“Open your eyes, I got a surprise!”
It was fascinating to revisit Memphis, a show that I enjoyed on seeing but in all honesty, isn’t one I’ve given much thought to since it left the West End after just over a year at the Shaftesbury Theatre (I went back once). I remarked then that David Bryan’s score was “highly tuneful if not instantly catchy” so was surprised that a fair few of the songs had managed to work their way into my subconscious and so provided that ‘ping’ of recognition which is always nice.
It was also interesting to listen to the songs in isolation from the show, as more of them than I remembered felt somewhat disconnected from the narrative, just happy in their sprightly pop song-ness. And thanks to the quality of the cast assembled here – leads Beverley Knight and Killian Donnelly, supported by the likes of Jason Pennycooke, Tyrone Huntley and Rolan Bell plus Claire Machin, it is a consistently enjoyable record to listen to.
Whether it is Knight busting her soul chops on ‘Ain’t Nothing’ But A Kiss’ or nailing the righteous anger of ‘Coloured Woman’, Donnelly running the gamut of emotion from the fun of ‘Music of my Soul’ to the scorching ‘Memphis Lives In Me’ (I’d forgotten just how good that track is), or Huntley raising the roof and bringing the curtain down in Act 1 with ‘Say A Prayer’, the music of Memphis is bright and bold and sounds like a charm under Tim Sutton’s musical direction.
Pennycooke probably wins the honours for the personality that shines through his ‘Big Love’ but all in all, this is a strong album which still sounds fresh and, dare I say it, makes me wish I could see the show again. A genuine surprise!