John Barrowman’s new album captures him on peak form. His strong vocal technique, intelligent choice of songs, sympathetically arranged, guarantees that this new album is going to be a hit.
The breezy opener When I Get My Name in Lights comes from The Boy from Oz, Australia’s first musical to hit Broadway. It featured a Tony Award-winning performance from actor Hugh Jackman in the role of singer-songwriter Peter Allen, a part that would seem tailor-made for the magnetic Barrowman.
One Night Only offers a showcase for this singer’s enviable ability to sustain a long note, float the voice into falsetto and empathise with the narrative of a song. When the tempo picks up, he’s joined by an all-girl backing group paying homage to the song’s source in Dreamgirls, the film based on the career of The Supremes. Copacabana comes up fresh as daisy through Barrowman’s sassy vocal, with piano and brass breaks emphasising the flashy nightclub setting. Thoughtful love song Unusual Way, from Nine, is marked by loving attention to detail, sustained by a seamless vocal line and an arrangement where one feels singer and orchestra are breathing as one. The warm string chart recalls the glory days of arranger Gordon Jenkins’ collaborations with Nat King Cole.
Barrowman’s simple treatment of two unsophisticated songs, My Eyes Adored You and Don’t Cry Out Loud, fall easily on the ear, though he can’t rescue The Kid Inside (from the show Is There Life After High School?, which ran for just 14 performances on Broadway back in 1982). Jodie Prenger duets with Barrowman on So Close, a song from the Disney film Enchanted, though without making any lasting impression.
It’s in the very familiar repertoire that Barrowman works wonders. Singer and orchestra relish the second build up of You’ll Never Walk Alone, but the initial presentation of the refrain is simply beautifully sung and the ending shaded off exquisitely, as it’s written in the vocal score of Carousel. I Won’t Send Roses is another touching interpretation, with a well-paced climax and a dream of a long soft note held at the end. Memory sweeps along with marvellous phrasing, an intelligent reading of the words and an arrangement that adds colour to his fresh interpretation.
All through this collection we are aware of singer and arranger-conductor Matt Brind working as a team. They are to be congratulated for their work.