A couple of weeks ago, just a few days after seeing Lucy May Barker at the Landor Theatre, I went back to the same venue to see another cabaret in the A Spotlight On… series, this time hosted by Jonathan Eiø.
Since first reviewing a cabaret Jonathan performed with Lucy Thatcher at the now defunct Theatre Museum, I’ve also reviewed him in Rickmansworth’s panto, seen him in the role of Jack in Into the Woods, also at the Landor – and more importantly, come to know him as a friend. I genuinely loved his first album, The Space In Between, largely because it avoided the usual trap many musical theatre performers fall into of cramming their first release with well known standards. Instead, we got some finely crafted, well produced pop songs that showcased genuine songwriting ability as well as a fine voice.
Jonathan has just released the follow up album, New Beginnings. And while the first half of his cabaret evening was in the mould of many a show, with performances of his favourite songs by other writers, the second half acted as a showcase for the new CD.
In both, while Jonathan’s name was the one in big type on the posters, he was frequently happy to take a back seat while his guests, who have all contributed performances to the new album, took the spotlight.
At the time, I’m afraid I took Jon to task a little for that: this was his turn in the spotlight, and he gave it up a little too easily, I told him.
I was wrong.
Not least because his generosity of spirit is one of the reasons I’m happy to be a friend of his, and it’s a quality that others deserve to see – but also because what never left the spotlight was his songwriting ability. For as good as Jonathan is as a vocalist, it’s his developing talents as a songwriter that New Beginnings really highlights.
From the light and breezy, Mika-like Need Some Time to the haunting richness of Kimmy Bryceland’s vocals on Sandbox, there’s an astonishing range of styles present on the album. An acoustic version of a track from Jonathan’s first album, Around, is performed with such deftness by Jack Shalloo that it shows that, however good a singer-songwriter is at the skill each side of the hyphen, sometimes ceding control of one element to another person can elevate the material immeasurably.
That’s not to say Jonathan isn’t a great vocalist, for he is. But New Beginnings shows that his authorship skills (along with those of his fiancée Louise, who cowrote some of the lyrics on the album) are developing immensely.