Bella Sorella

Bella Sorella

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This California-based trio consists of Nova and Susanna Jiménez, who are not sisters but married to brothers, and Japanese pianist Shinobu Kameyama. Their first album, Popera, featured only the Jiménez sisters on the cover, but the whole concept has come a long way with this release. Both musically and from a marketing standpoint it's far superior to Popera. The earlier disc featured mostly operatic duets, in which the two singers, despite studies at the University of the Pacific and the New England Conservatory, achieved only minimal competence. For this disc, they've incorporated Kameyama into the whole concept (she gets her own pastel-colored dress), making them into three little maids from school, more intriguing than a duo even though the forces haven't really changed. They've hired couturiers who could acquit themselves reasonably well at a spring sorority formal. And the best news is that they've seized on the few things that worked well on the first album and pretty much discarded the rest. The combination brought them a Los Angeles Music Award for Vocal Group of the Year, not a small accomplishment. What they've done is move away from classical music and try to fill the vast hole in the market that awaits a crossover group reflecting American society rather than European models. The Jiménez sisters have rather smoky soprano voices, perhaps related to Latin American backgrounds, that work well in the likes of the Mexican standard Solamente una vez (track 9). Further, they've replaced their unsatisfactory upper registers with pop-style crooning and gone wholheartedly into pop repertory. In more than a nod to their accompanist, they sing a song in Japanese, and they rewrite songs in one language with added lyrics or just interjections on another. Somehow when English groups do this it's annoying, but in California, with its Austrian-accented governator, it's all part of the fun. Bella Sorella still has a way to go in the vocal department, but the seeds of a phenomenon are here. All non-English texts appear in the original language and in English translation.

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