When I first heard that Telly Leung was releasing a CD, I wasn’t planning on doing anything on it.
He’s a “Glee” guy, but not one of the “Glee” guys. (He was a Warbler in their early appearances.) He’s got some good Broadway credits (“Rent,” “Godspell” revival), too, but wasn’t a known enough quantity to me to be too high on my radar.
But then the PR guy gave me a call and mentioned the tracklist included “Before the Parade Passes By” and “Papa Don’t Preach,” and I thought, “Well, that’s quite a range.” So he dropped me a CD (from the Yellow Sound Label, due Dec. 4), and I’m quite glad he did.
In a world of Broadway baritones, Leung has one of those “soaring tenor voices” that he uses to great effect for the most part. In many cases, he takes songs that generally get bigger productions, such as “Before the Parade Passes By” and “Firework,” and dials them back for a more intimate experience.
And one of the pluses is that the song isn’t all showtunes, as much as I enjoy them. Besides “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Firework,” we get the likes of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (in a mash-up), “In My Life” and “Galileo.”
“Papa Don’t Preach” is the most … interesting … choice since it’s hard to figure out what it’s about since he doesn’t change the nouns. He sings about being daddy’s little girl, but he’s obviously not pregnant, so is he telling his father not to judge him because he’s going to keep his boyfriend?
Favorite tracks include the opener, “Knocks Me Off My Feet,” which is new to me, and “In My Life,” which plays with the rhythm a bit to set it apart from the Beatles’ version. The Indigo Girls’ “Galileo” is also a sweet take with more instrumentation (he was going for a musical mash-up of a jazz trio and string quartet, which sounds pretty cool). He sounds good on “Firework” — a song I heard on “Glee” before I heard Katy Perry do it, and I like the “Glee” version better — but the instrumental arrangement is too busy.
Hmm, it seems I’m a bit more taken overall by the pop songs than the showtunes, but the latter are good, too. “Before the Parade Passes By” (from “Hello Dolly”) has an unexpected drum lick that makes total sense. It’s a keeper. So is “Children Will Listen” from “Into the Woods.” He may have done the duet of “I’ll Cover You” when he played Angel in “Rent,” but this solo version doesn’t quite gel for me. It might be too dialed back.
With that voice, it’s a shame not to use it to its full potential, but he does fall into what I’m going to call Mariah Carey syndrome on a couple tracks. The vocal gymnastics really come out on “The Water Is Wide/Bridge Over Troubled Water” mix and an otherwise sunshiney “I Can See Clearly Now.” Where two, maybe even three, notes would be good, he throws in eight or nine. I hate it when Carey (or any diva) clutters a good song, and I don’t care for it here.
He channels a different diva on the live bonus track, Whitney Houston’s “I Believe in You and Me.” He even gets in a bit of her occasional growl.
Quibbles aside, good show! This one gets a permanent spot on the shelf.