Collabro themselves: 5 Stars
Producers of this album: 3 Stars
Overall: 4 stars
I've been really excited about this release, and I want to say straight away that the guys' voices are as superb as ever. They deserve a 5-star rating, and I feel a bit sad that I can't rightly give this album that rating because there are some major disappointments, all of which trace back to flaws in the seemingly rushed production.
Perhaps the biggest gripe I have is that the backing tracks are mostly synthesized and sound like karaoke tracks instead of accompaniment for a proper album. At least give these guys a real orchestra! They deserve it! Come on, you've got to match the quality of their voices with the quality of the instruments! The producers should have known better. It makes this album feel really rushed and like sort of a snack thrown at the fans while we wait for the real deal.
And that's kind of how I feel, like I'll just be waiting for a live album that'll actually feature them with an orchestra once they gain more traction. Sadly, I don't know if we'll be hearing some of these incredible songs covered that way. Collabro have stated that their passion is to bring musical theater to the public, but for fans of musical theater, who are treated with a live pit orchestra when hearing these songs performed in their respective musicals, it is an instant and unforgivable error (to the ear, if not the tastes) to throw a synthesized backing track in behind these guys.
The gems of the album are the two songs Collabro sung at BGT, as well as "With You" from the movie Ghost.
I'm really happy with some of the songs, but some choices were really odd. Secrets by OneRepublic is really dated as far as modern music goes. There have been a ton of covers of this song and none have surpassed the original. In some ways I'm sure OneRepublic is proud that they've created such a well-liked song, and in other ways I feel sorry for them with everyone trying to steal their thunder. Just go and listen to the original. It will always be the best iteration. It's a wonderful song, but I think we're all a little tired of hearing it rehashed by others. It doesn't fit into the theme of musical theater and film music on this album at all and reminds me of cheesy uninteresting musical numbers like that Asian traditional instrument ensemble that tried to go big by covering songs like Coldplay's Clocks back in the early 00's. Collabro almost makes Secrets sound like a march, the way they dictate every word. It's clunky and staccato and the opposite of what OneRepublic's sound is. The best part of the track is the strings intro simply because it is smooth and fluid and a unique lead-in to the song. After that the style of the cover is crippling.
Speaking of songs we're tired of hearing that have thousands of unnecessary covers... Let it Go... Can we just do as the title suggests already? It's not even a very well-written song from a musical or lyrical standpoint, and wouldn't be garnering the popularity it has now if it wasn't Disney's chosen highlight of it's latest animated film. It wasn't the best song in Frozen, and there are some in that film that Collabro could have had a whack at to glorious effect, I think. I have no idea if Collabro chose the songs for this album or if the producers of the album did. I imagine there was something of a collaborative effort as far as that goes, but some of the song choices seem to lack sensibility and seem meant to ride trends or pander to cliches. Let it Go is the case in point, with Secrets trailing. Not sure what led to the choice for Somewhere Over The Rainbow, but I think this is one of the tracks other reviewers are talking about when they mention songs that have been run into the ground. The arrangement is quite beautiful, but I can hardly listen to it because the song is just so worn out. There's a thin line between classic and cliche. Ah, to dream of a day when burgeoning talent show vocalists spare us the obligatory "Over The Rainbow" cover...
The cover of Come What May from Moulin Rouge is a welcome choice, but they really got denied the potential for some high-soaring and wonderful harmonies in the last parts of that song that are in the original, and the guys have proven themselves capable of reaching those heights in other tracks. It's a decent arrangement for the first half, then the second half falls a bit flat. Whereas Ewan and Anna sound quite enamored and lovestruck in the original, Collabro mostly just sounds like they're trying to sing pretty. The emotion doesn't really come through, and I blame the producers for rushing this album and rushing the guys through the recording studio. There are a lot of moments on this album that could have really shone if they had just slowed down the production.
I feel sorry for the guys a bit. Their singing is BRILLIANT, as always, but they mentioned in an interview only having 9 days to record the album and this is just months after they won BGT. Why rush genius? We fans are willing to wait for mastery, not some quickly shot out album to try to keep Collabro "relevant". A debut album should be overflowing with freshness, not feel tinny and shot full of holes. I'd rather not imagine the guys are singing about a flashlight shining through perforated aluminium in the title track.
So much more work could have gone into this on the producers' part. There are times when it just sounds like a choir instead of a five piece ensemble and I feel like the guys are a little lost in what's happening.
All that said, I love what the guys are doing. I love their spirit and determination and their energy. I hope they keep doing what they love and showing us all how beautiful musical theater music can be. If I'm honest, I'm a little scared for them though because they are still riding the coattails of their talent show victory and have very quickly gone from a newly-formed group of unknowns with a boyish energy and charm to being processed through the corporate media and shot quickly onto the market. It is absolutely crucial to their success that they retain what made us fall in love with them on Britain's Got Talent and not turn into tools for the labels to use at their whims.
They deserve a brighter debut than this and a brighter path forward for their talents and efforts. The pop-hungry public may be fooled, but the trained ear can hear the cheapness of this album's production values. Don't sell them short, Mr. Cowell! Give them real accompaniment next time! There are churches here in Kansas with bigger musical production values. Yeesh.