Mary Byrne

Mine & Yours

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If anyone was to buck the recent and commendable trend of affording X-Factor finalists some time and attention with their debut albums, it was 2010's fifth-placed contestant Mary Byrne. While the likes of fellow non-winners Diana Vickers, Olly Murs, and Rhydian spent nearly a year holed up in the studio on their first opuses, the middle-aged Irish vocalist, the oldest-ever U.K. entrant to land a record deal, returns to the limelight less than three months after exiting the show. Reverting back to the previous quick-buck, Mother's Day-timed arrangements of the pre-Leona Lewis days, Mine & Yours is, unsurprisingly, a collection of '60s cover versions and tracks she performed on the series. Her blistering rendition of James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" may have deservedly topped the vote in the first week and denied eventual winner Matt Cardle a full-on straight run, but as the opening track, it immediately indicates the problem that engulfs the whole project. Byrne admittedly has an impressive set of lungs, and when compared to the anodyne and barely-in-tune vocals of her talent show competitors, they seemed even more impressive. But when taken outside the context of the show, they descend far too often into the kind of overblown foghorn territory which can make just one three-minute song a chore to listen to, let alone a whole album. Shirley Bassey is an obvious inspiration, but while the Welsh diva's signature track, "This Is My Life," blends her powerhouse vocals with raw emotion and passion, Byrne's shouty interpretation is bland, soul-less, and leaves you feeling like you've been repeatedly whacked around the head. Mine & Yours is far more palatable when she tones down her overbearing tendencies such as her surprisingly restrained take on Martina McBride's "I Just Call You Mine," and a faithful performance of Westlife chart-topper "Unbreakable." And while she's always going to come off as second best when tackling songs by iconic singers such as Dusty Springfield ("You Don't Have to Say You Love Me") and Barbra Streisand (Oscar-winning theme tune "The Way We Were"), and when she approaches less predictable material, she achieves much better results. Her emotive re-working of U2's "All I Want Is You" almost matches the original's vulnerability while adding an authentic country edge to the '80s classic, while "Galileo" is a theatrical but cleverly produced adaptation of a track by under-rated Dublin singer/songwriter Declan O'Rourke. No one can begrudge Byrne's time in the limelight, and there are a few glimpses of potential when Mine & Yours veers away from the karaoke fest it ultimately is. But if Byrne is to extend her 15 minutes of fame, she needs to learn how to control her voice and ultimately find a better A&R guy.

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