There's a pivotal moment on Jeffrey Wilgus' debut CD
"Signature" which grabs the audience in
a big way. For this reviewer, it was also the moment when I
realized what makes Wilgus' persona
and music stand out from his peers. It's the fifth track,
Wilgus' version of Jason Robert Brown's
"Someone to Fall Back On". The song is far-reaching and
almost operatic in tone, and Jeffrey's vocal chops are a superb
match for the music as he delivers:
"I am no prince, I
am no saint, I am not anyone's wildest dream; But I can stand
behind, And be someone to fall back on..."
His vocals are strong, yet his emotions stand bare before the
audience. His performance is simultaneously
grand yet candid-- the equivalent of being completely naked,
emotionally, on stage. More than just a highlight on the CD,
"Someone to Fall Back On" has Jeffrey prove that a
performer can express vulnerability and sensitivity, yet still be an
empowering presence. On "Signature", Wilgus proves this
again and again. I'd say it's a safe bet that many singers, talented
as they are, would be challenged to be able to reach their audiences
But long before you get to the fifth track,
you'll be impressed by "Signature". The opening track,
"I Don't Get (what I give)", which Jeffrey co-wrote,
features an smooth, invigorating sound with a truly lush groove
running through it. Granted, the CD features some expert
(It also boasts the contributions of twelve [!] musicians.
Haim Cotton on piano is a particular
standout.), but Jeffrey's greatest quality is more innate: It's his
voice. That voice is dynamic, vibrant, and full of emotion.
Throughout the entire album, he displays an impressive
range, as well as the
ability to hold some challenging notes. Most of all, he
has an enviable youthful
quality to his "vox"; as Wilgus sings, we detect something
of a blueprint within his soul for an agenda of upcoming hopes,
dreams, and ambitions-- creative and otherwise. That unblemished
quality is perfect, by the way, for when he's performing songs
ranging from Paul Simon's "America" to Stephen Schwartz'
anthemic "Corner of the Sky" . The second track "Pretty
Lies" (from "Taboo", written by Kevan Frost and
George O'Dowd, AKA Boy George) offers
a more sparse,
stripped-down sound (adorned by delicate piano and violin), which
pushes Wilgus' vocals to the forefront. He gives us the
feeling that there's no distance at all between himself
and his audience. Even as he croons lyrics that could be
heartbreaking ("I'm the loneliest
boy... in the world" ), the song avoids being-- shall we
say-- "torchy", or drifting into musical melodrama.
This is thanks to an underlying, almost subconscious sense of
in Wilgus' voice and delivery.
On "Signature", Jeffrey
gives other artists' songs more than proper justice. Wilgus'
version of Billy
Joel's "Summer, Highland Falls", is an up-tempo,
stimulating track. Perhaps as an ode to the
original "Piano Man", the track features appropriately up-tempo,
stimulating, (and flawless, at that!) piano work by Haim Cotton.
Interestingly, even though the singer is not shy of showing
his sensitive side throughout "Signatures", he takes a
cool step back, musically, for his jazz-flavored version of George
Michael's "Kissing a Fool". (Michael's version, as you may
remember, was a bit brooding and perhaps just a bit too, shall we
say, intense for some of our
does, however, indulge a bit during a unrestrained interlude at the
Another highlight on the album is Wilgus' reworking of Culture
Club's "Victims", which I
always believed was one of the group's most underappreciated
singles. Jeffrey deserves a lot of
credit for reviving that lost gem of a song, and the audience will
agree that he sings it very, very, well. The quietly
intense "The Answer in Me" is another of Jeffrey's
original works. Again,
Wilgus is able to express his patent vulnerability and sensitivity,
yet still sound strong and
empowering. The song also features palpable feelings of hope
and optimism running through.
Every note seems meticulously chosen, and the end result is truly
triumphant. "The Answer
in Me" is the calling card on Jeffrey's Wilgus' debut CD.
Perhaps because they are his own
signature songs, "The Answer in Me" and "I Don't Get
(what I give)" really stand tall.
Jeffrey Wilgus' voice may be his calling card, but astute listeners
of "Signature" will realize that
this album's success is much more than that. Wilgus has
expertly chosen his musicians, and
has expertly chosen a selection of songs to perform that really
work. We want to hear more
of his original works, and more of the passionate abandon that we
hear when the singer really lets loose at moments of "Kissing a
Fool" and "A Corner of the Sky". With his
talents, we know
that he's giving us a sneak preview. People, get ready!
Learn more about Jeffrey Wilgus at :