Reviewer: Holly Spanner
Racking up an incredible 19 studio albums, If Everyone Was Listening is the latest offering from double Olivier Award Winner and multi-platinum recording artist Michael Ball. The album itself contains 15 personally chosen tracks which Michael has chosen as a reflection of his personal choice in music. As such, this is an album very close to his heart, and has been billed as “his most personal record to date”.
Featuring hits that span from the fifties to modern day, this album also features four of Michael’s favourite tracks from his teenage years, including Bob Seger’s ‘Still the Same’, the beautiful 1978 number one ‘You Needed Me’, which earned original artist Anne Murray a Grammy Award, ‘May You Never’ by John Martin and the title track ‘If Everyone Was Listening’ by Supertramp.
You held my hand when it was cold,
When I was lost, you took me home.
There is a feeling of nostalgia when listening to this album, as a lot of the songs are familiar – even more so when paired with Michael’s vocals, but the album also features lesser known songs including Jake Owen’s ‘What We Ain’t Got’. In an industry where solo albums are saturated with the big show-stopping numbers from musicals which are continually doing the rounds, this provides a refreshing change. Fans of Michael Ball will also notice subtle underlying differences to previous albums, as this comes across as a very natural recording, effortless and delicately stripped of processing. There is great heart in this recording; allthe tracks tellinga story sung with compassionand charm, working together with ease.
No Michael Ball album would be complete without his trademark inspirational songs, and this one is no different. ‘I Won’t Give Up’ originally by Jason Mraz, complements Michael’s dulcet tones beautifully in a new interpretation of a song which is steeped in meaning; a parent’s unconditional love and support for their children, Gods absolute love for, and faith in humanity, and of course the love and encouragement found in any strong relationship. The lyrics of this, and many (if not all) of the songs in the album are expressive and relatable, as created by a host of great singer-songwriters including Alison Krauss, Anne Murray, Sarah McLachlan, Jason Mraz, and John Martin.
Opening the album with ‘Bad Things’, the theme track from the TV drama True Blood, there are themes of soft rock as well as a country vibe intertwined throughout. Vocal group The Overtones feature on the Everly Brothers ‘Let it Be Me’, while in ‘Jessie’ Michael sings all the harmonies himself. ‘Falling Slowly’ from the musical Once is quickly becoming a favourite in musical theatre, and Michael’s rendition of this reinforces why this is so.
This recording has all the hallmarks of another classic album from Michael Ball, but with subtle differences. Predominantly ballads and soft rock, there are gentle lullabies and a delightful underlying country twang intermixed with a hint of mischief; but more than that, this is an album that works as a whole. There are no “sore thumbs” or songs which don’t fit, and combined with Michael’s time-defying vocals and empathy with the lyrics, If Everyone Was Listening is a safe bet (and a great stocking filler!).
If Everyone Was Listening is available from Union Square Music.