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BWW CD Review: Kyle Taylor Parker's BROADWAY SOUL VOL. 2, Stands On Its Own

The high-concept musical story of queer love during a pandemic will rock your soul.

BWW CD Review: Kyle Taylor Parker's BROADWAY SOUL VOL. 2, Stands On Its Own

Boy, there's nothing like a great theme project, is there? Remember the Milk Moustache ad campaign? Kenn Duncan's book about RED SHOES? How about the Blackglama ads? All are iconic photographic documentaries on paper that people have loved and always remember - admit it, your mind flashed right back to all of them. Like those photographic series, the history of the recording industry is peppered with artists who sat down at the drafting board in order to create record albums that mapped out a musical story in order to give the listener just a little bit more than the pleasure of hearing them sing a set of pretty songs. Linda Ronstadt went latin with CANCIONES DE MI PADRE, Barbra Streisand got WET, and Styx rocked the PARADISE THEATRE.

Kyle Taylor Parker went high concept with his new album BROADWAY SOUL, VOL. 2, piecing together a collection of 12 songs that fit neatly into two different concepts, the first being Broadway show tunes reimagined as r&b recordings, the second telling a story of love in the time of pandemic. The album is one of the most fun, musically pleasing, irresistible CDs you can add to your collection... like, ever. Simply on the merit of Mr. Parker's vocals (and those of his sickeningly talented guest artists), the cd is worth owning, so let's talk about that first and we will get to the storytelling aspect in a moment.

Kyle Taylor Parker can sing, boy howdy can he sing... and you could pretty much listen to him sing all day, except that it might be a little exhausting. Listening to the places he can go with his voice and the accompanying emotions is a thrill-a-minute experience, but it's also like watching the Olympic gymnastic team or an American Ninja Warrior marathon - all that energy and effort gives you sympathy pangs for the athlete. And as a singer, Kyle Taylor Parker is an Olympic-level athlete. The vocals are magnificent. Parker has outdone himself with the singing and with the arrangements that he and Sonny Paladino have created to bring these lovely Broadway melodies into the r&b genre, making them relatable and radio-ready, like music you listen to every day without thinking of the Broadway musical from whence the songs originated. These orchestrations could have been done for a Stevie Wonder album produced with an eye on the Top 40 list, that's how accessible the recordings are. Each track taken on its own would be a pleasure to have pop up in your shuffle, but when played from start to finish, you get the benefit of the high-concept part of KTP's vision.

Inside of the CD booklet (and streaming customers should be aware of this and acquire a digital copy) is a two-act synopsis mapping out the story of a love affair. Whose love affair? What happens? Is there a happy ending? That's the million-dollar question, isn't it? This is a satisfying story, told in true musical theater fashion, with the songs doing the work of a Broadway score, and fabulous artists like Shoshana Bean and Natalie Joy Johnson serving as the supporting cast on numbers like "The Glory of Love" and "You Could Drive a Person Crazy". Using songs by Cole Porter, Charlie Smalls, and Stephen Trask, and from musicals like Ragtime, The Color Purple and A Chorus Line, Parker and producer Paladino have managed to create a new musical that isn't only plausible, it's pleasurable. Listeners will find themselves laughing out loud, sighing audibly, and dancing along as the tale of "Guy Lovedon" unfolds before their very ears... but beware, a slow-dance partner will be necessary for Parker's sexy, sultry, spectacular "What About Love?" duet with Blaine Alden Krauss. The musical play created is so fine that it's a shame the CD title doesn't provide the piece with a name all its own, rather than make it the second volume of a pre-existing project.

With the translation of the show tunes into r&b recordings and the curation of the songs into a queer love story, Kyle Taylor Parker celebrates his life as both a black and a gay man, allowing his art to be fully informed by the person that he is, and not just the artist. It's extremely effective and supremely enjoyable, thanks to Parker and the entire team of contributors, all of whom worked by remote - observe the liner notes credits "Recorded in home studios across North America" and "Lead vocals recorded from Mr. Parker's closet in Harlem," which illustrates the virtuosity of mixer Rich Mercurio and master Oscar Zambrano. The mere fact that so many people in so many locations, from music makers to photography teams to designers, could put together so polished and accomplished a product is bona fide proof that the artists of the world will adapt, will rise to the occasion, will create, will illuminate in any circumstance, adversity be damned, and continue to inspire and entertain.

Kyle Taylor Parker BROADWAY SOUL VOL. 2, is a 2021 release on the Broadway Records Label, and is available in CD format and digitally at all platforms HERE. There will be a vinyl release - the pre-order is available HERE.


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