With his debut album Shiny and New, Broadway performer and New York cabaret artist Jonathan Rayson brings a wonderfully eclectic combination of songs that tells a very personal story. Written by some of the 1970s’ greatest songwriters and backed by some of the Twin Cities’ finest musicians, the CD features a great variety of acoustic and full-band tracks with vocals that range from vulnerable to powerful. The natural emotionality and easy soulfulness of Jonathan’s voice combined with his musical storytelling capability is sure to completely capture any listener.
— John Hoglund, Back Stage
“A handsome charmer from the Midwest with a great smile, this kid has a buoyant personality and a terrific voice that is sure to gain him considerable attention. His delivery is smooth, confident, and mature. Rayson offered a particularly intelligent selection of songs for a newcomer…We’re definitely gonna hear a lot more from him.”
— John Habich, Star Tribune
“Jonathan Rayson is a singer in the old style: smooth, charming, subtle and musically superb.”
— “Hit and Run,” Q Monthly
“We loved Jonathan Rayson warbling almost anything.”
— Wayman Wong, Playbill.com
“Do you love 1970s pop songs sung with warmth, sensitivity and sincerity? Then take the Doobie Brothers’ advice and “whoa, whoa, listen to the music” on Jonathan Rayson’s “Shiny and New” debut CD (LML Music). Whether he’s sweetly singing Richard Carpenter’s “I Need to Be in Love,” Don McLean’s “And I Love You So” or Tom Waits’ “Rainbow Sleeves,” this Broadway pro proves beautiful ballads are his Rayson d’etre.”
— Rob Lester, Talkin’ Broadway
“The dream of a music reviewer is to discover a debut album that lives up to its potential, its initial impression and its press release. Jonathan Rayson’s Shiny and New is that dream come true, filled with performances that ring true. I received my copy well advance of this week’s official release date and have been listening on a regular basis ever since. Each listen brings to light new things to appreciate, and it continues to be very moving.
First of all, Jonathan’s voice on ballads is simply arresting. The pure beauty and emotional impact are disarming and riveting. When notes in his higher register float or soar and when he judiciously uses vibrato on a held tone, it’s immensely satisfying just as sound. What makes him exceptional is that there’s a lot more going on. There’s a very real human being coming through, vulnerable, thinking and caring. He also has the musical acumen and theater skills to imbue the material with individuality and a point of view. That’s even more impressive when you see that the material is pop songs of the 1970s, not rich musical theater character songs. Much is the cream of the pop, and some of the affection and familiarity with the genre comes from the fact that once upon a time he was a kid singing some of these with the cover band of his father, to whom he dedicates the CD. Jonathan is obviously drawing not only on his fondness for the material, but also on his acting background. The Omaha native has played many leading musical theater roles around the country and, as the Broadway understudy in A Year with Frog and Toad and Little Shop of Horrors, he went on in the lead roles, playing the central character of Seymour in the national tour of the latter. (Our Broadway footnote for this album is that one number made its way to a Broadway stage, as the album opens with Billy Joel’s “Summer, Highland Falls,” heard in Movin’ Out.)
Most of these picks he plucks from the past have some inherent drama, and hemines that drama well. Hear the anguish in Joni Mitchell’s “River” as he sings, “I made my baby cry” or the naked honesty of Don McLean’s classic “And I Love You So,” where he makes a subtle adjustment adjusting the line “all but love is dead” to put the musical stress on the word “love.” He throws off all layers of defenses and actor’s mask to be bone-honest as he achingly and daringly sings of loneliness or the breathless awe of finding love – both, in fact, in the perfectly realized “Like a Sad Song.”
The uptempo selections don’t have the same kind of stunning impact as the plaintive ones, but are at the least invigorating, and at the most, inspiring. “Listen to the Music” is the least interesting, and might be a breather if it hadn’t been programmed as the second track. But wait, it’s not just mindless fun: a line in this (“gotta get a message, get it on through”) and a similar one in Dan Fogelberg’s “Part of the Plan” says, “some kind of message comes through.” A message does come through here and elsewhere: one that’s thought-provokingly positive as opposed to pat. There’s an underlying life-affirming empowerment there. Other numbers that do this are Carole King’s “Beautiful” and the celebratory and encouraging “Brighten Your Nights with My Days” by James Taylor.
Accompaniment-wise, there’s appropriate variety, with a band on some cuts (with excellent sound quality, letting us really hear individual instruments like sax, harmonica, trumpets, cello and more). There are several exquisite tracks with spare arrangements find the singer with just one or two musicians, one being his sensitive keyboard player, Dan Chouinard, who with fellow arranger Dennis Curley produced this CD. By the way, it’s a line from an early favorite tune of Jonathan and his dad that gives this album its title, and it’s heard in a snippet at the end: a hit for Clint Holmes, “Playground in My Mind.” But what’s “shiny and new” here is the glow Jonathan Rayson gives each dusted-off oldie-but-goodie. What’s even brighter than this look at pop’s past is the future of Jonathan Rayson as a recording artist and live performer. I can’t recommend Shiny and New highly enough.”
— Jane E. Kurtz, Leawood KS
“I always end up with this big cheeky grin, just like when I hear for the first time each spring the sound of the ice cream truck and I scramble for my purse and a pair of shoes, if I can afford the time, and bolt out the door racing the kids to catch the truck and order the first bomb pop of the year. It’s that feeling of being 7 years old without a care in the world… of being free… of being so happy you don’t even think about what the difference is between happy and sad. It’s one of those unique and precise feelings that is almost indescribable yet tangible.”
Jonathan Rayson was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and got a very early start in the entertainment industry making singing appearances with his father's cover band when he was only seven years old. Throughout Jonathan's school years, his parents…