After the non-start that was The Songs That Got Away, cosmonaut-in-training and soprano Sarah Brightman attempts to kick her career into gear with As I Came of Age. This is technically her second studio album. It is also finally a statement of intent from the artist, something that was a long time coming.
As I Came of Age is such partway because of her divorce from Andrew Lloyd Webber, which took place in 1990 – the same year as the album’s release. Perhaps for the first time since her pre-theatre days, the album is a proactive project rather than a range of songs from Lloyd Webber projects and hand-me-downs. And for the first time since her pre-theatre days, it sounds as though her heart is almost in it.
Brightman has something to prove at this point in her career. Consider the context: pestering, nasty reporters had been carping her for only having “made it” because of her marriage to the toad-faced one. That repute, earned or not, follows her for a long time, as evinced in this “interview” distributed by the snarky Deborah Ross in 1997.
So does As I Came of Age prove her worth as an individual artist? Somewhat.
It starts strong with “The River Cried,” which would be one of the best songs she’s ever recorded were it not for the riling vocal effects that drown out the end of the song. Penned by the songwriting tandem of Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, whose credits also include Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and Heart’s fantastic “Alone,” the tune is melodically pretty and perfectly suited for Brightman’s tone.
Brightman sings another Steinberg/Kelly joint with the Lloyd Webber-assisted “Take My Life.” This is basic musical theatre stuff, what with the toad’s guidance and all, and it finds Brightman scaling to unsettling heights with her voice. She can handle the notes, but their stridency is painful.
Out of left field comes “Some Girls,” Brightman’s best snarling attempt at a David Bowie impersonation. It’s good 70s-era pop and Brightman’s never sung like this since.
But regrettably most of As I Came of Age flags in middling territory. It sometimes even swings into the unpleasant, like a poor execution of the awful “Good Morning Starshine,” a song that should never see the light of day again. The flower child stuff lingers with a cover of a good song, “Alone Again Or” by Love, but Brightman’s rendition is archaic and odd.
Brightman’s As I Came of Age isn’t the cobalt blast of heat required at this point, but it is her best effort at this point in her career and it does embody a major step forward.