(Original London Cast Recording)
So… thirty five years after its original inception, a new theatre musical version the show and of course in the wake of the fabulously-received musical film heads for London and this double-CD album gives us all the songs. The story found its way into viewers’ hearts because the characters were so very recognisable. Their human dilemmas and visions for their future were the heart of the narrative and little wonder that the movie release found success across the globe. Such stories travel well. Most people enjoy music and this key element provides movement, colour, excitement and a channel for the emotional aspects of the tale…
The producers have gone for a live take on the show songs to capture the vibrancy. Main producer is Henry Krieger and mixer Andy Bradfield. The singers include Amber Riley, Liisi Fontaine, Ibinabo Jack, Joe Aaron Reid, Adam J Bernard and Tyrone Huntley.
I’m Looking For Something, Baby cowbells its way into earshot and brings the talent show sequence. The first thing that strikes me as a musician is the deft and well-recorded bass playing. Curtis Taylor Jnr makes himself known. The horns are crisp and well-charted. The girl-group backchat is pacey and spirited. We are taken straight into Goin’ Downtown which has a real early-Marvin-Gaye style about it. There is a need for precise drumming on this sort of song and the band takes care of that with elan. Takin’ The Long Way Home is the Tiny Joe Dixon feature, a Bobby Bland flavoured song with plangent guitar and sighing Hammond. Meantime the ladies argue the merits of a backing singing gig offer.
Move has The Dreamettes hitting a Motown type groove, a nice bridge on this number and again the propulsive horns make it all swing. Definitely a superior song and the vocals are truly uplifting if a tad busy ; Fake Your Way To The Top is a soul ballad with knowing lyrics, distant echoes of The Coasters for this listener ! Then the song finds James Thunder Early hitting a fast gospel tune with excellent backing vocals. Ascending lines give the bass player plenty to take care of on this one, aided by frantic percussion work.
Cadillac Car tells the motoring tale of the model and its place in The American Dream. Again, great bass ! The singing skills present here are well-demonstrated in this piece. The arrangement hints at familiarity with the score of Hair. A gentler coda take the song to its conclusion. Steppin’ To The Bad Side tells of a stolen hit song and the sound is unsettling. The male singing shows a Temptations tinge. Almost martial drumming underpins this dark composition. What one has to do, just to survive eh? Any seasoned music lover will feel the ghost of Temps’ producer Norman Whitfield here. Apparently he was quite a hustler.
Party, Party is just that, terrific female vocal that hints at Tammi Terrell, horns blazing and male lead showing real Motown edge. I Want You, Baby is gospel-peaceful and a reasonable pastiche love song. Family centres on the dilemma of direction.
Dreamgirls is a blaring showtune and a half, put over with urgency and crystal clear diction. One to hum on the way home, one suspects. V Diana Ross arrangement. Press Conference has congas and again is reminiscent of Hair. Heavy has a psych tinge / Fifth Dimension vibe about it. Fine bass, strong vocal, tempo change. It’s All Over tells of Curtis’ bad behaviour, as perceived by Effie anyway. Bitching over lively backing. Next up is And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going, as mauled by countless singers and by this point over-familiar to us all. Not the first time this has happened with a musical hit song. Witness Bodyguard and that Dolly P song…..
On to the second disc and starting cut Love, Love You Baby using percussion for a showbiz emphasis. The female group is on a high at this point and not without its tensions. When I First Saw You is one of the show’s tenderest moments. Usually oversung, this one is handled somewhat better. I expect our friends in Collabro will get to this one ! I Am Changing is one of the more reflective songs in the show and very tuneful it is too. Very Diana Ross in style. Ain’t No Party gives The Five Tuxedos at a fundraiser and then some show dialogue. I Meant You No Harm is a nice Gaye moment, very well-sung. The Rap has a hiphop beat and SugarHill bass with cruising horns, try keeping your toes still…
I Miss You, Old Friend visits the approach of Gladys Knight and rather well ; One Night Only is a song by the Effie character and one of the better selections in the score. I’m Somebody has a brisk pace and quality ensemble singing. Listen is piano-led and softly sung. Effie White’s Gonna Win/ You Are My Dream has a Vegas rhythm, Effie sounds riled to say the least, sing out with righteousness. The balance of the cut has a Donna Summer edge, briefly. Hard To Say Goodbye is where the story comes to an end, thereafter we get Dreamgirls (Reprise)
As with all musicals, there is the odd corny passage in this production but mostly it has memorable, hooky songs and some dazzling vocal performances not least in the crafted ensemble work. Plus a first-rate and lively band who seem to understand the feel of this music, ensuring the songs hit home.
(Thanks to Barry and the LD Communications team)
Dreamgirls OST (Original London Cast Recording) is released by Sony Music on Friday 12th May 2017.
You can purchase tickets to see the Dreamgirls Musical at The Savoy Theatre, London, United Kingdom here: http://bit.ly/2pyZb1Q