Release Date: May 13th 2022
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
Charles Billingsley– The Shadow Of Your Smile (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
Track Listing (+ original artists):
- It Had To Be You [Frank Sinatra]
- A Foggy Day [Ella Fitzgerald]
- Bring Him Home [Les Misérables musical]
- If Ever I Would Leave You [Camelot musical]
- The Very Thought Of You (feat. Taranda Greene) [Nat King Cole]
- The Shadow Of Your Smile [Barbra Streisand]
- Time To Say Goodbye (feat. Adelaide Trombetta) [Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman]
- Since I Fell For You [Nina Simone]
- Danny Boy (feat. Summer Davis) [Bing Crosby]
- You’ll Never Walk Alone [Carousel musical]
- Beyond The Sea [Bobby Darin]
- Let There Be Peace On Earth [International Children’s Choir]
- America, The Beautiful (feat. Voctave)
- Smile [Nat King Cole]
From the early days of hearing my parents’ vinyls of Sinatra, Pavarotti and Tennessee Ernie Ford, I’ve had a love for great singers and classic songs from many genres. After 30 years of making music, I felt like it was finally time to record some of these great tunes that people all over the world love-songs that evoke fond memories and nostalgia. The past few years have been hard, and so many of us seem to have lost our smile. I hope The Shadow of Your Smile will help bring some joy back. Music and art, the things we create-it’s all from God, and we use it for His glory. It’s my prayer that these songs can help expand my reach as an artist, taking me to new places to share the love of God with others.
A nationally known recording artist, a worship leader, teacher, author and pastor, Charles Billingsley is probably best known for his stint in the mid 90’s as lead vocalist for the CCM/pop group Newsong. Though I haven’t extensively of his music throughout the years (aside from a few songs from Right Here and the entire albums of Only Jesus and I Was Made For This!); it is the passion and heart of Charles as well as the familiarity of some covers in Charles’ latest album The Shadow Of Your Smile, that has intrigued me and sparked my interest, as I took the plunge, to see what Charles has been up to in the past few years. The result is a stellar mainstream jazz record that has me wanting to check out the rest of Charles’ discography. With plenty of styles incorporated in this record, and literally something for everyone, Charles’ latest project, though not Christ centred, isn’t one not to miss, as we dive deeper into God’s presence, and sing the classics, while Charles also reimagines some songs in a new, powerful way!
With the past few years being quite depressing and horrific when you think about it (COVID-19, natural disasters, more and more celebrities passing away!); there seems to be one disaster followed by another and another, and it seems like we all can’t catch a break. We’ve all been at home at one time or another throughout the past few years (on lockdown)- and chances are that we’ve already got COVID-19 or know someone who has had it. And as such, as the cases still keep increasing and increasing; I firmly believe that there isn’t anything to do except to wait on God and trust in His perfect plan. Music, and to a smaller extent TV and movies, have been our solace generally as we’ve tried to navigate life with COVID-19; and with this album providing us with something different from the powerful, moving and inspiring singer, The Shadow Of Your Smile is a poignant, compelling, honest, and vulnerable collection of old and new melodies. It’s not a Christian album… but an album doesn’t have to be about Jesus to be inspiring and impactful. And The Shadow Of Your Smile is certainly inspiring, especially in this economic climate and season of uncertainty.
I’ve sung in churches for over 30 years, and it’s been wonderful, and I don’t want to stop that; but I wanted to branch out and just gain a new audience. It’s been amazing how accepting a mainstream audience can be. People will show up to simply hear great music and songs that they love.
I’m not going to preach to audiences, but I am going to ask them to consider the condition of their soul. I hope that when they leave, they’ve had a wonderful time, but that they also start to think if there may be something more to life. I hope they leave with more joy and hope in their heart than they did when they came. One thing I want people to walk away with is just a new appreciation for the goodness of life. I just want people to put on this record and just enjoy life. This record is a celebration of that.
Opening with the Michael Bublé-like only original track “Perfect” (no, it’s not an Ed Sheeran cover!), Charles powerfully and emphatically relays to us that his wife is perfect to him and that he doesn’t understand why she keeps on loving him, but she does anyway. A melody that Michael Bublé could conceivably record; this original melody is something entirely different than what Charles has ever recorded, but Charles excels greatly and immensely at this track, setting the tone for the rest of the album. Even though the remaining 12 melodies are covers, Charles makes them all his own; and as he eloquently sings his heart out, we are presented with a musically diverse and eclectic project that is worth multiple listens on whatever streaming device you use.
