BWW Album Review: Ramin Karimloo's FROM NOW ON is a Love Letter to the Modern Musical Canon
Ramin Karimloo's second full-length album, FROM NOW ON, is a gorgeous love letter to his "broadgrass" music, in which he covers tunes from the canon of musical theatre and film with bluegrass stylings. Released on August 2, 2019 by Sony Masterworks Broadway, the album is a collection of 12 songs - four of which were previously released as singles - that are sure to get toes tapping while listeners thrill at hearing Karimloo sing some of the best known hits from the contemporary musical repertoire.
The album opens with an earnest rendition of "From Now On" (Benj Pasek and Justin Paul; THE GREATEST SHOWMAN). The titular track showcases Karimloo's ability to draw an audience in with dulcet tones sung barely above a whisper. Then, as the music builds, we get to revel in his ability to add a crescendo that perfectly mirrors the growing emotionality of the music. Next, he knocks "Moving Too Fast" (Jason Robert Brown; THE LAST FIVE YEARS) out of the park with a rollicking, raucous rocker vibe. Charisma drips from every note and well-enunciated word, making the song reminiscent of Norman Leo Butz's indelible performance on the original cast recording while also being uniquely Karimloo's own.
The album continues with "You'll Be Back" (Lin-Manuel Miranda; HAMILTON), which feels like a truly odd choice for this collection. While the addition of mandolin chording and mandolin trills is inspired and brings about sonic cohesion, the head scratcher moment is thinking, "Of all the Lin-Manuel Miranda songs, why this one?" Miranda's catalogue is so vibrant and robust that this tune just doesn't seem like an obvious choice.
Karimloo returns to the catalogue of Pasek & Paul with a driving rendition of "Waving Through a Window" (DEAR EVAN HANSEN). His spirited iteration of the instant classic is pristinely performed, but sounds exactly like what you would imagine it to be. Then, Karimloo delivers another surprising musical selection with his stunning performance of "It All Fades Away" (Brown, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY). While largely a critically loved show, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY is not a modern musical hit and probably forgotten by more than who remember it. Yet, Karimloo takes a massive risk in choosing to breathe new life into "It All Fades Away," which was the best number in the show in my opinion, and he hits a brilliant home run. His soaring cover is nothing short of sublime and splendid.
One cannot and should not pay homage to the modern musical without tackling a song by Jonathan Larson, so it is no shock that Karimloo covers "What You Own" (RENT) with skillful aplomb. Aurally, the song packs no surprises, but it is wonderful hearing Karimloo expertly belt his way through the familiar melodies, singing both parts (even if Roger's lines and notes are favored more than Mark's). Changing the speaker's perspective on "Let It Go" (Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez; FROZEN), Kairmloo transforms the song into a stirring anthemic piece that sounds like a parent emboldening their daughter to defy her peers and live life to its fullest. An abrupt shifting of gears brings listeners to Karimloo's heartfelt and tender cover of "Mary Jane" (Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard, JAGGED LITTLE PILL).
One of the most enigmatic modern musicals is CHESS, but Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus's "Anthem" remains one of the greatest theatrical ballads written in the modern era. With a fervent zeal Karimloo's bluegrass cover of the song truly soars on shimmering wings, creating a resplendent new version of the well-known and often performed song. He chases it with a charming, but too nasal to be emotionally effective cover of "I Will Always Love You" (Dolly Parton, THE BODYGUARD). Then, Karimloo presents a giddiness inducing cover of "Wicked Little Town" (Stephen Trask and John Cameron Mitchell, HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH). He pays homage to the original while allowing his own voice to shine on the recording. The album then closes with a step away from the musical canon. Karimloo sings a heartbreaking yet beautiful cover of Queen's "Is This the World We Created...?" (Freddie Mercury and Brian May).
Karimloo's FROM NOW ON, released by Sony Masterworks Broadway, presents hit after hit sung in his "broadgrass" style, making it more than just a novelty cover album. The reimagining of the tunes elevates each track and makes them into something new. Even the most familiar of the songs feel brand new in his approaches to them, making them enjoyable to hear many times over. FROM NOW ON can be purchased from Apple Music, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold.