Niche List: 10 Incredible (but also HIGHLY Specific) Parts of the "Head Over Heels" Cast Recording
I have the beat. All of it now exists in the music section of my phone.
The cast recording of the show I work at, Head Over Heels, was released digitally today. Everything's coming up Go-Go’s.
Truthfully I never get tired of listening to this show live, and I was even more excited to listen to the recording after hearing a couple of tracks released early in anticipation of the whole thing.
I have my thoughts about the album as a whole, but there are some really great things happening here- even though the cast is in my ears in studio form, I can’t help but smile as I listened to it on the train for the first time.
I also felt the need to pull a Seth Rudetsky and break the recording down into ten of my favorite things about it.
And I’m talking incredibly specific favorite parts.
I’m taking this time to introduce a new segment of the blog I’m calling “Niche Lists.” These lists are what they purport to be- they will be about things that are super specific and probably only appeal to a small group of people. But they’ll be fun, and maybe you’ll learn something or get a kick out of it.
And so, here we are: These are, in no particular order, ten incredible (but also V specific) moments from the Head Over Heels cast recording.
Caution: I would advising listening to the album before reading, and probably seeing the show as well.
1. Bonnie Milligan’s riff and the final “day by day” in the last chorus of “Beautiful.”
This is a favorite moment of mine in the show itself. Being her Broadway debut, this is the riff that opens everyone’s eyes and makes them go “ohhhhh OHkay Bonnie Milligan!”- the riff that launched her Tony campaign six minutes into the show.
All the musical tension in the bridge comes to a head at the riff (found at 2:52 for anyone counting seconds) and then explodes into the final chorus which is moved up a WHOLE step. And then you’ve got the wonderful “day by day” sung by the entire ensemble- a rainbow of full-out ensemble singing at its finest.
2. The added second verse of “Vision of Nowness.”
To know the world complex and wide;
To be temperamentally tranquilized;
I’ll put you on, but envy none
Break you with care to stay free of want.
I was surprised as to how much I liked Peppermint’s songs on the album, both “Heaven is a Place on Earth” and “Vision of Nowness.”
This is obviously the full second verse of the Go-Go’s recording from God Bless the Go-Go’s, but it’s punctuated by background vocals from the cast which make it extra spooky, before meeting up with Peppermint in unison for her “I am a gloriosity,” which is more familiar to those who have seen the show.
It’s also just fun to hear a little something new, pleasant and unexpected every once in a while. Like the umlauts over Chloë Sevigny’s name: Unexpected but so glad it’s here.
3. Andrew Durand’s ad-libbing at the end of “Mad About You.”
During the show, “Mad About You” has its own pre-prise, where Durand’s Musidorus tries pitifully to convey his love for Philoclea in front of her entire family, to no avail, before following it up with a fantastic real version of the song.
He’s super pop-singer in the recording, which I’m kind of iffy on until he’s actually singing the high notes during the chorus at the end, at which point I appreciate how almost Belinda Carlisle-y it is.
But then the end. THE END.
Instead of just fading out like normally, Durand follows up his “I’m coming, Philoclea!” with “Oh man, we’re still…?” and continues singing.
“Sorry, I tripped over a sheep!” was probably the last thing I could catch before the track actually faded out.
4. The tight and complex harmonies during “Good Girl.”
I tend to tune out “Good Girl.”
But in taking a good listen, I never really realized how tough those harmonies and moving vocal parts during the song. What great work by Tom Kitt, who orchestrated and arranged the show.
And it’s all PERFECTLY IN TUNE. Like WHAT. (I know, the magic of the studio). It all adds up to reveal notes and words that I have never heard before.
And truthfully, this version of the song is listenable for me.
5. Taylor Iman Jones rocking out during the end of “Automatic Rainy Day.”
“Automatic Rainy Day” drops my favorite line about taking “a pleasure cruise to Lesbos,” but the track is so good I’m willing to let it slide.
Taylor Iman Jones’ Mopsa lets her emotions out with Bonnie Milligan’s Pamela, and gives us a really great “automatic rrrrrainy day” where she growls before it and lands on the word “day” like she’s straight out of a rock band from the 80s.
Regardless, it’s awesome. Rock on.
6. The sneaky key change in “Our Lips are Sealed.”
The producers did a great job of not giving a way too much plot in the songs on the album (perhaps, almost to a fault? Idk, I have my thoughts), while still making the songs work well without them.
One such instance is “Our Lips are Sealed,” which is a high point of drama for the show involving Pythio’s prophecy. After the bridge with Mopsa and Pamela, the song makes us think we’re going to hear from Peppermint, but slyly gives us a quick four-chord modulation on the guitar before launching into the chorus.
(Also, the key change when the whole ensemble comes in at the end of the song is my favorite moment in the entire show. It’s chilling.)
7. The rhythm guitar in every verse of “Head Over Heels.”
This is one of my favorite parts, musically, of the live show, and I think the engineers did a great job mixing this one. I truly never would have expected the guitars to sound the best on the act two opener.
It’s especially true in the first two verses of the song, where we have everything going full force- The rhythm guitar keeping steady to the beat of the song, while the lead guitar part moves downward, almost harmonizing with it. Pair that with the unique strumming pattern, the piano riff, and Andrew Durand’s vocals, and you get the wonderfully tasty musical soup that is “Head Over Heels.”
8. Rachel York’s growl before BELTING a high C at the end of “This Old Feeling.”
A friend once said that 98% of the human body is made up of Rachel York’s hearty belt. I think this proves his point.
Rachel York and Jeremy Kushnier trade riffs at the end of “This Old Feeling,” and they two go to places vocally that I’ve never been in the position to pick apart before.
Right before the final chord, York growls at the bottom of her range and then immediately BELTS A HIGH C. Like, a "Seasons of Love" from Rent high C.
I cannot with her. Rachel York is a national treasure and we must protect her at all costs.
9. All of “Here You Are.”
There are parts of me there are happy that we have ballads in the show. Just about every song is a banger, but it’s nice to slow it down every once in a while.
This version of “Here You Are” has some parts edited (the tempo, for example) to lean more toward the Go-Go’s 2001 studio version of the song, but all the heart is still there by the end, especially when you’ve got all the women singing in the final chorus of the song.
10. Tom Alan Robbins’ “pre-prise” of “Turn to You” is EVERYTHING.
YAY TOM ALAN ROBBINS.
I’m so glad he got a track on this album to himself. This was originally in the San Francisco version, where Robbins’ Demetas addresses his daughter Mopsa.
Robbins is found only fiercely belting in the New York show, so it’s nice to hear how sweet and tender his voice is on this one.
The “it has a lot to do” right at the beginning is so beautiful (and also, so impressive). YAY TOM!
11. (Bonus Track!) The real bonus track.
I don’t know how many cast members I begged to have them tell a producer, or an engineer, or anybody, to include this on the album.
And they DID.
The finale is 120 seconds long. Listen to every single one of them.
There’s a surprise at the end. ;)
What are your favorite parts of the album? What did you think of the recording overall? Leave a comment down below.
The Head Over Heels cast recording is available now on Apple Music and Spotify, with a physical release coming on November 9th.
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I enjoy making lists, countdowns, and making sense of the world that I see around me.