Although primarily known for helping discover fellow Brit vocalist Leo Sayer in the early 70's, singer / songwriter / producer David Courtney's solo output has unfortunately been rather sporadic to say the least since he released his debut album The First Day back in 1975.
While it took a whopping thirty years before any new material would be issued the good news in that in the past five years there has been quite a bit of activity in the Courtney camp including Angel Air's top notch reissuing of The First Day on CD earlier this year. Now David returns with a long overdue new collection of songs, albeit with a bit of a twist, entitled The Show Must Go On.
The premise on The Show Must Go On is that Courtney has assembled a cast of guest musicians and artists to aid him in recreating some of his favorite songs from his own back catalogue of work. So think of it as a greatest hits kind of record with more of a modern slant to it. Almost half of the material centers around the songs Courtney co-wrote for Sayer's first two records Silverbird (1973), Just A Boy (1974), as well as Who vocalist Roger Daltrey's self titled solo debut which came out around the same time as Silverbird.
The songs "Telepath", "Tomorrow Is The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life" and "The Dancer" are toughened up considerably by Superlungs, who are a young, hard edged three piece outfit hailing from Courtney's neck of the woods in South East England, proving once again David's flair for spotting new talent. Another group predominately featured on this album is The Rooftop Band, whose name is perhaps a nod to that famous band from Liverpool whose last show was filmed atop the famed Apple Studio in 1969. Glen Richardson vocalist for the Rooftops turns in fine renditions of "Slow Motion" and Giving It All Away" while the band backs up Courtney on the smooth, dreamy sounding "Shooting Star" and the laid back cabaret piano feel of "One Man Band". Another standout song "Easy Way Out" features what certainly has be one of David's most heartfelt vocal performances on record and is wrapped around an absolutely gorgeous string arrangement.
To round out this impressive collection of music Courtney returns to one of his most fertile periods as a writer/ arranger / producer and includes a couple of previously issued tracks from the mid 70's. "When Your Life Is Your Own" originally released on The First Day is a great choice for inclusion here as it not only blends in well stylistically with the rest of the material, but also because it features the signature guitar sound of David Gilmour from Pink Floyd. The Show Must Go On wouldn't be complete without an appearance from David's mentor, close friend and musical partner the late Adam Faith. "Star Song" one of the strongest tracks from Adam's 1974 album I Survive is an up-tempo song noteworthy for the guest backing vocals which are handled by Paul and Linda McCartney. The album concludes with another stroke of compositional genius as David ties together the lush orchestral strings and classical guitar playing of Richard Durant in "Manon's Dream" with another of Adam's compositions from I Survive, "In Your Life". The way the stirring arrangement effortlessly unfolds and meshes with Adam's fragile sounding vocals is nothing short of perfection.
The Show Must Go On should be seen as a splendid return to form for David Courtney. The music and arrangements are not only exceptional from top to bottom, but there's also plenty of variety to be found here as well. David's expert hand at selecting the right artists to interpret his music is also a major reason why this album works as well as it does. Here's hoping that The Show Must Go On acts as a springboard for David to head back into the studio for an album of brand new material sometime in the near future.
1) Slow Motion – The Rooftop Band
2) Tomorrow Is The First Day Of The Rest of Your Life - Superlungs
3) Shooting Star – David Courtney & The Rooftop Band
4) Telepath - Superlungs
5) Giving It All Away – The Rooftop Band
6) Star Song – Adam Faith
7) Easy Way Out – David Courtney
8) One Man Band – David Courtney & The Rooftop Band
9) Talk Dirty – Shiva King
10) The Dancer - Superlungs
11) When Your Life Is Your Own – David Courtney
12) The Show Must Go On - David Courtney & The Rooftop Band
13) Manon's Dream / In Your Life – Richard Durant w/ vocals by Adam Faith