“Is this the start of something wonderful and new?Or one more dream that I cannot make true?”
There doesn’t seem to be anything that can stop the dead-eyed determination of Anton Du Beke to try and become the kind of all-round entertainer that his website proclaims him to be. Best known for his regular mid-season finishes on Strictly, he’s dipped his toes into the world of presenting (whatever happened to Hole in the Wall…) and now it is the record industry that has to avert its eyes politely for a wee while.
Released in time for Christmas, From The Top contains zero surprises. If you were thinking of getting for someone who likes him, then they are going to be satisfied. Du Beke has an inoffensive smooth tone that suits the more undemanding choices of standards here (‘Beyond The Sea’, ‘More’, ‘It Had To Be You’), Strictly singers Lance Ellington and Hayley Sanderson make guest appearances as does Connie Fisher, and there’s bags of that inimitable charisma of his.
It’s not my thing though – no one needs grunts and exhortations to the band as we get in ‘Fly Me To The Moon’, his diction is shockingly poor in places (it’s ironic that ‘Puttin’ On The Ritz’ is retitled ‘Putting On The Ritz’, given that it is sung ‘Puttin onna Ritz every single time) adlibbing might amuse live audiences but has no place being recorded as in the faux bonhomie at the end of ‘Me and My Shadow’. And for someone whose established shtick is of cheeky showman, there’s something of a desperation to be taken more seriously as a singer, which results in the album’s low points.
A misguided trip through La La Land’s ‘City of Stars’ exposes a voice that doesn’t have the necessary emotional colour, (though Fisher almost aches enough for the both of them). ‘Moon River’ and ‘Pure Imagination’ are just painful, glibly superficial, though the swing-lite arrangement of ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’ is the biggest crime here, wrangling the song out of shape in order to fit an interpretation entirely lacking in feeling and capped off with an arrogant ‘hey’ at the end.
Ultimately, the big band version of the Arctic Monkeys’ 2006 hit ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ typifies From The Top. There’s a small amount of novelty value but even at 2 minute 42 seconds long, it outstays its welcome. But if it’s your kind of thing, then that’s absolutely fine!