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I've always liked Soho, right from my first visit in 1987. No, not for that reason. Soho has always been a mecca for different shops, bars, restaurants and cultures - a Pick N Mix of society and styles. Much the same can be said for SimG's latest release - A Song Cycle for Soho, featuring music and lyrics by some of today's top composers and lyricists, performed by a quartet of British theatre talent in Michael Cantwell, James Gillan, Claire Moore and Niamh Perry.
A Song Cycle for Soho reflects the full, rich tapestry of Soho life and history - a writing project created for Mercury Musical Development members to practice the craft of songwriting, which was presented at London’s Soho Theatre in March 2012. With a Book by Andrew Brinded and Musical Direction from Tony Winner Sarah Travis, the cast album features 16 original songs from 24 writers including award winners Stiles & Drewe, Stuart Matthew Price, Tim Sutton and Richard Thomas, to the next generation Brunger & Cleary and Barnaby Race, to established writers Craig Adams, Alexander S. Bermange, Hamilton & Pearse and Dougal Irvine.
My first impression was mixed. There is undoubtedly some good work in here, both in terms of performances and songwriting. However, there are some numbers that, for me, are more relevant than others, more 'Soho', and perhaps a prune or a change here or there would have made the overall piece feel tighter. Trying to create a single work from the songs of 24 different writers must have been a huge task, and credit must be given for coming up with something that, whilst not perfect, does come over as coherent whole.
'Does Anybody Know My Name' and 'If Nobody Knows Your Name' are both beautifully constructed songs, as is 'I Wish I Wish'. The music hall take of 'Self Respect' is a good comedy number, even with its Kray-related theme, and 'Mummy Knows Better' leads us into the seedier underworld. Nuff said.
The opening (and closing) number 'Saturday Night In', is catchy, and I imagine was a great asset to the stage production, as it is here. It frames the album nicely, an album that no only benefits from great production values, but also from great performances from the four contributors. Their vocals are rich, and blend great in numbers such as Hey Beautiful People, and the opening track. Solo, they each put over their contributions with passion and believability, and where needed, just the right amount of tongue in cheek.
Did I enjoy the album - yes, and I wish I had seen the original production, as, like it's subject matter, it sounds like an interesting night out...
Ahead of the official release date A Song Cycle for Soho is to have an exclusive in store CD signing at Dress Circle (57/59 Monmouth St, London, WC2H 9DG) on Saturday 12 May from 12pm - 1pm where cast members and writers will be on hand to sign CDs.
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