Monday, 12 August 2013

West End Frame - Album Review

The Reason
Rachel Tucker
Big Hand Recordings

Albums made by musical theatre stars run risk of sounding unimaginative when filled with predictable covers. Rachel Tucker's debut solo album, The Reason, may be an album of covers but Rachel has chosen every single song for a reason and (along with the help of her team) has made each song her own. Most importantly the album features a good mix of pop songs, songs Rachel grew up performing as well as musical theatre numbers.

The first song 'Small Bump', written by Ed Sheeran, begins the personal journey of Rachel's album. The star recently celebrated the birth of her first child making the song extremely personal. The steady instrumentation complements Rachel's smooth tone perfectly. The melody is gentle yet catchy, and while Rachel is known for her powerful belt, it is wonderful to hear the softer side of her voice which comes across just as effortless.

The album's title track, 'The Reason,' is the first big number on the album. There is no word which can accurately describe Rachel's belt, she really lets go on the track and showcases a few of her famous growls and riffs. The song's gentle ending leads nicely into 'I'll Cover You'. I dread to think how many people have sung this song, but Rachel sings it like it was written for her. The version is a little different, RENT fans will love the special arrangement. Rachel gently glides through her higher register throughout the song which sounds so pure and enchanting. The next song is a total contrast, I would never associate Rachel with Paloma Faith's 'Stone Cold Sober' but Rachel tackles the song fearlessly. Some may say the song feels a little out of place but it's great to hear Rachel's fun side.

The next track on the album is Queen's 'No-One But You', a song which Rachel performed during her time playing Meat in the West End production of We Will Rock You. Rachel's version is a little different from the version theatre fans have grown to know and love. I have to admit that after listening to the track for the first time I wasn't convinced. However, after a few listens the song is growing on me and I would much rather get used to a new version of the song than to just hear another boring cover! Small changes have been made to the melody and the orchestrations almost sound hypnotic.

Rachel begins her version of 'One Night Only' from Dreamgirls by gently teasing fans with a few smooth riffs sung in her lower register. She always manages to get the meaning of a song across without 'overacting', each song is clearly sung from deep within.

Next Rachel takes on Evanescence's 'My Immortal'. Although I love it when Rachel lets go, I think I prefer the first half of the song where Rachel's tone sounds so rich. She captures the song's emotion beautifully, if you close your eyes you can easily imagine being in an emotional music video. Rachel pours her heart out in the second part of the song which suits her range perfectly. 'Gone Too Soon' is the track I was waiting for, Rachel's rendition almost sounds like a lullabye and is absolutely stunning.

I know a lot of people will skip straight to track nine after buying the album to hear Rachel's version of Defying Gravity. Rachel's version of the musical number is the perfect celebration of her two and a half years playing Elphaba in Wicked. There are countless versions of Defying Gravity - as well as the original Wicked soundtrack version there is Idina Menzel's catchy pop version, Kerry Ellis' face-meltingly-brilliant rock version, Louise Dearman's beautiful acoustic version and Kimberley Walsh's emotionless bad version. However, Rachel's version is the only one which still sounds just as powerful out of context. It works as a standalone song, without losing the original meaning.

Rachel's version of 'Defying Gravity' is also the only version which makes me feel the same way I feel after seeing it performed live. Rachel includes all of her famous riffs and growls during the song's spectacular climax which is guaranteed to leave you speechless for several minutes. The version is also a little different, the key change on the final "kiss me goodbye" works perfectly. Rachel is joined by her father for the final track, 'Jolson and Judy Medley'. Rachel's voice blends beautifully with her father's and the medley creates a joyful, heartwarming ending to this phenomenal album.

You don't have to be a musical theatre fan to love The Reason. If you want to be taken on a personal journey by an unbelievably talented female vocalist, then this album is an absolute 'must-have'. I dread to think about how many times I have already listened to The Reason which is sure to remain in the 'most played' playlist on my iTunes for many years to come.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

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