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GLEE-FUL VOL 3: SHOWSTOPPERS
Glee The Music Vol. 3: Showstoppers - Glee Cast
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Glee The Music Vol. 3: Showstoppers - Glee Cast
Advantages: Some popular tracks from the latter part of Series 1.
Disadvantages: Lots of slower number, some tracks don't transfer as a recording so well
The album features tracks from the second part of the popular first series of the US show Glee. As many will know, the show is based around a High School show choir competing for the Regional trophy. The songs are all cover versions and appear on the album in the order that they are performed in the show/series (although I will be mentioning them out of order at times in this review). All in all there are twenty tracks on this CD, covering episodes up to the finale. Songs from the finale are on a different CD to get a bit more money from the fans - cheeky!
A rousing, harmonious version of the Beatles' Hello, Goodbye with Rachel (Lea Michele) and Finn (Cory Monteith) on lead vocals, ably assisted on the harmonies by Mercedes (Amber Riley) and other cast members kicks off the CD. I love the Beatles and I think this version does the song justice, and making the 'showstopper' part of the album title seem very apt as they make it into a big production number which they do so well. Unfortunately not all tracks can be classed as showstoppers in my opinion, I think there are a few too many ballads for my liking. In the same episode and following Hello, Goodbye is a cover of The All American Rejects' Gives You Hell with Rachel taking the lead again, she does an excellent, rousing performance, it is a very catchy number.
One of the slow tracks on this album is the Lionel Richie song Hello. I've always found it rather cheesy, and Rachel and Jesse (guest appearance by Broadway's Jonathan Groff) do a reasonable job, singing along to the piano as a duet, but I don't think their voices really complement each other very well. I don't really like the version of A House is Not a Home by Finn and Kurt (Chris Coifer), I can't fault their vocal performances technically (as least not Coifer's, Monteith can be inconsistent), I just find it a bit bland. The song (written by Burt Bacharach and Hal Davis) has been sung by Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield and Luther Vandross to name a few, I just didn't think this version added anything. Barbra Streisand performed the song as a medley with One Less Bell to Answer, and a version of the medley is sung by Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) the teacher who runs the Glee Club with April (guest star Kristen Chenoweth). Their voices work really well together and the song works better as a duet than A House is Not A Home on its own did. This maybe because Morrison and Chenoweth harmonise better than an all male vocal, or maybe it is their more mature voices (both are accomplished Broadway performers). Either way, I don't think both versions needed to be on here. They are one after the other on the disc and surrounded by other slow tracks both before and after, I found the CD quite hard going at this point. As individual tracks, if the order was shuffled, they would be fine, it is just too many ballads and slow numbers back to back for me, as they always put the tracks in show order, unlike most albums where effort is usually made to put them in a more listenable order and mix it up a bit. The fourth slow track in the run is Beautiful, made famous by Christina Aguilera and sung here by Mercedes. Amber Riley has a big voice, but I am not sure it suited the understated-ness that this song required. There is a fifth slowey in succession, a ballad called Home performed by April again. I am not familiar with the song but believe it is from the musical The Wiz. Her voice is great, more theatrical, but I am over ballads at this point.
There are other slow songs on the CD - quite a few actually, including One (U2) performed by Finn and Rachel. They 'make the song their own' as they say on the X-Factor, and it is mixed to lift it with more harmonies and a larger band. I think Monteith's vocals really suit this song, he doesn't have the strongest voice in the show but this one showcases him well. Puck takes lead vocals on a version of Kiss's Beth with Finn backing him up. I was not familiar with the song prior to the show so cannot comment on how it compares to the original, but as ballads go, I rather liked it.
Thankfully the slow numbers are over and we get some cheesiness! Olivia Newton-John guest stars as herself re-making her 80s 'classic' with the teacher who runs the cheer-leading squad (and nemesis of Mr Schuester), Sue, played by Jane Lynch. I do like it when Glee doesn't take itself too seriously, and here they try and give the backing track a facelift, but they do leave that hi-energy disco feel to it. We also get a cover of Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart performed by Rachel with Jesse, Finn and Puck (Mark Salling) providing the harmonies. It is done well, but worked much better in the show than it does as a standalone track on the CD. Sadly MC Hammer's U Can't Touch This and Vanilla Ice's Ice Ice Baby didn't make it onto the CD! Later in the CD we get Safety Dance, originally by Men Without Hats performed by Artie (Kevin McHale), a fellow Glee Club member. I always like it when different cast members get to take lead vocals and it isn't all the Rachel and Finn show. McHale doesn't have the strongest voice, and this is another track which worked better on the TV show accompanied by some spontaneous dancing in a shopping mall, than it does on the CD.
Big Band numbers are quite unusual in Glee but Puck does a surprising performance of The Lady is a Tramp. It is a track that doesn't suit the character, but in the context of that episode it worked. His voice suited that genre which I wouldn't have expected and he held his own when Amber Riley came along and bellowed all over the last part of it. She has a good voice, but sometimes less is more. Another track I didn't expect to hear on the show is rock band Beck's track Loser performed by Finn, Puck, former teacher Sandy (Stephen Tobolowsky), Will's ex-wife Terry (Jessalyn Gilseg) and occasional cast member Howard (Kent Avenido). When they are all singing together and harmonising it works surprisingly well. Parliament's 1970's funk classic Give Up The Funk was featured as an ensemble performance on the show, I really enjoyed it but was concerned that the energy of a funk show-stopper wouldn't transfer to the CD, but it is still a lively, catchy song and is the sort of number that they do best.
Some past Glee CDs have not featured many show-tunes, even though they are usually featured in the episodes. We have a few more this time round, as well as the aforementioned Home and Lady is a Tramp, we have Kurt performing a version of Rose's Turn from Gypsy with some lyrics changed to make it more suited to Kurt and his character. Also I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables, performed by Rachel and Shelby (Idina Menzel), their voices complement each other nicely, but I just don't like the song - it's too slow, I'm more an uptempo person.
We don't get many contemporary numbers on Glee, by that I mean songs from the last few years, so the Theatricality episode brought us some Lady Gaga songs. Bad Romance is an ensemble song featuring Kurt and the girls performing dressed up in Gaga costumes. They do a credible version of the song, although it does sound a bit odd hearing her wacky lyrics being sung by other people. I do think it one of the better songs on the album, which suits the show-stoppers theme.
Glee has had its fair share of guest stars this series, some better than others, so as well as Jonathan Groff, Kristen Chenoweth and Olivia Newton-John we get Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser M.D) who played Bryan, a rival of Will's from his school days and is employed to help (or hinder) Will with the Glee Club. They perform Aerosmith's Dream On, which is featured on this CD. It is pleasant enough, but isn't a stand out track for me, although they do it well and I quite like the song. Another Broadway star Idina Menzel appears in a few episodes as a rival Glee Club coach Shelby, as well as I Dreamed a Dream she sings again with Rachel on the Lady Gaga song Poker Face. They do it just with a piano accompaniment, so it is very understated, and I thought they did it very well, even if it did seem a bit of a bizarre choice.
Overall there are some real gems on this CD but I am disappointed to a certain degree. There are too many slow numbers and I feel that the 'Show-stoppers' tag doesn't really sum up the tracks on the disc - so many aren't show stopping frankly. I have the Deluxe CD version - I am not sure what that means, as I cannot see a 'regular' one available. It has 20 tracks and a little booklet and I paid £8.95 when it was first released, you can also buy it as a download or just pick the individual tracks. I suspect very little will appeal to those that are not already fans of the show.
Summary: For Gleeks to complete their collection.