This is the second part in my trilogy of posts reviewing the albums released to date by the wonderful Kerry Ellis. In my previous post I looked at the first 2 albums and a live concert on Blu-ray that she made with Brian May from Queen. This post includes another album that she produced with him, but also one that she created independently as well. I bought all these albums myself and all opinions are my own – I’m just very positive about her work overall because I’m a big fan. So I hope you enjoy this post.
Kerry Ellis (2014)
As reflected in the name, this is Kerry’s first true solo album, as Brian May only makes a guest appearance on one track. It contains a variety of songs from musicals and a few other covers, and doesn’t contain any Queen songs. This is her big opportunity to fully go it alone and do whatever she wants, and she pulls it off nicely.
The album starts with Let It Go from Frozen. I’ve never seen the movie, but after it came out I soon got tired of hearing its biggest song played all over the place, so I was never a huge fan of it particularly. However, I do rather enjoy Kerry’s take on it. And it’s the perfect opener for Kerry’s first true solo album, as she sings that “it’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through”, and “I don’t care what they’re going to say.” The song builds in intensity as she shows just how much confidence and power she has, and the choir provides beautiful backing vocals too.
The next bunch of tracks are all well-known songs from musicals, with some arrangements that are quite different from what you might be familiar with. I haven’t seen all of the musicals in question, so I can’t always relate to the songs closely, but they’re all beautifully sung as you’d expect. My favourites are definitely As Long As He Needs Me from Oliver!, where Kerry inhabits the role and voice of Nancy very well (as I’m sure she did when she appeared in the show), and her powerful rendition of I Dreamed A Dream from Les Misérables.
Oliver! is also represented by Who Will Buy?. I prefer the arrangement from the 1968 film, but this isn’t a bad alternative. And My Fair Lady also has two songs here, with interpretations of I Could Have Danced All Night and Street Where You Live. These perhaps feel a little too slow compared to the original versions I’m more familiar with from the film, but are still nicely sung. Take That Look Off Your Face from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Tell Me On A Sunday is more upbeat, but the bonus G-A-Y remix isn’t really necessary, as it sounds a bit strange with Kerry sped up.
Beyond that, Brian May makes his appearance on acoustic guitar in The Way We Were, which is a very beautiful and moving song, and easily one of my favourites on the album. It basically mirrors their wonderful live acoustic performances, just with some strings added. Then there’s Gimme Love, which has nice work from the backing singers as well as Kerry. I think it’s an improvement over Ed Sheeran’s original, having listened to that too – but then I’ve never been into his music much, so his fans would probably disagree. The lovely Burt Bacharach song Alfie then gets a nice simple cover, as Kerry is backed by a sole piano, before the album concludes perfectly with a delightful and rousing version of Time Of My Life, a duet with Joe McElderry (and the two of them recently had a Facebook live chat).
So it’s a nice album, and I’d say my top 3 tracks are The Way We Were, I Dreamed A Dream and Time Of My Life. Overall it doesn’t feel as strong as Anthems for me personally, where more of the tracks really hooked me in and felt relatable and memorable (and not just because Brian was more involved). But there’s nothing bad about this album either, it’s still sounds lovely and is well worth having in my collection.
Golden Days (2017)
This is Kerry’s third studio album, and the second studio album to feature Brian May. Last time, on Anthems, he was producing Kerry and helping her to stardom, so it was just her name on the record. This time both their names get equal billing, so it’s an even closer collaboration. And it’s another fantastic selection of songs, some of which were first part of their live acoustic shows a few years earlier (as featured in my last post).
The opening song, Love In A Rainbow, is an instant attention-grabber, full of passion and emotion. The lyrics are beautiful, and the track builds throughout into a very powerful ballad, including some lovely harmonies. The ending sounds really nice with headphones in too, as Kerry’s voice moves around you, sending the message of the song home in a delightful way.
It makes the start of the album feel like a housewarming party, where she welcomes you at the front door of her new abode with a warm embrace, and then gets you up for a dance with the catchy Roll With You. It’s not a complicated or fancy song, and it doesn’t need to be, it’s just good fun. The video shows them performing on stage, including many shots filmed from behind, so you can see the audience as the two of them perform or take selfies with the crowd. The single version has minor differences.
