Zing’s Record Collection: Ramin Karimloo – Part 2: ‘Ramin’
Hello and welcome to ‘Zing’s Record Collection’; join me as I review the very best (and worst) of musical theatre recordings, past and present.
In the last edition, I took a retrospective look at Ramin Karimloo’s 2004 debut solo EP ‘Within the Six Square Inch’; whilst I found it perhaps not the finished article, it is certainly an album which showcased Karimloo’s unique vocals and future recording potential nicely. In this second and final part, I will be giving a listen to Karimloo’s full debut album titled ‘Ramin’, which is set to receive a major release on the 5th of March by Sony CMG.
After leaving the West End production of The Phantom of the Opera in 2004 for stints in Les Misérables (Enjolras) and Miss Saigon (Chris, UK Tour), Ramin Karimloo was to return to Phantom to fulfill a career-long dream: to perform the role of the masked mad man himself. During his time at Phantom, Karimloo arguably succeeded in attracting a new generation of fans to the show – and certainly won his own dedicated fan base along the way. After a cameo in the dreadful 2004 Phantom movie adaption (thank you, Joel Schmacher), Karimloo was given the opportunity by long-time mentor Andrew Lloyd Webber to originate the role of ‘The Phantom’ in the long-awaited sequel Love Never Dies. Whilst the show was perhaps not the commercial or artistic success Lloyd Webber had hoped for, Karimloo was given a unique opportunity to showcase his talent, and the hype and exposure which surrounded the production certainly helped thrust him into the mainstream in his own right.
‘Ramin’, an upbeat pop-rock inspired album certainly reflects Karimloo’s long-held determination to be recognised outside of musical theatre. Indeed, for the most part Karimloo steers well clear of the typical musical theatre standards one would expect to hear, opting instead for a real variety of styles ranging from the radio friendly pop-rock of the first single to be released ‘Coming Home’, written by Ryan Tedder (recently Leona Lewis’ ‘Bleeding Love’, Beyoncé’s ‘Halo’), to Muse’s ‘Guiding Light’. The audience-friendly power-ballad comes in the shape of Bryan Adams’ record-breaking ‘Everything I Do (I Do It for You)’.
Unfortunately, the songwriting credits have not been made public. I do know though from various press releases pieced together from across the internet that Karimloo has song-writing credit for at least four of the album’s tracks, including ‘Constant Angel’, a heartfelt ballad with seemingly religious connotations; ‘with every prayer I am constantly there with you’, is one such lyric which doesn’t help to avert the feeling of an (albeit fairly passive) religious message which is carried throughout the album. ‘Show Me Light’, the album’s opener is one such example; a song which sounds fresh from any one of many Christian-rock bands which are so popular in the United States.* The aforementioned ‘Coming Home’ sounds somewhat like the X-Factor’s ‘winners song’ – just give it a listen, you’ll see what I mean! But it is when Karimloo is singing from the soul that he is most potent; the final track on the album, ‘Cathedrals’, is actually a single recorded track so good it deserves to start its own paragraph.
‘Cathedrals’ feels like the accumulation of an album’s hard work. A cover of ‘Jump Little Children’s stirring ballad, a song made famous by Joan Osborne, ‘Cathedrals’ is beautifully and emotionally sung by Karimloo as he manages to soften his notoriously powerfully brash tone and truly give the most tender and memorable performance of his career to date. Fans of Karimloo’s stage work will not be disappointed however; there is a quickened pop version of ‘Music of the Night’ and, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the strongest songs from Karimloo’s stage repertoire ‘Til I Hear You Sing’, from Love Never Dies, makes an appearance.
‘Ramin’ provides a satisfying twelve tracks of listener-friendly pop rock without necessarily pushing any boundaries in the genre; Karimloo, must be praised however for giving such a heartfelt and high quality performance with this, his first professional recording with Sony CMG. Karimloo has been equally brave and business savvy in choosing to co-write several tracks on the album, giving him a certain credibility which cross-over artists vie for. The album as a whole sounds alike to the modern day ‘Take That’, inoffensive, marketable and with musical integrity, an album which is sure to appeal to Ramin’s existing fans and, if marketed right, a certain record-buying demographic.
Karimloo is currently playing Jean Valjean in the West End production of Les Misérables and is known to be persuing other ventures both in and away from the theatre. Whilst the quality of the works in terms of both effort and performance is without question, whether or not the album is to be a success is an answer only his key target demographic can provide.
‘Ramin’ is available to purchase from 5th of March, released by Sony CMG.
- Harry Zing
*After discussing this album with a arts professional colleague it occured to us just how ‘American’ this album feels. Having travelled across the US extensively, I contend that many of this album’s tracks with the religious overtones / soft-rock accessibility would make ‘Ramin’ perfectly accessible to the US radio airwaves. Perhaps this was the intention at least in part for ‘Ramin’s sound?