Sarah Brightman’s second studio album feels like a bit of a non-starter, like the folk song-based The Trees They Grow So High, but that’s probably because it comes under Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shabby shadow. The Songs That Got Away features the musical theatre titan as producer and, according to a few sources, this was “his idea.”
The songs come from West End or Broadway theatrical productions, so we aren’t in original territory just yet. The rub is that most of the songs on the record didn’t see much success for a number of reasons, so many of the pieces are relatively unknown even to theatre crowds familiar with the various productions featured.
The album includes liner notes by Sheridan Morley, the writer of a mountain of unofficial biographies. Morley provides some descriptions about the backgrounds of the songs and a bit of information about the “lost” nature of the tunes. From his notes, it appears that the plan was to put out more “songs that got away,” but that didn’t come to fruition.
The Songs That Got Away opens with “Meadowlark,” a Stephen Schwartz piece from The Baker’s Wife. The musical premiered in 1989 in the West End, but only had a short run – good enough to build a small but fiercely loyal cult following. The song is from the point of view of Geneviève, with the character trying to decide whether or not to run off with a younger dude. Spoiler alert: she goes for it.
The song is nice enough, with some light instrumental backing and piano by Geoff Eales. Brightman departs from the ethereal classical tones demonstrated on previous entries and is aptly more theatrical, enunciating well and serving the less-than-interesting piece to perhaps the best of her abilities.
The bulk of the record follows the same tack, with highlights like “I’m Going to Like It Here” from Flower Drum Song and Rex’s “Away From You” standing out.
Other tracks, like Irving Berlin’s suitably named “Mr. Monotony” and the Guys and Dolls reject “Three Cornered Tune,” illustrate perfectly why they wound up on various cutting room floors. The latter attempts a round, looping Brightman’s voice three times over a misplaced score. It doesn’t work.
The Songs That Got Away isn’t the most auspicious of Brightman’s catalogue, but there are some curious musical moments and some theatre fans might find some interest in hearing these songs. As far as showcasing Brightman’s strengths, this doesn’t cut it – in no small part thanks to Lloyd Webber’s insistence on dragging his then-wife through some rather dreary material.