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4.5 out of 5 stars123
4.5 out of 5 stars
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Whilst not forgetting that there are already artists who do a similar thing - Bond, anyone? - Escala (formerly known as Scala before their rise to fame) are one of the classier music acts to come out of Britian's Got Talent and their album doesn't disappoint, with some great tunes, many of which you may recognise from use in films, or as background music in television shows or adverts.

"Requiem for a Tower" - The tower in question is because this song was used in a Lord of The Rings film trailer, I'm told, but you'll have heard this music numerous times on television programmes such as, erm, Britain's Got Talent.

"Palladio" - Although described on Amazon as "Escala's signature tune" (needless to say because they performed it on the programme), this beautiful Karl Jenkins composition was previously best known as "Allegretto" by Bond. I have to say, Escala's version is better and has more integrity, and as a track it's probably why most people will buy this album.

"Kashmir" - Brilliant storming piece featuring Slash (Guns N' Roses) on guitar. Not your typical classical music but, hey, who cares?

"Finding Beauty" - A less known song than some of the others, but a surprise highlight.

"Children" - Beautiful dance/classic fusion of the Robert Miles chillout classic. Whatever happened to him?

"Live and Let Die" - Better than you'd expect a string quartet to do, but still makes you want to dig out the Paul McCartney original. I'd have left it off, I'm afraid.

"Chi Mai" - Instantly recognisable classic staple by Ennio Morricone, done full justice by the band.

"Feeling Good" - Odd choice for the album, and perhaps doesn't work quite as well as imagined.

"Sarabande" - I think this is a cover of a Sarah Brightman song, but might be wrong.

"Clubbed to Death" - Another of those songs you're sure you've heard somewhere. Very good choice as a build up to the final track.

"Adagio for Strings" - Samuel Barber's classic, and a popular choice for classical musicians and dance music masters alike. Not my favourite version, and because it's one of my favourite pieces I've heard many, but a fantastic way nevertheless to end a highly assured and terrifically enjoyable album.
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on 22 July 2009
Escala fans have had to wait for the girl's first CD and for anyone unsure whether it is a good buy, I would say, you'll just have to try it. The quality is superb and I have no quibble with any of the artist's individual performances - together they have produced their usual sensational and professional musical portrayal.

I do have two concerns over the disc though. One is the diabolical cover - whoever persuaded them to go for that should be strung up by a spare viola string. It gives a cheap, tawdry look to what is essentially a classy product.

The second point is the mix of material on the disc. No doubt, being the first CD and being tarred to a certain extent with the 'Britains Got Talent' label it was designed to have wide appeal and the mix of rockier numbers with 'pure' classical pieces is evidence of that. For me it doesn't work. As a first attempt, I can accept it but in the future I hope that they will have the courage to go for a disc solely for the lover of classical pieces and likewise, if the market is there, a disc for the 'classic rock' afficionados. There are, of course, many other genres they could also give the 'Escala treatment' in the future.

I love the way they put their own twist and interpretation on classical pieces but for me the screechingly teeth-grating rock numbers do not appeal. I realise not everyone will agree but that is my own personal opinion.

Lastly, I was disappointed that they have not made an appearance in the Classical music charts and assume it is for the above reason. Going straight in at No.2 in the Pop Album Chart was great but I feel they would have had longer lasting success (and looking to their future, I'd have thought that should be their main aim) had they targeted the classical end of the market.

That said, having damned with faint praise, I look forward to their next offering!
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on 26 May 2009
These girls are stunning in more ways than one. Loved them last year on BGT and couldnt wait for this album, and I wasnt disappointed. Highlight for me is Kashmir, one of my favourite songs of all time featuring my favourite guitarist of all time, bonus! Buy it now you will not regret it.
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on 25 May 2009
I was totally blown away by this album. When purchasing, I never expected it to be so good, but, listening to it for the first time, it turly was something special. There are no bad tracks on the album, and it crosses classical with contempary music in stunning fashion. I'd urge anyone, whatever their taste in music, to buy this simply brilliant album.
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on 28 May 2009
It was obvious that this group were going to be successful. Why? If you look a few years back you will find the answer in the embodiment of a string-quartet named Bond. They were an enormously successful classical crossover act, one of the few that sold extremely well in America. They were exactly as Escala are now: a sexy, leggy, string-quartet that punched out popular tunes on their custom made string instruments with a multi-techno layered production. Other bands came and went whilst Bond were still active (interestingly, Wild was one of them, two members of which are now in Escala) but Bond truly had the market. Bond, however, quit whilst they were ahead and left the music scene long before the public were ready for them to do so. They were lamented, and by the time it was clear that Bond really had disappeared, the public had missed the boat with the other quartets who had since disbanded or had been dropped.

So the string-quartet has been a gap just waiting to be filled up over the past few years, and what better way to fill it than with a group that are an exact replica of Bond and burst into the scene in one of the biggest promotional shows in the UK? Yes, Escala had success served to them on a plate but are they any good?

