Michael Ball

Centre Stage

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Thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Michael Ball has been a star in his native U.K. since 1989, when he created the role of Alex Dillingham in Lloyd Webber's musical Aspects of Love and got to sing "Love Changes Everything," which became a number one hit. Since then, while continuing to appear in West End shows, he's charted ten solo albums in Britain. This one, the tenth, makes a good introduction to listeners in the U.S. (where Hip-O issued four of his previous discs in 2000). The song list consists entirely of show music, with qualifications, since "The Winner Takes It All" was a hit for ABBA before it was included with a collection of the group's other songs in the musical Mamma Mia, and the Bee Gees' "Immortality" was written for and introduced by Celine Dion before being interpolated into the score of the stage version of Saturday Night Fever. Ball harks back to early triumphs with "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables, the show in which he made his West End debut in 1985, as well as "The Music of the Night" and the title song from The Phantom of the Opera (the latter a duet with Lesley Garrett), which he appeared in in 1987. His other choices tend to reflect his immersion in sub-operatic pop-style theater music, though he also throws in a couple of Stephen Sondheim songs. He possesses a supple tenor that he frequently uses in melodramatic and stagy ways, an artificial approach that may be unconvincing to American listeners used to more down-to-earth interpretations. This isn't a collection that takes any chances, and it pales in comparison to Donny Osmond's 2001 album This Is the Moment, which employs several of the same songs, much less the catalog of Michael Crawford.

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