This performer is a remarkable bloke. Stand-up comedian, serious actor, comedy actor, top-drawer gameshow host, singer and easily one of the best pantomime leads I have ever laughed at from the carpet next to my seat! Our far-flung readers might wonder how Walsh still manages to be likeable and very much down-to-earth, but somehow he does. I think TV producers like him as he won’t dry on a live show or a taping – though you can find on YouTube some great examples of him cracking up which I defy you not to laugh at.
So Bradley goes into the studio to record songs and what is his aim? It appears that the material comprises songs Walsh likes and presumably feels he can do justice to. It can be dangerous ground. I know from performing that if you attempt a number you really love it can be far too tempting to just reproduce the edition you are enamoured with – far better to go for songs you can do something with (hence you stop listening to any recording of it by others pretty early on, is my advice). Production here is by Steve Sidwell and all the players are names and noted, one nice touch is that the occasional instrumental solo’s are credited. Okay, on to the content:
Almost Like Being In Love is of course the Lerner Lowe tune and you’d be going some to cock this up, in this company. Walsh rides a traditional big band arrangement and gets through in one piece ; That’s Life has a soothing Hammond and a backing chorale that I found a touch prominent, already the record is sounding like a hi-fi trip to the Fifties. One thing you cannot doubt is Bradley’s love of this style of song – in the notes he lets slip a high regard for Tony Bennett, one of this site’s beacons.
Our Love Is Here To Stay is burned in my head due to a captivating version on The Johnny Carson Show by Carson and his guest, Sarah Vaughan I think – it is surely one of the sweetest melodies ever composed. This version of the Gershwin brothers ballroom sounds makes for one of the best cuts here, Walsh puts a bit of his own style into the phrasing and the key is perfect for his voice ; Fly Me To The Moon has a string-soaked intro and is taken at a slower pace than usual in this strand. It would have been a mistake to replicate Francis, here. I really don’t like the competent but corny backing vocals but the strings counterpoint is really beautiful. Mr Bojangles is a kind of folk song adopted by cabaret performers and the skipping tempo here suits the delivery which is almost conspiratorial and certainly a highpoint on this set.
For Once In My Life belongs to Stevie Wonder and Walsh doesn’t sound that fired, to be frank; Amapola is a less familiar number and the shimmering strings sound good over the quasi-bossa tempo. Excellent and measured singing that reminds me of Dean Martin. Steppin’ Out is not the Mayall/Clapton guitar blaze but the Armatrading composition it says here (?) and Walsh takes an alley cat strut approach which is a tad stagey but shows off the A1 brass and horns. The guitar could have been much more prominent here. How Do You Keep The Music Playing? has an attractive piano start and the melody is put over well with no histrionics. The very familiar What Kind Of Fool sound so Fifties you expect Kenneth More to drive past in a Morris Traveller, Bradley takes this a bit too seriously; Night & Day again has the brass outfront, the tune is too familiar to have much impact here but again it’s tuneful. Then we get Chaplin’s Smile, an eternally lovely song. Walsh plays it straight and pulls it off. By the time of closer and title cut Chasing Dreams with his own lyrics the album style is ingrained and there are no surprises in the original composition. Surely this should have been lead track.
Easily a contender for one of our country’s best and most engaging all-rounders, Bradley Walsh has made a Fifties-style record of mostly over-familiar tunes but his love of the songs and delight in singing them enlivens the project. Somebody get him into a studio next time with some less familiar James Taylor, Marc Cohn, Ron Sexsmith or Carolyn Mas material and I bet he would put as much heart into the songs and be himself a lot more
Oh and full marks for the extra track reciting names of all the album contributors!
Bradley Walsh’s new studio album ‘Chasing Dreams’ is out now on Sony Music. For more information and everything else, tapdance your way to http://www.bradleywalsh.co.uk/