In my last 2 posts, I’ve been giving my thoughts on the previous releases by Kerry Ellis, beginning with Anthems and The Candlelight Concerts, followed by her self-titled album and Golden Days. And now here, to complete the trilogy, I want to review her brand new album, which I’ve never heard before.
Recently I was very excited to receive a signed copy of Feels Like Home, which I purchased via her website (so this isn’t an advert, there’s no sponsorship involved with this post). Kerry was going to give away the CDs while on tour, but as her concerts had to be cancelled, she’s been selling them online instead. And as you can imagine, it feels really special to have a signed copy from her! I love all the photos of Kerry on the album sleeve and in the enclosed booklet, as she always looks stunning, especially with that beautiful smile on her face.
In her message in the booklet, she states that she wanted to make “something special that is only available at my shows, something you can hold in your hands, take home, listen to and enjoy”. So it’s exclusively available via her website for £15, for as long as her stock lasts, which means it does indeed feel as special as she claims. I don’t know if it’s going to get a wider release in the future but, even if it does, you wouldn’t then get a signed copy.
In any case, it means the album isn’t on streaming services, and there are no official videos. But there are a few live performances you can watch, a few of which I’ll share as examples, and one of which is mentioned by Kerry in her introductory notes. She also points out that she’s performed all of these songs during her career, all over the world, so she’s very familiar with them.
Brian May isn’t involved this time, but Kerry does thank him in the booklet for “giving me confidence to go it alone for this one”. Her self-titled album 6 years ago was her first true solo release, but Brian was still involved in one of the tracks. But here he’s absent completely. He has got a copy though, of course.
She’s also been promoting the album heavily on her Instagram, and has been singing some of the songs (and others from her repertoire) in her live videos, which can be viewed on Youtube. I haven’t watched them yet, because I didn’t want to spoil any surprises, but after I’ve heard the album I intend to take a look through them in the coming days.
So even before I hear any of the music, it’s clear that Kerry has really enjoyed putting this together, it’s been a labour of love for her. And for me, this is a first-listen review, as I’ve held off hearing the album until writing this post. So I hope you enjoy seeing my initial reactions to each of the tracks as I go through them!
1. Your Song
Wow. As with previous releases, Kerry really knows how to pick opening tracks that grab hold of you, welcoming you to her world with excitement, love and hope. This is obviously a cover of the Elton John classic, but with a very different arrangement. As stated in the booklet, it’s based on the Moulin Rouge! Broadway Cast version, but I think Kerry improves upon it greatly. She beckons you in softly and calmly, getting you settled before building up to that full, glorious power that she has, finishing really strongly. She’s set a high bar for the album with this already.
Again as noted in the booklet, Kerry once performed this at the Royal Albert Hall 8 years ago, as part of The Night of 1,000 Voices, with a full choir and orchestra behind her. I can only find an audio copy on Youtube, which isn’t great quality but it sounds like it must have been incredible to be there in person. There are also audience-filmed clips of her singing No One But You (Only The Good Die Young) and Nobody’s Side from Chess from the same show.
2. Who Wants To Live Forever?
It was never in any doubt that she would do this Queen song justice, it could have been written for her. But my god does she nail it. The depth and passion she puts into this is glorious – especially the way she growls out the line “when love must die” and hits you with that big note at the end. The orchestration isn’t as epic as Queen’s, but is still striking and beautifully arranged, and is perfect for this version, including some nice heartbeats from the percussion in the background. The most major change is the omission of the instrumental middle section, which could be seen as a pity, but when you’re keen to hear Kerry’s vocals, you don’t want too long a gap between them! This has been designed to place Kerry front and centre, and rightfully so.
Unsurprisingly, she’s performed this many times before. In her introductory notes for the album she fondly remembers singing it live on TV with Vittorio Grigolo & Brian May in the Arena Di Verona in Italy, as just one part of their brilliant set. But she’s also performed it with Brian May in their acoustic shows, Matt Cardle, Rob Houchen, Ricardo Afonso, Marc Martel and the Killer Queen tribute band. So I’m not surprised she’s done such a good job with this version on the album, having had all that practice. She really makes it her own.
