EMI Records, 1998
REVIEW BY: JB
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/19/1999
I think I'm the last web-critic on Earth who still likes New Age music.
Not to say that Sarah Brightman's new album Eden is New Age... or that I like it. But Brightman's music has always been difficult to classify, especially her post-Lloyd Webber experimental sound that started with the album Dive which mixes electronica with opera and pop, and sells amazingly well. But starting with her last album Timeless (also known as Time To Say Goodbye), reviewed much earlier here at "The Daily Vault", she's begun to drop the effects and hefts the majority of her sound to semi-classics over rock music.
Semi-classical, that's the word. Two or three songs are straight classical pieces (sung in the traditional style, language and arrangement of instruments) but the majority are light-opera or bel canto-style melodies given bilingual lyrics and touched over with just a hint of electronic backing. A good example would be "Anytime, Anywhere", a familiar Albinoni melody adapted into pop-song format with verses in Italian and choruses in English.
"Nella Fantasia" is also a familiar tune (originally an oboe piece by Ennio Morricone) that's almost as good in voice instead of oboe, except a crass-sounding claviar comes out from nowhere and ruins it completely. However it's the only track where instruments are a major problem. But I do miss the super-texturing in "Take My Breath Away" featured in Fly.
And she's also noticeably showing off her new opera-trained voice more; "Bailero", "Lascia Ch'io Pianga" and "Tu" seem to have a convenient amount of vowel sounds for Brightman to elongate in tones so pure it's almost nauseating. To be sure her voice is beautiful but one track is obvious enough. I pick up Sarah Brightman albums for her extraordinary fusion and synthesis, not her extraordinary voice.
Some people may prefer this over Celine Dion's in Brightman's "Il Mio Cuore Va", an Italian-language version of "My Heart Will Go On". It's intriguing but the tin-whistle hook isn't there. Her cover of "Dust In The Wind" sounds exactly as how one would expect it would be, Brightman's voice over acoustic guitar and muted toms. Two potential singles "Deliver Me" and "Only An Ocean Away" mixes drama with voice, which should placate some of Brightman's pop fans.
The title track is as New Age as it gets. "Eden" has Gregorian Chant backing vocals and a lyric-melody interplay that draws the listener in. It should work as well as countless other excellent tracks Brightman has done in the past... yet it doesn't. It's so much like the album itself: strangely unsatisfying.