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Nicola Jarvis (Herts, UK)

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Sound Of Strength
Sound Of Strength
Price: £8.49

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is it., 17 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Sound Of Strength (MP3 Download)
This is Laura Wright's third full length album since she left super classical group All Angels four years ago and she has struggled to make her mark in the overcrowded soprano market. Her two previous albums were not anything remarkable - she sweetly sang some folk and pop songs doing nothing to separate herself from the crowd. I was a huge fan of Wright when she was in All Angels and though her first two albums were put straight back on my CD rack to collect dust, I still followed her career with interest.

I'm glad I did. It's taken four years, but Wright has found her niche. No longer just another soprano in a pretty dress, she has adopted an image and concept that has the potential to see her get mainstream attention for the first time (although she won't - Decca do not have the clout or resources). Wright has a pure voice, imbued with real beauty which lends itself superbly to choral and Baroque material but not so much to pop and folk as she has been doing previously. 'Sound Of Strength' celebrates her choral roots which in itself makes it her best album to date but she has far surpassed my expectations as she goes a step even further.

Laura Wright the person is an enthusiastic fitness fanatic. She has made many appearances singing at sporting events (especially Rugby, which she plays herself) and her Twitter feed is often full of snaps from marathons and the like. She has a dedicated fitness blog which is separate from her main website. At some point, someone clever, maybe Laura herself - I don't know - decided to combine her two passions: fitness and music. It works so, so well. Her leading single for this album is an updated rendition of Barber's Adagio of Strings (Agnus Dei), arranged and produced with joggers and runners in mind. The accompanying video is actually exciting and had more views in a week than her "Glorious" video has ever had since it was uploaded. Admittedly there's bare flesh and a thong involved but I'm trying not to be too cynical about that as it's all within context and tastefully done. It's just the sheer difference between the two videos is mind blowing and shows that making your artist relevant and not aiming purely for the grandparents of this world is not such a bad thing.

So what's on this album? If a dedicated classical crossover fan, you'll recognise much of the track list, I'm sure, but they are completely reinvented so be prepared to get pumped and moving. I love what she's done with both Beethoven tracks - almost unrecognisable to any other version, especially 'Moonlight Sonata' - it oozes creativity. She's got the best version of 'Intermezzo' I've heard and her voice suits it so well. The album is bookended by two straight vocal pieces, no tech, presumably for a workout warm up and cool down but these really showcase the bell-like quality of her voice.

It's not perfect. The remixes don't work so well for 'Caruso' or 'Nessun Dorma', but they are brave attempts. The original track 'Invincible' is pretty and well produced but sounds too similar to 'Shenandoah' to make an impression. There's twelve tracks to be getting on with but it's still a very short album, clocking in at a stingy 36 minutes - probably for workout purposes - but these are minor quibbles. Overall, it's a good album. Well put together, creative and excellently executed.

You do not need to be working out to enjoy this; I know I've had 'Agnus Dei' on in my car for the past two months and have yet to tire of it. I really commend Decca for taking this risk and I hope we see more of them in the future. Classical crossover doesn't have to be for the 50+ all of the time, us young'uns like it too and appreciate it being targeted our way from time to time.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 21, 2014 3:14 PM BST

When Sarah Brightman Rocked: Fly And The Forging Of Classical Crossover
When Sarah Brightman Rocked: Fly And The Forging Of Classical Crossover
Price: £1.62

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed, thoughtful and Brightman is well researched, 1 Jun 2013
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I think it's relevant to say in advance to this review that I am an editor of a website that specialises in classical crossover and that I am consulted globally about it. I don't consider myself to know everything, or even call myself an expert, but I certainly know more than most, and if there's anything dodgy in a publication that has "the forging of classical crossover" in its title, I think I am qualified to identify what it is. As it stands, I think this an excellent (if not totally up to date and thorough) analysis of classical crossover and an even better essay about "Fly".

This is essentially an hour long review for one of Sarah's most obscure Nemo albums. "Fly" seems to have had a similar effect on the teenage version of St. Asaph as it did for the teenage version of me. With its ultimate pop and rock edge which would have had a broad appeal back in its day (the album wasn't a big seller, so its potential was never realised) it enticed this sixteen year old Backstreet Boys fan in and very tentatively introduced her to classical via "Time To Say Goodbye" and "A Question of Honour" (though the original release did not include TTSG, the version I acquired did). Of course, it wasn't real classical or opera, but I didn't know that. I thought I had hit the height of culture and sophistication, and it would take several years of maturity for me to realise that I was still listening to pop music, albeit with classical influences.

