October 26th sees the release of an album which could quite possibly win the prize for most sentimental release of the year. Message laden covers, soaring string arrangements, and heartfelt vocals, all released just in time for Christmas. This of course might turn some people off, but not this music reviewer, and so I slipped into the CD player today ‘Coming Home’, the forthcoming release by The Soldiers.
As the group name suggests, these guys are real life soldiers, namely Sergeant Major Gary Chilton, Sergeant Richie Maddocks, and Lance Corporal Ryan Idzi, who some of you may recognise from X Factor. They release this album in support of Help For Heroes, The Royal British Legion, and The Army Benevolent Fund. You only have to turn on the news, to realise any cause supporting the work the armed forces does is a worthy one, but if you choose to buy this album, you’ll get the full force of 3 talented singers too. The vocals on this album are a real pleasure to listen to, and the group manage to put their own stamp on each of the very well chosen covers, and the original title track, that make up this album.
The title track, ‘Coming Home’ starts off the album, complete with a piano melody, a soaring choir providing the backing vocals, and a sentiment/message that runs through every track on this album. Support, Pride, Solidarity, Hope, and a Longing For Home are all common themes in army life, reflected in the cover versions here. Some of these work better than others. I found ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ with it’s whistling accompaniment a little cheesey. Both this track, and an earlier cover ‘Stand By Me’ also had an organ part which wasn’t too easy on the ear. The only other critique I would make is, I was expecting a bit more from the groups version of ‘You’ve Got A Friend’.
Putting all that aside, I did find myself swept away by the rest of the CD, which was very easy to listen to, and sing-along to as well. Highlights include their unique take on the Elton John hit ‘Sacrifice’, and the beautiful ‘Against All Odds’. There’s also the gospel influence in ‘Lean On Me’, simple yet effective guitars on ‘Tears In Heaven’, and the rousing ‘I’ll Stand By You’. The instrumentation has a smooth and shimmering simplicity to it throughout, and the message behind the album is clear. As a cover album of familiar songs, it’s not something that I’d normally pick up in the shops, but I did enjoy it. Whatever you might think about sentimental cover albums, these guys have talent, and they deliver on several levels with ‘Coming Home’. It was much more enjoyable than I was expecting, and you can’t really argue with a group using their passion for a worthy cause.
‘Coming Home’ is out now. For more information on the group visit: www.the-soldiers.co.uk