Sarah Brightman

MSI Records, 1998



I have never been a lover of computer music. Most of it tries to imitate real-life instruments and in almost all instances, fails. Few artists offer arrangments that offer computer music that tries to be, simply, computer music. Michael Jackson, Donna Lewis, and Enya all produced excellent music using the synthesizer; add Sarah Brightman and we have the next generation in Internet Café Background Music.

Most of the reading audience probably know her as Christine from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom Of The Opera, or José Carreras' duet partner in the 1994 Barcelona Olympics anthem "Amigos Para Siempre (Friends for Life)". Since leaving the Broadway and concert stage, she has been taking opera lessons, improving her voice, and mapping out a new style for herself. Color me prejudiced but I assumed her rumored new album would be classical and forgot about her for a couple of years. Until one day I saw an amusingly bizarre lizard skin cover with "Sarah Brightman Fly" written in simple letters.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This Grammy nominee (Best New Classical Artist for the album Requiem) tried her hand at composition and producing, and the result is astonishing and fresh. Even while studying to darken and widen her voice through opera training, she hasn't forgotten how to express in a simple thin line with impressively ethereal results.

Brightman utilizes everything her voice has, the most refreshing effect being her new operatic soprano range which she uses freely in "How Can Heaven Love Me" and "Question Of Honor" (perfect for the background of Dungeons and Dragons). Add to that a low chest voice I never thought she had in "I Loved You", cross-cultural Middle Eastern vocals in "Take My Breath Away", and a power chorus in "Something In The Air". Brightman and Frank Peterson, both of whom wrote most of the songs, didn't go stingy with her.

Electric guitars are the weapons of choice and several riffs can be heard going on in the same track. The samples are repetitious but that was the effect they were shooting for; less diversions, more atmosphere and imaging. There are no breaks between the tracks. Each track approaches Brightman's voice differently, sometimes feeding it into a computer to make it sound like a background instrument ("Why") and sometimes making it hyper-intimate ("Murder In Mairyland Park", which uses very few backing instruments). All the effects are singular in one aspect; there is a distance between the artist and the listener. Instead of living in the music, the listener views it as if it was framed and hanging on a wall.

Brightman did all the requisite respectable things an artist these days has to do; she composed and wrote some of the songs, played piano in the background, and produced it with her writing partner (the aforementioned Peterson). She did not forget the qualities of her voice like many classical artists who cross over to another genre. Her experiment is an overall success, if a little modest commercially speaking. From now on I'm about to pay more attention when her next album is announced; if she could keep up making tracks like "Heaven Is Here", she'll definitely make a name for herself in the computer music underground.

Rating: B

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