Review: Dwight Townsend, Finale: Omega to Alpha

Dwight Townsend, Finale: Omega to Alpha

08 Oct, 2014 Gary Hill

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There was a time when crooners like Vic Damone and Frank Sinatra owned the radio airwaves and the music charts. Music lovers who long for that era will find plenty to be pleased with on Finale: Omega to Alpha from Dwight Townsend. While Townsend’s deep baritone definitely seems different than the type of voice usually associated with this type of music, beyond that, it all has an air of familiarity.

While the type of voice Townsend has is usually relegated to backing roles, he makes it clear on this release that it works equally well in the lead. Townsend sings his way through two full CDs of songs, ably mastering all of them. Although it takes a little time to adjust to the different register, once that happens, this will seem like the kind of thing that would have been quite at home on the pop charts of the 1940s.

Many of the songs here are classics. It’s the kind of thing you would expect ranging from jazz and pop standards to show tune type music. It’s a real tribute to Townsend’s songwriting and understanding of the musical idiom in which he performs that it’s hard to tell which songs are his originals and which are not. His music feels every bit as much a part of the bygone era as do the pieces originally made famous in that time period

Townsend is joined by a number of great musicians, including members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The music is all exactly what would expect. It’s perfect for the kind of music being presented here. Of course, that level of perfection in terms of the arrangement means that this is exactly what is expected. There are no surprises. That means there is also no real sense of uniqueness making this stand out.

That lack of surprises also tends to make this sort of a flat release. That doesn’t refer to tonal quality or production, but rather that there are no real standouts. This doesn’t have peaks and valleys. That makes it great for background music. This would be perfect for a dinner part, particularly one with a retro theme. It’s also great music for an old-time dance event. It’s not the best choice for intense listening, though.

As mentioned before, it’s hard to find any songs to really mention as standing out because it’s all of similar arrangement and quality. There are quite a few classic songs presented here from “Unforgettable” to “Send in the Clowns” and “What a Wonderful World.” One song, though, does get a special mention. “You’re Just in Love” has an unusual twist with Townsend singing a round with himself. It’s an intriguing concept and works reasonably well. The problem is, since both voices are his, there is a tendency for them to jumble together, the lines seeming to confront one another and muddle together. Still, the attempt has to be respected.

Another intriguing element here is the title of the album. For one thing, “Finale,” represents the fact that at the time it was recording, Townsend had decided this would be his last album. That fact is negated a bit by the news on his website that he’s changed his mind on that one. The second part, though, “Omega to Alpha” is not only a clever twist, but it has significance. This set starts with the last song (to date) Townsend recorded. The closing piece, complete with spoken introduction explaining it, is the first song he ever recorded.

This is certainly the kind of thing that fans of crooner music would really enjoy. It’s perfect for that old school dinner party or dance soirée.

 

 

Review by G. W. Hill
Rating:  4 (out of 5)