Album Review: Scott Alan – What I Wanna Be When I Grow Up

“Not quite ready to grieve”

I looked at Scott Alan’s live album last week and this week it is the turn of 2010’s What I Wanna Be When I Grow Up. His third album, it follows the similar path of collating songs around a common theme but still showcasing a wide range of musical influences from Alan, and showing off the extent of his address book in calling in some of Broadway’s brightest lights to help him out. It’s a nice collection but one which never really kicks fully into gear for me. 

The relaxed radio-friendly emotion of Laura Osnes’ ‘Easy’ and ‘Warm’ by Zak Resnick & Morgan James and the chirpy, almost girl-group pop of Nikki Renee Daniels’ ‘Love, Love, Love’ show Alan’s undoubted skill with a well-honed melody and capturing contemporary pop sensibilities. His favoured style of writing is clearly stonking empowerment anthems of which there are plenty here – ‘Watch Me Soar’ by Willemijn Verkaik and ‘I Wish’ by Diana DeGarmo probably rank as the two strongest. Continue reading “Album Review: Scott Alan – What I Wanna Be When I Grow Up”

Album Review: Scott Alan Live

“And there it is…”

For a composer who hasn’t had a major show on over here, Scott Alan inspires an amazing amount of evangelical joy from his fans. This has come from a series of albums and concerts in which his songwriting has been showcased by a wide-ranging collection of Broadway and West End stars, culminating in a rapturously received residency at the St James Theatre a couple of months ago. I like his work, having previously reviewed a couple of his albums, but I haven’t been as ecstatic as some about it so I thought I’d go back to the ones I hadn’t listened to. 

His double album Live offers reworkings of many of his songs and mixes things up further by retaining many of his frequent collaborators but letting them loose on different songs, even switching up genders on some of them. It’s a great move – Natalie Weiss smashes the joyful ‘I’m A Star’, Laura Osnes wraps her delicate voice beautifully around ‘Now’ and Jeremy Jordan is charming as ever on ‘Please Don’t Let Me Go’ and that’s all in the opening five songs. The slightly indulgent length of the album means we don’t always maintain such intense quality over both discs plus bonus tracks.

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Album Review: John Owen-Jones – Rise

“Raise your hopeful voice”

There should be a study into the tragic condition that afflicts so many musical theatre performers when a camera comes into view – the outstretched hand has struck down as talented a star as Imelda Staunton and John Owen-Jones has been similarly affected as evidenced by the cover of his new CD Rise. The tracklisting of this album, his third, does show some signs of trying to break free from this #stagey curse though, and with some surprising results.

None more so than the opening track, a rendition of the Eurovision Song Contest-winning song ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’ (does the small print specify that this song has to be sung with a beard?!) that somehow manages to bring more drama than Conchita Wurst and go all out on the Bond theme theatrics, whilst still bringing so much feeling to the lyrics. The interesting arrangement is echoed later on in an inspired take on ‘Motherless Children’ which unexpectedly reinvigorates this spiritual. Continue reading “Album Review: John Owen-Jones – Rise”

Album Review: Scott Alan – Anything Worth Holding On To

“When you feel like you just slept through all the best years of your life”

This 8 track EP may seem like slim pickings at first glance – a handful of these songs appeared on Scott Alan’s last album What I Wanna Be When I Grow Up and one is an instrumental of a song already on there. But further examination shows us what is actually happening here, this is the first time that Alan has released a collection that features only himself, rather than the multi-talented cast that he is able to call on to sing his ever-growing songbook. And for that instrumental, the aching tunefulness of the title track of Anything Worth Holding On To makes it more than worthy of the focus.

The focus here is intimately personal. The collection of songs traces the writer’s struggles with depression and faces up honestly to the difficulties of being a composer of new musical theatre in a world that too easily defers to the familiar. The solo voice of Alan thus serves a dual purpose – it simplifies matters, and costs, for a new record, but it also provides a stunning connection with the material that hasn’t always been present before, a real sense that these are genuine emotions lying behind the work, lived in in the most intimate of ways.  Continue reading “Album Review: Scott Alan – Anything Worth Holding On To”

Album Review: Keys – The Music of Scott Alan

“You can hear the birds migrating
Through the sky lit autumn dawn”

Keys – The Music of Scott Alan is the second album of this American composer’s work, the first Dreaming Wide Awake becoming a fast favourite and so I was quite keen to start working my way through his other CDs. This album, which was produced by composer Alan, features orchestrations and arrangements penned by James Abbott, Barbara Anselmi, Sam Davis, Tom Kitt and Jesse Vargas which are heavy on piano and strings which instantly scores brownie points for me as it makes the album sound so much classier from the off and suggests that a timelessness that can never be achieved with an overly synthesised approach.
 
The calibre of performer Alan can attract is really quite seriously impressive especially considering there’s no real hit show to his name yet, but this is just testament to the quality of the song-writing. One assumes these songs are being written for shows but I suspect part of the reason for his appeal is that they stand alone so very well and so make ideal inclusions for cabarets. Whether it is veterans like Norm Lewis, purring silkily through ‘How Did I End Up Here’ and Sutton Foster’s gorgeously restrained ‘Always’, or the comparative young guns of Caissie Levy with her driving ballad ‘Please Don’t Let Me Go’ and Hadley Fraser’s impassioned ‘Again’, there’s a great sense of natural ease about this recording.

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