Album Review: FROM THE HEART by James Meunier

 

FROM THE HEART Album Artwork by James Meunier

Musical theatre star James Meunier makes his mark with FROM THE HEART

From leading ladies Beverley Knight, Amber Riley and Cassidy Jansen, to fan favourites Alfie Boe and Michael Ball, theatre fans are spoilt for choice when it comes to recordings by their favourite West End stars. In addition to traditional cast recordings, many West End performers have chosen to release albums under their own name with SUNSET BOULEVARD’s James Meunier now joining the pack.

Currently appearing in the UK tour of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s SUNSET BOULEVARD, Meunier is a musical theatre singer/actor. Since training at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Meunier has appeared in a variety of theatre productions both in the UK and internationally, including BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Redditch Palace Theatre), ENDGAME (Rose Theatre Kingston) and CRUSH (Belgrade Theatre/ UK Tour). Meunier’s concert work also includes touring with Contempo Productions for the classical crossover act ANCORA, singing with Elton John in concert at the Royal Albert Hall and performing for the Classical Roadshow with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

FROM THE HEART is Meunier’s debut solo album. The six track EP sees the musical theatre star cover songs from well-known musicals such as LES MISERABLES, WEST SIDE STORY, LOVE NEVER DIES and SUNSET BOULEVARD, alongside some personal favourites.

The opening track BRING HIM HOME from LES MISERABLES immediately sets the tone for the rest of the album both in terms of pace and arrangement. Opening with such a well-known song, it is easy to compare Meunier’s version to those covered by better-known artistes such as Alfie Boe or Hugh Jackman but it soon becomes clear that Meunier is more than capable of holding his own. Delicately balancing power with restraint, Meunier spine-tingling vocals shine through in the touching number, particularly in the climax in which he uses his attractive light high baritone to great effect.

Considering this is an album of musical theatre favourites, you’ll be forgiven for thinking the second track TAKE A CHANCE ON ME is a cover of the ABBA hit, especially when you consider success of musical MAMMA MIA, however I was pleasantly surprised to find it’s a cover of a song from LITTLE WOMEN. Once again, Meunier plays to his talents on this track, performing the fast-paced lyrics with enthusiasm and creativity, whilst adding a sense of individuality to the lesser-known song.

It isn’t long however before Meunier is back tackling another big musical number, this time MARIA from WEST SIDE STORY. While his vocal performance on this track is excellent, using his upper register to great effect, the simple musical arrangement takes away from the overall effect, leaving you wanting more in terms of grandeur and musicality.

TIL I HEAR YOU SING from LOVE NEVER DIES – the 2010 sequel to THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA – arguably stands out as the best track on the album. It is here where Meunier’s impressive vocal ability truly shines, handling the vocally demanding prologue with ease and delivering the dramatic show-stopping piece with style and panache.

The only real disappointment is BURN FOR YOU, a cover of the 1990 John Farnham hit. Whilst the song itself is a beautiful number and Meunier handles it well vocally, the track feels out of place with the rest of album, with Meunier moving away from musical theatre to tackle a personal favourite.

That said, the album is back on a high with SUNSET BOULEVARD, the title track from the musical Meunier is currently touring with, making it a great conclusion to his debut EP and demonstrating once again, his versatility and intelligent way with words.

For his debut album, Meunier has picked a good selection of songs, choosing numbers that play to his strengths and demonstrate his voice and vocal ability perfectly. Personally, I would have preferred to see full album of 10 or 11 tracks rather than just six numbers as Meunier clearly has the talent to pull this off. That said, FROM THE HEART makes for an enjoyable listen from an upcoming musical theatre star who is sure to make his mark in the coming years.

(4 / 5)

FROM THE HEART by James Meunier is released on 7 November 2017 and is available to download from iTunes or in CD format at www.jamesmeunier.com

About Donna

Donna is the Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she is a digital marketing whizz, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage, The Public Reviews and ScreenRelish. Loves Shakespeare, prosecco and Formula 1