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Classical - Released November 9, 2018 | Sarah Brightman

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Classical - Released January 1, 2008 | Manhattan Records

This is billed as a live recording of Sarah Brightman, and at some level no doubt it is one. There are photos of Brightman under the footlights, and an accompanying DVD contains more details about the elaborate production that goes into a show of this kind. The final product, however, is nearly as much a result of studio work as with any of Brightman's studio releases. The end of each track captures a segment of audience applause, enthusiastic enough, and it is instructive that toward the end Brightman thanks the audience for its patience. Plainly not all was spontaneous. The live situation barely affects the features of Brightman's voice that have made her so successful, so distinctive, and so reviled in certain quarters. Indeed, she comes through in its full strangeness here, where there are limits on the subtlety of the instrumental accompaniment, which tends to alternate between hushed tones and full-on bombast. Like Brightman or not, her singing is far from monotonous. She's something like the female vocalists from ABBA, but with the advantage of vocal training, and if you step back from her voice and listen to it objectively, unimpeded by either fandom or animus, what you hear are weird sounds that just about nobody else could make. Listen to the opening track, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Pie Jesu, noting the almost crowing sound Brightman makes in her upper register on the lines beginning with "Qui tollis," and then again at the final little flourish. It's not a sound that would be pleasant on its own, but in the electronic environment within which Brightman works, even in a live situation, it stands out in the listener's mind. Brightman's choice of material is canny. It's noteworthy here for its pan-European base-covering -- Brightman sings in several languages, often within the course of the same number -- and its corresponding lack of influence from American pop. Brightman had a hand in several numbers, and her producer Frank Peterson shaped several others. This is Europop at its splashiest and most elaborate, inflected in a classical direction, and few people do that better or more distinctively than Sarah Brightman, "live" or not.
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Pop - Released January 1, 2003 | Angel Records

Adopting a Middle Eastern flavor to enhance her blend of classical and new age pop, Sarah Brightman's Harem continues her experimentation with thematic discs that began with 1993's oceanic Dive. These themes, while never dominant or original, are simply meant to enhance her brand of crossover just enough to keep listeners interested in hearing her next project. Harem accomplishes that feat by shrouding new age pop songs in a thin Middle Eastern veil that disguises, but never completely covers, Brightman's true musical identity. It works well when she fully utilizes the theme, as on the opening title track where Brightman's fragile operatic voice is able to capture the traditional phrasing without sounding forced. But when the formula simply dresses up a pop/dance song like "The Journey Home," the results are less interesting and cross into territory already explored by the group Enigma and its worldly hits. Elsewhere, Brightman appears to have been taking classes at the Kate Bush vocal institute, sounding eerily similar to the English thrush on the quiet tracks "What You Never Know" and "Free," her writing collaboration with Sophie B. Hawkins. Retaining her classical leanings, Brightman successfully incorporates "Un Bel Di," from Puccini's Madame Butterfly, into the surging beats of "It's a Beautiful Day," her best attempt at creating a chart-worthy hit. Middle Eastern music stars like Kazem al-Saher and the late Ofra Haza lend an air of authenticity, while the tasteful arrangements by former Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman refrain from overpowering Brightman's voice or sinking into an Arabian parody. The disc gets a bit long by the time it reaches the unnecessary standard "Stranger in Paradise," but Brightman's Harem adventure is interesting enough to have listeners packed and ready to travel with her on another musical journey. ~ Aaron Latham
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Pop - Released January 1, 2005 | Polydor Records

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Classical - Released January 1, 2008 | Manhattan Records

