Monday, 17 December 2018

REVIEW: HYMN by Sarah Brightman

The world’s best selling Soprano, Sarah Brightman’s much anticipated fifteenth studio album HYMN is a joyous listening experience. Featuring an engaging and eclectic mix of uplifting spiritual songs, Brightman showcases her beautiful classical soprano in a genre that is perfectly suited to her voice. The well-curated collection of inspirational, choir-based songs are different enough to keep the listener engaged throughout, but occasionally falter due to over-the-top production.

The opening title track sets the sacred tone for the rest of the album with majestic orchestrations and a powerful choral backing. At times, Brightman’s voice seems to be overpowered by the chorus and it’s difficult to tell if the blending is intentional or if the grandeur of the song became too much. There are similar issues scattered throughout the album that don’t make it any less enjoyable, but some songs could have benefitted from a simpler arrangement.

Brightman is in her element with the operatic selections such as “Sogni” which features a duet with Vincent Niclo. Their voices are rich and powerful, blending together exceptionally well. It is one of the tracks in Italian, but Brightman’s expressive voice conveys the feelings of these songs without needing to understand the lyrics. “Canto Per Noi” is another fine example of this that is much simpler in its production, allowing her voice and storytelling to shine in its own right.

Surprisingly, the contemporary songs sit well in Brightman’s range and provide a much needed contrasting sound. “Sky and Sand” and “Fly to Paradise” are up-tempo selections with an almost pop-rock feel to them, while “Follow Me” is folksy and equally interesting. The highlight of the album is “Miracle,” a collaboration with Yoshiki, a Japanese musician, songwriter, composer and record producer who is best known as co-founder of the band X Japan. The creative orchestration features elements of electric instrumentals and a dramatic choral backing that makes for a stirring and powerful ballad.

HYMN literally ends on a high note with the final selection, “Time to Say Goodbye,” with lyrics written by Brightman herself and sung in English for the first time here. It’s a fitting close to the grand CD. Opera and sacred music may naturally be a match made in heaven, but HYMN goes beyond expectations to deliver a captivating album highlighting her ability to flawlessly crossover between genres.

Review by Laura Talbot

Rating: ★★★★
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