Picking up where Volume 1 left off, Glee: The Music, Volume 2 offers the remaining songs from the fall season of Glee. Volume 2 is chock full of Top 40, R&B, and, of course, gives another nod to Broadway.
We’ve already established that the Glee actors can sing. Standouts this go-round include Mathew Morrison and Lea Michele's (Will and Rachel) duet cover of “Endless Love,” which is just as good, if not better, than the original Lionel Richie and Diana Ross version. I also greatly prefer Morrison’s vocals in ballads such as this, to the pop and/or rap he usually performs on the show.
Another standout is Cory Monteith's (Finn) version of The Pretender’s “I’ll Stand By You,” performed with sweetness and adorable awkwardness. (No, Monteith is not the strongest singer of this bunch, but he’s probably the most earnest, which earns him extra points in my book.)
Kevin McHale (Artie) and Amber Riley (Mercedes) take the lead for a cover of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me,” and Riley’s toned-down vocals allow for everyone to shine in this version, which is pleasant and surprising given that she usually drowns everyone else out. Riley also shares the spotlight with McHale, Monteith and Michele for an outstanding cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” delivering a beautiful, tender take on an already perfect song.
The whole gang, fronted by Monteith, Michele, McHale and Riley, pump up the volume on Van Halen’s “Jump,” offering a fun, clever cover that I prefer to the original (in a nice twist, they dropped the keyboard and ba ba ba ba babada ba ba da’d instead). In the cover of The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” Michele, Monteith, McHale and Riley hold their own, not surpassing the original but doing it justice just the same.
Michele, whose vocals seem made for pop music, delivers a perfectly sugar-coated cover of Jennifer Paige’s “Crush.” Ditto to Michele, Monteith, Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina) and Riley, who all join vocal forces to deliver a toe-tapping, head nodding cover of Kelly’s Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You.” Ushkowitz also takes the lead for a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors,” offering a solid performance that is sure to surprise many, given that her character, Tina, is a shy stutterer.
Rounding out my favorites are Michele and Monteith, who pair up for a cover of Lily Allen’s “Smile,” proving that they are made to sing together; and Michele, Monteith and Riley, who cover “Smile,” this one performed by Charlie Chaplin, not over singing but letting the lyrics do the work.
Just as the Glee gang got a lot of songs right, there were a few misses.
Monteith’s cover of Paul Anka’s “(You’re) Having My Baby” seems to have been included more for story continuation for those who watch the show, than for overall listening pleasure, as this cover is almost painful to listen to (even for someone like me who adores Monteith).
Morrison also falls short with his mashup cover of “Don’t Stand So Close To Me / Young Girl,” by The Police/Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. Morrison needs to stick to ballads, where his vocals are best, and leave the rock (and rap) to others.
While listeners and viewers alike know Riley can sing, having been hit over the head with her vocals throughout the show’s season, her cover of Dionne Warwick’s “Don’t Make Me Over” just seems to reinforce that while she has range, she does better with the group than solo. Ditto with her cover of Jennifer Hudson’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Broadway’s Dreamgirls, where she delivers a strained performance that to my ears was more screech than song. Riley’s lead on the cover of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” is also overdone, and even the backings of McHale, Michele and Ushkowitz can’t save it.
Lastly, Michele’s cover of Barbara Streisand’s “Don’t Rain On My Parade” seems too old-fashioned for both her character, Rachel, and Michele herself. (As they say on American Idol, not a good song choice.)
Of the 17 tracks on Glee: The Music, Volume 2, 11 are great, and the six I don’t care much for are skip-able without feeling like I’m being cheated out of half the soundtrack. As with Volume 1, I highly recommend Volume 2 for fans of Glee, musicals, acapella, karaoke, glee clubs or good covers of songs both popular and obscure.