After becoming the first independent artist to go straight to Number 1 in the Official Classical Album Charts with a debut album, The Rhythm of Life is classical-crossover soprano Joanna Forest’s follow-up record. And it takes the form of a concept album, taking us on a journey through the day in the life of a child, pulling together songs from a wide range of sources to remind us of how uplifting music can be, no matter our age.
As a theatre nerd, my eye was instantly drawn to the musical tracks and Sweet Charity’s ‘The Rhythm of Life’ is an unexpected success as it brims with irrepressible energy – a fascinating and urgent orchestral arrangement is bolstered with charismatic backing vocals and choirs and the whole production builds layer upon layer to become something really interesting and unlike any version you’d seen on a theatre stage.
This kind of playfulness serves the album well. Tracks like Take That’s ‘Greatest Day’ and Leslie Bricusse’s ‘If I Ruled The World’ float by on a wash of prettiness but don’t always linger long in the memory. It’s the characterful interventions of CBeebies’ presenter Andy Day on ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite’ and All The Arts’ children’s choir helping out on ‘Food Glorious Food’ that bring a smile to the face, plus the quirkiness of tracks like choral curio ‘Banquet Fugue’.
That said, the classic simplicity with which Forest approaches the likes of ‘Hushabye Mountain’ and ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ is perfectly suited to the hushed magic of these songs. And they hang together effectively as a collection, though the canniness of the album’s concept means that you could just as easily listen to it on shuffle.