Having reached the U.K. Top Ten for the first time, performed for the English National Opera in La Boheme and The Mikado, and received rave reviews for his role as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, Blackpool tenor Alfie Boe rounds off an incredible year with his fifth studio album, simply titled Alfie. Proving that it's not just the musical theater and classical pop worlds that appreciate his talent, the follow-up to commercial breakthrough Bring Him Home also features a collaboration with none other than Robert Plant, who lends his yearning tones to a moving orchestral interpretation of Tim Buckley's acoustic folk song "Song to the Siren." It's a shame that Boe couldn't have persuaded the Led Zeppelin legend to stick around a little longer, as it's by far the most compelling offering on a record that -- apart from an emotive operatic reworking of Martina McBride's "In My Daughter's Eyes" -- plays it pretty safe. Alongside an understated acoustic version of Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," there's a suitably wintry take on Judy Garland's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," an impassioned adaptation of 17th century traditional English folk song "Over the Hills and Far Away," and a lushly produced rendition of Frank Sinatra's "It Was a Very Good Year." But elsewhere, Boe continues to delve into a more familiar catalog of show tunes, from Gershwin's Oh, Kay! jazz standard "Someone to Watch Over Me" to Ragtime's stirring choral-led "Wheels of a Dream" to the two numbers from Les Misérables, "Who Am I?" and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," the latter a duet with Michael Ball (better known as a solo piece for the character of Marius). Alfie should consolidate Boe's position as one of the U.K. classical crossover scene's biggest talents, but by proving he's capable of tackling material outside the box, you do wish that he'd be a bit braver and pursue his more adventurous leanings a little further.
by Jon O'Brien