In this post I’m going to do a first listen review of the new album by Brian May & Kerry Ellis entitled Golden Days, released last Friday. I’m a big Queen fan, including their solo work, and have enjoyed Kerry’s previous albums too. So I’ve been really looking forward to this.
If you’ve never heard of her, Kerry Ellis is a musical theatre star who was in We Will Rock You (where she and Brian May first met), and is currently starring in Wonderland. Unfortunately I haven’t been to one of her shows, but I would love to, because she has an amazing voice. Which is why I love her albums that I already have in my collection (Kerry Ellis, Anthems, and Acoustic By Candlelight), the last two of which were produced by and featured Brian May. So I was delighted to hear a new album was on the way this year.
Brian and Kelly have very different styles, having progressed along different musical paths in their careers. But that results in a very unique and enjoyable fusion, as Brian May himself puts it, of their two styles. And this new album is the first that is credited to both of them on the cover – previously they’ve been primarily in Kerry’s name with Brian as producer. But now they’ve split the writing and producing roles equally between them, making this a proper duet album rather than just a Kerry Ellis solo affair.
So I’m going to write this post as I listen to the album for the first time and give my reactions to it. A few of the songs I have already heard, because they’ve been released previously. And the video for one of the newer songs was posted online a few days before the album came on sale, so I’ve heard that one too. But even so, over half of the album will be completely new to me. So here goes…
Love In A Rainbow
Wow. Not only is the opening to this song an instant attention-grabber, immediately reminding you what a strong voice Kerry has, but the whole song is an incredible opening to the album too. The lyrics are beautiful, and the track builds wonderfully as the track progresses, producing a very powerful ballad. The middle section has some unexpected but enjoyable instrumentation added in, with wonderful backing singers as well. And the ending section sounds really nice with headphones in, as Kerry’s voice moves around you, sending the message of the song home in a delightful way. Overall, therefore, it sounds amazing, and you can feel the passion and emotion involved throughout. It’s setting the bar very high as the first track.
Roll With You
This was released as a video a few days before the album’s release. There’s nothing fancy or complicated about it, and the chorus couldn’t get any simpler. So don’t expect anything deep or special with this song – but equally, don’t use it as judgement of the album as a whole either, which I think some people in the comments of that video are unfairly doing. It’s not representative of the entire record, that’s for sure, so it’s perhaps not the best promotional piece to use to advertise it. It’s probably more ‘commerically-friendly’ I suppose. But in any case, I still think it’s fun. It’s a simple, positive, upbeat song that gets my feet tapping quite happily, and I can imagine people dancing and singing along with easily if they feel so inclined. If the whole album were songs like this then sure, it wouldn’t be very good. But as part of a greater variety, it works just fine, as in this case, and I don’t have a problem with it.
The title track of the album is another complete contrast to the song before it, and it’s beautiful. I really like the instrumentation to this, because it’s very different and very catchy. If you don’t end up swaying to this, there’s something wrong with you. The lyrics feel very sincere and heartfelt too. And, as with the first track, this one builds very nicely towards a wonderful and powerful middle section, before easing you to the finish with a lovely outro. Definitely another highlight of the album.
It’s Gonna Be All Right (The Panic Attack Song)
Another catchy sing-along track this one, and I can imagine there will be plenty of people who can relate to the lyrics and sentiments involved. Again, this is relatively simple in structure, in contrast to the previous track, with a simple chorus, and while it’s always nice to hear a guitar solo from Brian, it’s nothing out of this world in this instance. So it’s not a track to expect big things from, but it is fun nonetheless.
Everybody knows this song – even if you don’t know the words, you know the tune – and there have been countless versions of it. Some of which are really nice, others not so much. I’ve heard versions in the past that are tediously slow or the performer’s voice doesn’t do it justice. But this is a really beautiful rendition of it, with simple instrumentation and Kerry’s wonderful delivery. Very nicely done.
This song was posted online quite a while ago, so I had heard it before, but not for quite a while. The intro and outro showcase Kerry’s solo voice perfectly, while the song progresses very nicely throughout. It’s a beautiful cover of a really nice song.
If I Loved You
Another lovely, slow song that showcases Kerry’s voice really well, as the backing is very simple. There is a real beauty and power in her singing that comes across beautifully in a song like this, she performs it so well.
Another previously released track, this is again another divine performance by Kerry, delivering a truly heartfelt cover version of a beautiful song. And the feelings are genuine, given that Kerry and Brian produced the track as part of an appeal to stop the hunting of lions in Africa for sport and trophy hunting, as you can see in the description of the Youtube video above. I’m really glad they’ve included this on the album, but it’s definitely another highlight, it’s so powerful.
This is a cover of the Gary Moore track. It’s not as good as the original of course, but then no reinterprteation of this song could really come close to it. It’s just one of those unbeatable rock classics. Just because Moore and May are both guitar gods doesn’t mean they can match each other’s styles, and that’s evident here. Their techniques and sounds are very different. So it’s a brave person who does a cover of this tune. But it works well enough to be fair. It is very nicely done, respectful to the sound and spirit of the original song, and it is enjoyable to listen to. It’s a sensible spot to place it on the album really, in amongst other cover versions that they’re doing here.
I (Who Have Nothing)
This is a very interesting cover version, starting off with strings and a mixture of Italian and English lyrics. It has a very gentle pacing, and Kerry sounds beautiful singing in Italian. And then, unexpectedly on first listen, the beat picks up, the guitar kicks in, and the whole becomes more upbeat. And not in a bad way, it actually works well. And I think Brian May’s guitar solo on this track is the best of the solos he gets on the album. So all in all, it’s a really nice version of the song, it feels very original and well suited to the two of them.
The Kissing Me Song
Of all the relatively simple, poppy type tracks on the album, this is my favourite. Probably because I’ve known it for the longest time, it was released quite a while back. Although this is a different mix to be fair – compared to the version in the video above, it does sound slightly different on the album, and not in a bad way. The subject of the song is as obvious as the title implies, and maybe a song about kissing will seem silly or a bit too commercial for some. But I really like it, I think it’s a very fun and catchy track that can easily get stuck in your head. As earworms go, it’s not a terrible one to have.
Story Of A Heart
The pace slows down again here for another nicely performed and produced love song, with a ticking sound reminding you of the passage of time that underpins the story of lost love presented here. As with some previous tracks, there’s a mixture of quieter moments and more powerful segments, all put together very well.
Can’t Help Falling In Love
The album finishes with another lovely cover version, with Kerry’s angelic voice suiting it perfectly. If you’re lying in bed listening to the album, this could be used as a beautiful lullaby to send you off to sleep at the end of the record. It’s beautifully sung, and the backing is very simple, which is all it needs to be in this case. It’s a really nice, relaxing conclusion to the album.
Overall, therefore, I really enjoyed this. It’s a very enjoyable mixture of styles and tracks, so there really is something for everyone here, and Kerry’s voice is amazing throughout. I think Love In A Rainbow, Golden Days and Born Free are my top 3 tracks, but ultimately they’re all great. So it was well worth the wait for me, I’m very happy with it. 🙂