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'The Quarterback' is a poignant farewell EP

Courtesy photo
"Glee" paid tribute to the character of Finn Hudson -- and actor Cory Monteith, who played him -- on Thursday night's episode.

Back in July I suffered my first loss of someone that I cared about. "Glee" star Cory Monteith had died on the 13th of the month from a combination of heroin and alcohol, suffering a relapse from his drug addiction. While I was lucky enough to be able to write a tribute to him the following week, like fellow fans of "Glee" and of Cory himself, I was still left devastated from losing my hero and role model. Also left devastated were the cast and crew of "Glee," who had to not only grieve the loss of their friend, but had to begin production of the show's fifth season shortly after his death.

Fast forward to this past Thursday, when "Glee" aired its tribute episode to both Cory and his onscreen character, Finn Hudson. The cathartic episode served as a way for both the cast and the fans to deal with the loss of, and say goodbye to, such an important "Glee" cast member. "The Quarterback," titled after the episode, is a digital EP that contains all of the songs featured in the toughest hour of "Glee" yet.

Kicking things off is "Seasons of Love" from the musical "RENT," sung by the current members of New Directions, with solos from Jenna Ushkowitz (who portrays current New Directions member Tina Cohen-Chang), along with the cast who portray some of the New Directions alumni: Amber Riley (Mercedes Jones), Chris Colfer (Kurt Hummel), Mark Salling (Noah "Puck" Puckerman), Naya Rivera (Santana Lopez), and Harry Shum Jr. (Mike Chang).

It's a wonderful rendition of the song, and its themes fit perfectly with the focus of honoring and grieving a deceased loved one. However, by the end of the first verse, it becomes painfully apparent that this album doesn't feature the characters of "Glee" honoring and grieving Finn Hudson; rather, it's the cast doing so for Monteith.

Riley then belts out her own version of "I'll Stand by You" by The Pretenders, which was originally sung by Monteith in the tenth episode of the show's first season. Riley's vocals, which clearly come from a place of pain, produce a very rich and beautiful cover of the song -- even if it is a bit jarring to hear such powerful vocal runs during a performance of a song by The Pretenders.

Kevin McHale (Artie Abrams) and Chord Overstreet (Sam Evans) do a great job with their duet of "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor. I don't want to declare any song on this EP as bad, because none of them are, but this is the weakest of the bunch compared to the rest of the album. Still, McHale's and Overstreet's vocals blend nicely together and the emotion is clearly there for both of them. It also fits well into the track listing, as it's placed right in the middle of the album and paves the way for its more powerful covers.

Rivera's performance of "If I Die Young" by The Band Perry is absolutely beautiful and I honestly enjoy it more than the original version, with Rivera's vocals producing a much more raw and real sound. Hearing her expertly executed high notes is a treat, but the background vocals of members from New Directions feel more out of place here than with the previous two tracks; it would have worked better as a complete solo with no backing vocals.

The last two performances are the toughest to get through. Salling and Monteith both referred to the other as their brother, which makes it hard to hear his version of Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender." Salling absolutely nails the song, with his vocals being the best they've ever been when compared to either his previous songs on "Glee" or his own album "Pipe Dreams."

However, it's the final song of the album that's about as painless to listen to as it is to walk on shards of broken glass. Lea Michele (Rachel Berry) was Monteith's onscreen love interest as well as his actual girlfriend. As she assisted with the writing of the episode, Michele personally chose her song, Adele's cover of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love," for reasons she has not disclosed.

It's gut wrenching to say the least. Rather than using her trademark powerful Broadway belts, Michele's vocals are very soft and somber, making it feel as if she's singing to you rather than at you. By the time you hear a sniffle from her as she begins the song's fourth verse, your heart breaks completely for the loss she's suffered. Her performance is as gorgeous as it is saddening, and the perfect way to close the album.

"The Quarterback" is equal parts lovely and melancholic. Prepare to be wowed by the emotional performances, but make sure you have tissues handy. The album is now available to purchase on iTunes for $5.99 and will be available on Amazon on the 15th for the same price. Both Columbia Records and FOX have promised that 100 percent of the net proceeds will go to one of Monteith's favorite charities, Project Limelight, a free performing arts program based in Vancouver for kids ages 8-15.


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