Stephen Schwartz

Reluctant Pilgrim

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One of the country's leading creators of contemporary librettos for the stage and screen, three-time Grammy winner Stephen Schwartz joins with some friends in a collection of his songs. All but one of these songs stand by themselves without the benefit of being part of a plot line and the story which carries it out. As such, they don't have the same dynamic attractiveness penned for Godspell, Pippin, Butterflies Are Free, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and other extravaganzas which have become part of the American musical landscape. The result is another album of contemporary material that might be better than the ordinary, but listeners will never know given the rather routine way they are performed. Schwartz has a pleasant voice, but he goes about it much like many others who sing this type of material. There's a folksy, coffeehouse way about it that wears rather quickly. A bevy of background vocalists are along to provide some variety and some cuts have electronically created instrumentation, while other extraneous sounds create the appearance of a large production, such as on "Dreamscape." The pieces that come across the best are those which are presented in a simple setting unadorned with electronic gizmos, such as the rather sad "The Hardest Part of Love." "Life Goes On" has to be spoof material being written to capture the sensibilities of contemporary life. Lines like "Those dysfunctional people I used to despise" and "There were no bruises or tubes in your chest" are not the stuff love songs are made of. To get the full force of Schwartz's creativity, one is better off listening to soundtracks of the shows he wrote for.

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