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16th August, 2005 < you are here
New Zealand Edition


This Odyssey - this second fantastic journey - for Hayley and for all of us is about to begin.....

'Prayer' opens with unaccompanied vocals from Hayley and the Conventus Choir and immediately conveys an atmosphere of peace and serenity. Members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra gradually fuse with the vocals, almost unnoticed.

The first-time listener might now expect an up-tempo number to contrast with the opening track but the fact that it doesn't happen is a stroke of genius. A second sublimely gentle song underlines the peaceful mood. Instead, the contrast is achieved by the fact that 'Never Saw Blue' begins with only piano accompaniment. I have never used this word to describe a song before but this is really pretty.

A dramatic but nevertheless fairly quiet introduction opens 'Dell Amore Non Si Sa'. The lead vocal builds towards the end of the first verse and, if you haven't read the cover notes, you may wonder where this will lead. Then suddenly, Hayley's voice gives way and that of Andrea Bocelli bursts forth. For this song, I cannot imagine a more perfect vocal partnership. Much of this song is soft and gentle (like its predecessors) but once or twice the crescendo effect is quite magnificent, especially when Hayley and Andrea sing in harmony.

Next comes Cacchini's 'Ave Maria'. For those two words to be repeated over and over again throughout the song may seem somewhat tedious. It is not. The expression and the sheer beauty of Hayley's voice carry this song to new heights within her classical repertoire.

Now comes a huge contrast. During the last two songs, we have moved gradually towards the classical genre but suddenly comes a song made popular by Joni Mitchell (and others) in the sixties - 'Both Sides Now'. The melody is simple and the somewhat fairy-tale lyric conveys an equally simple picture of clouds, of love and of life. It is the songs simplicity which makes it compelling especially when it is sung so beautifully.

'What You Never Know (Won't Hurt You)' is the long-awaited debut of Hayley as a songwriter. Although this was only co-written by her, it promises well for the future.

'May It Be' was surely always going to be a favourite. It proved highly popular on the DVD and sounds even more lovely here. The quality of Hayley's voice is outstanding. "...A promise lives within you now..." Absolutely heavenly.

'Quanta Qualia' continues the peaceful mood. The arrangement augments the natural beauty of the melody. During a brief instrumental, an oboe sounds enchanting before giving way to the more melodious sounding flute. But listen closer and it will become apparent that it is not a flute at all; it is Hayley's voice soaring blissfully into the heavens.

This is followed by 'Bachianas Brasileiras No 5 Aria (Cantilena)'. As I have indicated before, I just cannot appreciate this work. To me, the melody is fragmented and utilises many notes which do not belong to the key (which is what I meant when I previously described the melody as "unpredictable"). This causes a feeling of unrest within me. Having said that, Hayley's remarkable vocal skills are demonstrated here as well as anywhere. Every note is perfect and her lovely tone is utterly captivating.

We now come to a song that I have known for years but have never liked. Hayley has completely and immediately changed my view. 'She Moved Through the Fair', as performed here, is a truly magical work of art. From the very first note, it grabs you and does not let go! The tantalisingly beautiful combination of the Irish whistle and uilleann pipes is out of this world. It is pronounced "ill(y)an" by the way! A member of the bagpipe family, it is played with bellows beneath one arm (rather than by blowing) pushing air into the bag beneath the other which, in turn, is compressed to convey the air to the chanters. I always thought the uilleann pipes had no drone (unlike the highland pipes of Scotland, for example) but there is certainly one here.... or is it supplied by the double bass? Whatever, they have a hauntingly beautiful and unique sound which is used to such good effect.

'I Say Grace' is a gospel song which will inevitably be compared to 'Down By The River' by all those who have seen the DVD. I have to say that, for me, it doesn't compare well but that is only because the latter is exceptionally good. This song is sung with great feeling and somehow comes to life with an unexpected key change. Overall, it has a very laid-back feel which is sustained right through to the final shake of the tambourine - note the very effective rallentando.

To turn Odyssey from a remarkable and memorable album into a truly world-class masterpiece, we need a fitting but spectacular finale. We get it. 'My Heart Belongs To You' has everything. From Hayley's surprisingly low vocal opening to the peaceful but uplifting tempo; from the stunningly gorgeous harmony which Hayley provides to her own lead to the delightfully optimistic lyric; from the sound of the full orchestral backing to the closing flourish of the harp, this song is a perfect way to end this incredible journey.

May it be an evening star
Shines down upon you
May it be when darkness falls
Your heart will be true
You walk a lonely road
Oh! How far you are from home
from 'May It Be' by Enya

What an album. What a voice. What an Odyssey.

Roger Mansbridge

16th August 2005

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