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Sunday, November 19, 2006

 

ModMusic: Brian Stokes Mitchell

The last in a long, heralded line of Broadway leading men -- those whose renown who could open a show and keep it running even with bad reviews, but who didn't chase film careers-- is Brian Stokes Mitchell. It's been almost a decade, since his Tony-winning triumph in Ragtime, 15 years since his turn in Oh, Kay! Most of his contemporary stage stars in that time period -- Bernadette Peters, Betty Buckley, Linda Eder -- have dropped many recordings in the same period, taking advantage of their very specific celebrity. But "Stokes", as he is known, only got around to it this year.

Listening to his long-awaited debut, one is struck with a realization: few records have such highs and lows. Eschewing his baritone-booming, Howard Keel-like vocal trademarks, Stokes takes a jazzier, more fragile path. There are some brilliant reinterpretations, like Sweeney Todd's "Pretty Women". But for every triumph on the disc, there's an equally misguided disaster (like the saccharine-sweet "Something's Coming"). Could it be that he waited so long because -- as great as Stokes is -- he simply isn't suited to the recorded medium? I'm not sure...but the two tracks below ("Women" and the exquisite "How Glory Goes" from Adam Guettel's Floyd Collins) are extraordinary. That's worth something, at least.

Download: "Pretty Women", Brian Stokes Mitchell
Download: "How Glory Goes", Brian Stokes Mitchell
Then Get: Brian Stokes Mitchell
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