Daniel Koek album ‘High’ out now

Comprising 12 tracks of straight pop with great depth and tone, Australian vocalist Daniel Koek has released a new album titled ‘High’ (available on iTunes now).

Dominated by Koek’s spectacular vocals, the album is a great showcase for a performer who recently ended his run in the West End and Les Miserables’ Jean Valjean. It’s no surprise that he has a great voice then, but the album has much more than that to offer.

With a serious tone to match the serious talent, the songs unfold gradually, many of them building to huge final choruses having started quietly. This formula, far from being predictable, allows that stellar vocal to develop track after track. The backing, ranging from simple acoustic moments to full horn, strings and orchestral sections, is brilliantly recorded, each tiny nuance adding an impressive whole.

The song selection is good too. Presumably chosen and arranged to compliment Koek’s voice, the collection of pre-existing pop hits, musical numbers and classical pieces suit him perfectly. In particular, the evenly paced ‘You’re the Only Place’ gives a lot of room for an operatic-pop vocal, while ‘Always and Forever’ is a fittingly heartfelt closer to a very good listen. Top track honours however probably go to the new, double layered arrangement of classic Les Mis song ‘Bring Him Home’, featuring the vocal not only of Koek but guest Jonathan Ansell.

Pop music aficionados rejoice.

‘Ocean Wave’ – The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines

Released to coincide with the 350th anniversary of the Royal Marines’ formation, ‘Ocean Wave’ is a collection of stirring tunes, traditional melodies and celebrations of great, traditional British music as played by arguably the finest brass band in the world. But, before you immediately dismiss the notion because you don’t usually pay attention to brass bands, first bear in mind that the style lends itself to a surprisingly large range of styles – as evidenced by this release.

Ultimately, this is music build from melodies, chords and basslines, just like all of popular music, and by that token (with a couple of creative structural changes) it allows for a versatile selection of pieces – particularly with the addition of a selection of vocalists and soloists to take center stage.

You would perhaps expect a large proportion of the songs to be upbeat, impactful marches, but in fact only three songs adhere to that – ‘Life on the Ocean Wave’, ‘Famous songs of the British Isles’ and ‘Rule Britannia’. But other songs will surprise you. Hymn ‘I Vow to Thee My Country’, Irish folk song ‘Danny Boy’ and a quasi-pop version of ‘No One But You’ sing by Ellie Thomas are just three of the unusual, but welcome, song selections.

Of course, ultimately this is a celebration of trumpets, trombones, tubas and the rest. But it’s so much more than that besides

New album from Rebecca Newman – ‘Dare to Dream’ album with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra

With a mix of classic tracks and original music, ‘Dare to Dream’ is the new album from classical-crossover-soprano Rebecca Newman. Having hauled herself up by the bootstraps, raising funds for the album by busking to ever growing crowds, the result is a very strong collection of songs which do an excellent job of showcasing Newman’s range and talent.

The title track, ‘Dare to Dream’, is one of the original tracks on the album, written by Newman and her writing partners, and it’s also one of the highlights. Cinematic and beautifully sung, it’s a song about inner strength overcoming adversity.

Other tracks include an impressive original opera key interpretation of Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’, and a stunning arrangement of ‘Kissing You’, which will be familiar to any fans of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet Film.

Overall, there are thirteen tracks, all of which find the soprano on fine form. Some may not think this is their cup of tea, but there really is something for everyone on this album.