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Highlights: Blowin' in the Wind, Come Away With Me, Send in the Clowns, Cucurrucucu Paloma, I Loves You Porgy/Summertime Medley
All Angels have returned with their third recording which is a departure from their earlier albums and likely to unsettle their fan base. They abandon classical repertoire entirely (though there's a few crossover standards present) and exclusively feature songs that are of American origin (particular emphasis on the south). They can only boast of a UK following, and the majority of this track list threatens to alienate the safe UK crossover listener as although the tracks may be well loved treasures in their native country, most of this is pretty obscure elsewhere. For that reason, Fly Away requires more effort from its audience than crossover normally demands - if it is given the chance it can be given the recognition that this gem of an album deserves because it is certainly refreshing and surprising. Fly Away is a fine concept, if not always executed to its full potential.
The album opens with the old American hymn 'I'll Fly Away' - one of the most recorded songs in gospel music. You may well understand the line of thinking that a gospel choir is rather fitting to feature in the song, but as the Harlem Gospel Choir come charging in half way through, the sweet ideal turns somewhat sour. Including a choir on an already choral based quartet is laying it on a bit thick and it completely destroys what would have been the highlight of the album. Other instances of overkill can be heard on James Horner's usually quiet 'All Love Can Be' (from the film The Beautiful Mind, originally sung by Charlotte Church) where the vocal arrangements are made more complicated than they should be - this is similarly the case for 'Somewhere' where the girls echo each other's lyrics that makes a mess of a beautiful melody. Fortunately, this is as far as the negative traits go.
Many may feel that the obscure additions set this album back, but there should be appreciation of the girls introducing new material to their audience and playing a bit on the wild side. 'Cucurrucucu Paloma', a Mexican song, is one of the more daring tracks on the album and its simple guitar and vocal arrangement, and the fact that it's sung in a foreign language, give the group a chance to demonstrate the beauty of their voices. 'Sleep' is another welcome song that the girls have submitted into the crossover vault, composed by contemporary American composer, Eric Whitacre. It provides the album with a smooth finish as 'Agnus Dei' did for their debut album.
Loyal to the American heritage, a fair amount of tracks come from their classic musicals which everyone will be able to recognise and are mostly the strongest tracks featured. Their astounding rendition of 'Send in the Clowns' is the crux of the album; the girls are provided with a song much too old for them, but they make them relevant to their generation which is basically what this album achieves all round. The emotion displayed in the song is impressive, and Laura Wright's solo is particularly strong. 'I Loves You Porgy/Summertime Medley' shares all this in common. The songs that rival 'Send in the Clowns' are the two more modern tracks: Norah Jones's 'Come Away With Me' and Bob Dylan's 'Blowin' in the Wind'. The first is featured heavily in their promotion and with good reason. The simple arrangement and subtle performances from the girls makes it a winner and Daisy Chute's jazzy roots come more apparent on her solos whereas 'Blowin' in the Wind' makes what seems a natural transition to crossover and to the girls' angelic vocals.
The problems that arise on this album derive from their choral background - whereas it was suitable to play with vocal arrangements on their more classical pieces, the complexity does not translate well to these American classics. This album, therefore, works best when they simply sing like a normal girl band. Although this defies what they have stood for in the past, their drastic change of direction is commendable, and as experimental as this album is, most of it works. There's also nothing more welcome than an album that stretches boundaries, adding much needed colour to classical crossover's limited palette. Make this purchase with an open mind.
1. I'll Fly Away
2. Blowin' in the Wind
3. Simple Gifts
4. Come Away With Me
5. Send in the Clowns
6. Cucurrucucu Paloma
7. All Love Can Be
8. I Dream of Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair
9. Deep River
10. I Loves You Porgy/Summertime Medley
12. Black in the Colour of My True Love's Hair