A quick scan of the contents of Unexpected Songs shows that Julian Lloyd Webber is still quite active as a crossover artist, and that this 2006 release is more than a conventional recital of cello favorites.
Rather, it is a fairly lavish collection of arrangements of traditional, classical, and popular music, ranging from folk songs and familiar nineteenth century pieces by Chopin, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Schubert, among others, to accessible modern fare by Astor Piazzolla, James Horner, and Andrew Lloyd Webber (whose Unexpected Song from Song and Dance inspired the title.) For the most part, the disc is pleasantly lyrical and atmospheric; the elegant harp playing of Catrin Finch and subtle piano accompaniments by John Lenehan and Pam Chowhan add a dreamy quality to the selections that sorts well with Lloyd Webber's romantic style.
However, Michael Ball's theatrical performance on the final track breaks the carefully established mood, and his singing is so close-up, breathy, and gushing that even listeners favorably inclined toward sentimental music will feel embarrassed.
Aside from that one miscalculation, this is a gentle, soothing album that works well as background music.
EMI's sound is clear and warm, though the balance is a little manipulated to favor the harp, and other instruments come in and out of focus through variable mixing in the ensemble pieces.