So no, to this day, I am not into classical music, though I may be just a casual listener; but being just a casual one was caused by Sarah Brightman and "Fly" and that in itself is significant. The fact that this woman (who is the same age as my mother) could have such an influence on a teenager is something I have never let go of and nearly fifteen years on, I still try to recapture this power, urging classical crossover artists to be less boring, to record less standards, and reach out to a younger audience like Sarah Brightman did. Despite my efforts and throwing myself into the genre via my website, the audience of that site, and the genre itself, stubbornly remains to consist of the "older generations" of a certain political and religious affiliation. Not that I am deluded enough to think that I could make such a difference, but I don't mind trying to the best of my limited ability. It has only been over the past year that I am starting to see the cause is not lost - thank you Lindsey Stirling and the Piano Guys.

So with that context in mind, it was with great excitement that I discovered this publication, dedicated to the album that "changed everything". I had low expectations; it was clearly American, and in my experience, American critics always misunderstand classical crossover and have huge gaps in knowledge, caused, no doubt, by how small the classical crossover circuit is in America. Fortunately, the author demonstrated great understanding of the genre. The American "gaps of knowledge" were sadly evident but those gaps weren't greatly relevant to the points she was making. She only mentions a handful of CC artists; Il Divo (plenty of Il Divo), Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Emma Shapplin, Amici Forever, Charlotte Church, Katherine Jenkins and Hayley Westenra. In the case of the latter, the author bizarrely thinks she was "tempted away [from classical crossover] by Celtic Woman" - Westenra toured with them briefly over six years ago to stand in for another member during her maternity leave but she has recorded three solo studio albums since then, with a fourth released in a few weeks. "Paradiso" was even nominated for a Classic Brit last year. None of this took place in America, whilst her time with Celtic Woman did, which may explain the misconception.

As far as the main topic is concerned; Sarah Brightman and "Fly", there's nothing to criticise. Her classical crossover knowledge maybe American-centric, but her Brightman knowledge is global. The musical and vocal analysis are well written and in depth. This writer, who must also be a fan, not only researched the general sentiment towards Brightman and crossover, but was also brave enough to step into Brightman fan circles (for anyone who has been a member of her internet forums, more specifically her official one, you would understand they are not pleasant places to step into). I read nothing inaccurate, and not even anything I disagreed with (not that my agreement with her points make them good, but her points are always well reasoned). "Fly" is broken down track by track, and the author links these tracks with future releases, and how the album is the foundation of everything that Brightman recorded with Peterson since then.

The main disappointment is that this essay was out of date even before it was released. Perhaps this was published elsewhere before being released on Amazon, which would explain things, but the latest mention of any official work from Brightman is 2011 and it's said that "Winter Symphony" is her most recent album. The timing of "When Sarah Brightman Rocked" is very unfortunate. Brightman has been very active over the past nine months with the publicity of her space mission, world tour and new album release which is her first album away from long term producer, Frank Peterson. The author talks about X-Factor and how Brightman has influenced, but there's no mention of Jackie Evancho, who is most certainly relevant to America and the classical crossover market over there. Perhaps a foreword could have been added to include these things, or the release date pushed back enough so the dust from "Dreamchaser" could settle and enough time for St. Asaph to incorporate it into the main body of her text. These things always date quickly anyway, but it would have been nice for it to be up to date for at least a little while, especially as Brightman takes her time with her albums. This essay could have been current for up to five years which is a real shame.

I would definitely recommend this to Brightman enthusiasts - we won't find "Fly" getting the glory it deserves elsewhere, and it's refreshing to read criticism from a professional music journalist who is also a fan (though I hasten to add the essay is balanced - she's no sycophant) She tells it like it is to the extent that she sets herself up for some serious potential hate mail from hardcore fans (oh yes, she mentions lip-synching and she's honest about it). Buy it, read it, enjoy it and pass it on and I hope casual Brightman fans will be inspired to buy "Fly" - the most diverse and exciting album in classical crossover.

by H.M.Castor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Umm..., 29 Oct 2012
This review is from: VIII (Paperback)
I've read so much on the Tudors. I've been obsessed with them since the tender age of ten (thanks Terry Deary). Seventeen years later, I've read plenty of fiction and non-fiction surrounding Henry VIII's life. I was really interested in this one as I love YA literature and it had recommendations from publishing magazines.

