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Jonathan Ansell Tenor At the Movies Review

Album. Released 2008.  

BBC Review

Musically it's sadly mediocre.

Morag Reavley 2008

Once upon a time there were four boys who loved to sing. Clean-cut, malleable and studying at a top music school, they were plucked from obscurity to form a classical boy band and take part in a TV talent show. With a repertoire of poppified classics and classic-ified pop tunes, the band topped the charts, filled the Royal Albert Hall, and set the pulses of girls – and their mothers – throbbing. But then they got to squabbling, decided they'd had enough, and went their separate ways.

So runs the history of popera band G4. Only one of the ex-members has decided to pursue a solo career to date: Jonathan Ansell, he of the blond hair and pretty looks. His first solo recording – based on a reputed £1 million deal with Universal – assembles a selection of film themes, some with original lyrics, others with vocals written for this disc. The record company has high hopes, puffing Ansell as 'a modern-day Pavarotti', a role he will actually be playing in a Las Vegas musical about the superstar tenor later this year. But the results are decidedly mixed.

One problem is that many of these tracks are simply much better as instrumentals. In the case of Vangelis's Chariots of Fire theme, vocals just get in the way of this quintessential keyboard piece. Ansell's rendition plods along like a Monday-morning school assembly hymn. With Here’s To The Heroes’ – John Barry's theme from Dances With Wolves – the problem is that the vocals are hopelessly banal: "Here's to the heroes who aim so high / Here's to the heroes who do or die". And it's hard to listen to a serious rendition of Si Un Jour from Manon Des Sources when the tune is now inseparable from those ironic Stella Artois commercials.

Another downside is the souped-up musical arrangements. The disc is embellished with grandiose orchestral swirls and flourishes, ramping up the emotion to histrionic levels. Take Parla Piu Piano – aka the love theme from The Godfather – which is rendered as lavishly as Puccini. But while Ansell has a pleasant enough voice, he's hardly high opera, and it all sounds ridiculously grandiose.

The tracks which do work are the simpler pieces. Vois Sur Ton Chemin, the theme from French boarding school film Les Choristes, places Ansell's simple melody against a chirpy boys' choir. It's quirky, uncluttered, charming. The gospel Down In The River to Pray from O Brother Where Art Thou also works because of its simplicity. There should be more of these.

There are cohorts of Ansell fans who will doubtless lap this up and make this album a commercial triumph - but musically it's sadly mediocre.

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