When it comes to reviewing a new Rina Hugo collection it's almost impossible to retain any semblance of objectivity. You're either a fan of her off-off-Broadway sweeping vocal style or simply couldn't care. The fact that she's turned her talents to a selection of her personal favourite English songs that have proven popular amongst audiences at her live concerts doesn't make it any easier either.
Evergreen favourites abound with Andrew Lloyd Webber clearly emerging on top. Unfortunately "No Matter What" (yep, the Boyzone teen pop ditty) is flawed by Hugo's over enunciation of each syllable as much as the irritating attempt at boy band backing harmonies. But at least "Love Changes Everything" sculpts a mood and on "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" she finally hits pay dirt delivering an impassioned crescendo worthy of a South African diva.
Cabaret-fuelled torch songs can be cool if you're Minelli, Midler, Streisand or hell, even Elaine Page! So it's unfortunate that rather than focus on exploring a range of emotions, Hugo comes across as a one-dimensional crooning caricature. Don McLean's classic "Vincent" and "The End of the World" are both devoid of emotion, their saccharine sweet arrangements transforming bona fide tearjerkers into something simply worth crying about.
But before you think the entire album is trapped in karaoke twisted kitsch, when tannie Rina reigns in the vocal pyrotechnics her renditions actually start to sound a whole lot better. "Winter's Tale" is suitably snug and comfy. While "I Feel Pretty" and "I Could Have Danced All Night" are all flutter and pirouetting fun. And "Edelweiss" actually soars, conjuring up images of young Scandinavian milkmaids skipping through the "blossoms of snow"!
Best of all though is the yodelling bounce of "Lonely Goatherd". Its overblown buoyancy could definitely come in handy when you're next driving through the Karoo at night and need to tune into Radio Sonder Mense to prevent yourself from falling asleep at the wheel.
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