It starts really well. Castor wishes to explore how and why Henry VIII grows from a charming well meaning lad to a complete and utter tyrant when he comes to power. We are introduced to what Henry VIII's childhood may have been like; a loving and caring mother, and a cold and unfeeling father. His relationship with Henry VII could have been enough to carry this novel, but Castor bogs herself down in spirits and demons, dwelling on the Princes of the Tower. It's an opportunity wasted. I forgive the internal dialogue about Christianity, God and Scripture - he was a religious man - it would have informed (or tenuously justified) every decision he made - I just feel it's a bit dull for a modern and younger audience. Despite this, his younger years mark something different in Tudor fiction and it's genuinely sympathetic.

It all comes crashing down once his father dies. Up to that point, more than half the book has passed us by. We have about 150 pages left to get us through six marriages, wars, court politics, his weight gain, illnesses and knocking down monasteries, making himself Head of Church. Key players such as Thomas More, Thomas Boleyn and significant mistresses are lucky to have their names mentioned. Actually, Henry didn't have any mistresses in this. Throughout it all, the novel only mentions him signing for three executions. As for Anne Boleyn? He sees her. Fifteen pages later, they're married. What? The annulment took seven years - it's the most significant event of Henry VIII's reign. But not much struggle here. Not much at all.

The worst fault caused by the rushed pacing (the editor must have been ruthless...) is that characterisation is awful. You can describe each character with just one word. And they are the stereotypes too. I was expecting so much more from somebody who considers herself a serious historian and a Tudors addict.

The point is, the novel's premise is a good one, but Castor needed to go about it differently. The second half of the book read like she was obligated to put the rest of his life in. She needn't have gone all the way to his death. He showed his tyranny during his drawn out annulment with Katherine of Aragon - there was a wealth of material there. It's unbelievable that she just glided over it. What a shame.

Castor gets a point, however, for what she has the vision say to Henry on his death bed. THAT was satisfying!

Storybook Journey
Storybook Journey
Price: £7.49

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pitch perfect, 21 Sep 2012
This review is from: Storybook Journey (MP3 Download)
Siobhan Owen released her first album, Purely Celtic, in 2008 at the age of fourteen. As the title suggests, Owen had a keen interest in Celtic music and it has run through all of her albums since then. Storybook Journey is her fourth album; conceived, recorded and released at the turn of adulthood. Now eighteen, Owen has not abandoned her passion for Celtic music, but she has broadened her repertoire by integrating her first love with classical crossover, marrying the two genres more cohesively and intimately than any artist has ever done before.

Based on the concept of taking the listener on a narrative journey, each song tells a tale of the traditional kind encompassing "love, war, loss, prayers and dreams". The track list consists of traditional songs of Celtic origin (many unusual) but also holds some surprises in a Japanese version of 'Walking in the Air' (Sora Wo Aruku) and a cover of Secret Garden's 'Prayer'. Highlights include the highly emotive 'Nearer My God To Thee' (recorded in respect of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic), the uplifting 'Caledonia' and the quirky 'Fields of St Etienne'. Highlights aside, all the songs have something to offer, mainly due to the pure and ever-growing versatility of Owen's vocals.

The album's opener, 'Cariad', wastes no time in introducing Owen's clarity and precision. She has always given a Celtic flavour in her vocal delivery, but this time round, she has mixed it with a more classical technique, calling Westenra to mind. Combining the two, she has created her own vocal style, further setting her apart from her contemporaries and freshening up her material.

As well as her vocals, Owen has also taken a slight departure from the arrangements of her previous albums. Throughout her career Owen has centred her performances, and recordings, on her harp. As if to give another example that Owen is comfortable with her identity, growing and evolving, but not changing or catering to anyone, the harp is still an important part of Storybook Journey; but it's not the only instrument carrying the album. Quentin Eyers offers up his talents, providing the album with a slick but subtle (listen out for the bird song in 'Dream a Dream') set of arrangements and instrumentation. There are more instruments than ever but they do not overpower; in fact, they simply enhance and highlight the true partnership of Owen's voice and her harp.

