Friday, April 22, 2011

Album Review: Glee: The Music Presents - The Warblers (4/5)

Glee has churned out a quite a few fun songs, but it hasn't produced a true album until now. The previous Glee releases--all collections of songs from the previous few episodes aired--sound like the soundtracks that they are: a mixed bag of styles and quality. The Warblers is different, for it focuses only on the music of Blaine Anderson and the Dalton Academy Warblers, who are, in real life, actor/singer Darren Criss and the Tufts University Beelzebubs, an a cappella men's singing group. Thus it sounds not just like a soundtrack, but an actual album, since it adheres to a more consistently style musically--that of the mostly a cappella Warblers--with Darren Criss doing lead vocal duty on almost all the tracks (Chris Colfer gets a few leads too, but this is Criss's show).

Let's pause a moment and consider Mr. Criss. Remember that episode when her first appeared singing Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream?" That remains one of the series best moments, and this set is wise to capitalize on it by putting that track front and center. From there we get the rather fun a cappella renditions of Train's "Hey, Soul Sister" and Destiny's Child's "Bills, Bills, Bills." A lot of the fun of this album is trying to discern to what extent its sound are instruments or clever vocal acrobatics. Clearly there's quite a lot of the latter--another reason why musically this set is a cut above what we've gotten previously from Glee.

Glee recently showed that it could hold its own with original songs, and it's a shame there aren't any here. Instead we get mostly top 40 covers, which is fun, but wouldn't it be great to hear what The Warblers could come up with on their own? At least there are some bonus gems that haven't appeared on the show, like a stirring remake of Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know," which I think is slated to appear in a future episode, and the album-only tracks "What Kind of Fool" (Barbra Streisand) and "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" (Rod Stewart). These are all great and make up for the album's few low points, such as "Silly Love Songs." The songs that Colfer leads or shares with Criss are largely not as compelling either, save for "Candles," which has some really lovely melodies.

Mark Salling and Matthew Morrison are the first Glee stars to release solo albums, but I think Darren Criss will likely be in the pike quite soon (along with Lea Michele, who is also such a fantastic performer).

Best: Teenage Dream, Somewhere Only We Know, Bills Bills Bills, Hey Soul Sister, Raise Your Glass.

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