Contributor Scott Redman reviews the concept recording of Samson and Delilah: A Love Story.
Samson and Delilah now joins the mix of Bible-inspired musicals. A new concept recording, Samson and Delilah: A Love Story, releases February 11 with music and lyrics by Ron Yatter, a former William Morris agent.
Listening to the recording is like taking a trip in the Hot Tub Time Machine back to the era when Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sir Cameron Mackintosh ruled the roost of the West End and Broadway with their mega musicals, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.
The epic tale is re-told as a contemporary rock/pop musical, telling the story of Samson (Ace Young), a young man whose strength hinges on the existence of his hair. Delilah (Diana DeGarmo), the sex driven lover of Samson, betrays him and cuts his hair in a moment of passionate jealousy.
The score is billed as a “unique combination of classic legit theater and pop/rock, creating a new musical sound” and is reminiscent of Chess, Dance of the Vampires and the European spectacle, Notre Dame de Paris. The score is filled with ballads very similar to Frank Wildhorn’s over-the-top belting style rampant in his gothic musical, Jekyll and Hyde.
The musical vocabulary of Samson and Delilah is comprised of catchy pop songs that feel outdated before they begin, often starting with soft rock vamps and synthesized intros. Understanding this is a concept album, the songs feel truncated and rarely build into a second thought or reaction to the initial impulse of the song. For example, Samson’s song, “Apple of My Eye”, where he extends his intentions for Delilah as a companion has a pleasant drive that begins the tune. There is a build towards the end of the song and then it ends abruptly. I was hoping the composer would use this opportunity to twist the intention of the character or use it to build a plot point. Instead it goes for a concert ending with a sustained note held admirably by Ace Young.
The lyrics are plain and broad. They lack texture and do not give a sense of setting or time period of the piece. The first track, “When Samson Is Here,” repeats the same idea with the men proclaiming, “We like to sample beauty. We like to pour the brew…We like the scent of women. We like the taste of wine.” This could apply to any sector of history and fails to put the show in a place of its own. In the song “Let This Night Go On Forever”, the title is also repeated, gives little insight to the heart of the story and is paired with bland commentary, “Come what may tomorrow, I’m with my love tonight.”
The challenge of turning this concept album into a fully realized production will be to place these songs in a world that the audience can relate to, and to sculpt characters that exhibit truthful actions and emotions. Musically, Samson and Delilah fails to break new ground—this show is 25 years too late. It might have worked in the theatrical era of helicopters, chandeliers and the “pop opera,” but for now, the story seems best suited for the Bible.
There will be a special 54 BELOW album launch concert January 29 at 9:30 pm and January 30 at 9:30 pm where attendees will be able to buy the album two weeks early.