Michael Ball

One Voice

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In his more famous theater work, Michael Ball had graduated from playing the young romantic lead Marius in Les Miserables to the central character of Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but on record his career had somewhat retreated into that of a karaoke singer, releasing albums of cover versions not unlike TV talent show reality stars. Where once there had been the emotional singing of "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" from his original performance in Les Mis, by the mid-2000s there were albums dumbed down to appeal to mums listening to albums in the background while doing the ironing. This path had begun in earnest with 2005's Music album. Most of Ball's product on CD up until then had consisted of show tunes, either ones that he had personally sung from Phantom of the Opera, Aspects of Love, and Les Mis or famous old chestnuts from other people's shows: "Memory" from Cats, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from The Lion King, and even "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel. But there are only so many show and theater tunes available that fit Ball's style of singing, so in order to keep the records selling, his label, Universal Music TV, a division of Universal Music specializing in TV-advertised greatest-hits compilations, put out a cover-versions album of songs ranging from John Miles' epic "Music" to "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and David Bowie's "Life on Mars." It was relatively successful, just missing the Top Ten, and became his best-selling album since the mid-'90s, so -- realizing where the future of their artist might lie -- Universal Music TV went for a similar album, One Voice, a year later for the Christmas 2006 market. This time he covered predictable ballads: "Hero" (originally by Mariah Carey), "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" (Aerosmith), "If You're Not the One" (Daniel Bedingfield), and "Lyin' Eyes" (the Eagles), as well as Russ Ballard's "Since You've Been Gone" in the style of the Rainbow hit and the not quite so regularly covered "The Living Years" (Mike + the Mechanics), "One Voice" (Barry Manilow), and "Everybody Hurts" (R.E.M.). It didn't work quite as well this time, missing the Top 20 and disappearing from the charts even before Christmas week. Michael Ball was better than this. He had shown in the past that he had a rich, emotional, and powerful voice that could melt hearts and make you really believe in a character, but reduced to insipid karaoke versions of classic standard ballads, he was not really given the chance to shine and show just how good a singer he could be. Perhaps if he'd have chosen Aerosmith's "Love in an Elevator," Daniel Bedingfield's "Gotta Get Thru This," or Rainbow's "Kill the King," his adoring record-buying public might have heard what Michael Ball was really made of.

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