I hadn't been catching up to the press releases so when Sarah Brightman's La Luna dropped, I didn't exactly know what to expect from this indefinable artist... rock? Opera? Or rock opera?
Over the last couple of albums, however, Brightman's sound has been solidifying into a unique, if predictable, mix of semi-classics and subtly crafted rock ballads. La Luna shows that while she has lost some of her experimental edge, there is still no one in the industry who is quite like Brightman in terms of quality, production values and dedication; this album bleeds professionalism you can actually hear.
There are seventeen tracks in the non-European version (for a
complete list of differences between the European and non-European
versions, click ) that includes the hidden track "Moon River" and
the bonus track "First of May" from the
Christmas In Vienna series. The Europeans aren't missing much; "Moon River" is sung in a weak way (aiming for an effect that eludes this reviewer) and while "First Of May" is lovely, it sounds much better in context with the Vienna album.
Opener "Winter In July" and the other uptempo "Here With Me" may sound like watered down dance tracks but the beat is there for ambience, not for the sake of there being a beat (correct me if I err in my definition of dance music). They take some time getting used to but after spin ten or so, they make their mark - for better or worse - on that part of your brain that repeats catchy tunes.
Immediately impressive is the intimate "He Doesn't See Me" that evolves from a beautifully sung bel canto melody line to full orchestra with bag pipes and back again, epic as a rock ballad. More synthesis of rock and classical balladeering in "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" but an abrupt ending (an orchestra flourish) marks the only conceptually weak spot on the album. Classical tracks "Solo Con Te" and "Figlio Perduto" are typically gorgeous Brightman with minimalist drumming and echo chambers. You've got your dramatic diva-like finish in the title track, your flawlessly produced instrumental tracks "La Lune" and "Serenade", and all the tracks flow perfectly from one to another in a holistic, almost transcendental listening experience. It's like Enya with more singing.
Crossovers tend to be lame; a wimpy drum machine here, or some afterthought strings in the background there (think Metallica and the SFSO). Brightman shows how it's done. It takes a comprehensive knowledge of both sides, to have been trained professionally in both areas, and yet the piece of music in question must be approached in a personal way. The only regrettable thing is that Brightman seems to be settling in; who knows, though, whether she'll surprise us again in the end. On the whole, she's an excellent singer with good instincts, and a solid album to prove it.
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