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Merrily We Roll Along

Alfie Boe, Glen Hansard, Ramin Karimloo and More June Tunes

Reports on 12 new CDs, including Matt Doyle's Constant, Queen of the Mist, and John Pizzarelli's Double Exposure.

By New York City
Alfie Boe - Alfie (Decca)
The Tony Award-winning singer, magnificently backed by The Orchestra of the Scottish Opera, lends his glorious tenor to a host of Broadway standards on this disc, which is superlatively satisfying from its first track, Stephen Sondheim's "Being Alive" (from Company) through to its last, a delicately rendered version of "Bring Him Home" (from Les Miserables). The album includes another tune from this show, "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" (a terrific duet with Broadway's Nick Jonas), as well as a marvelously phrased "Wheels of a Dream" (from Ragtime) among its many gems.

Brave (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (Disney)
Composer Patrick Doyle provides a plethora of highlands-infused melodies for this soundtrack recording for the new Pixar film about a princess who takes things matrimonial into her own hands. Alongside Doyle's scoring are a quintet of songs, including one by Mumford & Sons, a pair from Alex Mandel, one of which is written in collaboration with Mark Andrews, and two (that most decidedly capture the imagination) from Doyle, particularly the Gaelic lament "Noble Maiden Fair (A Mhaighdean Bhan Uasal)," which stage and screen star Emma Thompson, along with Peirgi Barker, movingly delivers.

Matt Doyle - Constant (MattDoyleWeb.com)
With this second EP, Doyle once against demonstrates his talents as a songwriter (with Will Van Dyke) and performer, lending his soulful voice to a sextet of folk-infused ballads, twangy country tunes, and even a gospel-infused number. Among the standouts here are "Can't Have You," a tune where the simple, colloquial lyrics convey a surprisingly intense passion, and "Walls," which pulses with an old-time rock 'n' roll feel.

John Pizzarelli - Double Exposure (Telarc)
Pizzarelli takes a swell array of modern tunes and gives them a terrific jazz twist on this thoroughly delightful album. His easygoing delivery of the lyrics and his superb guitar playing combine to blithesome effect on such songs as Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" and Donald Fagen's "Walk Between the Raindrops," while medleys of James Taylor's "Traffic Jam" and Joe Henderson's "The Kicker" (which also features Pizzarelli's wife, Jessica Molaskey) and Tom Waits' "Drunk on the Moon" and Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" are both impeccably conceived and delivered.

Ramin Karimloo - Human Heart (Sony Masterworks)
Karimloo's debut solo album demonstrates why he's become the performer producers have turned to for leading roles in the West End. He boasts a stunning baritone that's not only filled with power, but also incredible warmth, which is showcased with a rendition of "Music of the Night" (from The Phantom of the Opera), that bursts with tenderness, and the stirring new Duncan Sheik/Steven Sater song that gives the disc its title. Rounding out the selections are ones by Matthew Bellamy, Jay Clifford and Bryan Adams, as well as a quartet of original songs that Karimloo has co-written.

Mark Evans - Journey Home (Sain)
This silver-throated star of the West End production of Ghost the Musical delivers solidly with this debut solo album. It should come as no surprise that "Unchained Melody," which is used in the course of the musical, is included on the recording and sounds lovely as a duet with his co-star Siobhan Dillon. Other standouts on the album are a knock-out rendition of Jason Robert Brown's "Brand New You," and Michael Bruce's "Alive," sung as a duet with Ashleigh Gray. Also of note (on the deluxe edition of the disc) are the two tracks that Evans delivers in Welsh.

Lift: The Original Concept Album (Perfect Pitch Musicals, Ltd.)
It's little wonder that West End stars like Julie Atherton, Louise Dearman and Michael Xavier have come on board for this recording of a uniquely conceived tuner about a group of eight people whose inner lives are explored as they take a one-minute elevator ride. Craig Adams and Ian Watson's song/monologues throb with an edgy, urban pop beat, and while the lyrics in their free-association can sometimes strain, they also have the ability to expose wellsprings of emotion and even spark with a few insights.

Live (CD Baby)
The recent Birdland concert celebrating the work of composer Scott Alan featuring a staggeringly talented array of performers from both sides of the Atlantic can be heard on this must-have two-disc set. Among the standouts on the 25-track, two-disc set are Louise Dearman and Julia Murney's haunting delivery of "And There It Is/Magic," Richard Fleeshman's sterling acoustic rendition of "The Distance You Have Come," Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway's soaring delivery of "Home," and Christopher Jackson's strikingly fervent interpretation of "Until Then." Bonus material includes a studio track of the gentle folk ballad "Take Me Away," featuring Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser.

Queen of the Mist (Original Cast Recording) (Ghostlight Records)
Michael John LaChiusa's astonishing musical about Annie Edson Taylor -- the first person to go over Niagara Fall and live -- and Mary Testa's tour-de-force portrayal are both remarkably preserved on this exceptional cast recording. His music, simultaneously contemporary and old-world (and orchestrated to perfection by Michael Starobin), teases the ear. Testa navigates the melodies and smile-inducing lyrics with panache, even as she reveals the vulnerable side to this seemingly indomitable woman. Fine performances abound in the often multiply-cast ensemble, particularly from Andrew Samonsky, Theresa McCarthy, and Julia Murney.

Glen Hansard - Rhythm And Repose (ANTI)
Hansard, who won the Academy Award for the song "Falling Slowly" -- which can now be heard nightly on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning musical Once -- offers up a lovely mix of quietly contemplative songs on his newest CD. The tone of the disc is something of a risky departure for the singer/songwriter, who has previously delivered his material with more vocal firepower. Fortunately, his artistic daring pays off and the result is a lushly melodic and deeply emotional set of tunes that listeners will want to return to repeatedly.

Justin Vivian Bond - Silver Wells (WhimsyMusic)
Bond covers a baker's dozen of tunes from the likes of Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush, as well as includes one of the performer's own on this album, which beautifully showcases the chameleon vocalist's ability to gracefully and pungently interpret both lyric and melody. With the Brecht/Weill classic, "Alabama Song," Bond's lower register comes to the fore, and combined with Thomas Bartlett's driving piano and drum accompaniment, the familiar number becomes discomfitingly ominous. Elsewhere, Bond's smoky vocals take on a more playful tone, particularly with Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat," where the singer and Bartlett create a fascinating aural noir.

Three Little Pigs (SimG Records)
Songwriters George Stiles and Anthony Drewe have consistently allowed adult musical theater lovers to revel in stories normally reserved for the younger set, and this new tuner, awash with catchy tunes and clever rhymes, is no exception. The album is made all the more delectable by Clive Rowe's vocals for The Big Bad Wolf's R&B-infused tunes, Alison Jiear's powerhouse delivery of the songs for the pigs' mom, and Gareth Gates' superbly smooth delivery of the pop tunes for the brightest of the bovines.


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