From a career spanning 30 years, if there's one thing that Michael Ball is good at, time and time again it is surprising his audience with a completely different concept, character or sound. From strutting high in the heels of Hairspray's Edna Turnblad to slitting throats as demon barber Sweeney Todd there seems no end to the capabilities of the musical theatre veteran.
Chart success with such hits as Love Changes Everything may for some confine Michael into the musical theatre ballad but for those familiar with the multi Olivier Award-winning performer it would come as no surprise that his latest album, If Everyone Was Listening is yet again unlike the previous 19 solo albums.
The first track, Bad Things is the theme tune from the TV series True Blood. It sets the tone for the album with a distinct country feel, a swaying rhythm and it's cool, it's easy listening and gets the things started with a real current sound. Never one to play safe, it is in complete contrast to the second track, Simple Love, a look back to a time when life was simpler - it is perfect storytelling. There's little in the way of expected, powerful and belting vocals - he's been there and done that, many have got the t-shirt and when you're as good a storyteller as Michael, the subtlety of the sound is just as captivating.
From years spent as an actor, telling a story is something that comes natural to Michael and it seems that all of the songs, carefully selected, have a good one to tell. When you consider the track list there is an even mix of both old and new. The album proves that decent songs are still being written - something that right now is so easy to forget. A perfect example is the seventh track, Sugarland's Stuck Like Glue from 2010 which is a welcome upbeat country tale of devoted love.
As well as the title song, a particular highlight is a collaboration with The Overtones. Let It Be Me is beautiful, it has the ultimate feeling of fantasy. Whilst none of it is breaking the musical mould, it doesn't have to. It's comforting, like an old friend, soothing with a beautiful blend of harmonies and without being too soppy, it's bliss.
Recently Michael supported new musical From Here To Eternity with the release of single Fight The Fight, he doesn't disappoint theatre fans and ends the album with another nod to a relatively new musical Once. The beautiful Falling Slowly is the perfect, subtle finale to end what is a masterful, compelling collection.
This is less of what you'd expect from the musical theatre legend but that's ultimately why it's so great, and sets it apart. The album is timeless, much like the man behind it all. Michael Ball established himself as one of the staples of musical theatre and now with such undeniable versatility, one of Britain's most well respected voices.
Behind the scenes on the album:
The album is released on 17 November. You can pre-order it here.