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SOUND OFF: All Good Things

Today we have a super-special bonus in honor of the most smashing debut album so far this year, Stuart Matthew Price's ALL THINGS IN TIME in addition to the full rundown! To access this new landmark BWW Exclusive Premiere Player - featuring a sparkling, shiny new Jason Robert Brown anthem - simply activate the window embedded inside the review! Here - only at BWW - you can hear the stupendous title track which was written especially for this album by JRB, "All Things In Time", as well as two songs from the Pulitzer Prize-winning NEXT TO NORMAL, "There‘s A World" and "I'm Alive" by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt, in addition to an impossibly addictive pop confection called "The Touch Of Love" from a new West End musical titled IN TOUCH by Dougal Irvine. Hopefully this sample will compel you to further partake in this treasure trove and pick up a copy of the complete album which also features songs by a number of new, up-and-coming composers personally accompanying the astounding leading man on many tracks! These three tracks are available to enjoy for only a limited time, so the time for all good things is undeniably right now! Catch a star on the rise and take a rocket ride to the SimG universe!

With Kings & All Things

Stuart Matthew Price - ALL THINGS IN TIME
SCORE: 10/10

Stuart Matthew Price's new album on SimG Records, ALL THINGS IN TIME, goes all the way in proving that good things come to those who wait. Great things. Genius things. Those on Broadway and the West End - like this critic - have been waiting seemingly forever for this album. This is the solo debut of the decade. Stuart is a talent of a generation, a star-on-the-rise with a once-in-a-universe quality, amply evident in each and every moment of this exemplary album. All that; a top hat and tails - and more - Price possesses. ALL THINGS IN TIME - much like Audra McDonald's WAY BACK TO PARADISE, the best solo album of the 90s - firmly, fiercely and ferociously establishes every facet of the freshly christened performer, the Prince of the West End as of now. Performers on the precipice of practically international - planetary - acclaim, performers such as Stuart and Ms. McDonald, do nothing wrong. They are note perfect. As is this. So, too does this elegant affair acquit itself of everything and anything but absolute excellence at all times - a starry-eyed stunner from start to finish. A total eclipse of the solar system. All things are tight, all things are right, all things are fresh and exciting and new. Why can't all solo albums be this good? Half this good? A quarter this good? It is impossible to discuss this exemplary album and its contributors and creators - including, first and foremost, producer Simon Greiff, along with the composers of (and accompanists on) the superb songs Stuart sings, such as Laurence Mark Wythe, Richard Taylor, Sam Davis, Richard Beadle, George Stiles (& Anthony Drewe), Georgia Stitt, and the British answer to Jason Robert Brown - a high compliment indeed - the remarkably accomplished and provocative songwriter Grant Olding whose songs sear the soul effortlessly with their probing observations and aura. Stuart also performs a song at the piano that he himself has written - "Autumn Leaves", a fantastically fitting fall into Fall song if ever there were any - but more on that later. More on all good things soon. All good things are here.

Hear. The crème de la crème, the absolute beacon even in a breathtakingly blazing and bracing bright white light of a perfect storm such as this album, are the two contributions from Jason Robert Brown. Yes, he won a well-deserved Tony Award for the impressive and impeccable PARADE, directed by Hal Prince - InDepth InterView: Hal Prince coming later this month, by the way - and without question THE LAST FIVE YEARS is the greatest two-character musical of all time, and, furthermore, the score the most successfully contemporary-sounding without being remotely cloying or insincere (I'm looking at you, SPRING AWAKENING) since RENT. Also, Lauren Kennedy's albums featuring JRB's material - some original, expressly written for her clarion instrument, some covers - were among the very, very best solo albums of the 00s due to him. But, here, today, you can experience - in a BWW exclusive - something fresh, new, exciting, and absolutely brilliant. Genius. Jason Robert Brown's intensely optimistic ode to acting for your art and art alone, the true first 21st century Depression song, heralding the beginning of a new age of songwriting on Broadway if we take his call to arms. This is where the theatre should be, right now. Why isn't this song being sung on a Broadway stage, tonight? Or on the West End for that matter? Broadway - and, besides the plays, the West End - is amply and apparently allergic to genius and quality in craft all in all. But, here it is, right before us - all the same. Enjoy it. Something this good only comes along once a decade. A special thanks to Simon Greiff and Jason Robert Brown for allowing this exclusive first listen to "All Things In Time".

As is apropos for an album accentuating the accessibility and versatility of the primary performer, with the utmost conceptual polish and flow finesse, compounded by the uniform sonic slickness the listener is taken on an aural, emotional, spiritual and palpably real and human journey. A journey of the heart. A journey of the soul. The spirit of art. The story is a contemporary one: how does a boy become a man now, today? Is it through love of country and family - "The Old Red Hills of Home"? Is it the first kiss, the introductory tinge of lust - "The Touch of Love? No, it's the awkwardness and imperceptibility of relationships - "Goodnight Kiss". Is it about finding and building a home, or an identity - "Greenwich Time"? Perhaps is it something spiritual, religious, sacred, maybe matrimonial - "Angels"? Is it explosively emotional, poetic and evocative, intoning the Bard himself - "Sonnet XXIX"? No? So, spontaneity then - "Run Away With Me". Maybe it's desperate, desolate, isolated, frenzied, obsessive - "There's A World / I'm Alive". Or is there a silver lining after all - some "Hope Springs Eternal"? It must be true love - "Free". Going beyond that, maybe it's about being an adult, making a commitment and a lasting promise - "Midnight Will Happen Without Us". Indeed, it is all of these things informing the experience of maturing, evolving, and eventually embarking on the journey of a person pursuing his dreams, learning along the long way, living in the light of his own special art and going where it leads him - "All Things In Time". All these things are ALL THINGS IN TIME, and not just on the surface. This trek taken by Stuart, this quest for understanding, enlightenment and knowledge, this desire for more - that is not only the story of the man, the artist in the adventure at the core of the story of the album, but also the performer, producers and the songwriters themselves. Sometimes when you do your best, your best is revealed. Sometimes not. Again: all things in time.

