Stephen McCarthy

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Reviews of Stephen McCarthy


20/03/2006 Richard Niles - BBC Broadcaster

Well, call ME irresponsible, but I'm gonna blurt it out like the uninhibited "septic" I am: I absolutely deeply dig Stephen McCarthy's voice.

I feel lucky to have been born at a time when Elvis, Frank and Brother Ray were all contemporary "pop stars". It was a time when the public saw that a stage was still a stage and good music was still good music whether it was coming from a theatre on Broadway, the Village Vanguard or the Dew Drop club in New Orleans. If there was a singer on a stage, the only question the audience asked was: Can they sing?

Stephen McCarthy can sing.

By today's standards, he's certainly unusual. As we live through this decade of Zeros - talent, originality and passion are replaced by singers who are required by the "star maker machinery" to make a bland generic noise, each sounding more or less identical to any others in their style.

Stephen McCarthy doesn't play by their rules.

Here's a guy who is well respected in the theatre world. His tools are an embarrassingly rich baritone set of pipes and a musicality other singers can listen to with a combination of awe and envy. One might logically expect a picture of Stephen in one of those silly long jackets on the cover of an album full of show tunes, or some light classical stuff. Not our Stephen.

He's made a jazz album of songs he loves aided by one of Britain's finest jazz pianists and arrangers, Steve Hill, and unlike the many theatrical recording artists who attempt this, McCarthy grooves, swings, swoops, caresses and attacks each song with a profligate use of talents other singers simply can't approach. Whether it's a jazz standard or a Beatles tune, Stephen just nails it to the ceiling and lets you lie back and enjoy it.

In terms of today's blinkered music business run by "bean counters", should our Stephen have made this record? Well, you might be right to call him irresponsible, but I'm sure glad he did!


26/06/0006 Ian Mann - 24dash.com

Following Robbie Williams' attempts at swing and the enormous commercial success of Jamie Cullum, male jazz singers are no longer an endangered species and are becoming increasingly thick on the ground.

Stephen McCarthy, born in South Wales but now resident in Surrey, offers something different to the cod crooning of Williams and the squeaky cleanness of Cullum. McCarthy has a rich, warm, well-rounded baritone voice which adds a certain gravitas to his singing.

The material he has selected for this album is a mix of jazz standards and more modern pop songs. He is not afraid to experiment with the songs altering both their moods and contexts. This succeeds brilliantly as on Lerner and Loewe's "Wouldn't It Be Lovely". Usually insufferably perky this song takes on a wistful and melancholy hue in McCarthy's hands and is all the better for it. Similarly a world weary jazz take on Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years" is equally effective.

It would be fair to say that McCarthy is most effective on the slower, more reflective pieces. A fusion of "A Foggy Day / Lucky To Be Me" works beautifully as do ballads such as "Alone Together" and "Not Like This".

McCarthy is lucky to have a crack band working with him. Pianist Steve Hill has a sure touch at the keyboard and is responsible for the album's imaginative arrangements. Former NYJO drum tyro Chris Dagley is probably the best known of the sidemen as he also occupies the drum chair in the band of high profile vocalist Clare Teal. Dagley plays well throughout the record and is particularly dynamic on the up tempo tunes. Bassist Frazer Snell offers him sterling support.

Another former NYJO alumnus saxophonist Adrian Revell nearly steals the instrumental honours with several fine solos. His smoky tenor adds greatly to the atmosphere of "Still Crazy" and his swinging alto adds much to the albums high tempo opener "Please Be Kind".

BBC presenter Richard Niles provides the albums liner notes but also appears on one cut as an instrumentalist. His relaxed conversational guitar contributes much to the success of "Wouldn't It Be Lovely". I for one wasn't aware that Niles was such a talented guy.

This is not really an album to my personal tastes. However, there is much to admire here in respect of the singing, playing and arrangements. The most successful tracks are by and large the more experimental ones where McCarthy and Hill really stretch their imaginations.

In the current jazz climate the album has sold very well and McCarthy should have a successful career ahead of him. If you are a fan of vocal jazz you should find plenty to enjoy on this album.


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