Today I’ll be indulging my more theatrical side a bit.
Within the last couple months, I’ve received a couple CDs featuring lots of great theater people performing the songs of spotlight songwriters. They’re both pretty darn enjoyable, so I thought I’d share.
My favorite of the two is “Out of Context” (Yellow Sound Label), featuring the music of Michael Patrick Walker. He’s half the composing team (with Gary Adler) of the hilarious boy band spoof “Altar Boyz” and has written songs for several other projects, including the Disney Channel’s delightful “Johnny and the Sprites.”
There isn’t one song I felt like skipping on this 13-song collection, which includes a great variety of moods and tempos. Walker says they’re from “musicals I’ve written, musicals I’m writing or musicals I’m going to write.” Unlike many of these types of CDs, though, the track listing doesn’t say which comes from what.
But they are “Out of Context,” after all, so it doesn’t really matter. Just drop the CD in the player and enjoy.
Many of the songs are little stories in themselves, and I really gravitated toward those. “Weird Little Man,” sung by Kate Wetherhead, is a cute little ode to the oddball. A woman is falling in love with an unconventional man — “cute” and “a geek.” “More” is the hilarious but also touching story of a man who may be a hair too late in letting the love of his life know his feelings.
“Someday” is an anthem for all kids who have ever been bullied, which is a big issue these days. “Well, Brad, I’m gonna get bigger — I hope,” Noah Galvin sings in a piece that makes you laugh out loud as you root for this underdog and hope he finds the strength to get through school. “Finding Me” includes a shout-out to an unidentified petting zoo in Michigan.
There are so many great, humorous, uptempo songs that the ballads really hit hard when they come. Telly Leung (one of the Warblers on “Glee”) and Michael Arden have one that hits you in the gut — “Different Kind of Man,” in which two men (brothers? partners?) sing about disappointing their father for not being the conventionally masculine adults they think he wanted. I think the dad in the video game store story that’s been circulating around the Internet should have a listen.
“Sometimes,” performed by Kerry O’Malley and Natalie Venetia Belcon contains a lot of wisdom with a touch of humor. Finally, Cheyenne Jackson (“30 Rock”) sings “I Believe” from “Altar Boyz,” in which he starred early in his career. It’s an uplifting song that’s equally at home in church or sung to the love of your life. And a beautiful way to close out the CD.
“Out of Context” is just one great song after another from a talent who deserves much wider exposure. I hope his new projects find much success.
I didn’t connect quite as strongly overall with “My Lifelong Love” (Sh-K-Boom Records), featuring the songs of Georgia Stitt. For some, she wrote just the music, others the lyrics and, in a couple cases, both. In some cases, she puts poetry to music, including Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 29″ (which comes out kind of awkward but is nicely sung by Michiganian Brian d’Arcy James) and “A Very Short Song” with the words of Dorothy Parker (a cute little ditty that lives up to its name).
But there are a number of great pieces on here that make the CD worth a purchase. Every song touches on the theme of love in some way.
My favorite is “Invested in You,” with music by Sam Davis and lyrics by Stitt. It’s a jaunty little number for the 99 percent that’s lifted even higher by the talents of Jessica Molaskey and John Pizzarelli, who really need to do more albums together. They’re sublime.
“If I Could,” another song by Davis and Stitt, is a touching love song. “Love After Love” is one of the poetry works, with words by Derek Walcott. It’s an affirmation of loving yourself.
Then there’s the title song, “My Lifelong Love.” Like the best of “Out of Context,” it’s an adorable story song with music and lyrics by Stitt. Jesse Tyler Ferguson (“Modern Family”) sings winsomely about his first love, a smart, 12-year-old clarinet player. But when things don’t work out as planned, they still come out OK.
All in all, “My Lifelong Love” is a nice CD with some standout numbers.
Give them both a try.