Can you image one of the most celebrated soprano voices hanging out with Arcade Fire, The Mars Volta, Muse or Leonard Cohen? Neither can I nor even doing cover versions for that matter but she has (done cover versions that is) with this new album called A Dark Hope; how could you resist?
It’s a bit of a transformation from one minute being a three-time Grammy award winning opera star used to appearing in all the world’s premier concert halls, as well as performing at President Obama’s Inagural Celebration, to performing songs by not only popular artists, but those that are more celebrated for their dark forebodings.
It’s the sort of thing that more classical artists are looking into these days (but lets not get into classical vs. cross over charts debates al a Katherine Jenkins et al) but it’s the sort of thing jazz pianist Brad Mehldau has done in the past and you may recall that Brad and Ren?©e collaborated on an album four years ago on Nonesuch called Love Sublime.
I said in that review that Ms. Fleming’s voice is “pure Opera” so it comes as a total surprise that on A Dark Hope there’s more of a Country sound; well she was born in Indiana. But can you imagine her getting turned onto Willy Mason at Portmouth’s Wedgewood Rooms back in 2005 when he was riding the wave of his EMO hit ‘Oxygen’ or moshing in the pit to Teignmouth’s finest Muse in the mere 2000 capacity Solent Hall at BIC six months before? (see links below to my Gigwise days although Muse seems to have gone altogether).
Well she opens with a MOR/sub 80s disco version of Muse’s ‘Endlessly’ which is saved by her voice that’s a match for Mr. Bellamy (and if he’s still holding a torch for Alicia Keys, time to drop it for Ren?©e I’d say) whilst that already mentioned ‘Oxygen’ has a fairground bounce to it that’s quite disconcerting (albeit with uplifting strings).
And on it goes with rockers Arcade Fire (‘Intervention’), even harder rockers The Mars Volta (‘With Twilight As My Guide’ taken from last years’ album Octahedron; the closest they’ve got to alt.country) and 60s rockers Jefferson Airplane; ‘Today’ really suits her a voice and it’s good to hear the song without the overload tambourine of the original.
Now if all this eclectic choice was down to Ren?©e, I’d be very impressed but put your money on ex-Columbia Records and Warner Bros A&R man and producer with 30 plus years experience, David Kahne. The pair of them have done a fantastic job on this album and I’m still in still in shock as I’d imagine the cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Halleluhah’ (the closing track would be the big opus to put all the rest in shade) but the ones that I’m feeling most are the Bonnie Tyler-esque ‘Intervention’ and ‘With Twilight As My Guide’.
I can’t believe it either and the best of the lot, is another from the hit parade (albeit when Synth Britannia was ruling the radio waves), ‘Mad World’ by the 80s-Synth Britannia post punk Tears For Fears.
Ren?©e Fleming’s A Dark Hope is the anti-dote to a Glee mad world that we’re currently living in and if Alexandra Burke’s ‘Hallelujah’ had the X Factor, could we say Ren?©e Fleming has a triple X factor? Or would that be taken the wrong way? Anyway, A Dark Hope is this years’ equivalent of Paul Anka’s album of 2005 Rock Swings but for the dark dramatists in us; Hallelujah!
Reviewed: Ren?©e Fleming – A Dark Hope (Mercury) Cat. No. DARKCJ1 Release date: 24th May 2010
1. Endlessly (3:59)
2. No One’s Gonna Love You (3:41)
3. Oxygen (4:15)
4. Today (3:22)
5. Intervention (4:19)
6. With Twilight As My Guide (5:33)
7. Mad World (3:53)
8. In Your Eyes (5:01)
9. Stepping Stone (3:26)
10. Soul Meets Body (3:11)
11. Hallelujah (7:39)
Tuesday 12/04/05 Willy Mason, Kid Carpet @ Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth April 13, 2005 by Gerry Hectic www.gigwise.com