Nicknamed the voice of Ireland, flame-haired tenor Tommy Fleming has slowly but surely moved away from the traditional songs of his homeland that both defined his early career and saw him challenge Daniel O'Donnell for the title of the nation's favorite crooner. Following 2009's double whammy of The Best Is Yet to Come, which featured covers of songs by Spandau Ballet and Labi Siffre alongside his trademark Gaelic interpretations, and the festive-themed Songs from a Winter's Night, the former De Dannan vocalist's tenth studio album, Going Back, is the first of his 14-year solo career to focus entirely on relatively modern pop and rock songs. Indeed, the only evident traces of his County Sligo upbringing appear courtesy of the 60-piece Irish Concert Orchestra, who provide a sense of drama with the lush symphonics of its 15 tracks. Unsurprisingly, for an artist so renowned for looking to the past, the song choices hail from no later than the 1970s. But even though there are the predictable standards such as Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel number "You'll Never Walk Alone," lounge-pop classics from Andy Williams ("Can't Take My Eyes Off You") and B.J. Thomas ( "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head"), and Nat King Cole's "Smile," there are also several less ubiquitous compositions that allow Fleming to make his mark. "Tell Me It's Not True" is a stirring rendition of Willy Russell's Blood Brothers number previously made famous by Barbara Dickson, "Both Sides Now" is an emotive and slightly theatrical take on the Joni Mitchell classic featuring guest vocals from singer/songwriter Lucie Silvas, and "Vincent" is an unexpectedly restrained rendition of Don McLean's acoustic Van Gogh tribute. Going Back could have been a pure karaoke affair, but thanks to its orchestral arrangements and Fleming's innate charm, it's a surprisingly refined and classy attempt at easy listening pop that would perfectly bridge the gap between his old and new sound, should he continue to pursue a more contemporary direction.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien