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Album Review: Glee - The Music, Volume 1

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Album Review: Glee - The Music, Volume 1

Glee CastI knew back when the pilot episode aired that Glee was going to be one of my favorite shows. It has everything a TV/music lover like me needs - Top 40 Songs, a good looking cast, Jane Lynch and pounds and pounds of cheese. Glee is PURE PERFECTION in my mind.

Glee Cast
Having sung in show choir throughout high school and college, this show really speaks to me. While my high school experience wasn't nearly as extreme as it is at William McKinley High School, I can relate to the students in the Glee Club. I love that this show is a big ensemble and while there are certainly stars that shine brighter than others - the cast really looks and sounds good together.

Lea MicheleThe main stars of Glee: The Music, Volume 1 (released November 3rd) are Rachel Berry (played by Lea Michele), Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley), Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and Finn Hudson (Corey Monteith). Supporting the main cast are Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), Noah Puckerman (Mark Salling), Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron), Tina Cohen-Chang (Jenna Ushkowitz), Artie Abrams (Kevin McHale) and a couple of brilliant performances from guest star Kristin Chenoweth.

My only initial hesitation came when I learned that Glee was the brain child of Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy. Nip/Tuck is anything but innocent and sweet. Some might even call it raunchy, dirty, perverse, violent and semi-pornographic. Not necessarily the makings of a family-friendly television show. Well, rest assured, Glee is a far cry from Nip/Tuck and while there are still some groups that claim the show isn't family friendly (i.e. - characters deal with teen pregnancy, homosexuality, infidelity, etc.), on the whole it's quite safe.

The soundtrack starts out on a strong note with a cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin," which has received over 1 Million plays on MySpace and peaked at #4 on the U.S. charts (#5 in Australia). Lead vocals are performed by powerhouse alto Lea Michele and her character's on-screen crush Cory Monteith. While Michele's vocal range and ability is clearly stronger than Monteith's - he holds his own on the track. Backed by the rest of the cast, this is truly one of the album's strongest ensemble numbers.

Gold Digger - Glee Cast Version
Monteith doesn't fare so well on his own singing the REO Speedwagon classic "Can't Fight This Feeling," but that's OK. He's cute and can sing. His problem is he can't sing AS WELL as the female leads. It's still a sweet and tender performance. Who knew that "Gold Digger" would fare so well as an ensemble piece. While it definitely loses some of the gritty urban appeal present in the original, this new arrangement serves as a worthy introduction to Amber Riley. What a voice!

Amber Riley
I'm going to go ahead and say this right now - Lea Michele can do no wrong in my opinion. While her voice definitely sounds more "Broadway" than it does pop, there's no denying the vocal prowess of this young singer. In "Take A Bow," Michele sounds absolutely beautiful, blowing Rihanna's version out of the water (in my opinion). Another standout track on the soundtrack is Amber Riley's rendition of the Jazmine Sullivan jam "Bust Your Windows." Unlike some of the other tracks on this album, I distinctly remember the scene from the show when Riley literally busted some windows.

Matthew Morrison
Kristin Chenoweth
Michele's cover of Celine Dion's "Taking Chances" is another opportunity for the young singer to shine and shine she does. I love that the album takes full advantage of one-time guest star Kristin Chenoweth (present here in 2 tracks). Hers and Matthew Morrison's cover of Heart's "Alone" is brilliant. "Maybe This Time" (Cabaret) pairs Chenoweth, a veteran Broadway performer, with Michele - who also has some Broadway experience (Les Misérables, Spring Awakening).

Dianna Agron
My absolutely FAVORITE track on the entire album is the cast's cover of "Somebody To Love," originally performed by Queen. The whole cast shines on this group number, although
Monteith and Michele are spotlighted more. The more chances we have to showcase Amber Riley's talents the better. Riley tackles Jill Scott's "Hate On Me" with ferocity and vocal maturity. Brilliant performance. "No Air," originally by Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown is performed in Glee by Lea Michele with additional vocals from Dianna Agron and Mark Salling.
This track leads right into Dianna Agron's solo cover of The Supremes' classic "You Keep Me Hangin' On." In my opinion, Agron is weakest link here and this performance goes on to prove
just that. With virtually no vocal range to speak of, on the show she can rely on her good looks but on the soundtrack her performance just falls flat.

