Guiding You

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Pretty soon there won't be a profession left that hasn't spawned a group of wannabe singers who simultaneously combine their day jobs with an easy-listening pop career. Following the success of Port Isaac's Fishermen's Friends, the Priests, and painter and decorator team the Overtones, four nurses from London's Whittington Hospital are the latest to jump on the bandwagon with their Rhino-released debut Guiding You. Like recent efforts from the Soldiers and the Chelsea Pensioners, it's hard to begrudge such a relentlessly hard-working group of people their 15 minutes of fame. But its 15 tracks, produced by Jake Hook and Jason Nolan, are so bland, inoffensive, and unimaginative that they make Westlife sound like the Mars Volta. The four nurses -- Gaynor Wood, Jo Austin, Andrea Darke, and Sharon Robinson -- can undoubtedly sing, although classically trained soprano Joanne Marie Skillet does show them up on a collaborative cover of Leona Lewis' "Footprints in the Sand." But there's not even a slight effort to make the ubiquitous song choices of Sting's "Fields of Gold," Sarah McLachlan's "Angel," and Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings" their own. When they do venture outside the usual faux-emotive and anodyne standards, such as with Gloria Estefan's power ballad "Anything for You" and a surprising rendition of Eternal's forgotten 1995 hit "Power of a Woman," the album's only uptempo moment, they just sound like a group of karaoke singers who are ultimately having far more fun than their listeners. In fairness, they haven't played it entirely safe, as three new compositions are also included, but unfortunately, "If You Can," "Keep Believing," and "Guiding You" are all the kind of schmaltzy, piano-led ballads that you'd expect to soundtrack a particularly corny made-for-TV movie. Guiding You is never anything less than pleasant, but there's nothing here to suggest that they will be able to prolong their recording career once the next lot of cake decorators, tree surgeons, or rocket scientists who appear to steal their limelight.

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