BWW CD Reviews: Broadway Records' SAMSON & DELILAH (2014 Concept Recording) is Mildly Entertaining and Unremarkable
Earlier this week Broadway Records released the concept cast recording of Ron Yatter's musical SAMSON & DELILAH. Featuring American Idol alums and current stars of the latest National Tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo in the titular roles, the pop score is sung with radio-friendly vocal styling but fails to truly impress.
After attending a performance of Camille Saint-Saëns SAMSON AND DELILAH at New York City's Metropolitan Opera, Ron Yatter was inspired to create a musical adaptation of the Biblical tale because he felt the plot of the opera lacked the element of true love. In the liner notes for the album, he says that the story is one of his favorites, and he always felt it had potential to be "a great epic" and a "tragic love story."
With a background in music, Ron Yatter wrote the lyrics and began setting them to music. As the songs evolved during his creation process, he says he also teamed up with skilled arrangers, which allowed the songs to achieve the "pop/legit sounds" contained on the disc. As a listener of the album, none of the songs stick with me. The score is missing that dramatic rock edge found in Andrew Lloyd Webber's JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, and it never obtains the catchy tunefulness of DREAMCOAT either. The songs sound nice, but even after repeated listenings I just do not connect with them on a deep level. They are instantly forgettable and do not leave me desiring to see the musical brought to life on stage.
Ace Young sings the role with his iridescent pop tenor instrument. However, as Samson, Ace Young sounds soft and not brutally masculine. The Biblical parable describes Samson as having supernatural strength granted to him by God, a performer of heroic feats, and able to slay an entire army with the jawbone of an ass. His vulnerabilities were his attraction to dishonest women and his hair, which he is powerless without. Voicing this brawny and virile legend, Ace Young sounds more like a Disney prince than a rough brute. His vocals on the dewey-eyed lyrics are melodious, presenting Samson as uncharacteristically gentle and tender.
Bringing life to Delilah on the album, Diana DeGarmo's vibrant pop soprano instrument is a pleasure to hear. Her take on the character is sweet and loving, stripping away the image of the dangerous temptress that audiences associate the character with. As Ron Yatter infuses the tale with the idea of true love, gone is the implication that Delilah betrays Samson for money. Instead, much like a Disney princess, she fawns over Samson and quickly falls in love with him. As the plot progresses on the recording, we learn that she cuts Samon's hair as an act of vengeance against him because he killed many Philistines. Then, she finds herself heartbroken when he is blinded. In the finale of the musical, she begs for his forgiveness and wins back his love.
With Ron Yatter's SAMSON & DELILAH (2014 Concept Recording), audiences get pretty people with pretty voices singing pretty pop songs that put a saccharine spin on one of Western culture's most prolific stories of lust, love, betrayal, and deceit. Listening to the score and lyrics, it seems that the Biblical fable has been whitewashed all for the sake of adding the notion of mutually shared true love. While I'm sure many Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo diehards will find plenty to love about this album, I expect a majority of listeners will find it mildly entertaining at best and completely unremarkable.
SAMSON & DELILAH (2014 Concept Recording) was released by Broadway Records digitally on February 7, 2014 and physically on February 11, 2014 to coincide with Valentine's Day. The album can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold.
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