This disc is a pitch perfect product; its image, song selection, song order, vocal performance, arrangements, production, title and art work all complement one another to create a flawless musical narration. Storybook Journey delivers what its title promises, showcasing Owen's maturity and declaring her a truly creative artist. If you enjoy concept albums like Sarah Brightman's La Luna or Emma Shapplin's Etterna, you'll struggle not to appreciate Owen's latest effort.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 30, 2013 6:37 PM GMT

Poison Study
Poison Study

3.0 out of 5 stars Fun fantasy but sizzles out..., 14 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Poison Study (Kindle Edition)
Having loved Trudi Canavan, I thought I'd give Snyder a try. This is an enjoyable fantasy and a pleasant way to pass the time. The female protagonist is strong and likeable and the situation she finds herself in is interesting.

Yelena is waiting for her execution for the murder of the son of a high ranking official, but is given a choice to become the commander's food taster. She accepts and tries to live her new life as best she can. However, the threat of being poisoned is constant, and the father of the man she murdered is bent on revenge.

This story contains a predictable romance, magic, defense, a bit of intrigue and a well thought out world, but it's nothing outstanding. This is a trilogy, and whilst I was interested enough by this book to read the second one, I had lost all motive by book three. The main problem, for me, was how perfect Yelena is and how she becomes far too powerful. It was a bit Mary-Sue, and the romance was nothing compared to the Akarin/Sonea pairing from Canavan's Black Magician's Trilogy. I'd recommend trying that instead if you haven't already done so.

This first novel is worth a read, but as a series, it sizzles out rather quickly.

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking)
The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flies the flag for YA Literature, 14 Jun 2012
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After I noticed that 'Monsters of Men' (the third book in this Chaos Walking trilogy) had won the Carnegie Prize, I set out to discover what all the fuss was about and started from the beginning. I knew nothing about the book beforehand, and that made the narrative from the clueless and illiterate male protagonist all the richer.

The story is told with the voice of a young lad named Todd, who believes he knows all the facts of his world, but it is quickly evident, that everything he has ever been told has been part of an elaborate conspiracy... one that he, unfortunately, is at the very centre of.

Todd's character is well drawn out - he has a good heart, is heroic but is flawed like any real person and makes terrible mistakes and impossible choices. The twists and turns just keep on coming as you turn the pages (food and sleep are forgotten) and your heart rate rarely has time to slow down as the story puts you through its relentlessly fast pace.

This story has suspense, intrigue, social commentry and good role models for younger readers. The characters are superb and Todd's dog makes an amusing sidekick! I laughed often, I was shocked often and at one point, I was down right devastated - this book has all the right ingredients one could want from an exciting and fulfilling read.

Price: £13.25

26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Needs the right material, 2 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Glorious (Audio CD)
The problem is that Laura Wright has a stunning voice - she's just recording the wrong type of material. 'Glorious', unlike 'The Last Rose' (her debut solo effort), has a few songs that are right for her and there's an original song, which makes it a mild improvement.

Wright is not expressive, she's a straight arrow choral singer; the vocals are technically perfect and she has a beautiful quality to her voice, but it's dead nor does it have power. At no moment does she sound authentic or connected to her material. Having her sing patriotic songs is, in my view, absolutely absurd. These songs are supposed to rouse us, be big, be infectious, be imbued with pride and passion; instead she's sending us to sleep. The majority of the material suffers in the same way as it did in her debut. Perhaps the public agrees as Russell Watson's conceptually identical album is performing vastly better than this one.

Fortunately Wright recorded two songs for this album that suited her perfectly and reminded me why I was such a big fan of her voice when she was in All Angels. 'Sanctus' (a choral adaptation of Elgar's 'Nimrod') and Karl Jenkins's 'Benedictus' are right on the money. True, 'Sanctus' was pretty much lifted from All Angels's second album 'Into Paradise' but the all new choral arrangement (no instruments) truly makes it worthwhile. I saw her do this live and thought I was in love with her again, but the rest of the set included 'The Rose' and 'Race to the End' which soured me almost instantly. She just shouldn't be singing pop songs; she only got away with them in All Angels because Daisy Chute was there to give them soul. 'Benedictus', meanwhile, reminds everyone why she won BBC's "Chorister of the Year" in 2005 - it smoothly rivals Hayley Westenra's version and Wright definitely has the edge with the inclusion of the cello.

