Uncharted Territory *
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  • Personnel: Stephen Schwartz (vocals, piano, keyboards); Diane Pennington (vocals); Matt Beck (guitar, E-bow, mandolin); Jay Condiotti (guitar, bass); Sandra Park (violin); Ken Beckstead (flute); Javier Gandara (French horn); John Bucchino (piano, bass, programming); Martin Erskine, John Angier (keyboards); Richard Hammond (bass); Shawn Pelton (drums, percussion); Andy Jones (percussion).
  • Although he is best known as a songwriter for Broadway and Hollywood, Stephen Schwartz, born in 1948, belongs to a generation of tunesmiths who have tended to double as performing artists, and since he has a perfectly acceptable tenor, it's no surprise that he harbors the desire to step into the spotlight himself. Uncharted Territory, his second solo album, is, like its predecessor, 1997's Reluctant Pilgrim, a collection of mostly independent songs. (The exceptions are "Cold Enough to Snow," written for the film Life with Mikey, and "Since I Gave My Heart Away" from the TV musical Geppetto.) But even when he isn't writing with character and plot in mind, Schwartz tends to write songs that describe people and tell stories, and it's often possible to imagine them fitting into some musical work as yet unproduced. A good example is the comic "Toxic People," which is about those individuals who somehow insinuate themselves into your lives, even though you don't actually like them. Generally, of course, love forms the primary subject matter of Schwartz's concerns, and he writes particular, closely observed love songs such as "Worth Waiting For," which reflects on romance between mature people who have prior commitments and experiences that preclude them from coming together innocently and unfettered. Schwartz's music for these songs has a light pop-rock feel that recalls the Adult Contemporary music of the 1970s; he tends to come across as a slightly more sophisticated version of Kenny Loggins (in a calm mood) or Barry Manilow, that is, when he's not channeling Stephen Bishop or Rupert Holmes. At least a couple of these names, come to think of it, are people who have crossed over in the opposite direction, taking their pop talents to stage and screen. No wonder they sound alike. ~ William Ruhlmann
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