10 September 2012
'Stages' is an album Melanie recorded with long time collaborator Peter-John Vettese and it features a collection of songs that have been important to Melanie at various stages of her life. But why exactly did Melanie choose these twelve tracks?
1. Maybe This Time Liza Minelli immortalised this song with her unforgettable Oscar-winning performance in the 1972 movie adaptation of the show, Cabaret. I was lucky enough to see the 1998 Broadway revival with an incredible cast, including Alan Cummings as The Emcee and the late Natasha Richardson playing Sally Bowles. It was Natasha's performance which really inspired me to tackle this great song. I love its power and pain, and how it builds to that commanding, big show ending.
2. Another Hundred People I remember listening to a Christmas concert on Radio 2 in 1989, Claire Moore sang this and I was captivated. I taped the song and listened to it over and over, never thinking I'd have the opportunity to record this brilliant Stephen Sondheim song - I'm so glad I have. Its energy and pace wonderfully portrays the excitement and buzz of city life. In terms of making this for this album, it required a lot of control and breathing! My experience of working in the theatre really strengthened my voice. Eight shows a week is gruelling and something you would never do in pop. It was great recording with a new found confidence, especially a song like this which I would have never attempted before.
3. I Know Him So Well Well, this really is a very special song on the album as I duet with my dear friend Emma Bunton. It's been a while since we had been in a recording studio together but it was so memorable and enjoyable. I love Emma's voice and hearing our vocals together again was very emotional for the both of us. Chess has a fantastic score written by Abba's Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus with lyrics by Tim Rice. Seen as one of the ultimate musical duets, it was originally recorded in 1984 by theatre icons Barbara Dickson and Elaine Paige. We adored every moment of recording our version and I'm so grateful to Emma for making it happen, we hope everyone loves it as much as we do!
4. Aren't You Kinda Glad We Did I was introduced to jazz singer Sarah Vaughn and this beautiful song by my manager. I went on to perform it first at an open air concert in Leeds in 2001 and later that same year for the King and Queen of Sweden, no less. Since those memorable moments I have loved the song and always wanted to record it, this album has given me that chance to perfect a classic from George and Ira Gershwin. Another wonderful lyric, it tells the story of following your heart whatever the consequence and regardless of what other people may think. Despite what may be seen as a forbidden love, its tones sparkle with delight and I feel Peter's production captures this perfectly.
5. I Don't Know How To Love Him There are so many splendid versions of 'I Don't Know How To Love Him', one of my favourites being Yvonne Elliman's performance from the 1973 Jesus Christ Superstar film. It's such an incredible show, I've had the most amazing year working with Andrew Lloyd Webber and I'm so excited to be performing this song night after night when our production goes out on tour. Playing a role is interesting – being Mary Magdalene or Blood Brothers' Mrs Johnstone and being on stage in character, you have to immerse yourself into the story and their situation. However, for this album I was just me and I recorded the songs for the enjoyment and memories they've given me over the years. Or in this instance, the memories to come.
6. Both Sides Now Peter introduced me to this breathtaking song written by Joni Mitchell, it must be one of the most covered songs in history and also features in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Only once actually released as a single by Judy Collins in 1968, we were more inspired by Joni's emotional version from her album of the same name, released in 2000. The subtle but sweeping production encompasses all expressions of love and life. I find the lyrics and hauntingly beautiful melody make it incredibly moving to perform, as I was lucky enough to do so with Peter at the 2010 Edinburgh Jazz Festival.
7. Ain't Got No / I Got Life I've had so much fun performing this song many times and if you can't tell, had just as much fun recording it! Originally a hit for Nina Simone combining two numbers from the musical Hair, it was actually a 2006 remix by Groovefinder we took inspiration from for our preferred final sound. A great positive horn section and some fun backing vocals, for me it sounds like it's basking in sunshine. There are so many words to fit in, but it's just so infectious, empowering and uplifting, you can't help but smile and shake something.
8. I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself I have been a fan of both Burt Bacharach and Dusty Springfield for as long as I can remember. A truly heartbreaking and emotional song, it is Dusty at her finest. Like so many other people, I've sung this song at the top of my lungs at home or in the car for years! But when not serenading at the traffic lights, I've been incredibly lucky to perform it with some pretty cool people too. One of my favourites was with Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra on his Radio 2 show last year. A more surreal moment was at the Royal Albert Hall backed by the London Symphony Orchestra for Mikhail Gorbachev's 80th birthday. I was so happy to sing this classic again and finally have it on record forever on this album.
9. I Only Have Eyes For You Most people may be more familiar with The Flamingos and Art Garfunkel versions, but 'I Only Have Eyes For You' was originally written in 1934 for the film, Dames. Peter and I listened to lots of different covers of this song and all the songs featured on this album. We took a bit of our favourites and tried to add our own twist, on some more than others. We've kept the romantic and dreamy qualities in this melody which I love, it's one of those songs everybody knows but you just don't know how. The way it floats and flows, I often sing it to my little girl, so it's taken on a whole new worth and significance.
10. Tell Me It's Not True Working in Blood Brothers reignited my passion for musical theatre and became the inspiration for making this album, so for many reasons this is such an important song for me. Mrs Johnstone was my first role in a musical and travelling to London's West End every day brought back so many memories and reminded me of all the great songs and shows I'd left behind since working in pop music. I loved working in the show, my brilliant cast, director, musical director and the wonderful Bill Kenwright, had so much faith in me and nurtured me through some terrifying moments. After performing this song for six months through the emotional finale scene, I felt very comfortable singing and recording it for the album. I hope you enjoy Peter's variation on this very special song.
11. My Funny Valentine We had a great singing teacher at The Doreen Bird College called Pat Izen and this song was one of her favourites, not only does it remind me of her but also the many auditions it has served me well in! Written by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart, who have composed many a fantastic show tune, it has been covered by many artists over the years from Ella Fitzgerald to Elvis Costello and now, me. When it comes to songs which have been recorded several times I always try to interpret them in my own way. This is quite a slow, smooth number which required a lot of control but I was delighted with our final version.
12. Something Wonderful This is such a beautiful song from The King and I, another favourite from my college days. I was reminded of this number when I was in Blood Brothers by Phil Stewart, who was playing The Narrator in the show. Thank you for that Phil as it has become one of my most treasured on the album.