Brian Stokes Mitchell's first solo album has been a long time coming and, as revealed in the annotations, a long time in preparation; recording spread over nearly six years, from April 2000 to January 2006. As Mitchell notes, during that period he was busy doing other things, notably appearing in Broadway musicals and performing on their cast albums. As he is too modest to point out, he also became Broadway's biggest male star by reinventing such shows as Man of La Mancha and South Pacific. Not surprisingly, his debut album revisits more Broadway material, which is given fresh orchestrations by several hands, including his own. But while his singing is always expressive and elastic, the results are not always impressive. "Something's Coming" from West Side Story, which leads things off, is given an arrangement that would place it seamlessly on a Lionel Richie album of the 1980s, and other songs, such as "The Best Is Yet to Come" and "How Long Has This Been Going On?," have been done so many times by now that there may be no good new ways to do them. Even a master of reinvention like Mitchell can only add his renditions to the already huge pile. More effective are the less familiar songs he can dig his teeth into, such as the vibrant "Life Is Sweet" and the gospel-tinged closer, John Bucchino's "Grateful." Another success is the intermingling of Billy Strayhorn's Duke Ellington anthem "Take the 'A' Train" with Stephen Sondheim's "Another Hundred People." But Mitchell shies away from doing big, dramatic performances here. There's no "This Nearly Was Mine," as there was in his South Pacific, and no "The Impossible Dream" either. He has a lot more voice than he displays on this album, and it may leave his musical theater fans wondering why more of his abilities were not used.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
feat: Michael McElroy