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In the 10 years since the release of Russell Watson's first album, The Voice, the tenor's name has regularly been in the headlines - sadly, most recently over a life-threatening tumor. Now recovered, he here makes a welcome return to the recording studio for his ninth long-player.
Watson's voice is now stronger, and he has a richness and vibrancy throughout his range. This is heard at its best in the first song, Parla Piu Piano (Love Theme from The Godfather), with words set in Italian. As the album's title suggests, many of the tracks are sung in Italian, or have an Italian connection. Watson adapts his voice to suit the different styles - in this respect his adaptability is reminiscent of Jose Carreras.
Much ink has been spilled as to Watson's credentials as an opera singer, and tellingly he includes just one operatic number here, an adaptation of the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana. Other adaptations from the classics include Adagio, taken from what once was called Albinoni's Adagio, and E Sara Cosi, a melody better known as the 18th of Rachmaninov's Paganini Variations; the latter, though, does not adapt well to a vocal.
Be My Love he sings in English, after Mario Lanza; though Lanza, one feels, would have gone for a retake on that final note. Watson's quieter singing provides particular pleasure in the thoughtful Adagio, and is effective too in the gentle Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te), to the melody of Dusty Springfield's You Don't Have to Say You Love Me. Across these tastefully and attractively arranged songs (Arrivederci Roma is another highlight), Russell receives immaculate support from The Roma Sinfonietta and Coro, a small mixed chorus. The production values, too, are top-notch, which all makes for a very attractive package indeed.