Since it was first announced in March, Rachel Tucker’s debut album The Reason has been something of a holy grail to musical theatre fans. Famous for playing the roles of Meat in We Will Rock You and Elphaba in Wicked (a role she held longer than any other West End performer), the singer and actress is truly part of the new generation of British theatre royalty. The Reason is a mature, assured release which will only cement Tucker’s reputation as a performer of note.
As seems to be becoming the norm for Elphaba actresses, Tucker’s album includes an interpretation of Wicked’s best-known number ‘Defying Gravity’. This song has been adapted by many a performer. It has been sped up, rocked up, slowed down, changed until it scarcely ressembled the original and generally messed around with left, right and centre. In spite of my belief that the orchestrated show version has never even come close to being bettered by such a release, the version on this album is my favourite of any such attempt to date. Not only does it feature a range of the famous riffs and growls for which Tucker’s powerhouse Elphaba was renowned, it also remains sensitive to the emotion of Stephen Schwartz’s wonderful lyrics. It already seems certain from iTunes and YouTube comments that Tucker’s fans have taken this new version of the song to their hearts and, frankly, who can blame them?
It is perhaps the emotion mentioned above which is the core strength of the album. Beautifully interpreted songs from We Will Rock You (‘No One But You’) and Rent (‘I’ll Cover You’) are found alongside arrangements of songs by the likes of Ed Sheeran and Evanescence. Alongside the rockier ‘Defying Gravity’, Tucker’s versions of Paloma Faith’s ‘Stone Cold Sober’ and ‘One Night Only’ from Dreamgirls add another dimension to her well-rounded debut release.
The Reason is a brilliant album. Mostly easy listening with a few more upbeat numbers, it is a perfect showcase of Tucker’s gorgeous tone, versatility and innate ability to deliver the message of the songs she is singing. It belongs on the iPod of anyone who would call themselves a theatre fan and will appeal to many others besides.
Rachel Tucker’s The Reason, released on Big Hand Recordings, is available now.