There is an inherent difficulty which comes when reviewing an album when it has been brought forward by someone who has already been known in the public eye. There are certain expectations which come about because we already know the artist is talented, but it makes it a tough act to review since it is hard to appreciate the work as a first album. That said, I felt in safe and well refined hands with former Eastender John Partridge’s first album, as the singer provides an eclectic mix of covers and styles that is pleasing on the ear and a worthy addition to any music collection.
Partridge has been a mainstay of the entertainment industry for many years, even finding the first flush of success in the musical Cats where he first showed off his unique vocal ability. Hanging somewhere between Hard Rock and Jazz the 43-year-old singer has a very flexible quality to his voice which means he is able to use it in a variety of different genres which he demonstrates in this album to great effect. Being able to listen to an album which mixes the likes of Bite the Hand that Feeds and Tino Kino, while also adding in a few softer moments with tracks such as with the Dolly Parton classic Jolene. This sense of variation gives a very strong quality to the album and gives the overall album a sense that it is more of a collection of favourites than any normal cohesive album.
An important point I picked up from this album that while a lot of these are covers, they are not handled in the same way as the original songs. Indeed, this is exemplified beautifully by his take on Jolene, an album highlight, which was noticeably slower and more restrained, yet packing a powerful emotional wallop thanks to Partridge’s excellent delivery. That said, there are some pieces that work better than the other, with Jolene, Tina Kino and Barton Hollow stand out as some of the finer reworkings on the album. There were more pieces however, which sadly, felt like they lacked a little more of the wow factor such as Me and Liza and Love Runs Out feeling a little bit more like singing by the numbers. Altogether it isn’t a bad thing to see this variation, but some of the weaker points should have been worked on more to make for a better overall collection.
Not all of the album is based on covers though, with Stop for a Minute being a well written and well executed original track. In our interview with John Partridge he told us that this song was very personal to him and it certainly came across when I listened to it. It was the fourth track in the play order and this is where the album as a whole began to elevate to become something of substance, and helped us to see the heart that beats within the showman. This combination of covers and originality once again reinforces the feeling that this is a passion project rather than a piece of work and was all the more refreshing when compared to most modern music releases.
There are a few negatives which do mar what is an otherwise worthwhile album and much like the positives they hinge on the way each song is portrayed by Partridge. The vocal ability, while flexible and able to turn to so many different styles, is also very distinctive, which makes the weaker songs feel like they sound too much alike. This is cured somewhat by most of the tracks being covers of recognisable songs, but for anyone unfamiliar with some of the classics it may feel a little bit too samey. Similarly, I was surprised that considering some of Partridge’s stage background there wasn’t much representation from the stage world in the album itself. There is also the overall length of the album itself, which stands at a pretty short 38 minutes. Considering the nature of how this collection has been packaged and put together it could have stood to have a few more tracks to really show off what Partridge can do. Once again, though these are pretty minor points and they don’t take away from what he has produced, but something we hope he can fix, if and when he comes to do his next album.
Taking all of the pros and cons into accounts I made myself a list of both. I then proceeded to throw it out the window and ask myself did I enjoy Dames, Dudes and Cowboys Too? The answer to this question is yes. The way it was lovingly put together and the unique way each song was performed really brings home how talented John Partridge is as a singer. While it has its occasional misstep and while I think there could have been more to this album I still ended up loving what I saw and think it will be a worthy addition to anyones music collection. If you want proof that there really is life after Eastenders, then you will find it here.
Dames Dude’s and Cowboys Too is available on Amazon and iTunes