Newest Review: ... follow this with Travie McCoy's Billionaire performed by the male members of the Glee Club. I think it sounds fairly close the original, ... more
GLEE-FUL VOL 4
Glee: The Music, Volume 4 - Glee Cast
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Glee: The Music, Volume 4 - Glee Cast
Advantages: More contemporary numbers than before
Disadvantages: Some omissions, less show-stoppers
OK - you all know what Glee is by now don't you? It is the popular C4/E4 American musical comedy where a bunch of Ohio High School students have joined a Glee Club or Show Choir where they perform various songs in competitors, and in-between perform various songs, sometimes for no apparent reason, through the school day and in choir rehearsals. The show has recently commenced its third series on Sky One in the UK
As Series Two of Glee commenced, I was one of many fans who was not convinced by the new series, and disappointed in a few of the music choices, however I relented after finding this CD for £3.99 as a download on Amazon. It features 18 of the 42 songs performed in eight of the nine episodes that made up the beginning of this series (The Rocky Horror episode got its own CD). As usual there are always songs that I would have preferred to be included, and others that they omit. Some songs will appear on later albums, so that is another way of purchasing them, and most can be downloaded as singles.
As usual the included songs appear on the track listing in the order they are performed on the show, which doesn't always make it flow as you listen to the album. All are cover songs, none are originals.
For a contemporary number that opens the CD, Artie (Kevin McHale) and Finn (Cory Monteith) do their best Jay-Z impressions for a rather good version of Empire State of Mind, ably assisted by Mercedes (Amber Riley) pretending to be Alicia Keyes. If I am honest, I wasn't a great fan of the original, which wasn't helped by the fact it was played on the radio seventeen times a day for about four months. However the entire Glee cast are here harmonising on it, and I find myself swaying along and even humming (I try not to sing along as people tend to enquire after the strangled cat). Keeping with the contemporary theme, they follow this with Travie McCoy's Billionaire performed by the male members of the Glee Club. I think it sounds fairly close the original, even though the voices are different, they haven't changed the tempo or anything. Rival Glee Club, the all male Warblers, have a song included which is a cover of Katy Perry's Teenage Dream. Their songs are usually quite slick and a tad overproduced, lead vocals are always taken by the immaculately turned out Blaine (Darren Criss). This song is no exception, I am not a fan of the original, nor this particularly. However guest star Gwyneth Paltrow was a highlight for me when she took lead vocals over the Glee Club's harmonies on the popular Forget You (originally by Cee Lo Green). I am not going to pretend it is a good as the original, but it is certainly of my favourites from the series, and as a result, Paltrow sung the song with Green at The Grammy Awards.
Glee had been criticised for not performing enough contemporary songs, therefore alienating their target demographic audience and I think this second series and this particular CD have taken this on board. Bruno Mars' Marry Me is included as an ensemble number, which borders on the cheesy, but at least would be known to much of the age range the show is trying to target. Mars' Just The Way You Are is also included as performed by Finn. His voice is much more commanding than it was in the first series, and although the backing harmonies, courtesy of the rest of the cast, give it a more saccharine edge, it still retains the integrity of the original.
Britney/Brittany was the second episode of the series (featuring a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance from Britney Spears) and in this episode mostly Britney songs were performed. Although I am not a particular fan of Ms Spears, it was one of my favourite episodes from the early part of the series as a lot of upbeat, poppy songs were featured, however not all songs made it onto the album, Slave 4 U and Baby One More Time being the most notable omissions. They did feature Me Against The Music with Glee Club members Brittany (Heather Morris) taking the Britney part, and Santana (Naya Rivera) taking Madonna's part. I think this song is very close to the original, in fact when it popped up on my iPod when in shuffle mode, I thought it was that version. Kevin McHale takes lead vocals on Stronger, and (from memory) this track seems a bit rockier that Britney's, and obviously the male vocal made it a bit different. Toxic was made much more low key from the original with just a guitar at the beginning. Also in this episode was a non-Britney song called (appropriately enough), The Only Exception, by US rock band Paramore. Rachel (Lea Michlle) takes lead vocals. I am not really familiar with the original, but Ms Michelle's vocals and the song are beautiful.
In the past I have been critical of the number of slow numbers on the CDs, they tend to get bunched together and can sound dreary out of context of the show. Not so, with Kurt (Chris Coifer) singing a really slow version of The Beatles' I Want To Hold Your Hand, I thought it really under-stated and avoided the saccharine treatment such songs often get. I don't particularly like watching this character perform in the show, he seems to look a bit too pouty and miserable, but on the album you can't see this, and can just listen to a beautifully sung ballad. This is followed by another slow number, but the cast all join in, to make it a bit more uplifting rock ballad, this song is Joan Osbourne's One of Us. To be honest it is a bit of a nothing song, not their worst, but by far from the best of the songs on this CD. Also on the CD is a duet originally sung by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat. In the show it is performed by head Cheer-leader Quinn (Dianna Agron) and new boy Sam (Chord Overstreet). It is a sickly sweet ballad anyway, so I cannot really accuse Glee of over-sweetening it.
Oldies performed on this disc include Ike & Tina Turner's River Deep, Mountain High, gets a contemporary yet jazzy makeover by Santana and Mercedes, which I really enjoyed. They both have a strong vocal presence and their voices work well together. Bob Marley & The Wailer's classic One Love is covered by Artie and Puck (Mark Salling), and I was disappointed with it compared to the original (as well as compared to other songs in this episode that weren't included). For a proper oldie, teacher and leader of the Glee Club Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) performs Latino classic Sway by Pablo Beltan Ruiz (or Michale Buble if you prefer). To be honest I have heard better versions, but there is not much you can do wrong with that song.
The two closing tracks were performed by the group at the Sectionals competition, and that includes an up-beat harmonised version of Valerie (the Mark Ronson/Amy Winehouse version, over The Zutons I think) performed by Santana on lead. Quinn and Sam take lead vocals on the final track which is (I've had) The Time of My Life. For me, this is what Glee does best - big show numbers, of which there have been only a few this season.
In summary I have to say this album isn't as bad as I first thought it may be (at least as far as song choice is concerned). There are songs I would have preferred to have seen here, but that has happened with every CD from the show so far, that is how they get the fans buying the other CDs (except for me, who may just download the odd track). As to the increased number of contemporary songs, the producers have listened to the fans and critics, so I can't complain about that. The vast majority of viewers are probably younger than me, and not so fond of the 80s classics from the last series that I loved! I would have liked to see some more show stoppers however.
Summary: The First CD from the second series