Thursday, 3 August 2017

Album Review: Helena Blackman - The Sound of Rodgers and Hammerstein (2010)

"We're going to look for the treasure"

Since finishing as runner up on Lloyd Webber's "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?", Helena Blackman has casually shaken off any of the negative connotations that might be associated with reality TV by establishing a career that has seen her work consistently in musicals and cabaret for more than a decade. From leading tours of South Pacific and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, to intimate shows at the Finborough and Landor, to full-on leading lady territory in two Kilworth House productions (My Fair Lady and yes, The Sound of Music), Blackman's undoubted talent has taken the time to develop and really shine.

London audiences will have the pleasure of seeing her soon in A Spoonful of Sherman at The Other Palace, so I'm turning my attention to her 2010 album The Sound of Rodgers & Hammerstein. Again, it is indicative of a performer determined to tread her own path in rejecting the usual opening gambit of safe standards and pop songs that peppers many a debut album in this genre, and moving to a different but no less crowded field of anthologies celebrating a single composing team. 

It's a good match though, as Blackman's shimmering soprano is made for these golden age compositions (they just don't write for sopranos these days...) and with producers Neil Eckersley and Paul Spicer, some astute selections have been made. Allegro's 'The Gentleman is a Dope' is a sparkling hit, 'I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of my Hair' is imbued with character as well as clarity as is the delectable take on 'What’s the Use of Wondrin’?', and duetting with Daniel Boys on 'People Will Say We’re in Love' is a mouthwatering teaser for their forthcoming collaborations.

Mike Dixon's musical supervision provides some lush orchestrations which remain respectful and restrained and Blackman's vocal remains interesting throughout. The only real mis-step for me comes with the final choice of 'Climb Every Mountain', a song far too grandiose for inclusion here and one which doesn't entirely benefit from such a young singer straining to the heights of the Austrian Alps.

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