Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain fate, is the 1993 3rd album All Around The World by Australian singer and former Neighbours actor, Jason Donovan. Will you throw your arms All Around this album, or will it be a Dream that just won’t do? Read on..
The album opens with titular track and third UK single All Around The World. This instantly gives you a much different style for those who are expecting a continuation to his previous two hit albums. This time, the album isn’t with Stock/Aitken/Waterman, this track is written by Nik Kershaw, and we’re hearing a much more indie/pop Jason. That said, there’s even time to drop in a lovely gospel choir to boost the chorus. It’s a nice opening track, but not one with that’s a big burst in, more of a slightly quiet ‘oh, yeah, hi’. The track stalled in the UK charts, missing the Top 40 by 1 position.
Falling follows this, with a bouncy intro which leads us into a song loaded with strummed guitars and some wonderful vocal harmonies. It just feels like a nice little summertime road-trip song.
Lead single Mission Of Love follows this, and is co-written by Christian James from Halo James. The lyrics give Jason almost a nod to acknowledge that he’s now ‘on his own’ without S/A/W and doing his own thing. The result, is a song that sounds far more pop than the previous two songs before it. It’s catchy, and that helped it reach #26 in the UK singles chart in the summer of 1992.
The tempo drops for a cover of As Time Goes By. This is a rich and indulgent sounding track. It’s so gentle that it almost stumbles as it slowly wafts along. Whether it was clever planning or not, but a highly successful UK TV series starring Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer of the same name, using a version of the song was currently airing when this song was released. Either way, this gave Jason another much-needed UK top 30 single, reaching #26. This song, along with Sealed With A Kiss, undoubtedly helped him establish his later ‘crooner’ career.
Next up is Once In My Life which allows Jason’s vocal power to occasionally surface against a lovely tinkling piano and a gentle beat. The track gently builds the layers of synth pads, but despite the vocal range displays, and the roaring guitar solo into the inevitable key change, the track sounds a bit lost, and therefore perfect X Factor winner debut single material.
The first of 6 previous hits Rhythm Of The Rain is up next, and whilst it’s a nice to hear a familiar song, stylistically from the moment you hear the horror movie-esque lightning strike, it really jars here.
Thankfully Oxygen follows this, and we’re back to new material. This is another Nik Kershaw writing credit, and it sounds really nice. Jason’s vocals sound rich and delicate, and backing singer Erica Harrold’s vocal harmonies with him sound wonderful over the soft slow drum machine beat.
Previous hit Sealed With A Kiss appears next, and again, it’s a familiar song, but like the other 5 previous hits, it’s unfairly placed.
Angel is next, and was originally intended as the fourth and final single, but got cancelled by label Polydor. Sadly, this track could probably have fared pretty well. It’s upbeat and has some really nice little guitar riffs throughout. We’ll never know.
The familiar notes of Any Dream Will Do are up next, a hit for Jason just a few years earlier from the Andrew Lloyd-Webber show Joseph And His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. This is a good Jason track, giving him plenty of simple, catchy, and vocal ranges to scale, but it’s misplaced here.
Give A Good Heart is up next and musically the drum sequence reminds me of She Drives Me Crazy by the Fine Young Cannibals. Jason’s vocal make light work of the lyrics, giving him plenty of space to shine. It’s a nice song that builds as it goes along. Might have worked as a single.
Next up is Can’t Do Without It which opens with some simple synths and Jason’s vocals before bringing in some heavier rock-pop drums and guitars. The bass line on this track is thick and low, which works as a nice contrast as Jason’s vocals hit a high in the chorus, again assisted by Erica.
The sinister sounding Joseph hit Close Every Door follows this, and demonstrates what a terribly shoe-horned song sounds like. This really does not belong here.
Saying that, the familiar eruption of ‘Oh! Every day’, in previous hit Every Day (I Love You More) is a delight, and a reminder of Jason’s career in better hands. It doesn’t belong here though, as this is a different Jason – one that’s trying to step forward in his career.
The album’s penultimate track is probably Jason’s biggest and most recognisable hit from his first album – Too Many Broken Hearts, which is an immaculately glorious track (and video), but again, it doesn’t belong here regardless of the magnificence it brings.
The album closes with Shout About, a song that isn’t entirely distant from John Lennon’s hit Imagine. This song is simple, heartfelt, sparse, and with some wonderful vocal/piano companionship. This really could have been a lovely single given how many slower songs sit in Jason’s discography already. A lovely end to a disorientating album.
This album is a completely mixed bag. Mission Of Love is a welcome injection of energy, and his cover of As Time Goes By is a wonderful inclusion. Other tracks are warm and cheerful (Shout About, Angel, Oxygen, Give A Good Heart), but others sound a bit lost or lack interest or direction.
Amongst these 16 tracks is a more mature 25yr old Jason, having moved on from his bubblegum pop days of S/A/W, and now venturing towards his 30s. This fits with the sleeve notes that read ‘Working on this record was like a new beginning in many ways…‘ and ‘The end result is, I hope, a clear and honest indication as to where my musical tastes are heading‘.
Yes, but unfortunately, record label Polydor then decided to scupper all this by licensing 6 previous hits and inserting them randomly into the album. Whilst this gave the album a bigger playlist that might induce someone to see the album as better value for money, or entice them to buy it because there’s some well known songs on it, it essentially meant that his fans had Six Good Reasons not to bother, because they already owned them.
Label mis-management of Jason clearly allowed his career to falter at this time, perhaps bringing with it some low times ahead. Thankfully he overcame these, and has found success a-new as a radio host.
- POP RESCUE 2020 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1993 UK CHART PEAK: #27
- POP RESCUE COST: £3.44 from an eBay seller.