We then move on to the title track, Golden Days, a beautifully sincere and reflective song, with a pleasant oriental style that I can’t help but sway along to. Its unique sound really helps to it stand out, in a good way. The song was originally sung by Minako Honda, for whom it was written by Brian back in 1986. He then produced a remixed English version for a tribute album to Minako in 2006, after she sadly died of leukemia the previous year at the age of just 38. Her version also sounds really lovely, so is well worth a listen.
It’s Gonna Be All Right (The Panic Attack Song) is another catchy track that many people will identify closely with, especially now, focusing as it does on anxiety and reassurance. The video I’ve linked to there features the radio edit (simply called Panic Attack), which has slight differences to the album version, but they’re basically the same.
May 2021 Update: Brian & Kerry have created a new version of the song to give people support during the Covid pandemic. You can check out the new music video, an alternate video by Bob Whitehill featuring people from all over the world, live streams to promote each of those videos here and here, their interview with Steve Wright on BBC Radio 2, and a live acoustic performance at the Song For Nature concert.
We then slow down as we get into the first of many cover songs, with Kerry singing an absolutely divine rendition of Amazing Grace (which Brian also played as an instrumental during a 2016 Czech Republic show). That’s followed by the uplifting and unifying delight of One Voice (a cover of the Wailin’ Jennys song), and the romantic If I Loved You from Carousel. And as an added bonus, their video for One Voice features 2 Brian Mays on screen at once, so what’s not to like? If only we could clone him!
April 2021 Update: Brian & Kerry performed a special version of Amazing Grace at the London Coliseum, as part of Song For Nature: London Climate Change Festival on Sky Arts, backed by the English National Opera Orchestra & Chorus.
That all leads us nicely to their incredibly powerful cover version of Born Free, which had previously been the central pillar of their candlelight concerts tour after their work with the Born Free Foundation and Virginia McKenna (and a lovely acoustic version was released as an additional single). The music video for the song is heartbreaking yet important to watch, juxtaposing the immense beauty of majestic wild animals with barbaric images of evil trophy hunters proudly slaughtering and posing with their innocent victims. Cecil The Lion was killed by these despicable evildoers, and the video was made in his memory to promote Cecil’s Law.
Next there is Parisienne Walkways, originally recorded by Gary Moore. Both Moore and May are guitar gods in their own right, and each have their own unique styles, so this version was never going to be quite as good as the original. But it’s still a very faithful and enjoyable interpretation. And then there’s an epic cover of I (Who Have Nothing), which honours the song’s roots by mixing Italian lyrics (sung by Zucchero’s daughter Irene Fornaciari) with the English words we’re more familiar with (sung by Kerry). It’s wonderfully orchestrated and pulsates with energy.
Then we return to original material with The Kissing Me Song, which was written during their Born Free tour. It’s a simple and effective track, as it’s very joyful and catchy and easy to sing along with. The music video, which uses a much shorter and different mix to the album version, is a fun compilation of clips that people had sent in of themselves, either blowing kisses to the camera or kissing other people and animals. Brian and Kerry each make an appearance do, as do a few representations of Freddie Mercury.
The album then concludes with 2 more great covers of love songs. The first is Story Of A Heart, written by ABBA members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and originally performed by The Benny Andersson Band. Powerful choruses mix with relatively calmer verses, and the ticking sounds indicates the passage of time that underpins the story. And finally there’s Can’t Help Falling In Love, which was first sung by Elvis Presley, and Kerry’s version is rather like a pretty lullaby to help you relax as the album concludes.
So I love this album overall. It’s a great sequel and companion to Anthems, with a decent variety of songs. I think Love In A Rainbow, Golden Days and Born Free are my top 3 tracks, but there are other close contenders among the rest. The feelings of romanticism, happiness, togetherness and caring for others really do come across nicely.
And that’s the end of my second set of reviews, I hope you found that interesting and enjoyed listening to some of the tracks. Look out for my next post when I’ll be taking a first listen to Kerry’s brand new album from this year, which I’m really looking forward to going through!