Giles Tomkins’ self-described “crossover” album (cross-reference below) is a veritable cornucopia of styles from the tasty “down-East” charm of “When the Winter Comes” to the Beatles (a funky, guitar-twang-rich rendition of “Norwegian Wood”) to Italian Art Song (Donaudy’s “O Del Mio Amato Ben”). It’s jam packed with a musical army including the ever-so-discreet Canadian Brass, a covey of strings and—in “Legacy,” which wondrously paints the “simple truth of a child” text—a compelling mix of engaged youth and a young artist widening his vocal horizon as the Bach Children’s Chorus and Tomkins lift the music far off the page.
Trey Mills composed the opener “I Wonder” and produced/mixed the remainder. In the first cut, Tomkins employs a clear, reedy tone with characteristically impeccable diction, but the endlessly-circling upper strings—plus an orchestra that seems a tad far back—threaten to mar the collection as an unbalanced Ode to Baritone. Happy to report that this track was the exception. The arrangements, voice and sound move on convincingly with Mills’ “Non Dubitar” (featuring soprano Mary Beth Daellenbach) and never look back.
“Shenandoah” and its melodic alter ego “Homeward Bound” are full of heart-felt passion. As this fine voice matures, it will learn to relax, banish the bar lines and flow with the phrases rather than thrust them into life. Billy Joel’s title track (nicely introspective and including a most impressive change of register) underscores the promise of greatness to come. Yet, unquestionably, it’s the Neapolitan warmth of the Donaudy that whets the appetite for more. JWR