity. I also enjoyed Andy Karl’s rock-ish ‘Never Added Up’, having recently been impressed by him in Groundhog Day. 

And wrapping up the album is Cheyenne Jackson’s gently lovely take on Altar Boyz’s ’I Believe’, locating a real soulful heart at a song that might too easily be dismissed as a boyband pastiche. It’s a bold move from a composer determined not to be pigeon-holed and this album suggests that there could well be more of interest to come from Walker.

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