A Little Help from My Friends
Live at 54 Below
Performer: Jarrod Spector
Distributed By: Broadway Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I've been hearing a lot about Jersey Boys, a musical based on the lives of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Just recently, the musical was adapted into a movie and the promos have been never ending over the past week or so. I've actually been considering going to see the film as I grew up with a lot of the music being featured in the film. So, I find it a strange coincidence that out of all of the Live at 54 Below albums I have received for review, I should select A Little Help from My Friends, featuring Jarrod Spector, former Jersey Boys star.
Best known for his six year stint as Frankie Valli in the Broadway musical Jersey Boys (2008-2013), Jarrod Spector began his career at the age of six, winning on Star Search. By age nine, he was portraying Gavroche in Les Miserables on Broadway. After attending Princeton University and training at the Atlantic Theater Company Acting School, he starred in an off-Broadway production of Hamlet, then went on to star in Jersey Boys. After his six-year run, Spector starred in Minor Fall, Major Lift and has most recently starred on Broadway asBarry Mann in Beautiful - The Carol King Musical.
When searching for a theme for the Live at 54 Below show A Little Help from My Friends, Jarrod Spector looked inside of himself. After six years of portraying Frankie Valli, Spector went through a little bit of an identity crisis, wondering if this role was all he was meant for. He began to look for other artists, tenors like himself, that inspired him, then tenors who inspired those inspirations and so on and so on. What Spector came up with was a collection of songs from tenors throughout the ages that inspired the music we listen to today.
We listen to snippets of history that begins with a tale of Spector's meeting a family spanning generations after completing one of his Jersey Boys shows. He ties this story together with a number of songs showing his range as a performer. Beginning with the Beatles tune, With a Little Help from My Friends, Spector moves on to a medley of Bruno Mars' tune, When I Was Your Man, George Michael's Faith and The Beach Boys' Good Vibrations. From there, Jarrod Spector goes way back in history towards some of the first inspirations for tenors, taking on the blues track Sweet Home Chicago, moving on to When You Wish Upon A Star, Unchained Melody and a medley of Good Golly Miss Molly and Tutti Frutti.
Spector performs many more songs on this album that I have loved listening to over the years - songs like Paul McCartney's Maybe I'm Amazed, Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Yvonne Elliman's If I Can't Have You, Billy Joel's Uptown Girl, U2's I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. And of course, you just knew there would be some Frankie Valli stuff in there. Spector performs Walk Like a Man, C'Mon Marianne and Beggin'.
Though I loved most of Spector's interpretations of the songs performed on this album - songs I have grown up with and enjoyed immensely over the years, there were bound to be a couple of hitches in this album for me. Only a couple, but I felt I should mention them anyway. For one thing, what in the world was Spector thinking while singing the hook on Good Vibrations? He starts off with a great falsetto and then takes it off key. Yikes! Then there was the regrettable version of It's All Coming Back to Me Now - not the Celine Dion favorite, but the little heard Meatloaf duet version. Yeah, there's a reason Celine's version was the one selected to top the charts.
That being said, there was more about this album that I enjoyed than was annoyed with. I absolutely loved the clever way that he created a melody out of Enrico Caruso's Una Furtiva Lagrima and Freddie Mercury's Somebody to Love, blending the older generation tenor with the new. In fact, Spector's presentation on the entire album was quite enjoyable, offering a bit of history regarding each song in between performances.
A Little Help from My Friends is a great entry into the Live at 54 Below album collection, a well-thought out and well-performed album featuring music that many will recognize and want to sing along with. Jarrod Spector is much more than an actor/singer who portrayed Frankie Valli, he is a performer that knows how to draw his audience in and keep them there until the final song. I had a lot of fun with this album and can't recommend it enough.