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SISSEL - My Heart:
Wait a While
; Lascia Ch’io Pianga; Someone Like You; Tristezze; Angel Rays; Mon coeur; Pie Jesu; Oblivion; You Raise me Up; O Mio Babbino Caro; Ave Maria; Beyond Imagination; Deborah’s Theme
Sissel (vocals)
London Symphony Orchestra/Ettore Strata
DECCA RECORDS B0002080-02 [56.11]

Universal Classics have hitched their star to the Norwegian vocalist Sissel. This is her second CD for them. The first ‘Sissel’ (440064412-2) did well and it was only a matter of time before a second appeared.

After the trademark love ballad Wait a While there are various classically originated songs in Jorge Calandrelli's gold-dripping, silver-glistening, romantic arrangements of Handel's Lascia Ch'io Piango, Mon coeur ouvre from Samson et Dalila, Lloyd-Webber's Pie Jesu, O Mio Babbino Caro and Schubert’s Ave Maria (with Bryn Terfel, no less - this track arranged by Chris Hazell). In Pie Jesu there is just a touch of John Rutter and the voice takes on a Sarah Brightman quality. Some lovely singing here. Wait a While, Angel Rays and Someone Like You are popular ballads closely related to the hit song Reflection from Mulan sung by Lea Salonga. Sissel does this peachily and without a hint of vibrato, intimately breathy, closely miked. Not for classical purists it is well done in the pattern of Carly Simon and Celine Dion but with a consummate purity of voice and clean strato-cirrus heights. Nice work from guitarists Michael Thompson in the John Barry-like Someone Like You and Sissel induces a real frisson time after time in this track - magical. Tristezze uses a famous Chopin melody, queasily supercharged and sets Italian lyrics to it. In Angel Rays and again in Beyond Imagination (the latter over-synthesised) Sissel coasts very close to her Gaelic 'sister' the similarly blessed Karen Matheson. But for the accident of time and place Matheson could have followed Sissel’s track rather than hitching her glimmeringly bright star to Capercaillie. While she lacks the guttural hoarseness of Rita Connolly there are parallels there too. If Oblivion takes us down an agreeable road towards 1950s romantic films You Raise Me Up with its mix of Moon River echoes and Scottish ballads in a supercharged commercial arrangement does not quite work. The thirteenth and last track on the album is Deborah’s Theme from Morricone’s Once Upon a Time in America. Again it is a highly skilled and lustrous Calandrelli ‘paint job’ and Sissel’s role is a vocalise.

There are some lovely tracks here but we do rather get a sugar overload in the classical arrangements - why tamper with the originals? Then again Sissel does not have the trademark classical voice (or at least not on this evidence). This album is not pitched at the classical market but at that popular hinterland between ballad, film and classical. It is a growing territory and Sissel’s pristine voice stands high indeed amongst the jostling competition. I hope the next CD will make even better use of her talents. It would be good to have mix some Disney ballads such as Reflection and Belle - the opening song from Beauty and the Beast with the otherworldly songs from The Lord of the Rings films - especially Gollum’s Song.

Rob Barnett

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