Elaine Paige

Elaine Paige and Friends

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One of the biggest stars from the world of musical theater, Elaine Paige is just as popular as ever, thanks to her Sunday afternoon Radio 2 show and last year's televised duet with Susan Boyle, who cited her as the main influence behind her rapid rise to fame. Now, for the first time since 1991's Love Can Do That, she releases a brand new studio album that's void of any of her trademark songs from the musicals. Like the title suggests, Elaine Paige and Friends is a duets album, featuring a diverse range of artists from the more obvious John Barrowman on a cover of Roberta Flack's "Where Is the Love," to the unlikely Sinéad O'Connor on the only original track, the Gary Barlow/Tim Rice penned "It's Only Life." Unlike Tom Jones' Reload and Lulu's Together, both of which featured collaborations with younger, more relevant singers, Elaine Paige and Friends doesn't seem like such a calculated bid for chart success. Indeed, LeAnn Rimes, who she teams up with on Katie Melua's "Closest Thing to Crazy," is the only guest vocalist to have had a hit single in the last ten years. Instead, Paige has picked her favorite singers from the past 50 years, such as Paul Anka on the lounge-pop reworking of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are," Neil Sedaka on a subtle rendition of Bread's "Make It with You," and Dionne Warwick on a stirring version of Andrew Gold's "Thank You for Being a Friend." When the album does stray into more contemporary territory, it's not quite as successful, as both Madonna's gorgeous ballad "Take a Bow" and Josh Groban's Latino-influenced "Mi Morena" are both turned into slightly overwrought cabaret. But with the rest of the material, Phil Ramone's clean and simple production perfectly complements Paige's sweet but powerful vocal ability. Elaine Paige and Friends is unlikely to echo the multi-platinum success of similar duets collections, but for fans who've waited nearly 20 years for new material, it's a tasteful and well-produced choice of songs.

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