“It Had To Be You” (Frank Sinatra), “A Foggy Day” (Ella Fitzgerald) and “Bring Him Home” (from the stage musical Les Misérables) follow; and though the former two are jazz melodies that aren’t necessarily my preference musically, the latter track from the musical Les Misérables is an album highlight- Charles sings flawlessly and delivers an operatic performance for the ages. Proving that he is just as versatile as any other singer on the planet right now; Charles also presents to us the stunning and exemplary “If Ever I Would Leave You”, originally from the stage production of Camelot, while he also enthrals and magically captures our attention with the stirring duet with Taranda Greene- “The Very Thought Of You”, originally recorded by Nat King Cole.
The title track, a piano prominent slow tempo jazz tune, was most famously recorded by Barbra Streisand in 1965, and again features Charles delivering strong vocal moments, as he praises his wife and recounts that he’ll be focusing on the shadow of her smile when she is away. “Time To Say Goodbye”, an Italian song originally by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, is powerfully and chillingly sung by Charles and operatic singer Adelaide Trombetta (and is an objective album highlight despite me still not resonating fully with opera nor with songs sung in any language other than English!); while “Since I Fell For You” is most popular from Nina Simone’s recording, and speaks about the persona lamenting about their love for their ex- even to this day. “Danny Boy”, featuring Summer Davis, is an Irish melody originally recorded by Bing Crosby, and a powerful and resonating rendition that is a clear album highlight- where Charles empathically delivers a stirring prayer of reverence and reflection (to God and to… Danny?); while “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, from the musical Carousel, is an inspirational melody that is beautifully and vibrantly recorded by Charles, and is one of my favourite musical songs ever.
“Beyond The Sea”, originally by Bobby Darin, was a track that I originally heard from Robbie Williams in the credits of the Disney Pixar film Finding Nemo. On this recording, Charles brings back the nostalgia and sentimentality as this track is like a warm winter hug- familiar and soothing. “Let There Be Peace On Earth”, a haunting and inspiring almost-worship anthem, is a track originally recorded for the International Children’s Choir in the 1950’s, and has been covered many, many times; while the patriotic “America The Beautiful”, a track recorded in the early 1900’s, was made popular by Ray Charles, and is here sung together with acapella group Voctave. The Shadow Of Your Smile then ends with the Nat King Cole classic “Smile”- the perfect way to end a stellar album: with an uninhibited smile on your face!
I think everyone is pleasantly surprised. It’s not a Christian record per se, but it has a lot of Christian thematic overtones. People are surprised when they listen to the pre-released singles like “It Had to Be You” and “The Shadow of Your Smile” and find the music really fun. We have had really great feedback so far from listeners and the industry. We were so excited to land in top spots on multiple curated jazz playlists and that was a fun surprise for us.
I am hoping to do a lot more of this style of music with the symphony and performing arts world, and I really want to do more projects like this. This genre fits my voice well and lets me belt out and sing, as well as explore other musical tastes I’ve never had a chance to do. I’ll never stop doing what I am currently doing as far as singing at conferences and churches, but this type of music expands our reach to a whole new audience to encourage.
Reminding me vocally of Phillips Craig and Dean, Russ Lee from Newsong, Mark Harris from 4Him and Jason Crabb; Charles Billingsley is an amazing vocalist, as each song highlights his impressive vocal ability, unrivalled to most vocalists in the CCM industry. One of the most enjoyable worship albums I have heard over the past year; don’t let the ‘mainstream’ nature of the album turn you off. This project is meant to be a jazz album full of old and new favourites, and these tracks are overall still inspiring and edifying for the soul. The back half of this album seems to be more inspirational than the front though; yet organically they flow in this track list in my opinion. With Charles gaining a fan (myself), I pray and hope that you all are blessed by his music. I presume that the goal of The Shadow Of Your Smile was to remind us that we can sing at the top of our lungs, to each other and to Jesus, even in the struggle and even in the pain. In that respect, Charles Billingsley has accomplished what he set out to do. So let’s dive in, take a listen, and be blessed by Charles’ incredible singing. And like me, anxiously and eagerly wait for the next album full of original material from Charles, or at least dig through his 20 + year old discography…
4 songs to listen to: Bring Him Home, Time To Say Goodbye, You’ll Never Walk Alone, Let There Be Peace On Earth
RIYL: Jason Crabb, Travis Cottrell, Guy Penrod, Newsong, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman