Michael Ball, Britain's leading musical star and multi-platinum recording artist, has his new cd, ‘MUSIC', released through Universal Music TV on October 17th. The twelve track album, which takes its title from John Miles' seminal mega hit of 1976, features some of Michael's favourite pop songs from the last thirty years – David Bowie's ‘Life On Mars', for instance, is a key number in Michael's solo shows, Alone Together, most recently performed acoustically at London's Haymarket Theatre. Here the song is treated to a lush orchestral arrangement over which Michael's powerful voice soars.
‘Fields Of Gold' is a double homage: in part to Sting, one of Michael's favourite artists and to Eva Cassidy whom Michael feels recorded the definitive version of this beautiful song. Simon & Garfunkel are represented by the classic ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water' which benefits from a simple, contemporary arrangement and vocal treatment; and the powerhouse ‘The Show Must Go On', one of Michael's all-time favourite songs and a smash hit with his live concert audience is also a poignant nod to the memory of the great Freddie Mercury.
Ever keen to expand his musical repertoire and to challenge his voice, Michael has diversified on this album with the bossa nova-tinged ‘And I Love You So' which features a stripped down arrangement and some cool piano. Michael co-wrote a new song, ‘I Am Loved' which appears as the penultimate track on the album before he gives full rein to his superb voice on a magnificent rendering of the title track.
MUSIC (John Miles, 1976):
John Miles' seminal record of 1976 was in the charts forever. Anyone who loves music like I do is drawn to this song because it says really simply – “music is my first love/and it will be my last/to live without my music/would be impossible to do/in this world of trouble/my music pulls me through”. It's a sentiment I firmly believe in and I think most people who care about music and who are passionate about music believe it has an extraordinary power over people.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON (Queen 1991)
This is one of my favourite songs on the album and one of my favourite songs of all time. What Freddie Mercury and Queen were always able to do was that marriage between theatricality and pop. Obviously this song was done towards the end of Freddie's life but any of us who work in the theatre business can totally empathise with the lyrics – that whatever happens, the show must go on, no matter how you feel, no matter how bad it is, the show must go on, and it costs, and it's painful.
This is such a cathartic song to perform. It's brilliantly written. We've got a string section going through it so it's got a James Bond/John Barry kind of feel with the strings and the way they swoop and swirl and stab. Of all the more powerful songs I think I'm most proud of this one – I really think we've made it our own rather than just made a copy of it.
FIELDS OF GOLD (Sting, 1993)
I'm a big Sting fan, I've met him a couple of times, once backstage at Hammersmith just before one of his shows. There he was, in his pants, doing yoga and he had a bit of a sore throat, and asked me if I had any tips for warming up the voice; well, I don't know any so I basically invented a warmup on the spot, did a few vocal exercises with him and by the time he went onstage he was completely hoarse! For me the definitive version of ‘Fields Of Gold' is by Eva Cassidy. We played her version on the Friday after the bombs and it was very poignant and very provocative; it's a beautiful song.
YOU RAISE ME UP (Secret Garden, 2001)
I first heard this song recorded by one of my best mates, Brian Kennedy, who recorded it for Secret Garden and it's got this wonderful Irish/Celtic feel to it and Brian said you've got to record it this would be great for you then Josh Groban recorded it and the fans were always asking me to record it so I started putting it into my concert tours as the final encore and it had such an effect on people, as well as me, that I thought I'd like to record it. It's one of those beautiful anthemic songs. It's either profoundly spiritual or profoundly personal, it can be you singing to the person who's been by your side and who's been helping you or to a higher power – it can be taken on many different levels, but no one could fail to empathise and connect with it.
EVERLASTING LOVE (Love Affair, 1969)
It's just one of those songs isn't it! It's just a lovely feelgood song which I recently added to my concert repertoire. The fan club had suggested it which was weird because I was already thinking about doing it. It was a massive hit for Love Affair and although I don't remember it first time around I've heard it a lot over the years on the radio. It's a cracking number and we tried to re-create that live feel in the studio.
BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER (Simon & Garfunkel 1970)
I was very nervous about doing this song – in fact I'm nervous about doing a lot of these songs! – because they've been done by such brilliant artists and ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water' is an absolute classic. I perform it onstage but for this album I wanted to try and do something different with it. Rather than belt it out, I've recorded it in a much more intimate style, it's as if I'm singing quietly into someone's ear, keeping it down and really thinking about the lyrics.
Paul Simon is one of the greatest writers, particularly for singers; he has a phenomenal understanding of a hook, a melody, a lyric. I remember going to see Simon & Garfunkel in concert when they reformed many years after they'd split up – it was a magical night and that song, to me the words are so poignant, so simple, so clever – we want people to be around us and to look after us in those times when we feel we just can't go on
AND I LOVE YOU SO
I was listening to a bunch of songs including this one by Perry Como and thought it would be great to find a different way of doing it. We've approached it like Diana Krall might approach it – with a bossa nova beat – and the very pleasing result is like a jazz quartet doing it with the strings going on.
DESPERADO (The Eagles, 1973)
Well here's one I was very unsure of doing! I love The Eagles, Don Henley and I thought I'm never going to get away with doing this! I just sat down with Pete Murray on an old Rhodes keyboard and we just did it like that, very quietly, very simply, just the two of us, and then added the strings afterwards. It's one of the best performances I've ever given and I don't know why it worked but it did.
LIFE ON MARS (David Bowie 1971 from Hunky Dory)
I've always done ‘Life On Mars' in my one man show, Alone Together, when I'm accompanied by piano only so it's very much about the words and about the character (in Alone Together) breaking down and railing against life and society. This is not a slavish copy of Bowie in any way but we've got the orchestra and guitars in there; it's such a great song to sing, it's powerful, it's cynical with its biting lyric and it soars.
I AM LOVED (Michael Ball, Nick Battle, Tim Woodcock 2005)
I wanted to include something of my own – if I'm doing an album called Music and looking at songs I love I want to show something that I've been part of creating. Again we just had a really good relationship working together and I think it's turned out beautifully, I'm really pleased with it.
SOMETIMES WHEN WE TOUCH (Dan Hill, 1977)
Two reasons I chose this – one is that I love the original and secondly that I sang it once with Tammy Wynette on my TV series. She was just fabulous, immensely talented, funny, wise and…stole everything from the dressing room! She'd obviously got into this thing from way back that anything that wasn't nailed down was hers! So she walked out with a bin liner full of flowers, soap, towels – just cleaned it out! I have great and fond memories of that time. It's a beautiful love song and one I haven't heard covered before.
Thanks to the Fan Club for providing the press release