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The Music Box: CD review.

October 3, 2012

This album, with an unusual tinkling “Music Box” overture, offers extracts from both Gareth Peter Dicks musicals and stand alone works. 

First up is “The Seasons Turn” from his musical “Escape.” A quartet that the author claims “works out of context,” the monkey felt that if orchestrated with a ‘pop’ sound, he’d be right. As it stands, the singers wring the very most from the opening line and its yearning theme. Later, two further songs from this show, solos by Katie Rowley Jones and Sarah Earnshaw underline that this is the musical Dicks should devote more attention to. A little tuning, of the type that happens naturally in rehearsal rooms, could produce a very exciting stage work.

From “A Million Grains of Sand,” another of his musicals, “Please Don’t Go” is probably how preceding track “Who Have I Become?” would work once tidied for the stage. Focussed both in lyric and performance, it captivated the monkey – as does later paired track “Without Him / We Are Here” also taken from the second act of that show.

Still on a stage theme, combining Shakespearian words with music is always a brave experiment, and Laura Pitt-Pulford’s “What Case I?” is interesting. “Crimson Droplets” – from yet another attempt to musicalise the “Jack The Ripper” story – though, is very much a “work in progress” (as the writer attests). Theatre star Rebecca Lock lives up to her billing, dealing effectively with a difficult vocal. As a show number, though, it will no doubt be revised before staging to remove a tendency to ‘sing what the audience can already see’ and sharpen the original purpose of providing an interior monologue moment.
Proving an aptitude for single numbers, “When Will I know Your Name?” is the most instantly arresting on the disc.

Everybody has wondered about a person they’ve seen on the train and admired from afar. Gareth Peter Dicks manages to put that universal thought into perfectly set words and music – and singer Liam Tamne expresses them well enough to use as a real chat-up line, perhaps.

“More” is a change of pace. Inspired by “You Tube” music videos, it’s a correctly placed contrast to the preceding ballads. Those seeking a simple break will enjoy it, others may skip the track for later, more sophisticated fare.

Among those, the author’s “Muse” tribute “No Turning Back” proves that he can write a bass heavy number as well as anyone, while (maybe over-complex) ‘country’ number “Simple Words” indicates further versatility.

Second Liam on this disc, Liam Doyle, also delivers an incredibly dark “Run With Me.” Intended to stand alone, this very theatrical sounding track might oddly work in a musical about “Jack The Ripper.”

Taking the bloodletting theme a little further, instrumental “The Long Journey Home” (from which the author removed the word, rightly assuming the music speaks for itself) has a little of Sondheim’s “Joanna” from “Sweeney Todd” theme in its violin; no bad thing, perhaps, in a lyrical piece about age and remembering.

Contrasting with such darkness, “Live In Dreams” was, according to the sleeve notes, written with singer Richard Dempsey in mind. It’s easy to see why, as a song about light and escape is given the power it needs – with “Les Mis”-like strings attached.

As the album closes, a charmingly balletic instrumental harking back to the “Music Box” overture, precedes a remix of musical “Bluebird’s” “Goodnight Dear Soldiers.” Abi Finley’s already moving vocal is given extra depth with a string section added, while Finley herself stakes further claim to being potential ‘musical theatre leading lady’ material.
Stick around after this for a further small treat, too.

As an concept, the author proposes that a Music Box can be a special object linking generations and stories. As this CD proves, it’s also be a highly appropriate title for a disc reviewing an already varied and successful composing career.

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