John Owen Jones – Rise
When an actor has played both Jean Valjean and the Phantom, it gives them a certain amount of respect. With his soaring voice, the album title Rise seems very appropriate, although beginning with Rise Like A Phoenix is a surprising choice. Made famous by Conchita Wurst at Eurovision last year, he sings it incredibly well, but it does make me picture him in a dress… and it’s not an unpleasant image!
The album as a whole is a good mix of well-known emotional songs from some of the biggest West End musicals, including Empty Chairs at Empty Tables (Les Mis), Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again (Phantom) and Bui Doi (Miss Saigon). Each of these is heartfelt and full of longing and pain, showing his versatility as both a singer and a performer.
This is perhaps the reason why he doesn’t sing anything from his two greatest roles (Anthem Fawr y Nos aside) and also why he chooses pieces sung by women in the shows themselves. His rendition of Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again is moving and poignant and almost preferable to the original version. For Good (Wicked) is sung as a duet with Ruthie Henshall and it works surprisingly well with a male voice as well.
Naturally there is a token Welsh song, but it’s everyone’s favourite – Bread of Heaven – and he sings it in an almost pop star, which actually isn’t the best of ideas as it sounds a bit too reality TV show.
You Are So Beautiful To Me by Joe Cocker on the other hand is fantastic – a breathy, sexy performance in his own style, guaranteed to make you smile secretly to yourself as you hear it.
Falling Slowly (Once), sung with Madalena Alberto, is as sad as it is beautiful – it’s one of my favourite songs and Alberto and Jones don’t disappoint with a stunning duet.
Rise is not really an album for the car, as it’s not particularly cheerful – in fact most of the songs are quite depressing, which is a shame because his voice really is beautiful and he has a very impressive vocal range.
Having said that, it is quite empowering and if you like singing along to big musical numbers then it’s a must have.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes