Wednesday, 23 January 2019

REVIEW: Head Over Heels (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

What do you get when you mix the most successful female rock band of all time with musical theatre? The answer is Head Over Heels, a new musical comedy featuring the iconic songs of the Go-Go’s that recently closed on Broadway. It was described by Time Out New York as “a saucy and boisterous celebration,” and the cast recording certainly conveys that feeling.

The album suffers from some of the same pitfalls as most “jukebox musicals.” One being that when a recording artist’s existing canon is used as the score, there generally isn’t a narrative that can be discerned by listening. The songs stand on their own and if you haven’t seen the show, you won’t have any idea how they move the story forward. A few of the tracks on Head Over Heels feature bits of dialogue from the production, but out of context they are just confusing. Also, tonally, there isn’t much variation. Almost all of the songs feature the same pop rock, synth sound that the Go-Go’s are known for. 

While these elements may be problematic for a musical theatre cast recording, the album is still a really fun listen! Whether you’re a fan of the Go-Go’s or not you will recognize some classic songs like “Vacation,” “We Got the Beat,” “Our Lips are Sealed,” and “Heaven is a Place on Earth.” All of the arrangements are well done and the addition of the ensemble vocals makes the songs rich and exciting. The lead vocalists deliver stirring, powerful performances that lend a dramatic flair to the pop songs. With most tracks coming in at two minutes or less, the album is a peppy, energetic listen that’s guaranteed to put you in a good mood.

Head Over Heels contains two bonus tracks. The first is an acoustic version of “Automatic Rainy Day” which is a breath of fresh air after the vibrancy of the rest of the album. Bonnie Milligan and Taylor Iman Jones’ voices blend together beautifully and are able to shine in this simpler take on the song. The second bonus track is a recording of “This Town” done exclusively for this album by the Go-Go’s themselves. This new version of one of the band’s most popular songs marks their first studio recording in more than 17 years and is a special treat for fans of the popular band that inspired the musical.

While Head Over Heels isn’t a traditional cast recording, it is a fun amalgamation of show tunes and pop rock, sung by exceptionally talented vocalists and is definitely worth a listen.

Review by Laura Talbot

Rating: ★★★
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