There seems to be little doubt that Sarah Brightman’s most “mainstream” album is Time to Say Goodbye. The 1997 release comes two years after Fly, her most adventurous album at that time, and veers back into the classical background that fuelled much of her early success.
Not only does Time to Say Goodbye, known as Timeless for its European release, feature the famed title track but it also includes a number of lush symphonic arrangements thanks to the London Symphony Orchestra.
The arrangements are ensconced in classical music, with large sweeping movements and plenty of space for Brightman’s operatic tones. She is far removed from the pop/rock showcase of Fly and even the oceanic ambience of Dive, yet this, too, is familiar territory. It’s not as hokey as the Andrew Lloyd Webber material, yet it’s clear she owes him a debt.
It makes little sense to argue that Time to Say Goodbye isn’t well-sung. In fact, Brightman’s voice has probably never sounded better. Her crystalline tones are administered well and she doesn’t over-sing, choosing some subtler flavours to dot the landscape. She proves herself more than capable of swinging for the fences, though, and ploughs through big notes and passages with the best of them.
The title track opens the album. It is a duet with Andrea Bocelli. “Con te partirò” is the first version of the song, written by Italian composer and trumpet player Francesco Sartori with Bocelli favourite Lucio Quarantotto supplying the Italian lyrics. On Brightman’s disc, the song appears with English lyrics and producer Frank Peterson’s input. Ravel’s “Bolero” makes its requisite appearance as the crescendo.
As good as Brightman is with Bocelli, the Italian singer really owns this piece of work. His tones are more powerful, more insistent. That’s not to say that the English soprano doesn’t do her part (she does), but her voice never rises to the occasion with quite the same gusto. Still, the conversation between the vocalists is touching and skilled.
Brightman sings with Argentinian tenor José Cura twice on the record. The better of the two tracks is the soaring and lovely “There for Me.” Here, Brightman’s soft textures are more suited to the musical conversation. Weirdly, the song was originally written in 1978 for an Italian disco record. This version could not be further from that genre.
There is a great deal of lovely music to be found on Time to Say Goodbye, of course. From the beautiful touches found coursing through the soothing “Bilitis-Gènèrique” to the classically-kissed Queen cover of “Who Wants to Live Forever,” this album is well worth a listen. It’s an essential recording for Brightman fans, even if it doesn’t have the same innovative spirit of some of her more interesting work.