To the Stars: Sarah Brightman – La Luna (2000)

English soprano Sarah Brightman heads once again to the stars with the release of the brilliant La Luna, another of her most compelling works. She hasn’t always nailed down the concept of the full album, but when she does it can be something remarkable. La Luna is one of those occasions.

The theme of the moon is at the fore and Brightman, together with producer Frank Peterson, have selected a series of songs that exemplifies the subject matter in a tangible fashion. The German disco detours are off limits and the flow is more cohesive and genuine. The singer seems legitimately into the material and her ethereal voice serves its divine purpose in perhaps its fullest fashion to date.

There are two versions of La Luna out there: the European and the US version. This review covers the US version. The European version is out of print apparently, although there are ways to get your mitts on it. There are some differences between the two, with the US version actually containing more tracks and a different version of the title track.

The album commences with “La Lune,” a Peterson-penned tune with French lyrics by Anna-Lena Strasse. It’s a mood-setter that uses excerpts from Neil Armstrong’s moon landing yet again, repeating a theme that she set in the song “Fly” from the album of the same name. The space theme was established with her earliest work, in fact, and carries through into her upcoming Dreamchaser and of course her journey to the stars themselves.

“Winter in July,” originally a track by English DJ and producer Bomb the Bass (Tim Simenon), is presented in upbeat fashion with Brightman venturing into her upper registry and commanding the piece from start to finish. Its mid-tempo gait is perfectly set for lunar travelling and the vocalist doesn’t lose a step when the range gets out of this world.

After a lovely rendition of “Scarborough Fair,” Brightman delves into fairy tale worlds with “Figlio Perduto.” The song features Italian lyrics by “Nella Fantasia” lyricist Chiara Ferrau and translates as “Lost Son.” It is based on part of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, a familiar bit of music if there ever was one, and finds Brightman singing through a haunting version that reveals her subtler tones and more hypnotic vocal features.

A cover of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” adds flavour, while another Mecano tune (“Hijo de la Luna”) carries the lunar theme onward and upward. Brightman also tackles a version of Dido’s famous “Here With Me,” providing what is perhaps the album’s only misplaced number. Even Rezső Seress’ “Gloomy Sunday,” a song once famously but tenuously connected with a rash of suicides in Hungary, seems a better fit.

All in all, La Luna is Brightman at her conceptual best. It delves deeply into her fascination with the moon (and the stars) and carries the space themes forward yet again, drawing on substance in Fly and prior with the soprano’s expected elegance and flavour.

While Fly is my favourite album, it’s fair to say that La Luna is a better overall record. I may personally find it less fun to experience, but it’s one of her most complete albums to date.

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