Sarah Brightman’s Eden follows Time to Say Goodbye with a little more pop and circumstance. While the 1997 record was ensconced in the classical, 1998’s Eden takes those components and splices them with elements of English electro-dance, Belgian trip-hop and Spanish pop tunes. There are many covers and a lot of classical arias, but Brightman comes into her own all the same.
The disc is produced by Frank Peterson and certainly seems to carry his love for German dance music. He wisely lets Brightman be Brightman, although he does seem to make a concerted effort to keep her away from the theatrical (for the most part) and the maudlin.
Eden once again appeals to what Irish Times reporter Tony Clayton-Lea referenced as the “silent majority.” Her fanbase, an almost inexplicable grouping of Andrew Lloyd Webber fans and quasi-Gothic opera lovers, accepts her melding of moods well enough and that’s provided good fuel for the English singer to eventually float off into space.
But where does it put her in the grander scheme of things? Perhaps Eden holds some of those answers.
While my favourite record of hers to date, Fly, is very much its own beast, Eden is more of what Brightman does best. Less innovative, it is a melange of her influences (and of Peterson’s) and a less desperately adventurous blend of kitchen sink items. It is a more controlled record.
The album opens with “In Paradisum,” a Gregorian-tinged ethereal mood-setter. The Latin phrase means “into paradise” and is actually a response piece that forms part of Church liturgy. Brightman wisely uses this to introduce us to her Eden.
The title track follows, touched as it is with elements of trip-hop. This makes sense, as “Eden” is a Hooverphonic cover. It packs a hell of a bass line and more Gregorian details, only the chanting is more pronounced. Brightman’s airy but crystalline vocals are a nice fit.
Through the neo-Baroque of “Anytime, Anywhere” and the upper registry lessons of the Kansas song “Dust in the Wind,” Eden is a varied album. But it doesn’t really land any weighty punches either, lacking the chemical resolve of Fly in favour of the classical crossover chops of Time to Say Goodbye. Still, this is the direction she chooses and she walks it well enough.
Brightman sings through an Italian version of “My Heart Will Go On,” pressing the Titanic song just enough into classical territory before pulling out with a Beloved cover of “Deliver Me.” The latter, with its languid pace and British dance tricks, is probably the best song on the record. The progression of “Tú” is also worth a listen or two, while “Only an Ocean Away” may be the best written piece of Eden.
This album is probably the launching pad for the rest of Brightman’s career so far. While Dive tampered with deep-sea ambience and Fly rocked, Time to Say Goodbye proved what the fans wanted. Eden is the compromise, a compromise Sarah Brightman will continue to make as her career goes onward and upward to the stars.