Sarah Brightman - Harem
The string-driven melodrama of the opening title track sees Sarah stage a delicate introduction that mutates into a galloping cheesy house anthem, then pauses before cantering back into a heady set of gypsy string driven things. Awesome! Actually, awful is more like it. If this is some kind of attempted crossover to the hip house set, then Sarah's way off the mark.
On a truly bizarre rendition of "What a Wonderful World" she belies her diva status by sounding like a wannabe idol afraid of auditioning. Even worse, the sweeping synthesiser soaked arrangements time travel straight back to bad 80s film scores such as "St. Elmo's Fire". Such kitsch clearly needs a powerhouse like Meatloaf to carry it off. But wait, the musical freak show isn't over yet! Ever wondered what U2's rocking anthem "It's a Beautiful Day" might sound like as a Middle Eastern dervish?
Thankfully, it's not the same song, but thanks to Sarah's searing upper register opera workout Puccini's original music manages to sound unrecognisably dead and buried. Until she decides to actually articulate the chorus that is.
It's at this point that you realise that despite the conceptual shortcomings, there remains something delightfully grand about Brightman's sheer lack of...well, taste. She's a diva, okay. And divas do dazzling vocal pyrotechnics. Which means that fragile and fraught tear drop pushers such as "What You Never Know" (anyone for Enya?), "Free" (co-written with Sophie B. Hawkins) and "Arabian Nights" (very "harem" sounding here) are simply fabulous in their free flowing kitschness.
So forget about the occasional misplaced attempt at Middle Eastern "authenticity", oddly overwhelming orchestral glimpses and unfortunately sappy dance pop arrangements. On Harem you won't be able to forget that Brightman made her name on Broadway and in these many aching moods she transports the listener straight into the front row of a big budget Broadway production.
And anyway, 40-something men are guaranteed to get off on the sexy album artwork alone.- Miles Keylock
An ambitious muddle of ethereal vocal fireworks and earnest, if awkward Middle Eastern moods.