The Musicals Album Review

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My devotion to Michael Ball is long-lasting and rather infamous among my friends. “Michael Ball sings it better” is something you hear a lot from me. Michael Ball sings everything better. (Well, almost everything.) Like my favorite operatic tenor, Placido Domingo, he’s a natural baritone with the vocal range of a tenor, which gives his voice a richness and depth that most pure tenors don’t have without sacrificing the ability to hit those high notes. And hold them, and hold them…

Amazingly, he’s had no formal vocal training, but his incredible voice has made him one of the leading musical theater stars of London’s West End since he created the role of Marius in Les Miserables in the mid-80’s. With The Musicals, he gets back to his roots with an enjoyable collection of songs from some of Broadway and the West End’s greatest hits.

Surprisingly, however, the album isn’t as good as it ought to be. There are several strange song choices and arrangements. Several of the songs are written for female characters, and despite switching the pronouns, they don’t quite work for a man. “I Dreamed a Dream” in particular jars me, because no 19th century man is going to have his life ruined by being seduced and abandoned to the extent of Fantine, so complaining about “this hell I’m living” comes off a bit rich. Maybe if I didn’t know her story so well, it wouldn’t bother me so much, but it does. “The Last Night of the World” and “All I Ask of You,” which are duets in Miss Saigon and The Phantom of the Opera, also sound kind of strange as solo songs.

Despite my misgivings about some of the song choices, Ball’s voice is incredible throughout. His rendition of “Anthem” (from Chess) is especially inspiring.

“Let man’s petty nations tear themselves apart/My land’s only borders lie around my heart!”

My rating: (3 / 5), but “Anthem” is  (5 / 5)