Jonathan Ansell: 'Tenor At The Movies' Released on Monday, February 18 2008 By Nick Levine, Music Editor
It came as a surprise last April when G4, the "popera" quartet discovered on The X Factor in 2004, announced that they were disbanding. After selling 1.5 million albums, completing four sell-out UK tours and even recording a duet with Cliff Richard, "boiling frustrations" caused the Guildhall graduates to slaughter their lucrative classical crossover cash cow. "It's inevitable that you'll get on each other's nerves when you can't make a decision without consulting three other people," said Jonathan Ansell, the group's most recognisable member, at the time. A fair point, but imagine if Mick and Keith had felt the same way?
Blessed with Brideshead Revisited good looks and an impressive, supple tenor, it was inevitable that Ansell would follow G4 with a bid for solo stardom. With Josh Groban, Russell Watson and Patrizio Buanne currently riding the "popera" pinup train towards six-digit sales figures, and the Welsh warbler himself, Rhydian Roberts, snapping at Ansell's brogue-clad heels, the road ahead of him is crowded. Ansell's ploy to distinguish himself from the classi-pop masses? An album of classic movie themes, all sung in his operatic, slightly sombre style. It's a good idea, but a borrowed one: Lesley Garrett was doing this kind of thing twelve years ago with her Soprano In Hollywood album.
Lack of originality notwithstanding, Tenor At The Movies does what it sets out to do very well. The music here – from films as diverse as Gone With The Wind and Gladiator, Moonstruck and Manon Des Sources - is tastefully-arranged and beautifully-orchestrated, with Ansell bringing all the gravitas you'd expect from a classically-trained tenor. If anything, the tone can be a little too refined: a touch more bombast along the lines of 'Here's To The Heroes', the Dances With Wolves theme that serves as the album's opening track, would be a welcome addition.
The general air of taste and dignity is interrupted on just two occasions. Ansell's interpretation of the theme from Chariots of Fire, on which he bellows rather preposterous lyrics about "the freedom of running, the freedom to fly", is comical rather than classy, while his version of 'Down In The River To Pray', a traditional bluegrass number made famous by O Brother, Where Art Thou?, is desperately ill-judged. His vocal technique is just too mannered to sing Southern fried lyrics about "sinners" and "studying in that good ol' way".
Perhaps the album's most telling moment comes half-way through, when Ansell tackles 'Vois Sur Ton Chemin', a song from little-known French film Les Choristes, with help from classical girl-group All Angels. Soothing, reassuring and ever so slightly spiritual, the result is just begging to soundtrack an advert for a transatlantic airline's new, improved business class service. For this minor triumph alone, Tenor At The Movies should be considered a job well done.
From the Universal Classics and Jazz February Newsletter...
Superstar tenor Jonathan Ansell launches his solo career with a phenomenal disc of classic movie theme tunes. A passionate movie fan himself, he wanted to explore the music and stories that these films represented. So he has uncovered original lyrics on several tunes, and worked closely with top current lyricists on others to bring these legendary movies to life. The result is a classic tenor album that resonates with the glamour and romance of cinema.
The album opens with the dramatic and breathtaking theme from Gladiator, 'Now We Are Free', elsewhere, on Here's to the Heroes (from Dances with Wolves), Jonathan sounds like nothing less than a modern day Pavarotti, and in the theme from the Godfather, his voice soars and transforms the familiar, lilting accompaniment.
This album has some of the most beautiful and enduring music ever written, sung by one of the great voices of our generation.
Ex-G4 star Jonathan Ansell has topped the Classical Charts
A former busker and star of the X Factor became the youngest tenor ever to reach the top of the classical charts.
Jonathan Ansell was part of four-man operatic group G4, which came second in the 2004 version of the TV talent contest, and his debut solo album Tenor at the Movies has beaten off competition from established singers to take the number one spot.
The record, which features famous film theme tunes, also stormed into the pop albums chart at number nine.
The 25-year-old said he was delighted by the album's success, and is now in talks to star as his idol Luciano Pavarotti in a tribute show in Las Vegas.
"It's incredibly exciting," he said.
"I'm completely over the moon that I could have been a student three and a half years ago and now I'm top of the classical charts. It's a childhood dream come true."
At the same age, other famous tenors had enjoyed rather less success: Russell Watson was working as a bolt-cutter and singing in working men's clubs, while Pavarotti was a footballer studying opera.
Ansell, who grew up in Bognor Regis, East Sussex, formed G4 with three friends while studying at the Guildhall School of Music.
They busked in London's Covent Garden before achieving stardom through the X Factor - where Mr Nasty Simon Cowell predicted stardom for Ansell.
His ultimate ambition is to perform at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, he said.