3. Ticket To Ride
I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this Beatles cover, being such a different song to the one preceding it. Clearly it was never going to be the same as theirs, but I was still surprised to hear such a radical departure from the Fab Four’s version, turning it into a soulful ballad with just piano and vocals. So initially it sounds strange, but as soon as you get into the lyrics it makes a lot of sense. After all, it is a sad love song about a breakup. The Beatles’ version is still awesome, of course, but Kerry injects a lot of emotion into her interpretation. and it works a lot better than I thought it might.
Online there is a live performance from Brasserie Zédel, in which Kerry’s vocals are very different to the album version, but it still gives you a sense of what it’s like.
4. A Million Dreams
Now we’re into the realm of songs that I’ve not previously heard in any form, so I have no frame of reference to compare with other versions. Which is perhaps a good thing. Some may express surprise that I don’t know this one though, as it’s based on the song from The Greatest Showman. But I’ve never seen that movie, believe it or not.
Having now listened to that version for comparison, Kerry has remained very faithful to it, but I think she performs it much better. It’s a really warm, sumptuous and uplifting song , conjuring images in my head of what she must be enjoying in her nightly visions. It feels like a nice follow-on to Ticket To Ride, as if she’s getting through the break-up of the previous song and has discovered new hope in her fresh independence. Plus it features the lyric “feels like home”, which fits in well with the album’s title.
It also transpires that she’s released this song before. Back in 2018 she recorded a charity single for Childline, joined by 1,000 students from the West End Stage group. The beautiful music video, featuring the choir doing sign language in addition to their fantastic vocals, is a very moving reminder of the struggles that children face, including bullying, abuse, exam preparations, fighting parents, exclusion, discrimination and the general feelings of loneliness, isolation, sadness, anxiety and fear that many suffer from. Whilst we all experience these feelings to some degree, they are especially unfamiliar and difficult for children to comprehend and deal with. Childline therefore offers a vital avenue of support, including via their phoneline and For Me app promoted in the video. Their service has saved many lives, so it’s great to see Kerry supporting them.
The track is still available to download on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Spotify, and probably elsewhere too. So it’s well worth picking up, especially because it’s for a good cause, plus it’s different to the new album version, which is very similar but doesn’t feature the choir.
Kerry has also performed the song live with Collabro in the past, and also sang For Good from Wicked with a group of West End Stage students, if you want a couple of other related videos to check out.
This is a nice song, another example of one that builds in intensity as it progresses. It explores the desire and the confidence to dive in and go deeper, to find more to enjoy in one’s relationship and life in general. I now understand it was originally a hugely successful award-winning song performed by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born, another film I’ve never yet seen. Lyrically it does make more sense as a duet, and that film version is pretty good. But Kerry’s version is still wonderful and emotional, and I prefer her voice to Gaga’s.
6. Feels Like Home
This is a beautiful and sweet love song, it would be perfect for a first dance at a wedding. There’s nothing fancy or crazy, it’s just a wonderful ballad sung with heartfelt softness and meaning. And it’s no wonder it’s such a lovely piece, considering it was written by Randy Newman for his musical Randy Newman’s Faust. Kerry’s voice is, of course, completely different to his, but the song really suits her, and there aren’t any big changes to the arrangement of it. It deserves to be the title song of the album. There are videos online of Kerry performing the song at The Alley Cat Bar and The Pheasantry (a Pizza Express venue)
7. She Used To Be Mine
This is a sad but nicely performed ballad, about life taking you to a place that you didn’t expect or want to be in, and reflecting on the person you’d hoped to become instead. It was originally written and performed by Sara Bareilles for the Waitress stage musical. It’s not a song that I can strongly relate to on a personal level particularly, but I can see how it would be felt deeply by many. Kerry does sing it very well indeed, and has performed it live in the past.
