One complaint that I have received about my Sound Advice columns is the overwhelming discrepancy that exists between the number of women's albums that get featured versus those by men. The reason this occurs, I'm afraid, is that for every CD I get from a male singer, I get six or more from various female artists. A discussion on the possible reason for this would take much more cyber ink than I am prepared to spill right now. However, to help equalize things, I present eleven albums by male Broadway and cabaret artists. Here, in part one, are the first six.
Eschewing the standard musical theater fare that has provided him with a following in England, John Barr has turned, as his aptly titled third CD states, a different corner and has delved into an entirely different songbook of standards. Best known for his work in Les Miserables and Aspects of Love in London, Barr has recorded an album largely devoted to the classic pop songs of the '60s and '70s. Thus, your enjoyment of this album will largely depend on whether or not you like such classic nouvelle standards as Carol King's "You've Got A Friend" and Gordon Mills/Les Reed's "It's Not Unusual." Barr does make the songs his own, however, with understated arrangements that create the effect of hearing the songs for the very first time. Thus, songs like Lennon and McCartney's "The Long And Winding Road" obtain a greater depth of meaning thanks to their newfound simplicity.
Barr possesses a light, engaging lyric baritone that never overstates or oversells and blends very nicely with Alison Jiear on Stevie Wonder's "You And I." My favorite track (which displays my leanings away from traditional pop, I'm afraid) is the haunting "Cry Without A Reason" by Stephen Schwartz and Dean Pitchford.
Two-time MAC and Bistro Award winning cabaret artist Scott Coulter has just released his self-titled solo CD. This was an album I was eager to play as I have enjoyed hearing Scott's soaring tenor in the past both live and on demos. Unfortunately, the album proves to be more than a bit of a disappointment as a great deal of 'gospel meets Star Search' swoopings and slidings have crept into his singing style on this CD. While I realize that this is definitely a matter of personal taste, I find such affectations grating as they serve to distance him (and thus me as a listener) from the lyrics and emotionality of the songs. When Coulter sings up-tempo numbers, like Tim Di Pasqua's excellent "Maybe You Didn't Hear Me" or the powerful "Nobody's Side" from Chess, these affectations vanish and the songs posses a passion, intensity, and most importantly an honesty not present on the ballads. The opening track, a pairing of "Just Around The Riverbend" and "Corner Of The Sky" is severely diminished by the artificiality of the style as is "My Foolish Heart," which is further marred by an unnecessary and uncredited snippet of "The Way He Makes Me Feel." You can judge for yourself at www.lmlmusic.com.
Clay Crosby is best known in San Francisco for his leading roles in 42nd St. Moon's productions of Dearest Enemy, America's Sweetheart, and One Touch Of Venus. In addition, he has traveled the country with his cabaret show Moonburn Songs of the 1930's Movie Crooners , which has been recorded on CD. As the title implies, Moonburn is a collection of songs sung by the great movie crooners of the '30s, whose numbers include Dick Powell, Maurice Chevalier, John Payne, Fred Astaire and of course, Bing Crosby. Clay has a youthful, slight, pleasant voice well suited for the material, which includes familiar standards (Cole Porter's "Easy To Love" and Irving Berlin's "Let's Face The Music And Dance," for example) to some wonderfully obscure finds ("My Ideal" from the film Playboy of Paris and "I Want A New Romance" from the wonderfully titled Love On Toast). The album is simply and effectively arranged for piano (Lem Jay Ignacio) and cello (Ken Hashimoto), which showcase both the songs and Crosby's vocals.
MAC Award winning artist Sammy Goldstein has just released his second album, So Far It's Wonderful [To read an interview with Sammy, visit http://www.talkinbroadway.com/cabaret/sammy.html]. The CD is intriguing because it illustrates Goldstein's strengths as a performer. While he can sing standards as well as any reviewed here, Sammy truly shines on the more obscure, contemporary, oftentimes humorous numbers. His take on "Two For The Road," for example, is pleasant enough, but nothing one hasn't heard numerous times before. However, it is followed by a snippet of patter about growing up in the South, which leads into Andy Razaf's delightful peon to the foods of that region, "That's What I Like About The South," which goes into "Pink Fish" by Alan Menken, a song that hysterically describes an outsider coming into contact with the deli foods of New York. During those seven minutes, Goldstein comes alive and truly shines, displaying the full force of his personality and talents. Other highlights include Dale Gonyea's ode to non-traditional families, "John and Fred," and Mary-Chapin Carpenter's haunting "Only A Dream." For more information on Sammy, visit www.sammygoldstein.com.
Ted Keegan, currently starring in the national tour of The Phantom of the Opera after performing in the Broadway company, has released his first solo CD, Ted Keegan Sings. Keegan possesses a powerful tenor, which far too often bulldozes its way through to the end of a song, thus overwhelming it, as on "I Don't Remember You." When he shows restraint, however, Keegan possess a wonderful emotional connection with what he is singing, as in the touchingly understated "Some Girls" from Once On This Island. Also effective is the pairing of "There's Always One You Can't Forget" and "Kiss Her Now," which teaches a heartrending lesson of lost love and opportunity. Another effective moment is his combining "On The Street Where You Live" and "I See Your Face Before Me" with a somewhat discordant arrangement, giving the songs a feel of instability and madness (Freddy is a stalker, after all). One odd thing about the album is that it almost possesses a theme, since most of the songs are either sung to or about women. This makes the songs that don't fit this concept ("Being Alive" and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat") sound out of place. Once again, head on over to www.lmlmusic.com learn more and hear samples.
If I had to recommend just one CD from this list, it would be Kevin Koelbl's debut album, somewhere in time. His lush baritone voice, coupled with John Boswell's always superb arrangements, make this an irresistibly lush, romantic and ultimately soothing album. You may have seen Koelbl (pronounced 'cable') while visiting Las Vegas as he co-starred in the original cast of MGM's EFX with Michael Crawford, taking over the starring role upon Crawford's departure. The songs encompass Broadway ("You Are My Home" and "In A Very Unusual Way"), film ("Someday," from Disney's Hunchback and the title song), standards from both worlds ("It Could Happen To You," "Time After Time" and "The Way You Look Tonight") and some contemporary cabaret/pop songs (most notably "Rewriting History" by Stephen Schwartz and Steven Lutvak, a highly infectious number). Koelbl shares a lovely duet, "Tonight" by Don Grady and Marty Panzer, with Cari Golden to shimmering effect. My favorite track is the 'why didn't somebody think of this sooner' pairing of songs from two Cinderella's: Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Ten Minutes Ago" and Disney's "So This Is Love," which beautifully augment each other's expression of love found.
In part two, I'll feature five more recordings from male artists: Craig Rubano's Finishing the Act, Craig Schulman's Craig Schulman on Broadway, company of strangers from Parker Scott, Rex Smith's You Take My Breath Away, and a story for another day by Danny Zolli.