A few of you may remember the very enthusiastic review I wrote on Ramin Karimloo's debut album a few weeks ago. Shortly after that I found out that Ramin had been involved in another album, which I promptly got hold of. This is a review of Bluebird, composed by Gareth Peter Dicks and released in 2009.
Gareth Peter Dicks is a composer and songwriter who has written a number of musicals and songs for the stage (none of which I must admit I have ever heard of). He has received acclaim for his work and there are a number of positive reviews of this album on Amazon. Bluebird is a concept album for a musical about the Second World War. Concept albums are collections of songs designed for a stage show, often created to promote the related musical. Andrew Lloyd Webber's show Jesus Christ Superstar started out as a concept album.
This album is a complete musical soundtrack in itself, but if it were ever adapted for the stage would of course require editing and polishing to suit the visual demands of the stage. As such, it sounds a little unpolished at times and - how shall I put this - 'quieter' than most musical albums I own. That said, the songs are sung by professional singers and many sound complete in themselves. It's possible to get a good impression of what the stage musical would be like, while enjoying the melodies for their own sake.
Bluebird tells the story of World War II using a variety of settings, including Blitz-torn London, a hospital, the home front and the skies in which Spitfires fought battles against the Germans. It concentrates on a woman torn between two men: her husband who leaves her to go off to fight, and the American soldier she meets in the hospital (sung by my favourite Ramin Karimloo). The story, if a little sentimental, is engaging and fascinating, but with only the music to go on, I found it rather difficult to follow at first - it took several listens before I worked out what was happening, especially as - with the exception of Ramin's character - I found it hard to work out who was supposed to be singing. Of course this wouldn't be an issue if the show was on stage.
Still, the music manages to stand alone by itself: the melodies are strong and there is a good variety of music here, from the atmospheric 'Prologue' through to the humorous 'Shelter at 356 Albion Street', poignant 'Letter' songs and moving 'Goodnight, Dear Soldiers'. The songs carry the narrative as well as working well by themselves, essential when it comes to this kind of music.
This is a really good album: I think that the idea of a musical about World War II is a good one, and would like to see this produced for the stage. This kind of music won't appeal to everyone, and as mentioned previously it does sound a little unpolished - to work well as a full musical I think it would need to be produced on a much bigger scale. However, it is definitely worth a listen.
1. Prologue/The Spitfires' Narration
2. The Shelter at 356 Albion Street
3. We Love England
4. Family Man
5. Spitfires' Second Narration
6. What If This
8. The Hospital/Pete's First Letter
10. Quick as a Flash/Sgt. Winters
11. Pete's Second Letter/The Hospital 2
12. He Came So Close To Me
13. A Soldier's Letter Home
14. Do You Know Where Bluebirds Come From
15. Our Hearts Must Take Control
16. Prayers (Moon Friend)
17. Beside Me
18. Beth's Letter
19. I See You
20. Two Men
21. The Final Battle
22. Goodnight, Dear Soldiers
23. Off For More Dreaming and Sunsets
24. Pete's Final Letter/The Reckoning