Sound Advice by Joseph Molnar
Three From Down Under

This week's CDs are by three of Australia's leading cabaret stars. First up is Judi Connelli, a name, that I am sure is very unfamiliar to anyone outside of Australia. Judi made her American debut 2 years ago at the Cabaret Convention in NYC where she blew everyone away with her powerhouse voice. Shortly after that she returned home only to meet with a near-fatal car accident. But, before she left NYC she had started to make plans to have a career here in the states. Having since fully recovered, she is making good on that promise and to kick it off, she just released her first CD here.

On My Way to You is quite possibly the cabaret CD of the year. Ever since I first purchased this CD, I have been unable to play anything else. This is an eclectic set of mostly showtunes and standards with a few pop tunes thrown in for good measure. Judi possesses a rich, robust alto voice that wraps itself around each of these songs and takes control until it has rung every last bit of emotion out of it. While she has a big booming voice, she knows when to hold back when necessary. She starts the set off with a touching rendition of "A Piece of Sky" from Yentl. She seems to favor Michel Legrand because she also covers his "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?," "On My Way to You" and "Ordinary Miracles." She also favors Sondheim, her "Moving On" is one of the best I have heard since Bernadette Peters. "Stay With Me" is done in counterpoint to the melody of "No One is Alone" and is quite beautiful as well. But the highlight of the CD has to be "With One Look." She was up for the role of Norma Desmond in her homeland of Australia. Why she didn't get the part in the first place, I couldn't tell you. Her's is quite possibly the second best version of this song of any of the recorded Normas, Betty Buckley's being the best. In fact, Judi's voice is quite reminiscent of Betty's in that she can belt it out to the balcony without the use of a mic. But this is not a perfect CD. There are some sound problems, as when Judi sings in almost a whisper, you have to pump up the volume. But, when she lets loose, you must lower it. It is only Judi and a piano, but it sounds as if it were recorded in a concert hall with a bit of echo.

This is a CD not to be missed by any musical theater or cabaret fan. Judi has just begun to make her mark here. She will no doubt take the NY cabaret scene by storm. Hopefully, one day we will be able to see her in her Broadway debut.

Taking the Wheel is David Campbell's second CD for Polydor Records. This CD is similar to his first except there is more of a pop-rock sound to some of the songs and that might upset some of his fans who first fell in love with his sensitive interpretations of new and old standards. Mr. Campbell possesses a nice light tenor that glides easily across most of the tunes he has chosen. On his first CD he exhibited a knack for choosing tunes that had great melodies; on this, his second CD, he has done the same except I could have done without "I Honestly Love You", which is much too sappy for me. I think the highlight of the CD is his thrilling version of "Storybook" from the upcoming Broadway show, The Scarlet Pimpernel. The lyrics are a little too female oriented, but he does a great job and it has a great arrangement. "Old Devil Moon", "I Got Rhythm" and "It Will Always Be You" are also worth the price of the CD. I don't buy his gospel version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" which comes complete with a gospel choir I could have done without it. They almost sound better than he does. I also am a bit confused by his medley of "The Nearness of You" and "Not a Day Goes By." I think it's just that "Not a Day Goes By" is a bit too modern sounding to go with the former, at least, for me.

Overall though, not a bad sophomore CD. This young man has a bright future ahead of him and this is just one stop along the way. I look forward to many good things coming from him and I think he will live up to it. Next up, for him, is the role of Marius in a new Australian production of Les Miserables; let's just hope they decide to do a recording for his fans back here.

Julie Anthony has a warm and inviting soprano voice. Live at the Tilbury is a live concert recorded last year at the Tilbury in her native Australia. This concert is a career retrospective that covers her 25 years in show biz. She covers everything from the first song that she fell in love with, "Cathy's Clown" by the Everly Brothers to the present. Along the way she tells us of her first experience on stage, filling in for a missing singer, and winning two talent contests before she became a star. She also covers the few musical theater roles she has done, such as the title role in Irene and Maria in The Sound of Music. In between she tells us of the different experiences she has had in her career. Earlier in her career she used to do some amusing impersonations of Cyndi Lauper, Better Midler and Dolly Parton which she recreates here. Tying it all together is "Putting it Together" with new lyrics written just for this concert. Her friendly chatter in between makes you feel as if you are reminiscing with an old friend. She seems very unhindered by the celebrity status she has achieved.

All three of these CD's are available from Lisa Dawn Popa at Cabaret Connection, just call 1-888-666-3482 and she will ship anywhere in the world.

Join me in two weeks when I will be taking a look at recordings by two former Norma's. Until then, happy listening.

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