Album Review: Julian Ovenden – If You Stay – Released April 23rd 2012

Julian Ovenden – If You Stay 

Julian Ovenden is set to release his debut album If You Stay on the 23rd April 2012. While better known for his acting abilities, having played the pilot Andrew Foyle in the Battle of Britain, it is perhaps somewhat of a surprise to see him release a full album through Decca records. That said, he is also a well-known and respected theatre actor, who has trodden the boards of both London’s West End and Broadway.

First off, let me admit to the fact that I had never heard of him before. I didn’t read up about him, just put the CD on and thought I’d give it a go. I was half expecting some cheesy wannabe singer to give me a hammed up musical performance when suddenly BAM! The introduction for the first track It Hurts To Say Goodbye hit me with such force I dropped my pen! What an awesome production! It is like something straight out of a James Bond soundtrack and completely unique to the original (sung by Vera Lynn). 

While I think critics will probably compare him to 'The Buble', and elements of his voice will also draw upon the easier comparison to  Frank Sinatra. That said, while his voice is pleasant and suited to this style of music, I’m not sure it compares in quite the same way. Ovenden is an obvious talent but fear he will struggle to get the attention he deserves. I would prefer him to be taking more risks at this stage, the album in littered with cover songs and I feel if Julian Ovenden is to become a household name he will need to get a bit more adventurous. 

The album continues with the more fragile track The Last Waltz and then the more edgier number Woman to Man. There is a little hint of the theatrical cheese in the latter as I had feared at the beginning. The first single to be released will be If You Go Away. It is a dramatic, yet vulnerable track that has a powerful production behind it. That said, while I was initially blown away by It Hurts To Say Goodbye, I don’t feel the album quite returns to that first ear-catching wonder. There is a slight hint of it perhaps in the track In A Broken Dream, with that sexy Bond-themed production slinking back in again with an almost blues like vibe.

Fans of Toy Story will also have a weep at the cover of When She Loved Me. Ovenden really suits this stripped back acoustic setting just as well as he does the big band numbers. Again I reiterate that I think he should be moving towards more original tracks than covers, but this one I think i'm going to allow as it's quite beautiful. 

The most surprising track is Ten Thousand Miles. I recognised it immediately as a take on the English Folk Song ‘The Turtle Dove’ (made famous through the Vaughan Williams’ arrangement). It is a particularly lovely nod towards English folk song and I’m thrilled to say I really enjoyed the modern string and piano arrangement underneath, even the surprise key change midway through! Anyone who aims to bring pieces of musical history to a wider audience has my vote! 

In summary, it's well-produced and enjoyable album that will attract listeners from all ages and backgrounds. It deserves to do well, but think it could have made a bigger impact by being a bit more daring - either by focusing on the big Bond-styled production or shedding all production completely to give us a totally stripped back acoustic album. Julian Ovenden is clearly capable of whatever he wishes to put his mind to.