David William Upton is left underwhelmed by Laura Wright’s diamond Jubilee album Glorious.
Laura Wright’s Glorious is a defiantly British album, as you might expect from an album released to capitalise on the patriotic fervour surrounding the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. On first glance, there is a slight feeling that the tracklisting was selected from a generic bag of inspirational British anthems – popular national classics like ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and ‘Danny Boy’ rub shoulders with religious standards ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Benedictus’. And in truth this doesn’t emerge feeling like a particularly coherent construction.
‘Stronger As One’ is the only original composition included here, but as the official song for the Diamond Jubilee, it has some high expectations to live up to. Drawing on African sounds for both instrumentation and backing vocals, it has the feel of a lost song from The Lion King soundtrack rather than a refined song to celebrate the Queen. But it does effectively portray the vastness and variety within the Commonwealth and proves one of Wright’s more emotional moments on the album, as she floats her voice above the soaring melody.
Most of the shining moments across the album come when Wright’s voice takes flight – her upper register is a crystalline thing of beauty, even if her voice is dishearteningly free of character. Often, it’s the backing of a choir that seems to cause Wright’s voice to strengthen and rise, though on the more traditional numbers, like ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, her vocals tend to get slightly drowned under the intensity of the choir. On the softer, more ethereal closer ‘Benedictus’ – the album’s high point – she leads the assembled choir much more effectively, her soft voice piercing the gentle hum of the strings and providing gravity over the hushed religious mood.
The production across the album often feels rather tinny – the more orchestral tracks feel as limited as the more contemporary ones, lacking the suggestion of a spacious recording studio and a full orchestra. As such, in the face of less dense and complex production, the focus does fall onto the sound and character of Wright’s vocals, and it sadly proves rather indistinctive. She can muster considerable power but it often feels rather emotionless, merely delivering a proficient rendition of words on a sheet of paper rather than understanding their meanings. On ‘Race To The End’ – with lyrics set to the famous Chariots of Fire theme by Vangelis – she is easily dwarfed by the propulsive majesty of the music.
Overall, Glorious left us with the feeling that an album of original material would likely bring out more emotion and character in Laura Wright’s voice. There’s a sense of this on her cover of Bette Midler’s ‘The Rose’, which as produced here feels not a far cry from a minor chart hit. Wright is a fresh, young, inexperienced face who doesn’t quite measure up to the legendary songs she’s been tasked with singing. The album’s best moments are the quiet, haunting ones, particularly ‘Benedictus’, when Wright doesn’t have to compete with bombast, pomp or circumstance. So she’s a bit wrong for the Jubilee, but she’ll be right somewhere very soon.
Go Get It: ‘Benedictus’, ‘Sancte Deus’, ‘The Rose’
Forget It: ‘Race To The End’
Glorious is available to buy from Amazon now.