Friday, May 30, 2014

Better Billy (Music Review: Billy Porter, Billy's Back On broadway)

We all know that Billy Porter not only can sing, he can SANG. I remember seeing him 1994 in the Broadway Grease revival and he blew the theater away. So I was really looking forward to hearing his new album ( I still play his earlier live album a lot) and a lot of things have changed since he was Teen Angel. He is now a Tony-winning actor for his role in the Broadway hit "Kinky Boots," where he still plays his tole as Lola nightly. Looking at the song list, it seems exactly like the song list one would expect from a Billy Porter album but surprise, he doesn't scream all these songs as one might think. He shows great restraint, and it makes for an even better album than one would have in mind. There are gospel and soul in a lot of the arrangements, especially in "But The World Goes Round," and "Don't Rain On My Parade." While these are pleasant covers, they don't really stray too far arrangement-wise. I like it when the songs gets him challenged a little bit, like on the lilting "I've Gotta Be Me," or the stunningly quiet take on "I Am Changing." (He does an all-out version of "And I Am Telling You" on his earlier album and I thought he would take a similar route here)  I also like his swagger in "Luck be A Lady," though his swagger is softer (and jazzier!) Kinky boots fans will find "I'm not My Father's Son" appealing, and Cyndi Lauper shows up in the ubiquitous "Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy" duet.  I found his funereal "on The Street Where You Live" a little too out-there, faux-soul-ish almost. While I enjoyed the album a lot, I wasn't wowed by it, and I find tracks resonate better for me played randomly rather than as a full album.   Still it's a good souvenir of Mr. Porter's wondrous and flexible vocal instrument.

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