This hauntingly peaceful, thoroughly relaxing collaboration with film score guru Ennio Morricone features five tunes co-written by Stewart and demonstrates her unexpected adeptness at conveying romantic, almost artsy melodies with purity and conviction. Any naysayers from the singer's disco days will kick themselves after hearing her graceful pipes glide through the melancholy "Song for Elena" and the palpitation-inducing "My Heart and I." Indeed, Stewart is a sophisticated, diverse performer to be reckoned with. Recorded in the late '80s and released in Italy as Pearls: Amii Stewart Sings Ennio Morricone, the set (like 1988's Time for Fantasy) has since appeared in a number of territories under various titles. It came about after Morricone enlisted Stewart to sing the theme song for the made-for-TV film Secrets of the Sahara, and since the album's release the two have subsequently collaborated on soundtracks, including that for Bulworth. Fans of the vocalist's high-energy output from the '70s and '80s will need to listen with an open ear, for the material here is on a totally different wavelength. But listeners with a penchant for beautifully, simply orchestrated -- albeit not grandly dramatic -- ballads are in for a real treat. Stewart doesn't resort to over-the-top belting or exaggerated whispers to get her point across; rather, she relies on honest subtlety and vivid emotion -- doing both the music and the listener a most honorable service.
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