The persuasive power and breadth - and depth of content - amply evident in Jason Robert Brown's PARADE could not be capsulized in a more compelling manner than done here. Stripped of all adornment, the raw, naked ambition of the man that sings this song - "The Old Red Hills of Home" - as he sets off on his journey shrewdly sets the scene for the overall story of this album, too, and the way this big Broadway moment begins the proceedings is a touch of genius. This is not an easy sell of a song and it's no breeze to sing so the captivating intimacy of this recording on top of the technical precision makes it the best beginning imaginable - as each and every moment herein strives for and always achieves a different mood, style, intent and pay-off. "The Touch of Love" - from Dougal Irvine's IN TOUCH - can be heard in the BWW Exclusive Player and if you thought contemporary pop/rock scores in musical theatre were dead - the scores for AMERICAN IDIOT and NEXT TO NORMAL were largely written more than 5 years ago if not more - here is solid proof that a crossover hit could still be possible originating from a source besides GLEE or AMERICAN IDOL. The pop and rock instrumentation of NEXT TO NORMAL is shed in favor of a solo guitar and chorus treatment on the skillful melding of "There‘s A World" and "I‘m Alive" - with a bit of a Paul Simon funkiness cropping up as it barrels along. "Goodnight Kiss" functions as one of the sole moments of pure levity and hilarity on the album and the light touch with which Stuart performs the track (and Wythe at the piano with a lilting, lively touch) is a delight. The duets are all divine, with Louise Dearman, Cassie Levy and Annalene Beechey proving why they are West End leading ladies of the highest order. Their vocals could not be more different or singular - Dearman has a riff-tastic riposte to every phrase, Levy reveals an infectious inflection and a commanding quality, whereas Beechey sounds like one would imagine the voice of an angel herself would sound, a shiver-inducing instrument with a simultaneously revealed somberness and sweetness giving multiple mellifluous layers to the material she performs. Each duet has been expertly chosen, as well. Ostensibly, "Wishing For the Normal" - by the always interesting and ever-stylistically-changing Stiles & Drewe - as well as "Angels" - by Richard Taylor - provide Stuart the opportunity to show two completely different sides of an interaction with another person, as does "Free", so thus these three moments collectively and separately take a more prominent precedence in the proceedings - for far more than the purposes of this review - because, after all, ALL THINGS IN TIME is on some level the journey of a man in the world and the women he loves along the way, and what he learns from them. It's a lesson - and a master class. With performers like Dearman, Levy and Beechey, we also get the added level of understanding what they have learned from him and a fleeting glimpse of the entire relationship they shared as it was in the past. No small feat. Three-dimensional performances like these - which, if not already made clear, Stuart gives in every single song he sings - are made even more prominently provocative and revealing when given a minimalist rendering, as all tracks are given here. Just like with Audra McDonald's minimalist solo debut WAY BACK TO PARADISE, that is a total boon to all involved because they need nothing besides themselves to shine a light to the entire world. All for the better, all for the best. All the best.

Then there are the composer/lyricists from whom we have come to only expect the top-tier - and with no qualms in doing so given their past accomplishments. Of course, there is Scott Alan and Grant Olding, who have both written any number of songs and scores for the theatre, so the high-level and professional sheen of their contributions are at their level-best, as well as the aforementioned Jason Robert Brown contributions, both old and (especially) new riveting. We have Olding's sensitive and precise piano to experience on "Midnight Will Happen Without Us", perhaps the strongest ballad on the album with due praise do "Run Away With Me" as well. Also, Richard Beadle‘s heartfelt "Hope Springs Eternal" is the album's most unexpectedly moving selection, and a perfect case when discussing how to do a ballad in a contemporary, candid fashion with sincerity and skill. Hell, all three ballads - "Midnight Will Happen Without Us", "Run Away With Me" and "Hope Springs Eternal" - make a solid case for that argument. Then there's the oddball of the bunch, the game-changer: A song by two songwriters I was not familiar with before, Sam Davis and Randy Buck: "Greenwich Time". It is simply a great song, the type of song I wish I was reviewing every week. It has a smashing melody and adept lyrics with always an interesting twist to them. This is not unlike the content of the JRB title track, and the rest of the album - and, on that note, it is imperative to mention that the vast majority of these songs have never been recorded before. It's like a new song cycle written by the best of the new breed of theatre songwriters. Saving the best - and the Bard - for last, Shakespeare himself is done justice by Georgia Stitt's setting of "Sonnet XXIX" and the passionate and grand melody is the ideal match for the tear-jerking, open-hearted words of the sonnet.

The album ends with Price himself singing and playing a song he wrote, "Autumn Days", and by its conclusion - and thereby the album's end - we are reminded that it is possible for musical theatre to turn over a new leaf after all and reveal some greenery growing underneath all the gross garbage. Amidst the planetary debris. New life emerging; somehow; still. ALL THINGS IN TIME is a breath of fresh air in a vast universe contaminated by stifling and all-too-stupid smog. This is what stardust must sound like, swirling around us like cosmic confetti as the white-hot star blasts into orbit igniting the vast black darkness as he propels forward into the void. Catch it while you can.

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From This Author Pat Cerasaro

Pat Cerasaro contributes exclusive scholarly columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Theatrical Throwback Thursdays, Flash Friday and Flash Special as well as additional special features, (read more...)