The Animal Requiem is exactly what the title promises, a requiem mass not only for our own best, but for other animals who have died, often from abuse. It is a work by Rachel Fuller, collaborator and then wife of the Who's Pete Townshend, and it was the subject of considerable publicity before it reached the recording studio. Live concert presentations featuring pop tenor Alfie Boe (who returns here) were well attended, and the orchestral elaboration on the Beatles' Blackbird has been touted as the first work of its kind that Paul McCartney and the other surviving Beatles copyright holders have agreed to. The billed featured appearance of McCartney consists merely of his vocals on the original song, and to these ears that piece, with overdubbed birdsong, has the feeling of being tacked on to give the work a stronger reference to animals, which from the rest, shorn of context, you might not guess. This said, the Animal Requiem, which credits Martin Batchelar as arranger, is a quite an original work that outstrips many other pieces that use its crossover warm bath of tonality. The text consists of three components, expertly woven together: the Latin text of the mass; its English translation; and added material, including a Prayer of St. Francis and the text of Psalm 142 (both in English), as well as the Beatles song. The tunes are memorable and have a genuinely consoling quality that has played well with audiences encouraged to bring photos of their animals to the concert. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which lately has become well versed in crossover productions, and the Chamber Choir of London under Robert Ziegler achieve the desired warmth of tone, and the studio sound achieves a rare combination of clarity and intimacy. On top of all this, there are some beautiful animal drawings by Craigie Aitchison in the graphics, and proceeds from the album will be donated to animal charities worldwide. Recommended.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
feat: The Beatles