It is no secret that I am no great fan of a booming tenor and so it was little surprise that Michael Ball and Alfie Boe's album Together
was not really my cup of tea. But it was however what many other people wanted and following its success and reaching number 1 in the charts, the pair have collaborated again to produce the imaginatively titled Together Again
. And in the spirit of open-mindedness, plus the acknowledgement that there's a more adventurous tracklisting, I steeled myself to listen.
I have to hold up my hands and say I was pleasantly surprised by more than a few of the songs here. The first two-thirds of 'The Rose' are genuinely spine-tinglingly lovely and even when the bombast kicks in for the finale, it stills maintains a heartfelt sincerity. A stroll through 'White Christmas' is marvellously restrained and all the more effective for it. Even the big band swing through 'Bring Me Sunshine' has a gentleness to it that allows both men to demonstrate their performative range.
Wrapping themselves around the sinuous melody of Kismet's
Stranger In Paradise (based on one of my favourite pieces of classical music - Borodin's Polovtsian Dances) works supremely well, as does the delicacy of Anastasia's
'Once Upon A December'. And even that stalwart duet 'The Prayer' glistens anew under this treatment, the beauty in both voices shimmering through in sotto voce
. I also enjoyed the rousing spirit of 'Evermore', one of the new songs written by Alan Menken for the live action Beauty and the Beast
Not all the song choices work quite so well. Including a version of Hamilton's 'You'll Be Back' hits the zeitgeist button but it comes off as rather glib here, and the power pop of 'You're The Voice' feels strangely akin to a recruiting song for a cult. I don't know if the world needs another by-rote rendition of 'New York New York' and though the West Side Story medley ticks the recognition factor, I'm not sure 'Maria', 'Something's Coming' and 'Tonight' benefit from being mashed together like this.
The album's highlight for me is the fun-loving tribute to The Lion King in 'He Lives In You' which typifies this album's more relaxed approach to its material and as such, it can't help but win you over with its easy-going nature. And even then, if you are a fan of the big belt, the duet on Sunset Boulevard's 'As If We Never Said Goodbye' is very well done, especially if you imagine them singing it to each other in all its homoerotic drama! So an unexpected surprise then, in both Ball and Boe revelling in the opportunity to show that they can do a hell of a lot more than boom their way through standards.