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Needs the right material
on 2 June 2012
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.