O Fortuna

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Just as everyone expected following his shocking defeat, 2007 X-Factor runner-up Rhydian Roberts went on to surpass the success of the show's winner, selling more copies of his self-titled debut album in its first week than fresh-faced crooner Leon Jackson's managed to sell in its entire run. Twelve months on, the flamboyant Welsh tenor faces the tough challenge of consolidating his initial chart success, without the aid of the program's publicity machine, for his second album. Named after its opening track, a rendition of Carl Orff's ubiquitous Gothic classical piece which has been heavily used on The X-Factor, O Fortuna shows Rhydian isn't too keen to distance himself from the talent show which launched him. However, while its karaoke-style predecessor could have been recorded by any classical crossover artist, O Fortuna is a much more original and personal affair which makes more of an effort to highlight his national heritage. In addition to the tasteful orchestral production of Welsh classical heavyweight Karl Jenkins, there's an interpretation of Joseph Parry's 19th century traditional song "Myfanwy" with fellow native and opera star Bryn Terfel, contributions from Welsh harp virtuoso Catrin Finch, and a stirring performance of the Welsh national anthem, "Land of My Fathers." But O Fortuna is more than just an homage to his homeland, as Rhydian also tackles classic hymns ("How Great Thou Art"), film soundtracks (Vangelis' "Conquest of Paradise"), musical theater ("Anthem" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Chess), and pop (Mike + the Mechanics' "The Living Years," John Denver's "Annie's Song"), all in his own powerful and passionate style. But it's the lesser-known tracks that provide the album's most goosebump-inducing moments. "Benedictus" is a stunning rendition of a piece from Karl Jenkins' 2001 The Armed Man, featuring legendary soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, while the rousing "I Won't Let You Walk This Road Alone" is an original composition penned by Grammy Award-winner Walter Afanasieff, which echoes the emotive balladry of Josh Groban. O Fortuna may not be as crowd-pleasing as his debut, but with the bombastic tendencies thankfully reigned in, it's a more subtle and authentic offering which best showcases Rhydian's gifted vocal abilities.

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