If, however, you want a relaxing, unplug-the-telephone and open-a-box-of-chocolates...
Charlotte Gardner 2007-02-13
Natasha Marsh’s new album, Amour, is an eclectic collection of songs and arias ranging from Catalani to Ewan McColl. Whether or not you like this CD will very much depend on your musical tastes. If you're a bit of a musical snob, or the kind of person who would happily sit through an entire semi-staged production of The Ring Cycle, then this is not for you. If, however, you want a relaxing, unplug-the-telephone and open-a-box-of-chocolates recording, slickly produced with a host of favourite melodies, then Amour might well push the right buttons.
Marsh’s soprano is sweet, pure and very versatile. “Eben? Ne Andro Lontano” and “La Delaissado” are delivered beautifully, but the songs where her clear voice really makes an impression are the softer, less operatic works. “Autumn Leaves” is a highlight of the CD and she manages to make this old classic her own, whilst nodding to the famous Eva Cassidy recording. “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” has the same quality, and her declared love of the film Il Postino is obvious in the fabulous, heartfelt performance she brings to “Mi Mancherai”. “Les filles de Cadix” is also delivered flawlessly, although without the punchiness that singers such as Cecilia Bartoli have previously brought to this song about feisty, flirty Spanish girls who won’t be tied down by a man. This lack of fire when needed is a disappointment, and you’re left wondering to what extent this is Marsh’s voice, and to what extent it is the way the album has been produced. Her vocals have obviously been heavily mic'd to come out over the choir during the “Et Misericordia” from Rutter’s Magnificat, which gives an uncomfortable soloist/choir balance. Why was this necessary?
The whole album feels slightly as if it has been recorded to be the audio equivalent of a soft focus photograph. It's pretty, relaxing, and at times very good indeed, but lacks clarity and assertiveness in places. Don’t let this gripe dissuade you from buying it, though, if you fall into the latter category above.