Jonathan Baz Reviews, 16.05.2017
Songs from Comrade Rockstar
A Musical Inspired by the Life of Dean Reed
It's always nice to hear something new. It may not always be to my taste, but I'm always pleased when anyone sends me a recording of a new musical. All of our favourites were new once, and it's the only way we'll keep musicals alive. SimG has been at the forefront of this over the past few years, certainly in terms of UK releases, so I was pleased to receive their latest release Songs From Comrade Rockstar.
Comrade Rockstar is a new rock musical based on the life of Dean Reed, the Soviet Elvis, with book & lyrics by Julian Woolford and music by Richard John. Reed was an American who defected to the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War to become the biggest star behind the Iron Curtain, only to see his life and dreams collapse as Perestroika crumbled the Eastern Bloc.
A glorious collection of West End vocalists were assembled to record Songs From Comrade Rockstar; starring Tim Howar (Rock Of Ages) as Dean Reed, with Kim Ismay (Mamma Mia), Caroline Sheen (Les Mis, Mary Poppins), Andy Conaghan (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), Lucy Schaufer, Yvette Robinson, Orla Gormley and Katy Secombe (Les Mis).
A concert was presented in 2015, and was met with great response, and it's clear to see why. I'm not sure how the show has changed since its concert performance, but it's certainly an enjoyable score, based around an interesting, and relevant story for today. The booklet and production from SiMG are, as usual, first rate, and there's a good amount of detail in story and commentary.
So what of the songs? It's a mixed bag, with some stand outs, and some you'll probably skip on future listenings. The opening number 'Driving Ambition' certainly grabs your attention, and is one of my favourites. The orchestration is minimal, but works perfectly for this score, and I also liked the use of backing vocals. The star of the recording is ultimately Tim How, playing the character of Reed, but I also enjoyed 'Famous In The USA', performed by Andy Conaghan (Johnny Hart). The score is far from what you'd expect from an 'Elvis-esque' musical though - there are some beautiful songs here, not least 'Happy Ever After' performed by the always-excellent Caroline Sheen, and also 'Don't Go', performed By Lucy Schaufer.
More than worth a listen, and great to see more new writing being promoted by SimG Records.