Friday, 24 July 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Original Studio cast recording of Cool Rider

Cool Rider, the lesser known sequel to the ever popular Grease, follows the relationship of unconventional lovers Stephanie Zinone, a Pink Lady, and Michael, an English transfer student. After the musical played a successful one night only concert in January 2014, it transferred to The Duchess Theatre where it played for one week. Unsurprisingly, it's not the most well known musical ever to grace the West End, but its surprisingly large and extremely supportive following  helped to ensure that Cool Rider was immortalised in musical theatre history by backing a kickstarter to help fund a studio recording. 
The album itself is a fun romp, reminiscent of Grease but with elements comparable to both Hairspray (fun, upbeat vibes) and We Will Rock You (rocky orchestrations and belty vocals). Much like the aformentioned shows, Cool Rider's songs sound cheesy and over the top, but it's charm is in it's cheesiness, as odd as that sounds. 
The show's leading pair, whilst singing surprisingly few solos and/or duets, are likeable. Ashleigh Gray is belty and growly and particularly impressive as Stephanie, especially in the title song, and the pair's duet '(Love Will) Turn Back The Hands Of Time' is sweet and surprisingly heartrending. However, sadly Aaron Sidwell's vocal performance as love interest Michael Carrington rather less remarkable. The actor is known for his critically acclaimed performance in the
short lived rock musical Loserville, but his vocals on the Cool Rider studio recording feel a little weak and tired and lack personality, especially in comparison to the other male vocals on the album. 
Yet, the album is filled with a large number of enjoyable and hummable tunes. The band is  energetic (in fact, at times it does appear that the vocals take a backseat to the music) and while Lyrics are at times simplistic, this only helps to strengthen the fantastical, parodical nature of album. 'Do it for our country', a double entendre filled number is made all the more hilarious with the addition of military marching drums, while hyperbolic ballad  'Charades' is laughably melodramatic, and destined to become an audition room staple. 
All in all, the Cool Rider studio recording is clearly a labor of love for the cast, producers and hardcore fans, but that doesn't mean it isn't can't be enjoyed by those who've not seen the show or heard any of the songs before. Often listeners feel disconnected from the album if they aren't already familiar with the story, but fortunately the album is filled with ensemble numbers which, whilst perhaps excessive in amount, are filled with a sense of fun, and with vocals providing uniqueness and personality, really help to tell the story. The album has its flaws, but it's an entertaining and engaging listen. It's shares similarities with many other beloved musicals, but at the same time it's  totally different, and definitely worth a listen regardless of whether or not you've seen the show. 
Reviewed by Charlotte O'Growney


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