Billy Porter – Billy Porter Presents: The Soul Of Richard Rodgers (2017)

Billy Porter - Billy Porter Presents: The Soul Of Richard Rodgers (2017)
Artist: Billy Porter
Album: Billy Porter Presents: The Soul Of Richard Rodgers
Genre: Soul
Origin: USA
Released: 2017
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
Tracklist:
Oh, What A Beautiful Morning (Billy Porter & Pentatonix) (3:10)
My Romance (Billy Porter & Leslie Odom, Jr.) (3:52)
If I Loved You (Renee Elise Goldsberry, Christopher Jackson & Billy Porter) (4:46)
With A Song In My Heart (Brandon Victor Dixon, Joshua Henry & Billy Porter) (3:31)
I Have Dreamed (Billy Porter & Patina Miller) (5:16)
My Funny Valentine (Billy Porter & Cynthia Erivo) (4:32)
I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair (Billy Porter & Todrick Hall) (4:14)
This Nearly Was Mine (Billy Porter & Deborah Cox) (4:14)
Bewitched (Billy Porter & Ledisi feat. Zaire Park) (5:04)
Carefully Taught (Billy Porter & India.Arie) (4:36)
Lady Is A Tramp (Billy Porter feat. Zaire Park) (3:49)
Edelweiss (Billy Porter) (3:55)

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Billy Porter Presents: The Soul of Richard Rodgers may come as a bit of surprise to his theater fans, following two other Broadway-themed records that took on a more, shall we say, orchestra-pit-friendly demeanor. Even 2005’s appropriately titled At the Corner of Broadway + Soul, a live album with relatively limited accompaniment, kept its footing in the showmanship and vibrato of the Great White Way. Here, Porter instead commits to a decidedly urban contemporary approach, in terms of both production and delivery. It’s a sound that recalls the ’80s and ’90s, including, for longtime Porter fans, his Untitled debut from 1997. The record is also meaningfully a “Billy Porter Presents” rather than a “Billy Porter Sings” album; he is featured on five of its twelve tracks, mostly duets. Those and the rest of the set are loaded with high-powered guests, who share over a half-dozen Tony and Grammy Awards, and many more nominations, between them. (Porter himself won a Tony in 2013 for Best Actor in a Musical for Kinky Boots.) They include Hamilton original Broadway cast members Leslie Odom, Jr., Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Christopher Jackson. The latter two reimagine “If I Loved You” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel with jazzy keyboards, funky bass, and a small chorus of soulful backing vocals. In a perhaps surprising move, given that it’s often a highlight wherever it appears, Porter hands over Rodgers & Hart’s “My Funny Valentine” to 2016 Tony winner Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple), who does a smooth R&B rendition befitting the album’s sultry tone. Among the more unexpected guests are Pentatonix, who open the track list with a stylized, syncopated soul twist on “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” backing Porter’s lead. Porter also does a duet with India.Arie, “Carefully Taught,” from South Pacific, that’s one of a few socially conscious tunes in the rotation. Also from South Pacific, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” apparently selected for the phrase, is made into one. A duet between our presenter and Todrick Hall, it quickly trades the show tune’s melody for some scathing and timely raps and vocal vamps directed at a certain reality star-turned-president (“Show him what the door is for”). A funky “Lady Is a Tramp” with rapper Zaire Park also takes liberties with the lyrics, and a solo Porter closes the album with a song he performed for Concert for America, which offered counterprogramming for Donald Trump’s inauguration earlier in 2017. It’s an R&B-styled reinvention of “Edelweiss” that maintains the original’s sincerity and political subtext, with added commentary. For listeners not put off by the non-traditional takes or its 2017 context, the album delivers on talent and soul — with gusto.
Review by Marcy Donelson

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