In classic Cowell style who can only emulate and not innovate, he has simply reproduced the tried and tested formula that Bond produced. The tracklisting is desperately unoriginal with the typical crossover material such as 'Kashmir', 'Palladio' and 'Sarabande', which quite frankly, are no different to Bond's renditions. Whilst many arrangements are quite uninspired, Robert Miles's 'Children' is well executed as is the instantly recognisable 'Requiem For A Tower'. The shame is that you may feel you are playing the soundtrack to Britain's Got Talent as some of the songs has been used relentlessly on the show. It rather taints the material.

There are only two respectable classical standards on here, 'Chi Mai' and 'Adagio For Strings' (you can include Handel's 'Sarabande' if you like, though the piece is easily manipulated for techno influences), and thankfully, they are treated with respect in their production (only a mild drum machine). Sadly their actual performance of 'Adagio For Strings' seems a bit static and I didn't lose myself in it as I have with other renditions.

If you are new to classical crossover, a lot of this may seem quite new and special in which case, good for you, but for listeners of Bond, Vanessa-Mae and Lucia Micarelli this has all been done before. If this band really wants to replace Bond, the best thing to do is to record different songs from them. It's common sense. No Bond fan wants to hear these songs again - they already have them. The good thing about Escala is that Bond's later albums were immersed in computer wizardry and the strings could barely be heard, this is not the case with Escala; they are never drowned out by drum machines. Even so, I hope for a little bit more originality from their next album.

If you're disappointed with the drum-machine trick, there is another string quartet on the market with considerbly less publicity called Raven who are probably the best out there at the moment. One of its members is renowned violinist's Nicola Benedetti's sister!
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on 27 May 2009
I pre-ordered this CD from Amazon and forgot about it until it actually arrived. I put it in my blue-ray DVD player straight away, cranked up the volume on the 5-channel surround sound and hit the play button. Bliss!

This is a seriously good album containing some seriously good music played by seriously good musicians. Add the fact that Escala comprise four seriously beautiful ladies and you've got a brilliant combination of looks, brains and talent.

Apparently they recorded a rushed precursor to this album last year but ditched it because they didn't think the quality was good enough. What a wise move. This album was worth the wait. The production is superb and the mixing spot on. Well done girls!

A slight downer was the sleeve notes. I would have liked a brief bio of each member of the quartet together with some information about the album tracks. Instead each girl provided a litany of individual thanks to just about everyone they knew (or so it seemed) and after a few lines I lost the will to finish the blurb. All I remember is that Simon Cowell seemed to feature quite heavily. A group statement of thanks would have been quite sufficient and left space for more pertinent information.

After saying that though, it didn't spoil the listening enjoyment and that's what really counts. If you like a fusion of rock and classical music then buy this album. You won't be disapointed.
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on 7 March 2010
The comparisons between "Bond" and "Escala" are inevitable and well covered in other Amazon reviews--each group is a "pop" string quartet consisting of four beautiful and talented young musicians. Although I enjoy the work of both groups, I find Escala's work to be more intense and haunting.

Bond often offers a cheerful, upbeat interpretation of the piece they are playing--not a bad thing, but a little different from what Escala does. Escala displays a darker and, to me at least, more moving sensibility. Pieces like "Requiem for a Tower," "Sarabande," and "Adagio for Strings" are powerful and intense, and you can get a sense of what I mean just by listening to Amazon's sampler for this album. My favorite track is the quartet's relentless version of "Palladio", the piece composed by Karl Jenkins (of Adiemus fame) for de Beer's "Diamonds are Forever, People are Just Shadows" commercials. To hear how Escala differs from Bond, compare each group's version of "Kashmir," the Led Zeppelin standby.

I'm looking forward to future offerings from Escala and highly recommend this CD!
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on 26 May 2009
It is so easy to go on to a talent show, gain popular appeal and have success. However, it is a lot harder to turn that success into a career. I heard these young ladies on last year's final of Britain's Got Talent and immediately loved their style of music. Yes, there have been others like them, Bond, Vannessa Mai, but Escala I believe are different. First off, it must be noted they are using electric intruments. This gives a totally different sound. Nevertheless it is rich full bodied and it wraps around your ears like a large duvet. As has been said, none of the tracks on this album are bad. Some are better and more enjoyable than others. Live and Let Die stands out, so does Kashmir and Chi Mai. But all are worth a good listen. They have said in TV interviews that these tracks are pieces they wanted to record. I hope they go on to make another album and that through their music more young people are encouraged to take up playing a musical instrument. This is a brilliant album.
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on 10 July 2009
This quartet were launched on my senses via the TV and whilst I'm not overly keen on TV talent shows these four ladies are worth the hours of pain we went through. Their combined playing and music skills are beyond reproach as their eleven selected tracks pass through recognised classical and modern arrangements, even popular film themes, reaching a peak at my favourite classical tracks, the wonderful 'Adagio for strings'. Bellissimo!
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It seems like such a long time since Escala were on Britain's Got Talent. They produced this one album and since then have carved out a successful career without recording any further material (to date).

For those that don't remember them, we have four lovely women playing futuristic looking string instruments. The music is an interesting cross over between rock and classical, which despite how it sounds, is actually very successful and enjoyable.

The songs here are good choices and work well with this type of musical fusion. In fact, I heard this played at a Wedding Breakfast at the weekend and it worked with the mood of the occasion very well.
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