Mark Salling
"Keep Holding On" by Avril Lavigne originally, serves as yet another chance to showcase Michele and Monteith. As much as certain cast members are featured, there are plenty of ensemble tracks on this album to balance everything out nicely. The Glee Cast arrangement of Young MC's "Bust A Move" gives Matthew Morrison a final opportunity to "act a fool" and
rap. Silly yet comical all at the same time. "Sweet Caroline" gives super cute mo-hawked jock Noah Puckerman (Mark Salling) the chance to sing. While Salling's vocals aren't very impressive, neither are Neil Diamond's (in my opinion) in the original. This song works.

Kevin McHale
Wheel-chair bound Artie Abrams gets his well-deserved solo in a cover of Generation X's "Dancing With Myself." Interesting fact: Kevin McHale (who plays Artie) was once a member of the boy band NLT (Geffen/Interscope 2003-2009). The boy can sing so I can't say that
I'm too shocked. "Defying Gravity" pairs Michele with Chris Colfer in this arrangement of the song from Broadway's Wicked. Michele very much reminds me of a young Idina Menzel (who played Elphaba in the original cast) and while Colfer doesn't so much remind me of Kristin Chenoweth, it's a sweet duet. Depending on where you purchase your copy of the album, there are a variety of bonus tracks. On iTunes you get the lackluster "I Say A Little Prayer," performed by Dianna Agron. Target's version features "I Wanna Sex You Up," featuring Matthew Morrison and the Acafellas as well as "I Could Have Danced All Night," featuring cast member Jayma Mays (playing Emma Pillsbury) . Finally the Target edition also offers fans Matthew Morrison's rendition of "Leaving On A Jet Plane." Whatever version
of the album you get, it's a solid album through and through.
If you can't wait for more Glee, make sure and check out iTunes each Tuesday before new episodes as new tracks are added weekly. Also on the horizon, a special cast recording of George Michael's "Last Christmas" in time for the holidays, an all Madonna episode, Bill Joel music, an episode full of original music as well as Glee: The Music, Volume 2, due out December 8th via Columbia Records. Oh...and don't forget various inevitable solo projects from the cast members. I'm a total GLEE-ADDICT.

Glee Soundtrack
Glee: The Music Volume 1 Tracklisting:

1. Don't Stop Believin' (Glee Cast Version)
2. Can't Fight This Feeling (Glee Cast Version)
3. Gold Digger (Glee Cast Version)
4. Take A Bow (Glee Cast Version)
5. Bust Your Windows (Glee Cast Version)
6. Taking Chances (Glee Cast Version)
7. Alone (Glee Cast Version)8. Maybe This Time (Glee Cast Version)
9. Somebody To Love (Glee Cast Version)
10. Hate On Me (Glee Cast Version)
11. No Air (Glee Cast Version)
12. You Keep Me Hangin' On (Glee Cast Version)
13. Keep Holding On (Glee Cast Version)14. Bust A Move (Glee Cast Version)
15. Sweet Caroline (Glee Cast Version)
16. Dancing With Myself (Glee Cast Version)
17. Defying Gravity (Glee Cast Version)
BONUS TRACKS
I Say A Little Prayer (iTunes)
I Wanna Sex You Up (Target)
I Could Have Danced All Night (Target)
Leaving On A Jet Plane (Target)

Glee Soundtrack
Glee: The Music, Volume 2 Tracklisting (Due December 8th)

1. Proud Mary (Original by Creedence Clearwater Revival)
2. Endless Love (Original by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie)
3. I'll Stand By You (Original by The Pretenders)
4. Don't Stand So Close To Me/Young Girl (Original by The Police)
5. Crush (Original by either David Archuleta)
6. (You're) Having My Baby (Original by Paul Anka)
7. Lean On Me (Original by Bill Withers)
8. Don't Make Me Over (Original by Dionne Warwick)
9. Imagine (Original by John Lennon)
10. True Colors (Original by Cyndi Lauper)
11. Jump (Original by Van Halen)
12. Smile (Lily Allen cover)
13. Smile (Charlie Chaplin cover)
14. And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going (Original by Jennifer Holliday)
15. Don't Rain On My Parade (Original by Barbara Streisand)
16. You Can't Always Get What You Want (Original by The Rolling Stones)
17. My Life Would Suck Without You (Original by Kelly Clarkson)

Check out Glee on the web:

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