Personnel: Richard George, Tom Pigott-Smith, Christopher Tombling, Paul Willey, David O'Leary, Marianne Hayes, Matt Ward , Steve Morris , Tom Kemp, Oli Langford, Patrick Kiernan, Emlyn Singleton, Lizzie Ball (violin); Ian Rathbone, Frankie Kefford, Nick Barr, Kate Musker, Bruce White (viola); Ian Burdge, Vicky Matthews, Dave Daniels , Chris Worsey (cello).
Recording information: Angel Studios, London; Gorbals Studios, Glasgow; Sarm Music Village Studios, London; Westlake Recording Studios, CA.
The seventh studio long-player from the Britain's Got Talent breakout star, Wonderful World finds Susan Boyle delivering another heartfelt and era-spanning set of pop covers, which, if the astronomical success of her 2009 debut and the five like-minded collections that followed are any indication, is exactly what her audience is expecting to hear. Book-ended by a pair of life-affirming standards in the Bob Thiele-and-George David Weiss-penned title track and the Disney teardrop barometer "When You Wish Upon a Star" -- both are effective metaphors for Boyle's rags to riches story -- Wonderful World mostly sticks to the formula. Boyle brings warmth and stoic, flushed-faced patriotism to Sir Paul McCartney's pipe-and-drums-adorned "Mull of Kintyre," her Scottish brogue, so often tempered by the fussy refinements of vocal pop, breaks free from its shackles a bit here. Less effective is a technically superb, but rather airless reading of An American Tale's "Somewhere Out There," with Boyle and Michael Bolton giving it their best Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram, but failing to ignite any fireworks. However, a fun, slow-burn, gospel-goth take on Madonna's "Like a Prayer" helps to break up the formula a bit, providing some nice contrast to the ten-track set's more pedestrian moments, and Boyle's country earnestness helps to elevate the inherent cheekiness of her virtual duet with Nat King Cole on "When I Fall in Love." Ultimately, what makes Wonderful World compelling is not the material or the arrangements, it's Boyle herself. What began as a reality TV lark has turned into an impressive -- and lucrative -- seven-year run, and with so many pop classics still out there to plunder, it would seem that Boyle has plenty of grist for the mill. ~ James Christopher Monger
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