Various Artists

Whistle Down the Wind (Songs From)

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Theater composer Andrew Lloyd Webber pioneered the idea of anticipating a stage production by issuing a studio cast album with Jesus Christ Superstar, which topped the charts as a record before being mounted as a show. By the late '90s, Lloyd Webber had come to a more conventional approach to cast albums, but when Boyzone's version of "No Matter What" from Whistle Down the Wind topped the British charts six weeks after the musical opened in London, he opted to assemble a various artists collection of pop versions of the show's songs prior to releasing an original cast recording. Having collaborated with Jim Steinman as lyricist, Lloyd Webber had a built-in selection of artists the two had worked with before. From Lloyd Webber's stable came Donny Osmond, Michael Ball, and Elaine Paige, who had appeared in his earlier shows, while Steinman could bring in such clients as Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler. The resulting album produced few clues for anyone who hadn't attended a performance of Whistle Down the Wind in the West End as to what it might be about, but it was an enjoyable collection of songs that often sounded like they'd been written by Lloyd Webber or Steinman rather than the two together. The title song, presented in a chart version by Tina Arena, and one by Lottie Mayor of the stage production, with Lloyd Webber on piano, and "No Matter What" had familiar Lloyd Webber melodies and romantic lyrics that could have been by anyone. But "Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts," performed by Tyler, and the seven-and-a-half-minute "A Kiss Is a Terrible Thing to Waste," sung by Meat Loaf, had all the melodramatic rock & roll excess associated with songs written by Steinman alone. At the very least, Steinman proved himself Lloyd Webber's strongest collaborator since Tim Rice.

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