Nicky Spence

My First Love

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Universal Classics and Jazz has made a habit of releasing albums by unknown young classically trained singers and placing them in the pop charts, albeit in most cases not very high. Then again, UCJ was one of the only record companies doing this on such a scale, and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. One such singer was Scottish tenor Nicky Spence. His debut album -- produced by Chris Hazell, who had previously worked with Aled Jones and Bryn Terfel, two other successful crossover singers -- was called My First Love, which presumably referred to singing. And he sings very well, at least as well as one might expect from a release on the UCJ label. My First Love included a combination (weren't most of them?) of traditional Scottish songs such as "My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose," "The Skye Boat Song," and "Ay Fond Kiss," and just for good measure he stuck the song "Maria" from West Side Story in the middle, maybe because it's just a good song. Also included were classical works Santa Lucia, Every Valley, an aria from Handel's Messiah, and L'Ultima Canzone and Brindisi from Verdi's La Traviata, on which he was joined by one of the more successful singers in this genre, Lesley Garrett, who had also recently signed for the label. So Nicky Spence was a good singer, and he had a human interest story, as he used to be twice his size and worked in a chip shop. But the marketing department of UCJ would know it takes more than that to make a star -- somehow there has to be a connection with the masses -- and on the evidence of My First Love, it didn't happen.

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