Recording information: AIR Studios; Foel Studios, Llanfair Caereinon, North Wales; Metropolis Studios; Wadleigh Manor Studios.
Photographer: Simon Fowler .
What you'll think of this release may depend entirely on whether you have a desire to hear Queen's "We Are the Champions" arranged for voice, chorus, and symphony orchestra, but you really shouldn't make that snap decision. Timed for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and the 2012 Summer Olympics, British crossover star Russell Watson has released a patriotic album of British material, not neglecting Ireland (Danny Boy) or the Flower of Scotland. It all sounds a bit over the top, but be aware that Watson has a real flair for this kind of project. What's remarkable is the variety of voices the man known as The Voice brings to the material. He can do a passable British oratorio tenor ("Land of Hope and Glory," a texted version of the tune known as Pomp and Circumstance); he can deliver the seemingly familiar but actually very odd voice quality of the Church of England ("Abide with Me"); he can do pure pop ("Proud"); he can do spoken words with quite a bit of flair (Elgar's Nimrod, given a text by Rudyard Kipling). And that brings one back to "We Are the Champions." That has no right at all to work, but it does, and it works thanks to the fact that Watson doesn't approach the song as a foreigner; he actually gets a bit of rock-vocalist gravel into his reading. There are moments where the program misfires; you could probably write a book on the ways Europeans have misunderstood the African American spiritual, and the electronic interpolation of Vera Lynn's voice into White Cliffs of Dover was not really necessary. But in general the songs, the arrangements, and most of all The Voice connect. A measure of Watson's confidence is that he can also do silence; God Save the Queen at the end is instrumental. Strongly recommended for anyone with the slightest sympathy for the British crossover genre. ~ James Manheim
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