8. Feed The Birds
This is a very pretty song about an old lady encouraging people to feed the birds outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, by buying her bags of crumbs. The lyrics and the melody draw lovely images of the situation in my hand, with birds fluttering around as the feed is distributed for them. As someone who’s been in that area of the city a few times, it’s very easy to picture it clearly. It was first sung by Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins, which I know I saw during my childhood, but it’s so long ago now that I can’t remember anything beyond a couple of its most famous songs. So this feels completely new to me, and Kerry sings it very sweetly, it’s lovely. You can hear performing it at The Pheasantry and Prince of Wales Theatre on Youtube.
9. When You Believe
This is a duet with Louise Dearman, a musical theatre star who also appeared in Wicked, and with whom Kerry has done a concert before, as you can see here. So they’ve been good friends for a while. Here they’re covering a song by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey from the DreamWorks animated film The Prince of Egypt. It doesn’t resonate with me in terms of the religious references, but to some extent it can still be interpreted in the sense of believing in yourself, and the things you can achieve by doing so, which I can relate to more. So it’s not one of the strongest songs on the album for me, but it’s still nice, and their voices complement each other well.
10. Into The Unknown
A complete change of pace and energy to finish, with this fantastically catchy track, all about fighting and ultimately giving in to a powerful temptation, despite the uncertainty and fear in doing so. It’s powerful and punchy throughout, and Kerry signs off in style by holding the last note for an impressive 11 seconds. It was originally sung by Idina Menzel and Aurora in the Disney film Frozen 2 – although Kerry’s performance, as stated in the booklet, is based on the Panic! At The Disco version from the soundtrack, turning it into a great rock number. Kerry performed Let It Go from the first Frozen film as the opening track of her self-titled album in 2014, so featuring this song at the end of Feels Like Home bookends the two albums nicely.
All in all, I’m extremely pleased I got this. It’s a magnificent album, striking a good balance of loud and powerful with soft and sentimental, thanks to a pleasant mixture of songs. Kerry’s voice is as incredible as ever, there’s no doubt in her confidence and ability. And she’s introduced me to quite a few lovely songs that I’d never heard before. If I had to pick a top three, I would probably go for Who Wants To Live Forever, A Million Dreams and Into The Unknown, closely followed by Feels Like Home and Your Song, with everything else not far behind.
Relative to her other albums, I would say it’s better than her self-titled release from 2014, which was still very good anyway, but it’s more difficult and perhaps unfair to compare with her Brian May collaborations, as they’re very different things. It’s certainly up there with them though, in terms of my enjoyment of them. But the point is that Kerry has shown herself to be more than capable as a solo artist, and not for the first or last time by any means, it was never a secret.
If I had to give this album some kind of rating, I would comfortably give it 4 stars out of 5, it’s well worth getting. It only misses out on a 5th star because there are a couple of songs that don’t resonate with me as much as the others, so it’s a very personal rating, and many people will quite rightly give it top marks. There’s certainly nothing wrong with any of it. All the songs are very well performed, Kerry has a stunning voice. So you can’t go wrong by purchasing it.
You can buy a signed copy of Feels Like Home exclusively from her website, and you may also be interested in her new podcast Keep Calm And Kerry On, where she interviews stars of stage, song and screen, and you can join her Fan Club too. I’ve also compiled playlists of videos by Kerry Ellis & Brian May and other Kerry Ellis videos that don’t feature Brian, including live performances and interviews, if you want something to look through. And don’t forget you can watch recaps of her live streams too, which she regularly does on her Instagram.
So thank you for reading, I hope you found that interesting. Again, this isn’t a sponsored review, neither Kerry nor anyone connected with her has had any involvement with this. I’m just a big fan of hers, and this new release has only served to make that love of her work all the stronger, she’s fabulous.