Despite the success of Paul Potts, Alfie Boe, and Bryn Terfel, the People's Tenor, Russell Watson, remains the U.K.'s most popular homegrown male opera singer. His down-to-earth appeal and impressive but commercial vocal abilities still resonate with mainstream audiences who would have previously found the genre too inaccessible. Following his Michael Bublé-esque jazz-pop reinvention on 2008's People Get Ready, the Salford-born vocalist returns to his signature sound with his eighth studio album, La Voce. But whereas his more recent operatic output has incorporated contemporary pop material, this Mike Hedges-produced collection of 13 tracks is a more traditional affair, featuring interpretations of iconic classical pieces, film themes, and '50s and '60s standards. Backed by the Roma Sinfionetta, Ennio Morricone's orchestra of choice, and small mixed chorus Coro, Watson proves he hasn't lost his vibrant and commanding vocal presence on stirring renditions of Nino Rota's "Parla Piu Piano (Love Theme from the Godfather)," Mario Lanza's "Be My Love," and "Io Che Non Vivo Senza Te," the Italian original of Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me." Indeed, Watson seems to have spent the time away brushing up on his language skills, with his phrasing on the likes of "E Sara Cosi" and "Parlami D'amore Mariu" far clearer and more convincing than was evident on his previous classical album, Outside In. Featuring just one purely operatic number, an adaptation of "Intermezzo" from Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, La Voce will do little to silence the classical purists who have questioned his musical credentials ever since his 2000 debut, The Voice. But for those who hold no such preconceived reservations, its tasteful arrangements, varied choice of songs (including "Someone to Remember Me" a rare original composition penned by Wayne Hector and Steve Robson [Westlife]), and rich and powerful vocals provide a consistently impressive back to basics return to form.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien