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Music Review

Lee Mead: 'Lee Mead'

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Lee Mead: 'Lee Mead'
Let's get something straight from the start. This reviewer can't be doing with musical theatre. There's something about the pinned-back grins and jolly jazz hands that sends shudders down my spine. Fortunately for Lee Mead this means I have no idea whether he was a worthy winner of Graham Norton's hunt for a 'Joseph' earlier this year. You'll find no quibbles about whether Lewis Bradley or Keith Jack would have been better suited to the Andrew Lloyd Webber West End play around these parts. But that's where the good news ends. Lee Mead's debut is a selection of tracks, written by music folk as diverse as Mick Jagger, Gary Barlow, and that bald bloke from the New Radicals, which are transformed into dramatic show tunes for our pleasure. Every line is sung with deadly seriousness and each word is installed with high melodrama. Layers of cheese are ladled on layers of cheese, and the result is an album that's more sickly than a bucketful of melted chocolate, washed down with a basket-load of Dairylea slices.

Opening with a David Essex track is never the wisest move on an album, unless you are dead set on limiting your listeners to the audience of Loose Women. Which is clearly where Mead's future lies. Daytime TV, flogging records on Mothers' Day, filling in for Michael Ball when he pulls out of his Fern and Phil interview. He's got a voice that will melt a million housewives' hearts and I'm sure he's got the grin, hand movements and well-kept hair to boot. But on record, there's a soulless, vacuous nature to his voice. Years of treading the boards have left him bereft of the personal touch. When he launches into the chorus of 'Gonna Make You A Star', it's like a burst of pantomime down the Bradford Alhambra and you half expect Widow Twankey to pop up on the finale. It's all good harmless fun, but it's a bit daft.

He follows it up with a cover of 'Paint It Black' that will almost certainly have Rolling Stones die-hards fetching their pitchforks and searching the Yellow Pages for Mead's home address. His innate warmth and stage persona means the brooding, all-time classic rock track is morphed into a jolly theatrical romp that you can imagine a class full of Sylvia Young pupils doing a merry jig to onstage. He's better suited to the perky Gregg Alexander penned number 'Why Can't We Make Things Work'. Alexander, who managed to trick us into briefly thinking Ronan Keating was an interesting solo prospect on 'Life Is A Rollercoaster', pulls off the same manoeuvre here, as Mead revels in the swelling pop hook and arm-swaying chorus. He's equally at home tackling the Sugababes' 'Stronger', which is the only tune on the record with the sort of story-telling lyrics that are fitting for Mead's dramatic style.

Despite these occasional highs, far too often Mead is let down by his producers and weak song choices. Gary Barlow has clearly been hogging all his hits for Take That, because his wet, whimpering ballad 'When I Need You The Most' makes his solo career clunker 'Open Road' sound like a piece of pop perfection. Equally, we can't really blame Mead's clearly accomplished vocal talents when he's left to dabble with Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's abomination that is 'Any Dream Will Do'. When Schofield and Donovan released the track in the early '90s we were able to blame the cringeworthy singers. Now, with its plinkety-plonkety bongo beats and 'wimma way' rhythm still in place, we can finally conclude that it's just a stinking tune, whoever's left to sing it. If you're the sort of person who likes school choirs, crass, cheap production values and slushy tunes (Hello Magic Radio listeners!) then this album's probably right up your street. However, if that's not your bag, we recommend steering well clear of this LP and accidentally scratching your mother's copy so she can't play it on repeat all day long on December 25.

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