by: Charlotte Church
Even in the youth-conscious era of the turn of the 21st century, there couldn't have been too many best-of compilations issued by 16-year-olds. But Charlotte Church had been recording regularly since she was 12, with a reported ten million albums sold worldwide (including one gold and three platinum certifications in the U.S.), which seems to justify this hour-long stock-taking effort, when you throw in "All That Love Can Be," from the soundtrack to A Beautiful Mind, and, inevitably, four new recordings. Talking sales may be crass when discussing a classical artist, but not a classical crossover artist, and Church (or her advisors) made the decision early that she was going to pursue a career in the popular market that would make use of her voice in public long before some opera company might have gotten around to featuring her. It's a compromised posture, of course, resulting in music that is classical lite leaning toward adult contemporary, the musical niche carved out by Sarah Brightman. No surprise, then, that this set begins with Church's version of "Pie Jesu" by Brightman's old flame, Andrew Lloyd Webber. Opera excerpts, Celtic airs, spirituals, pop songs, and ersatz classical numbers (e.g., the Josh Groban duet "The Prayer," penned by schlockmeister David Foster and translated into Italian, the better to pose as something classical) follow, and Church brings her even-handed, lovely but bland approach to each. Has there ever been a Carmen as calm as hers on "Habañera"? Ordinarily, one might say this is classical music for people who don't like classical music, but it is actually grownup-sounding music for children, sung, appropriately enough, by a child. Even at the usually turbulent age of 16, she still sings "Bridge Over Troubled Water," one of the new tracks, without much sense of what trouble Paul Simon might have had in mind.