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Highlights: With Or Without You, She, Titans, When A Child Is Born
Together is Blake's first album with new member Humphrey Berney, who Hayley Westenra fans may recognise from appearing on her Treasure album. The handsome quartet, as usual, know how to present themselves and having formed their own indie label to release the album they now have more power over themselves than they ever have done. It is a little surprising, then, that they have made an album that consists mostly of crossover standards that a major record company would have typically pushed on them. Perhaps the lads lost their nerve without the backing of a major company, but after their fantastic debut it is somewhat disappointing that they have decided to play it so safe. But Blake have never made a secret of the fact that they aim for mainstream appeal, so in many ways, this predictable album is just the right thing to serve up.
Thankfully, Blake recruited the highly esteemed conductor Paul Bateman and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra who provide rich and filling arrangements. The group repeat their habit of arranging their vocals demonstrating great understanding of their voices. Sadly, the whole album loses something vital as the production team decided to downplay the group. The orchestra is louder than the voices, and the boys have an unwelcome echoing sound. This works on some tracks, particularly 'Titans' which is a glimpse of their debut's strength but it comes close to ruining big numbers like 'With or Without You' and positively destroys intimate tracks like 'Bring Him Home'.
Most of the songs are already known to classical crossover fans with only three tracks that may come as a surprise. The instantly recognisable 'She' is one of these tracks, and the boys give Britain's Got Talent runner-up Julian Smith a platform to perform on, giving the album an extra dimension that is not often heard in crossover. It's also one of the songs that you can hear the boys more clearly. 'Unsung Hero' is an original song written by Denise Rich (band member Stephen Bowman has said he helped but he is uncredited on the album sleeve) and the boys team up with Caroline Redman Lusher to record the pretty pop ballad. The boys return to their film fandom singing an atmospheric Vangelis number, 'Titans', which is possibly the strongest track on the album. The arrangement is creative and pleasing and although the boys can barely be heard, it is more than appropriate and fitting.
Despite the many predictable tracks, the boys manage to elevate some into outstanding renditions. 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' sounds beautiful, and they really take 'Nessun Dorma' into their stride. Their love for film music shines through in the Ennio Morricone standard 'La Califfa' but their biggest triumph is their nod to the Christmas push, 'When A Child is Born'. Normally intimate and restrained, it is given a drastic make over and has a big finale, letting the album finish with a bang.
Although Together is probably their most unimaginative album to date, you could do a lot worse than pick this up. Most crossover fans like the familiar and Blake does it well. If you want just one more verion of 'I Vow To Thee My Country' you will probably find the better version on this album. In short, this album is a feast for the standard lovers, delivering strong renditions of most of them. This will be a bit more disappointing for the more adventurous crossover listener though you may miss out on a great sounding vocal group if you pass.
1. With Or Without You
2. Bring Him Home
3. Bridge Over Troubled Water
4. Abide With Me
5. La Califfa
6. She (ft. Julian Smith)
7. I Vow to Thee My Country
8. She Was Beautiful (Cavatina)
9. Ave Maria
10. Nessun Dorma
11. Unsung Hero (ft. Caroline Redman Lusher)
13. When A Child Is Born