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Highlights: God Only Knows, In Paradisum (Gladiator), Hallelujah, Vide Cor Meum, Toglimi Il Respiro (Take My Breath Away)
Blake's debut effort is a solid one. Released at a time when Il Divo was enjoying great success, and when the hugely popular G4 had just bowed out, Blake were self-aware of what they were, and where to slot themselves in. They are another male vocal quartet, but despite not coming up with the idea first, this album proves Blake to be the best of them through sheer shrewdness, thoughtful song selection and exquisite vocal arrangements.
Having formed the group themselves (famously through Facebook), the group made the decisions for the track list which consists mostly of film music, pop songs and a few standards. The selection is varied (though they seem to be a fan of Ridley Scott, using three of his films) which makes for an exciting eclectic album. Uncommon pop covers include Boyz II Men's 'I'll Make Love To You', Beach Boys's 'God Only Knows' and Berlin's 'Take My Breathe Away' which all easily stand out from the originals - in the case of the Beach Boys cover, it is lovely to hear the song with a modern production. Other pieces we don't often hear are Paul McCartney's 'Celebration', Vangelis's '1492 Conquest of Paradise' and Ungar's 'Ashoken Farewell' which fleshes out the album's track list with originality compared to other crossover artists. The only classical piece is Rachmaninov's 'E Sara Cosi', but even that is unusual. The group do well to justify the songs to convert into potential crossover standard repertoire.
It is, perhaps, on the more well known tracks, that Blake's talent for vocal arrangements really shines. The highlight of the album is Patrick Cassidy's 'Vide Cor Meum' (also covered admirably by Katherine Jenkins and Sarah Brightman). Blake's tremendous vocals surpass the original version recorded for Hannibal and cleanly trumps over previous crossover efforts. The ever familiar 'Hallelujah' by Leonard Cohen showcases the purity and natural blending of the band's voices and 'Swing Low' tones down orchestral backing to centralise the boys' performance.
The combination of the classically trained voice with pop is taken to a new height on this album. Il Divo are strictly operatic in all of their performances whilst G4 touched opera vocals quite frequently and sounded quite raw. Blake, meanwhile, are dedicated to the more commercial friendly pop performance, but they are elegant, smooth and well polished, achieving a perfect balance which the boys were consciously aiming for to generate mass appeal. Blake's debut album is one to pick up (if you haven't already) if you enjoy the popular side to classical crossover, such as Josh Groban, Russell Watson's later albums and Thomas Spencer-Wortley.
1. Yo Te Voy A Amar (I'll Make Love To You)
2. In Paradisum (Gladiator)
4. 1492 Conquest of Paradise
5. God Only Knows
6. I Knew I Loved You (Deborah's Theme)
8. Ashoken Farewell
10. Vide Cor Meum
11. Swing Low
12. E Sara Cosi
14. Toglimi Il Respiro (Take My Breath Away)
15. In the Bleak Midwinter (bonus track)