Susan Boyle

Hope

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Officially, Hope -- Susan Boyle's sixth album since 2009, every record appearing in time for the holiday season like clockwork -- is her first non-thematic album since 2011's Someone to Watch Over Me, but in broad terms every one of Boyle's records feels the same and this 2014 set is no exception. Relying heavily on the pop standards of the '60s and early '70s with the comparatively recent cover of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" and Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" offered as spice, Hope is cut from the same cloth as its predecessors: it's nothing but songs that have been handed down through the generations via variety shows, all arranged not to offend. This has been Boyle's modus operandi since I Dreamed a Dream but Hope, like Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs from the Stage and Home for Christmas, benefits from the absence of her original producer Steve Mac, who gave her original album a chilly somnolence. Hope still is in danger of dragging due to its stateliness but the surroundings are warmer, which is not only a better fit for Boyle's voice but also means the record comes closer to providing a comforting bath of familiarity. By design, there are no surprises in either the songs or arrangements on Hope, but the execution is precise and professional and Boyle and her fans both benefit from this shift in tone.

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