'Stronger As One' is the original song for the album, used as the official song for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Whilst I am pleased that an original song has made its way on to a Decca album, it's not very good, and Laura's performance of it even less so. Even the use of ethnic vocals and percussion does little to lift it from Wright's neutral delivery. The song could have been rescued if it were in the more capable lungs of Katherine Jenkins or Becky Jane Taylor. New Decca tenor Noah Stewart acts as a saving grace for the vocal adaptation of Ravel's 'Boléro' which is the only "rousing" song on the album.

Despite the criticisms (which may seem heavy and harsh) I am pleased I bought this album. It's clear to me I can still be a fan of Wright, if only she records the right material. The fact that I find her interpretations rather empty is irrelevant when it comes to her choral material - choral and her voice are the perfect fit. The only thing that saddens me is that she was making whole albums of this type of music when she was with All Angels and they were ten times better than what Wright offers as a soloist. Yet All Angels have been dropped and Wright taken on as a solo artist. She's selling nowhere near as many albums as All Angels did (ignore the press kits that say Wright has sold a million - that was with All Angels - she's sold no more than 40,000 max on her own). There's a sense that Decca are desperate to convince *themselves* that Laura is a star. She's getting plenty of exposure but the sales are not backing this idea up. The mind boggles. As a Decca customer, I feel rather short changed.
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 4, 2012 6:07 PM BST

Creative ZEN X-Fi3 16GB Touch MP3 Player with Bluetooth
Creative ZEN X-Fi3 16GB Touch MP3 Player with Bluetooth

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother with this, 8 Mar 2012
The sound quality is amazing. It really is. The feeling of bass in my ears is just wonderful. I was simply on a high when I heard how good it was. But the fun stopped there, as I then added 11GB worth of music onto the device.

This is the first time I have spent "big money" on an MP3 player. I was constantly deleting tracks on my 8GB to make way for new ones, so I wanted a 16GB. This is, however, a problematic amount of space for this MP3 player as it takes ages to scroll through your music to get what you want. That's if the touch "screen" wants to acknowledge that you're touching it, which 70% of the time, it doesn't. There is no 'find' feature, and good luck making a playlist!

I battled to make a playlist using common sense techniques, none of which worked. So I bit the bullet and decided to read the instructions (I never have to do this usually), which I eventually found online. Wow. The hassle you have to go through to make a playlist is unbelievable. I still haven't succeeded. You have to enter every folder one by one to get the song you want to add and drag it to your music player (under certain conditions). That's fiddly in itself. Once done, it then wants you to convert the files to M3U format - it tells you how to do this with your current music player, but the instuctions did not fit my music player (WMP), so I couldn't do it. I can't describe how much this ruins everything for me as I have 3 hour drive to and from work everyday, so if I feel like listening to something else on my player whilst I'm driving, it's down right dangerous to do so as a) takes ages to scroll down to a different artist or album b) the screen hardly ever responds to what you want to do and c) everything takes so long to load. I'd have to pick it up and look at it for a long time whilst I am driving. That is no good.

But enough of the playlist. I imagine that's an unimportant feature for most. But even so, navigation as a whole is a complete failure. I have got so angry with it after a mere 10 minutes. What's the point holding 14GB (because it doesn't really have 16GB of free space) worth of music, if users can't navigate their way through so many tracks? I imagine this MP3 player could be okay if you have 50-100 songs on it (though still frustrating as the touch screen barely works) but 2000+ songs? Please, please don't waste your money. I can't believe how much this junk costs. Not worth the money at all. My battery is dead after two days usage, so that's seven hours. My cheap old Sansa clip is so much better than this, and that's the MP3 player I've gone back to.

I don't understand how somebody could create such a poor design for an MP3 player. They obviously don't use MP3 players themselves and thought marketing research was beneath them. I've given this a star for the sound quality (and the earphones they come with are pretty awesome), but there is nothing else to recommend it.

