Diarist, sports correspondent, current affairs commentator and now music reviewer. I can do it all.
I Dreamed A Dream - lovely Susan Boyle
Lovely, lovely, wonderful Susan. I have mentioned my admiration for lovely Susan Boyle in passing to a number of people, and for some reason they generally seem to think I'm joking. Let me declare, with as much seriousness as I can muster, that lovely Susan Boyle's uniquely rapid rise to world dominance is in my belief a genuinely heartwarming story. Admittedly, there are bound to be those in the background leeching money from the mind-boggling album sales, upcoming US tour and numerous public appearances, but at the root of it all is the story of a woman blessed with a voice of the purest crystal, yet denied the chance to share it on any significant stage until not far off the beginning of her sixth decade. And she's bloody lovely.
Track 1 - Wild Horses
I am not overly familiar with this as a Rolling Stones song, which is perhaps why it grabbed me so powerfully when I first heard lovely Susan's rendition on the radio. A gentle piano accompaniment leaves plenty of space for Susan's elegant tones to reverberate through what is an enchanting, catchy and very strong opening.
Track 2 - I Dreamed A Dream
Indeed you did Susan. Indeed you did. I think we're all familiar with that remarkable first audition, a moment which will no doubt remain career-defining no matter how many concerts or album sales are racked up over the coming years. I don't even need to go on YouTube any more it's so clear in my mind. Can't talk any more...tears welling in eyes... I LOVE YOU SUSAN!
Track 3 - Cry Me A River
Apparently a Boyle favourite from her limited early performance and recording career, and clearly a song she has an affinity with. Soulfully delivered, and without a trace of the schmulziness which can seep into the vocals of several contemporary male crooners I can think of.
Track 4 - How Great Thou Art
Eclectic old mix, this, but none the worse for it. Okay I'm no hymn lover, and in all honesty this isn't one of my favourites, but despite being little more than a repetition of the chorus gradually increasing in volume, this somehow doesn't turn into the droning dirge one might expect. It is a pleasant interlude between more meaty tracks, and provides some uplifting vocal arcs from lovely Susan, even if the lyrics are essentially religious claptrap.
Track 5 - You'll See
Poor, poor Madonna. Not only does lovely Susan waltz along and become the fastest selling female solo artist of all time (over 2 million albums worldwide in WEEK 1, for goodness sake), she also out-performs Mads at her own game. This song has never done that much for me, until now. Susan brings an integrity and operatic depth of which the queen of pop could only dream.
Track 6 - Daydream Believer
Perhaps the surprise track of the album, lovely Susan dusts down this Monkees singalong classic and gives it the West Lothian treatment. As big a fan as you probably realise by now I am, lovely Susan's versatility here caught me off guard. It's fresh, and stripped back, but doesn't neglect the essence of what is a joyful song.
Track 7 - Up To The Mountain
It's soul, it's gospel, it's solid gold. I haven't seen Kelly Clarkson's well-received American Idol performance of this Patty Griffin tune, but I feel safe in saying lovely Susan surpasses it here by several million miles.
Track 8 - Amazing Grace
Yeah, yeah. Predictable as hell, but you can't knock the tune, or John Newton writing something that appears on a contemporary album 230 years after he wrote it. Frankly I could listen to lovely Susan sing the yellow pages, so it may as well be this instead. Why does nobody ever record He Who Would Valiant Be?
Track 9 - Who I Was Born To Be
The only original composition on the album, and a little unfairly hidden away down here at Track 9. Presumably chosen as much for it's lyrical poignancy as much as anything else, a track which continues to grow on me after ten or twelve plays. I look forward to more songs written especially for lovely Susan on her next album. Maybe I'll write her one. Royalties? You keep them all, Susan. It's the least I can do.
Track 10 - Proud
We love you Susan, we do
We love you Susan, we do
We love you Susan, we do
Oh Susan, we love you
Sorry, got distracted there for a moment. Good track.
Track 11 - The End Of The World
You come across a song you've never heard before, only to find out it was written in the early sixties, and has been covered by (amongst others): The Carpenters, Herman's Hermits, Brenda Lee, Bobby Vinton, John Cougar Mellencamp, Johnny Mathis, Nancy Sinatra, Sonia, Twiggy and Agnetha from ABBA. How has something so delightful eluded me for so long? Thankfully, it has not eluded lovely Susan.
Track 12 - Silent Night
Takes me back to GCSE German lessons around this time of year: Stille nacht, heilige nacht, o tannenbaum o tannenbaum - no, that's wrong. Three hymns in twelve tracks is acceptable I suppose - there are grannies to be catered for, after all. The singing, as it is all the way through, is monumental; the song a tad dreary and not the way I would have ended the album. I'm prepared to blame some faceless executive if you are?
And there you have it. Utterly biased confirmation that this is the album for you, no matter who you may be. Lovely Susan can turn her vocal chords to a fair few genres, it would seem. Despite the relatively short space of time between lovely Susan's 'discovery' and this album release, it in no way feels thrown together. We have elements of pop, soul, country, jazz, musicals, opera, gospel, hymns and many more things in between. If there's nothing for you in that little lot, then you are a fool, sir (or madam).