Thursday, 18 February 2021

REVIEW: CASES Studio Cast Recording

It’s always exciting to see a new British musical, and while we wait until we can tread the boards in person, perhaps we are going to see a resurgence of studio albums akin to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s from the 80’s. Dominic Powell’s CASES is a gentle, easy listen, with melodies that float above you performed by a stellar cast comprised of Maiya Quansah-Breed, Bobbie Little, Andrew Patrick-Walker and Waylon Jacobs. It goes without saying that these four all have gorgeous vocals, and the album highlight is the group number “Cost of Living”, which sums up the conceit of the show the best. We are following the personal triumphs and pitfalls of four characters as they navigate an artist’s lifestyle with financial instability and all that encompasses. 

We get off to a strong start with the opening number, the title song, with gorgeous harmonies and a warm, gentle melody inviting us in. Following is an album highlight, “Airs and Grace”, sung by Maiya Quansah-Breed, injecting real character into this catchy and charismatic number that I wouldn’t be surprised to find in many a girl’s audition folder and fantasy solo concert setlist. 

Disappointingly, the rest of the first half of the album seems to blend together with a number of wistful, melancholy solo numbers, feeling very disconnected from one another. While it’s refreshing to have a baritone solo in “You”, it’s not until “Let Your Garden Grow” does the album regain some energy it lost. Andrew Patrick-Walker performs the song as if an acoustic B-Side from Everybody’s Talking About Jamie as the varied melodies show him off in this really fun song with a sweet message.

From here we have, as previously mentioned, what I think is the strongest song on the album, “Cost of Living”. The vocal blending is gorgeous, the lyrics are developed, and you really feel a sense of community between the cast. From here we continue with a string of theatrical, energetic, numbers that all feel developed. The piercing piano and vocals of “You Don’t Know Me”, the catchy hook of the title in “Spaces”, and the emotion and poignant self-reflecting in “I (Me, Myself and I)”.

The album’s eleventh-hour song, “Burst Through Life” packs a punch and really does burst through as another high point of the album, and again wouldn’t be out of place at a showcase. 

Producers Pioneer Arts have put together a very high-quality album, with the soundscape production from waterfalls to paper tearing giving the intimate orchestrations variety. The inclusion of the two interludes is really nice, it's always a treat to have short reprises recorded.

Overall, if you like easy listening music, there will be plenty to enjoy about this album. However, the uneven pacing and lopsided halves of the album make for an odd experience as a whole. The stronger numbers really stick out between the others that struggle to distinguish themselves from one another. But, for the songs that do take your fancy, you should absolutely make space for them on your playlists.

Review by Jack Morris

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Online | Price of Ticket: Streaming on Spotify

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