Are you a fan of musicals? Well, I love them and so do my daughters. In fact, my sixteen-year-old is aiming for a career in musical theatre and has a beautiful singing voice. So our house has plenty of musical CDs. My own collection even includes Chicago in Russian and Les Miserables in French and German!
Earlier this year, I became hooked on watching the Saturday night programme How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria? For anyone that missed it, this was the series where the new Maria was found from a final ten of hopefuls. The winner was Connie Fisher who is now playing Maria in the new Andrew Lloyd Webber production of The Sound of Music.
Shortly after her win, this CD album was released called rather unimaginatively Favourite Things. I own the special edition which consists of thirteen tracks, which includes three songs from The Sound of Music itself.
The CD begins with Maybe This Time, a beautiful song which is one of my favourites and one my daughter sings. While Connie Fishers version is really good, I cant help but compare it to Liza Minnellis which is definitive in my opinion. It is a great rousing opening song though and showcases Connies voice well.
The format of the TV series rather strangely seemed to shift the women into singing pop songs as often as musical theatre. I guess this was seen as being more popular and likely to attract higher viewing figures. This leads to the second track being what I see as a pop song Natural Woman. Im not usually too keen on this song, but I do enjoy Connies take on this.
Her voice is powerful and has depth, which makes it lovely to listen to. The only problem I can see is that Connies voice isnt particularly distinctive you wouldnt necessarily recognise it as hers on the radio, for example. This makes me doubt her longevity as a recording artist, but I think her career on the stage should be a long and successful one.
The third track is a previously unreleased one by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice Dance the Dance. While her vocals are pleasant, this song is rather dull and unmemorable. It isnt awful, but if I skip any song on the CD, its this one. So, moving on
Track four is Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend. I am a huge Marilyn Monroe fan and I love Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the film this comes from. I was very impressed with Connies performance of this on the Saturday night show though and I enjoy the audio version too. It has a lot of energy and she manages to resist the temptation to do a Marilyn impersonation, instead stamping her own personality on it for something slightly different. She only adds a trace of an American accent too, so it sounds natural and not contrived.
This is followed by a song which is both from a musical but was also in the charts No Matter What. I always associate this with Boyzone and Stephen Gatelys coming out, so it does seem somewhat strange hearing it with female vocals. Its a really pretty song and she does a good performance of it, although I still prefer Gatelys version.
Track six is the 1960s pop song Shout, another one Connie performed very effectively during the series. Again, she displays lots of energy and keeps up well with the pace of the track. She also has an interesting texture to her voice in this song, with a little growl present at times, which I like.
Slowing things down, the next track is one I hadnt heard of before All the Love I Have. This is another Lloyd Webber track and I think it is beautiful, one of those songs that really gets to your emotions. It has a lilting quality to it, almost like a lullaby and I like the strings arrangement too. My daughters find this one a bit boring, but its amongst my favourite tracks on the album.
The next two are also my favourites. First of all, the tempo changes radically with the slow ballad being followed by the wonderful All That Jazz from Chicago. I dont know about you, but this is one song that always makes me want to dance. This must be one of the best musical songs ever written and Connie does justice to it, aided by the runners up from the TV series Siobhan Dillon and Helena Blackman. I really didnt think much of Siobhan throughout the series and her vocals are unmemorable here, while Helenas are outstanding. I would buy an album Helena released; I love the tone of her voice.
But back to Connie and track nine is Another Suitcase In Another Hall. This is slower, emotional and has a more classical feel to it. I think this is more suited to older listeners. I like it, but my kids arent so keen.
Track ten is As Long As He Needs Me, another musical theatre choice and one of Lionel Barts classics. I do enjoy this song, but feel it should have been placed somewhere else in the track listing. This showcases Connies vocal range and control well, but I have heard better renditions of it, notably from Bonnie Langford who is a beautiful singer.
This is followed by a three part tribute to The Sound of Music. The choice of these songs seems somewhat strange, especially as it begins with the Entracte, which is similar to an overture and therefore is entirely instrumental. While I can understand this being on the soundtrack CD, it seems bizarre to include it on the album of a solo singer. Its quite good fun to sing along to though.
My Favourite Things is a much better choice and Connie makes a very good Maria vocally. She has that clarity and purity that Julie Andrews had in the film role and it is lovely to listen to. The song is, of course, a classic and a feel good one too.
The final track on the album is Something Good. This is a much lesser known song from the musical. Its when Maria and the Captain are in the garden and realise their love for each other is reciprocated. Its a beautiful song and the one I tend to go around singing, after listening to the album. Its a good way to finish the album too, as it is a song she sings beautifully and it reminds everyone how she got this break by auditioning for the role of Maria.
Overall, I really like the album. It isnt anything surprising or particularly different and it wont appeal to everyone. But if you like musicals - and especially if you watched Connie on TV and enjoyed her performances - then you will be very happy with this.
I bought my album from Amazon and it cost me £8.99. It also has the new style CD case, which makes it much less likely to break. If you prefer to wait, the album of The Sound of Music starring Connie Fisher should be out early in the New Year. Ill be buying that one too.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Maybe This Time
2 Natural Woman
3 Dance The Dance
4 Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend
5 No Matter What
7 All The Love I Have
8 All That Jazz - Connie Fisher, Helena Blackman, Siobhan Dillon
9 Another Suitcase In Another Hall
10 As Long As He Needs Me
12 My Favourite Things
13 Something Good