2009 sees the release of Michael's newest compilation album "Past and Present" which sets out to celebrate his silver jubilee. 25 Years in show business. When the latest compilation "The Essential Michael Ball" was released (also containing several new tracks) Michael remarked that the next album must consequently be called "The compulsory Michael Ball". We think the moment has come! This latest release is the compulsory Michael Ball. It covers all the milestones from an unrivalled career on stage. In addition to those it contains six brand new recorded songs. Among them the only recording of the (almost) Original London Cast of Hairspray singing "You can't stop the beat". We were lucky enough to get an advance copy of the album and have listened to it non-stop ever since. Here is why we think you really have to buy it:
- The Impossible Dream (The Man of La Mancha)
The first of the new songs. After years and years of fans begging to record it he has finally relented. Recorded with a big orchestra and in fine voice this track demonstrates why Michael Ball is the unquestioned Leading man in the West End. He sings with a passion and you can almost see him acting the song. With powerful money notes and very tender opening lines the song alone would justify the expense for the album. We surely look forward to hearing the song live on stage. The song is beautifully arranged. Starting off with only a piano and ending up with an impressive full orchestra finish. He actually does reach the "unreachable stars".
- You can't stop the Beat (Hairspray)
A word of warning: If you play the CD through the big opening bang of Hairspray makes you jump a bit. so be prepared.
Since the Opening Night of Hairspray many fans petitionned for an Original London Cast recording. Alas that never happened. This is why we are beyond grateful that Michael decided to record this song complete with all his cast members (only Velma and Amber van Tussle are sung by Liz Robertson and Zoe Rainey). It must have been a tremendous effort to stand still while recording this song in the studio. The sound is just as lively and fresh as it is in the show. So everyone who is desperate for a cast recording and out of principle refuses to buy the Broadway Cast Recording (like us!) simply must buy this album!
- Being Alive (Company)
Being Alive was a favourite in the (unfortunately not recorded) 2005 Tour. He sang it tied to Broadway Baby, which worked really well. This sensitive recording of one of Sondheim's most beautiful songs will not fail to touch you, if you listen to the clever lyric. This one demonstrates the amazing versatility of Michael's voice, especially after two years of being a non-smoker now! The clarity and intensity of this performance is second to none.
When asked why he recorded that specific song he said he did it because of his love for Sondheim, the brilliant lyrics and because of the challenge as it is really difficult to sing.
- The Prayer (Duet with Laura Michelle Kelly)
Michael's first line, sung in velvety Italian managed to shut up two very chatty bunnies in a milisecond - nuff said!
Naturally we have to say some more. Mainly that Laura Michelle Kelly is the perfect duet parnter for him. Listening to their voices blending is a delight. And he sings in Italian, what more can you say.
- Strangers in Paradise / This is my beloved (Kismet)
These two songs are old acquaintances and they were sort of recorded before as he sang it during the last recorded tour (2007) at the Hammersmith Apollo. They deserve their place on this album. He did not get to sing these two love songs properly in the show. So it is very understandable, that he wanted to record his very own version to mark his ENO adventure int he summer of the same year. Sweet and soaring. (Well and don't forget our first ever time with a bearded Michael Ball).
- Gethsemane (Jesus Christ Superstar)
Next to "You can't stop the beat" this was the next recording we were looking forward to. For us this is definately a signature tune. Essentially the whole song is about a child being angry with his parent, a son being very angry with his father for the ordeal he has to go through at his will. What makes this song so special is the human dimension and interpretation he delivers. It gives the whole song a much more "realistic" appeal.
And you cannot help but being stunned by the sheer force of those last two big notes, definitely devine. Determination and maybe resignation, but in a very powerful way.
- Love changes everything (Aspects of love)
This was Michael's first hit in the charts and paved his route to stardom. It did actually change everything for him and therefore had to be included in this album. What makes this version special is, that it is the original recording from the time it was first released. So what you get to hear is a Michael Ball who is not even thirty yet. And even if you had heard it sung in concert a thousand times this version is special because of the much higher key and the very determined money note at the end. Contrast between Gethsemane recorded in 2009 and this song recorded 20 years earlier is amazing.
- Empty Chairs, Empty Tables (Les Miserables)
Les Mis was Michaels ticket to the West End. This is not the original cast recording, but the Tenth Anniversary Version. Powerful, sincere and honest.
- All I ask of you (Phantom of the Opera)
This is the version of the 1996 "Musicals" album. Originally a duet it is arranged into a solo number. Phantom was Michael's second West End musical, when he took over the part from of Raoul from Steve Barton in 1987.
- The Boy From Nowhere (Matador)
First released on his "Centre Stage" album in 2001 this song has become a concert classic and never fails to earn him a standing ovation. Listen to the song and find out why.
- Loving You (Passion)
Passion marked Michael's return to the stage after an absence from the Musical stage. Michael has said time and again, that Sondheim writes the best songs for women. So it was no surprise that Michael recorded Foscas song. As always with Sondheim the lyrics are fantastic and the melody must be rather difficult to sing, but Michael is up to the challenge and if you ever were (unhappily) in love this rendition will not fail to move you.
- Sunset Boulevard (Sunset Boulevard)
Sunset Boulevard appeared on his "Best of Michael Ball" album of 1994. It was also released as a single and Andrew Lloyd Webber wanted Michael to originate the role of Joe Gillis. He declined, but luckily kept this captivating song in his repertoire.
- This is the Moment (Jekyll and Hyde)
Another classic, another song fans begged Michael to sing for years and years. He finally recorded it for his 2004 compilation "The Essential Michael Ball". Just like "The Boy from Nowhere" this is a concert favourite.
- Tell me it's not true (Blood Brothers)
Originally done on "Centre Stage" this dramatic highlight from Blood Brothers
- If Tomorrow never comes (Garth Brooks)
This was recorded for his 2000 album "This time, it's personal...". From various interviews we know this song has a special place in his heart. It was his and Cathy's (McGowan's) song during his "Aspects of Love" run on Broadway. So this indeed is a very personal choice as it remained their song.
- Not while I'm around (Sweeney Todd)
... was recorded for "Centre Stage". Another Sondheim song. He once mentionned that the song expresses what he feels for his godson Connor. And we are sure that parents and lovers alike can identify with the song's message.
- The Winner takes it all (Mamma Mia)
Another Centre Stage recording. Definately one of the best ABBA songs ever and he once mentionned he could not stop playing it, when as a teenager he was suffering from severe heartache, but whatever: It just is a magnificent song. Lean back and enjoy.
- Just When (Michael Ball)
Taken from "This Time, it's Personal". And again it is very personal. It is the only track on the album that is written by Michael. Altogether he has written 5 songs so far, but he chose only this to go on his jubilee album. "Just when" describes how his life took a turn for the better after a very bleak period and is the most romantic thank you note to his "other half".
- One Step out of Time (Live - Eurovision Song Contest)
This was taken from the "Royal Albert Hall CD" in 1999. There was no way he could do a Past and Present album and leave this song out. It marks his turn from Musical to Pop and so stands for a whole new direction, audience and chapter. This song was originally recorded for his first album in 1992, but it was a wise decision to go for the live version instead for it captures the essence of the song so much better and has evolved quite a bit in within these 17 years.
- The Show must go on (Freddie Mercury)
What an appropriate song to finish such an album with! This soulfull rendition of the Queen classic was recorded for his 2005 "Music" album. This must be one of the best pop songs ever. The wonderful and fresh arrangement has only one slight drawback, which is the fade-out in the end. But apart from that it is the ideal song to finish a retrospect as well as a promise. Here is to the next 25 years!