*Update* Five days after purchase, the touch screen stopped working completely. Took it back and got a full refund. Glad to have got my money back, as I resented paying so much for such a rubbish device.

Price: £15.82

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh and vibrant crossover, 19 Dec 2011
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This review is from: Shine (Audio CD)
Crossover tends to gain negative press for having lack of creativity, vision and originality consisting of albums full of Nella Fantasias, Time To Say Goodbyes and Ave Marias. As sad as it to admit, the criticism is not unfounded in today's UK mainstream crossover.

Over the years, Decca has been one of the UK's worst offenders of churning out unoriginal, safe albums (though nowhere near as bad as Syco, to be fair). They seem to have a crossover track list of about 30 songs to choose from which they get out with every new crossover album. Uninspired releases like Joe McElderry's "Classic" and Laura Wright's 'The Last Rose' demonstrate they are not about to give up this tactic but Mary-Jess's 'Shine' (and Hayley Westenra's 'Paradiso') gives us that beautiful ray of hope that, as the UK's top crossover provider, we can still be presented with strokes of individuality and musicality in a genre that is constantly threatened by stagnation.

Every song on this warm and uplifting album is original, many of which Mary-Jess can claim writing credits. Most fortunately, Mary-Jess escaped Cowell's grasp when she auditioned for the UK X-Factor but was rejected. Chance led her to China's equivalent where she won in front of 70 million viewers. This is highly relevant to the ground works of this album as it infuses Western and Eastern sounds - and to marvellous effect. The Chinese influence is strong enough to give us something new, but not so strong that it alienates us. The album's stand out track, 'Glorious', has no obvious foreign sounds but still manages to sound exotic. The instantly catchy 'Are You the Way Home' does use very apparent Eastern sounds, but they are recognisable to us, enabling us to identify what we're are listening to so we're never uncomfortable.

As different as the album is, it's still very much a "safe" album, but in a clever way. There are no dark moments to be found in this collection, nor will you want to get up and pop some moves. It does not have the level of diversity that Sarah Brightman graces us with. All the songs are mellow, uplifting, gentle, beautiful and mild but it doesn't make the album any less strong. The songs are majestically melodic; they are never dull and have the power to move. 'Lighthouse of Mine' and 'Yue Guang Ai Ren (A Love Before Time)' may threaten the tear ducts and the radio friendly 'Heaven Is Empty' and 'Glorious' are bound to put a smile across your face.

'Shine' lives up to its name; it's a heart-warming album that fills your head with new unforgettable melodies and the heavenly voice of Mary-Jess. It's unfortunate that Decca lacked the resources to promote this album (they seemed to have used their energies on Laura Wright's lacklustre debut instead which was released around the same time) but there's a massive audience waiting for her in China, so I have no fear that we won't be hearing from her again.

The Last Rose
The Last Rose
Price: £13.25

20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A weak debut, 31 July 2011
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This review is from: The Last Rose (Audio CD)
I absolutely loved Laura in All Angels - she was my favourite vocalist of the group (though they're all fantastic) and whilst I was saddened when I heard she was leaving the group, I was cheered up immensely after learning she had signed a solo record deal. To be fair, if I see an album full of typical well-known and over recorded songs, I know that I'm not expecting much and such was the case with 'The Last Rose'. My love for Wright's voice made me buy it anyway, but despite my low expectations, the album actually turned out to be less pleasing than I originally predicted. Wright's vocal is as beautiful as always but her voice as a solo really showed me just how much Wright was pushed and complemented by her fellow ex-Angels and how much, in fact, she relied on them for interpretation and emotion. Wright's voice sounds stunning, but it's empty. Her delivery is that of any other choir girl. I just want to shake her and get some feeling out of her.

There's also the problem that the track list is dull and recorded by too many other artists, but as a folk concept album, one has to accept that to complain about that is to miss the point of the album's aim. Even so there's no effort on Patrick Hawes part to give this recording anything distinctive. There's much I can say about the dreariness of this album, but the main feeling I am left with after listening to it is that I was wrong about Wright all these years. I always thought she could just leave All Angels and be an amazing solo artist - if 'The Last Rose' is the best she can muster then I think she made a grave error in leaving the group and I'm no longer the gushing fan that I once was.

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