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Russell Watson Reprise Review


BBC Review

Mix of light classical and AOR pop songs. A large dollop of la dolche vita.

Morag Reavley 2002

Russell Watson: even the most curmudgeonly critic can't help but be warmed by his fairy-tale story. In just four years he's undergone a mythic transformation, from factory worker singing part-time to international stadium sensation and UN peace messenger. And such a nice, down-to-earth lad.

"This album has something for everybody", boasts the sleeve notes of this, his third album. Its range is wide indeed, from operatic aria to rock fantasy via Neapolitan love song and pop ballad. As the title suggests, this is very much a well-trodden path, nothing startlingly new, and plenty more of the tried-and-tested Watson formula.

Best are Watson's irresistible renditions of popular Italian classics: "Torna a Surriento", "Santa Lucia" and "La Danza". Watson's orotund voice is complemented by swooning strings, lush orchestration and gloriously cheery tempi, conjuring the Med, lemon trees and a large dollop of la dolce vita straight into your living room.

The operatic pieces are also more than adequate. Watson tackles arias from 'Rigoletto', 'Tosca', 'The Pearl Fishers' and 'Pagliacci' with considerable aplomb. He may lack the taste, subtlety or finesse of classically-trained singers. But he has a grand set of lungs, vocal agility in mastering the French and Italian lyrics, and more than enough personality to make Bizetas accessible as Blue.

But Watson's covers of more recent pop tunes are heinous. Mike Rutherford's "The Living Years" and Chris De Burgh's "The Best That Love Can Be" are sub-Pop Idol offerings which do not even flex Watson's heroic vocal chords.

Worst of all is a rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody". Creeping along at the lugubrious pace of its synthesized backing-track, this is idle, copycat rock posturing which Watson does not need to indulge in. We have 'Stars in Their Eyes' for that sort of thing.

Watson'sreal strengths lie in popular interpretations of light opera and showstoppers; he's the Josef Locke of his generation. This album tries to be all things to all manner of folk without succeeding in pleasing anyone entirely. A bit like a UN ambassador.

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