Monday, 17 September 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: 'The Quentin Dentin Show' Original Cast Recording

Musical Theatre concept albums are a powerful way of testing the interest and showing the potential of new works for the stage and were very successfully used by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber in the seventies to launch both Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita. Of course there have been concept albums since that have failed to grab the listeners imagination. The challenge of reviewing an album like this without having seen the show or without a script or detailed narrative is to try and piece together the characters and story line from tunes alone. The question that poses is whether the music strong enough and the fragments of story enough for the listener to want more.

Writer Henry Carpenter and Originating Producer Hannah Elsy just about manage to tempt me to want to see the show in its next incarnation with their concept album which contains fifteen tracks running to around thirty five minutes of music. Carpenter's writing seems to delve back into a broad range of musical styles from the fifties to the nineties with simple orchestrations and clear vocals and borrows from many styles of that period. The idea seems to be that an alien has arrived on earth, presumably having absorbed these musical influences over the space airwaves and seeks to persuade the humans he meets that he can make them happy. It is a sort of Dr Faustus meets The Rocky Horror show, creating a bizarre, absurd world where Quentin Dentin seeks to offer happiness for their souls by reaching out to them through a radio show and then a TV game show. The overall feel is of a Richard O'Brien narrated clipped vocals with bursts of rock and roll, rock opera, Abba, pop, Conga and techno sounds, all with a strong drum rhythm. It starts to feel like a singalong party atmosphere. This style is what made The Rocky Horror Show the cult show it is today but it was the performances and outrageous characterisations that made that a success and we only get a sense of that from the album of two characters.

Quentin Dentin appears to be the alien seeking to dominate the airwaves and Keith one of his victims . We first meet him when the radio is interrupted by a rousing rock opener "The Quentin Dentin show" and Keith hears "something in the air tonight calling my name" and feels compelled to "prepare a marketing campaign" (1 min 59 seconds). In "Who's that man" , he is told "it's not about you Keith but me , I can make you happy" (2min 29 seconds). But the threat is revealed in "Lemons" when we hear "you are solid Keith, I want to make you a gas"( 2:20).

There is a nice female voice in "Holiday" (1:41) who wants to be successful , productive and thin and yearns to get away . It has the feel of an ABBA dance song. We also hear a female Goldie in the short "Too weak to refuse " (58 seconds) with the great line " I live in your microphone and I am here to give you my feedback". This leads into a delightfully soulful Motown song "Quentin Dentin TV show"(3:05) where she promises to make him King of the World through a show where the "contestants obey or decay"

In "The Blame game " (2:51) we have an Elvis parody which sounds at times like Rock around the Clock where Keith is told he needs "to play by the rules". This is followed by "Life" (2:50) where he is told "life is what you want it to be " but "reality is whatever I decide". The following track also seems to have a familiar intro with a strong conga beat in "Get Happy" (2:20).

In the track "Take your medicine" (2:52) we stray into rock opera which reminded me of the Who's Tommy "We are not going to take it" but here Quentin interrupts the evening's entertainment to "extract their souls".

The final track "All together now" (3:56) sounds like a Kinks pop song from the
sixties in which a listener, I assume Keith , laments "that no one knows how to say no to voices in the radio" that "castrate your mind".

Overall this concept album produced by The Kooks' co-founder, and drummer Paul Garred does enough to sell a fun, lively musical that could with expansion, from what feels like a one hour format, and good staging develop into the next Rocky Horror show cult show. It certainly did enough to leave me wanting more and is refreshingly different from the jukebox musicals that simply raid an artistes back catalogue . It does not yet live up to its billing as "the best new British musical score in decades " but it is on the right track.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★
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