You probably already know whether or not you're going to like this album, but for those who haven't yet encountered the phenomenon called Sarah Brightman, a stab at objective description may be in order. The genre is British crossover classical, with a mixture of contemporary pop-style tunes and more traditional numbers, in this case Christmas carols. Some of the factors that have made Brightman unusually successful among practitioners coming from the pop/Broadway side of the genre are on display in this seasonal release, with the outer covers showing Brightman slogging through a winter landscape and the booklet artwork showing the prone, bare-shouldered singer swathed in diaphanous linens and looking awestruck as snowflakes or confetti (better hope it's the latter) drop from above. First and foremost is Brightman's voice. You can argue over whether Andrea Bocelli or Russell Watson has operatic chops, but the debate is irrelevant in Brightman's case. She's the crossover equivalent of Donna Summer or Beyoncé, a singer who is good at adapting her voice to the needs of the surrounding production. Other examples might be the two female vocalists of ABBA, from whose Arrival LP the opening selection is drawn. But Brightman can do more with her voice than those Swedes, and part of what gives people chills is the way she can push her squeaky sound up into its top register in a piece like "Silent Night" (track 4) and not lose control. A second thing Brightman's albums do well (and here the credit goes to the producers and arrangers) is to make a symphony orchestra (several of Europe's finest, actually) sound uncannily like a pure product of studio electronics. Is that a good thing? Brightman detractors might read the Harry Crews novel Car, in which a redneck junkyard employee becomes distraught over the prevalence of mechanization and attempts to eat an entire car piece by piece, before saying no. The third effective piece of musical intelligence here is the selection of material. The subconscious cues that make music like this work are buried below the surface, and the surfaces work best if they are calmly simple. This does not foreclose gnomic lyrics like those of Andersson and Ulvaeus or of Neil Diamond (the little-known "I've Been This Way Before"); indeed, they can enhance the overall effect. Brightman and her producers have a knack for picking songs that aren't hackneyed, yet go down easily. Most of her colleagues would not have been likely to pick "Colder than Winter" by U.S. country singer/songwriter Vince Gill, for example, but it works like a charm. All in all, if you like Sarah Brightman, you are virtually guaranteed to like this album. And if you're absorbed by the strangeness that is European pop culture, you just might like it too.
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Classical - Released January 1, 1990 | Polydor Records

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Musical Theatre - Released January 1, 2002 | Decca (UMO)

Ex-husband Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Records can be accused of scraping the bottom of the barrel in its second compilation of old Sarah Brightman tracks released to take advantage of the singer's international popularity due to her albums Time to Say Goodbye, Eden, and La Luna, all recorded for a different company. Happily, even the bottom of the barrel contains some excellent material, even after the cream was skimmed off with The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection. During and after her marriage to Lloyd Webber, Brightman performed on the Original London Cast recording of The Phantom of the Opera and recorded the albums The Songs That Got Away (1989) and Surrender (1995), and that's the material sampled here, that is, the remaining tracks that weren't used on The Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection. There are four songs recorded for those album sessions that were not released -- Lloyd Webber's "Whistle Down the Wind," Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner's "One More Walk Around the Garden," Stephen Sondheim's "What More Do I Need," and George and Ira Gershwin's "In the Mandarin's Orchid Garden." The last three, fairly obscure songs by well-known show-music songwriters, are typical of the non-Lloyd Webber choices found on The Songs That Got Away and Surrender. Also typical are the Lloyd Webber oddities, such as Italian-language versions of "With One Look" from Sunset Boulevard and "Memory" from Cats. If the mixed bag of material works, it's because of the unflappable Brightman, who doesn't only gamely undertake the selections, but throws herself into them, making "Piano" (as "Memory" somehow comes out in Italian) sound like an opera selection. "What More Do I Need," a comic celebration of love in dirty old New York, is beyond her, but not much else is. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Classical - Released November 16, 2018 | Sarah Brightman

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Pop - Released January 1, 1993 | Polydor Associated Labels

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Pop - Released January 1, 2007 | Angel Records

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Pop - Released March 10, 2017 | Nemo Records

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Pop - Released January 1, 2004 | Angel Records

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Classical - Released January 1, 2008 | Manhattan Records

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Pop - Released April 16, 2013 | Simha

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Pop - Released November 19, 2012 | Simha

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Pop - Released April 16, 2013 | Simha

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Pop - Released October 16, 2012 | Simha

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