January 13, 1992 12:00 PM

Michael Crawford

In ancient days kings quite unfairly killed messengers who brought disquieting news. It would be similarly unfair to condemn Crawford simply because he chose to sing an entire album of Webber in cahoots with the London Philharmonic. But the temptation is strong.

Crawford, who originated the title role in Webber’s musical Phantom of the Opera, has a warm, durable, high baritone best suited to the overblown ballads that are a speciality of the fabulously successful composer. He does less well by more spirited numbers like Evita’s “And the Money Kept Rolling In (and Out).”

Although Webber borrows liberally from his betters, among them Puccini and Brahms, he also steals—in what must be termed petty thievery—from himself as well. So, when Crawford sings “Nothing Like You’ve Ever Known,” from Tell Me on a Sunday, it sounds remarkably like one of Phantom’s big hits, “All I Ask of You.” Webber’s melodies, among them the ubiquitous “Memory,” tend to seep into the mind in much the manner of commercial jingles, however unwilling the mind is to receive them. The lyrics, for which Webber is not to blame, are immediately and fortunately forgotten. Charles Hart’s words for “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” (“Sometimes it seemed/ If I dreamed/ Somehow you would be here…/ Too many years/ Fighting back tears…”) are just a sample of what’s in store. Unfortunately, Crawford enunciates very clearly. (Atlantic)

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