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CD REVIEW: It’s Just the Beginning – The Songs of Charles Miller and Kevin Hammonds

Reviewer: Mark Clegg

[rating:3.5]

It's Just the beginning The Songs of Charles Miller and Kevin HammondsEven a die-hard musical theatre buff is unlikely to have heard of this song-writing team even though they have apparently written ten musicals together in the last 15 years. Just like performers, it would seem that writers need to work for years to become over-night successes and although that title is yet to be bestowed upon this pair, it would seem that it is only a matter of time. This CD has been produced as a showcase of Miller and Hammonds and it does a reasonable job of selling their talents.

The tracks are made up of recordings of eighteen songs from their ten musicals as performed by professional performers and accompanied by full and (mostly) rich orchestrations. The performances are uniformly impressive and the recordings crisp and professional, which allows the listener to be able to assess the quality of the writing all the better.

Miller shows impressive versatility with a wide range of musical styles. The balance favours ballads and love songs which makes the appearance of the odd toe-tapper (including the deliberately cheesy ‘Oogie Boogie Woogie’) all the more welcome. This is a very good CD but one of the things that keeps it from being a great CD is a lack of confidence. At times songs such as ‘There Will Come a Day’ musically pull back when they should soar and although ‘Thief in the Night’ is a brilliant number in the tradition of early Rice and Webber, it is let down by a weak chorus that simply does not fit with the rest of the song. However these are minor issues that could be easily addressed in future projects and almost all of the songs show great promise in the right hands.

As with the music, Hammonds’ lyrics also don’t quite hit the heights of brilliance, falling into the trap of being repetitive and rather unimaginative at times. When words and music gel it creates something special like the marvellous ‘A Girl of Few Words’, and Hammonds does seem more comfortable with sincerity over comedy giving numbers like ‘He Never Asked Me to Dance’ genuine pathos. Several songs like ‘Done’ (an Elaine Strich style comedy rant) feature verses followed by a repeated and unaltered chorus, and the song that shares the title of the CD shows great promise but also would have been greatly improved by the lyrics having more variation in them. Lack of knowledge of any background on the stories of these songs or any visuals admittedly does not help.

All said, this CD does show that this team has potential. I would suggest that collaborating with an experienced producer on the right vehicle could easily put these guys in the spotlight.

It’s Just the Beginning? One hopes so.

Available from Making Records

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The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.