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Album Review by Roger

banner - Odyssey

This is no ordinary album.  It is a magnificent work of art, studded with diamonds.  If you think that is OTT, wait till you hear it and you will know it is an understatement.

Let Me Lie  The album opens with a slow, gentle, lyrical song that admirably demonstrates Hayley’s crystal clear vocals.  As it develops, it is supported by lush strings.

Le Notte Del Silenzio   When I first heard the album would include a guest vocalist duetting with Hayley, I was slightly disappointed.  It is her voice I want to hear and I did not want the distraction of another.  I need not have worried.  Humphrey Berney’s vocal, which only occurs in the chorus, does not in any way detract from the beauty of Hayley’s.  It compliments it perfectly.  This is a delightful song, the verse of which, sung in English, is gorgeous in its simplicity.  The Italian chorus is quite powerful and contrasts well.

Shenandoah   Do I really want to hear this again?  That is what I thought when I first saw the tracklisting.  Having heard Hayley’s version, the answer is a resounding YES.  Her melodious vocal with hauntingly beautiful backing, largely from the strings, is stunning.  The addition of a rat-a-tat from a snare drum at the end almost suggests that she will break into a chorus of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  This doesn’t happen but the effect is quite exhilarating.

Whispering Hope  Time to reveal a secret.  I was sent this track as a sneak preview on Christmas Eve and immediately fell in love with it.  It is just plain lovely.  With its choral backing, it has actually a very full, rich sound, yet the overall effect is very soothing.  It is a fairly short track that clearly whispers “hope”.  It was this track which caused me to be so optimistic about the album and I was certain it would always be a personal favourite.  Now I have heard the whole album, I am astonished to discover many other tracks that are every bit as good.

Summer Rain   Pizzicato strings supply an introduction which is unusually rhythmic for Hayley.  Are we in for something exciting?  Well, not exactly but her lush vocal blends perfectly while this rhythm is sustained by the orchestra.  Maybe you need to hear this song a few times to fully appreciate its beauty but there is nothing wrong with that.  Indeed, it’s beauty is enhanced every time you hear it.

Danny Boy   No, I thought, I definitely don’t want to hear this again!  Well, how wrong can you be?  This song has surely been waiting since the day it was written for Hayley to sing it.  You will never hear a lovelier version.  Throughout much of the song, she is backed only by a harp but gentle strings enhance its beauty in the final verse.  And check out the final note which she holds for a full thirteen seconds.

One Fine Day   How pleasing that Hayley chose to sing this mostly in English, yet it is still an interpretation that does Puccini proud.  Hayley’s remarkable voice control is breathtaking, yet she makes it sound so easy.  I love the low note on the word “then”.  Such a lovely tone and hit with precision accuracy.

Santa Lucia   Mandolins and classical guitar feature very prominently here to tremendous effect.  If anyone feels this song has been overdone, try this version.  Hayley breathes new life into it.

The Heart Worships   The introduction leads you to expect a gentle ballad but it develops into a complex melody which gives Hayley a splendid opportunity to demonstrate her amazing vocal talent.

E Pari Ra   Ever since the release of Pure, I have longed for another Maori song from Hayley.  Here it is.  Inevitably, it will be compared to ‘Pokarekare Ana’ and ‘Hine e Hine’ but it will stand equally well within her repertoire and its position here is more than justified.  Gorgeous arrangements enhance the beauty of another little gem.

Sonny  I had only heard a relatively lively Country and Western version of this song – something I actually believe Hayley could have performed rather well.  It therefore came as a slight shock to hear this slower, more gentle version but how perfect it is, especially when you consider the poignancy of the lyric.  With merely a piano accompaniment, which incidentally is played by Hayley, her  voice shines through and its emotion is spine-chilling.

Summer Fly  A lot of people have said that Hayley should be a little more adventurous – include something a little “less safe”.  Well, your wish is granted.  Turn up the volume and this up-tempo number is electrifying.  If she performs it in concert, her audience may begin by tapping their feet but, come the final verse, they’ll be dancing in the aisles.  Brilliant.

Melancholy Interlude   Time to slow the pace once more.  This soothing melody is quite enchanting.  Its brevity leaves you wanting more yet, somehow, it is that very brevity which makes the song so lovely.

Bist Du Bei Mir   Can it get any better?  Yes.  This track is spell-bindingly gorgeous.  There is something about the melody in places that reminds me slightly of Wiegenlied, and I don’t just mean the German lyric.  As the song develops, its tranquil mood gives way to a sound that is grand and majestic.

Abide With Me   Imagine Hayley singing a cappella in a huge and cavernous cathedral with magnificent acoustics.  That is how this final track begins.  Gradually joined by piano and then strings, this hymn never sounded better.  In the final verse, the restful melody becomes triumphant.

Overall, this is a sensational masterpiece throughout which Hayley’s voice projects into the room so much that you believe she is really there.  This album is purer than Pure and more beautiful than Odyssey.  It is indeed Treasure – more precious than gold.

Roger Mansbridge


source : hwi
credits : review by Roger Mansbridge
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