Buy Right Where I Belong here (Amazon UK)
I've long been a fan of poetic, witty and insightful lyricist Alan Menken - it just took me a while to realise it. Like many others, I was captivated by the creative genius of Little Shop of Horrors; completely smitten by the charm of Beauty and the Beast (still my favourite movie of all time). It wasn't until Aladdin in 1992, however, that I noted the name of the composers on the soundtrack cds and started appreciating his contribution to these films whose songs had changed my life. From then on I followed his career like one might fanboy Madonna or Lady Gaga. I travelled to the musicals he wrote, bought the accompanying cd soundtracks and watched the TV shows he contributed to (Galavant, long may you reign). It is why I'm so excited that gifted broadway performer - and current USA stage Aladdin - Adam Jacobs has recorded a whole album of his songs. Right Where I Belong is a magical, musical gift that places the songs in exhilarating new musical genres, ably guided by the beautifully expressive tones of Adam. He takes Alan's words and makes them his own story. He'll break your heart before sending you to euphoric new heights - and holds you hand for all of it and every emotion inbetween. It's an enchanted magic carpet ride from start to finish. Here are just a few humble thoughts on the songs he sings...
- Go The Distance (Hercules) ~ Great opening track. It works in the context of the album, with the lyrics representing all the possibilities the stories, orchestrations and vocal arrangements hold. It is suitably rousing, Adam the soaring music with an earnest optimism that is entirely contagious. He's an excellent storyteller and has the listener intrigued for what is to follow.
- Proud Of Your Boy (Aladdin) ~ The a cappella song starts with the reprise of One Jump Ahead. Always a heartbreaking moment of introspection, it's delivered here with aching melancholy. The textured backing vocals feel like an invocation to whatever higher power guides us. As it blends into the main song, it is just as lovely with a perceptible shift to a more hopeful vibe in Adam's nuanced singing. This self belief and desire to be better fuels the harmonies to Beach Boys level of euphoric majesty.
- Sailing On (Unreleased) ~ Audible gasp! An unheard Alan composition graces this album. The rolling piano is the crashing waves of the narrative, while the strings are the wind powering this song forward. It is a glorious lyrical and vocal adventure that feels as instantly familiar as the songs we already know and love. Heavenly.
- I Could Be That Guy (Sister Act) ~ Chiming keyboards and a reflective, pensive vocal conjure up the images of a lonely guy walking through the city and oblivious to the hustle and bustle around him. I love a song that vividly paints a picture and each exquisite note here is a masterful brush stroke. It's universal theme of wanting to be wanted make this as charming as Sweaty Eddie is (whether he realises it or not). P.S. Killer key change!
- Santa Fe (Newsies) ~ No one does yearning possibility better than Alan Menken and his dreams are in safe hands with Adam. There are country tinges to the music with harmonica and guitar riffs permeating the instrumental. The longing and passion in Adam's vocal is tangible and stirs the dreams you have within yourself - however long dormant they may be.
- Suddenly Seymour (Little Shop of Horrors) ~ An elegant duet with his sister, Arielle Jacobs (now Australia's Jasmine), this encapsulates all the awe and wonder that comes with finding love right before your very eyes. Both siblings give tender, heartfelt declarations against a backdrop of delicate piano. You believe that a world full of wrongs can be put right just by believing in the power of love. It is also evidence that there is glorious power in restrained vocal strength that has just as much impact as when the song transforms into a rock ballad and they belt it to the choir filled rafters.
- Out There (Hunchback of Notre Dame) ~ I've always thought Hunchback of Notre Dame was grossly underrated and actually remains an allegory for anyone who has felt spurned by society. Out There, as performed by Adam, gets under your skin and instils a firm belief that there is a utopia away from the societal injustices. He doesn't just sing these words, he commands them - leaving you in no doubt of his fervent desire for a better world. It could be for any disenfranchised group but in light of recent events feels like a powerful LGBTQ anthem. A much needed one at that.
- Anytime You Need A Friend (Home On The Range) ~ Sadly Alan Menken did not write the Mariah Carey classic, but the lyrical sentiments are the same. We all need a pick me up from time to time and Adam's soothing singing is like an aural hug that is the best medicine ever. It's a marvel how enchanting the result is when it is just him and a piano. He guides the melody like a captain taking his ship to smoother waters. Captivating.
- One Jump Ahead (Aladdin) ~ Adam keeps all the exuberance and adrenaline rush of the Aladdin original, and gives it sparkling new nuances and fascinating personality through his own little insights and quirks. It's an absolute joy to listen to - the rat pack-esque vibe gives the song a giddy, galloping sensation with Adam infusing his sizzling vocal delivery with a delicious theatrical verve and flair that's brings an enormous smile to your face. Check out the different characters that cameo in the song. Adams vocal chameleons ways are sensational. Scaramouche!
- If I Never Knew You (Pocahontas) ~ The AC radio smash gets a slightly increased tempo, urgent bass guitars and riveting piano chords that all serve to enhance the tingling excitement of the lyrics. It is given new romantic meaning by having the mellifluous tones of Adam's wife join his own swooning performance. Their voices swirl together with intense purpose, as if the proximity of each other creates swelling emotions that cannot be contained. The arrangement gives it a contemporary vibe that makes this feel like it could be a hit all over again.
- Her Voice (The Little Mermaid) ~ Adam is a man consumed by what he might lose on this song, yet it's his voice that is like a surgeon's call. It (rightly) feels a little otherworldly and spellbinding, the haunting backing vocal luring you deep into the world of the song. Note, Adam has a gorgeous falsetto that here, as in other places across the album, feels like the unleashing of the innermost secrets of his soul. Powerful stuff.
- Shooting Star (Hercules) ~ A massive pop smash here in the UK for the boy band Boyzone, this version is no less enticing (or any less chartworthy). Adam has this innate ability to imbue his vocal with unfettered enthusiasm and determination for making life be all that it can and should be. His voice embodies everything that the shooting star he sings of should be, and it becomes a rallying call to arms for anyone lucky enough to hear it.
- Goodnight My Friend (Galavant) ~ And so the album closes with a short but sweet song from the much loved show Galavant. It brings our story with Adam full circle, a lullaby that acknowledges the shared experience but also gives you the courage to go off and craft your own adventures. Thank you Mr. Jacobs. This whole album is one for the ages.