“ Genre: Pop / Release Date: 2009 / Label: Universal „
Lara Fabian is relatively unknown on these shores, despite working closely with Gary Barlow of Take That on much of her last English language album release "A Wonderful Life" in 2004.
Cross the channel to France however and you will find she is a huge star, and she is equally as famous in her native Belgium and has shifted a large number of albums and can sell out concerts in arenas in both nations.
Following the "completing contractual obligations" release of "A Wonderful Life" in 2004, Fabian has recorded almost solely in French since so when I heard she was going to release an album of English cover versions to compliment her 2009 French release "Tout Les Femmes En Moi" I was interested.
I first got into Fabian's music in the late nineties when my husband was working in Brussels. I struggled at first with her French language music but she became more accessible to me in 2000 when I first heard her sing in English, and I became a huge fan of her voice, if not always the kind of music she recorded.
While I love her 1997 French release "Pure", I have not always been impressed with much of her French releases since - I honestly believe she sings better in English, although I admit this is probably because I can appreciate the nuances in her voice and her song interpretation skills far better in my own language.
I recently reviewed "Songs of Love and Loss" by Tina Arena, and at the start of that review I said that there comes a time in female singer's careers where they feel the need to release a covers album - and lo and behold, here we have Lara Fabian, at the same point in her career - releasing a covers album.
I have held off buying "Tout Les Femmes en Moi" because I am unfamiliar with nearly every song on it - with the exception of "Amoureuse" which Kiki Dee recorded in English in the seventies and I don't love French songs THAT much.
However Fabian has released independently an English version of "Toutes Les Femmes en Moi", which is available to buy via her website, and I decided to pay Euro20 including postage from Belgium for this release because I love her voice so much and I was interested in some of the songs she had chosen for the album.
"Every Woman in Me" is quite a cheaply packaged CD - it comes in a cardboard case with a plastic holder that is embedded into the cardboard and slides out of the outer case. So not quite a digipack really.
It's also quite a cheaply recorded album - in comparison with the full production values of "Toutes Les Femmes En Moi", the English alternative comprises of Lara Fabian singing along to the piano playing of Pierre Grimard, leading to a sparse sound.
On first hearing this I was a bit disappointed, but having taken the time to listen several times more now, I actually appreciate the fact the album is just Lara and a bloke playing piano as it really enables the listener to appreciate what a wonderful voice she has.
I am, however, a little disappointed with her choice of songs. Some of her choices make perfect sense and Fabian is able to add something new to them, but others are poor substitutes for the real thing and the fact a couple of tracks on this album were also covered by Tina Arena on her "Songs of Love and Loss" makes me wonder is there really a shortage of decent songs for a female singer to cover?
The album begins with Joni Mitchell's "River" and this is a great opener as it enables the listener to enjoy the control Fabian exercises as she uses the softer side of her voice to great effect. Fabian follows this up with another Mitchell song, "Both Sides Now" - and while I love this song and would probably enjoy it sung by anyone, Fabian's voice is too soft at the start of the song and while she can convey sweetness in her voice she doesn't have that natural sweet tone that Mitchell has. She does however have beautiful control of her voice but the end of the song is a disappointment where she whispers the vocal over the piano, this being the audio equivalent of a damp squib.
Moving onto different territory Fabian tackles a couple of Hal David and Burt Bacharach classics, with "Alfie" and "Close to You". On "Alfie" her voice becomes dangerously coy in places, losing the faith the singer should be able to convey in the song altogether. There have been some brilliant versions of this song, but sadly Fabian's isn't a patch on my two favourite versions, by Cher and Everything But the Girl.
Better is "Close to You" - possibly because the coyness in Fabian's vocals work well with the innocent lyrics of the song. The arrangement is far slower than the original version by the Carpenters and this gives the song a very different sound which works very well.
Erroneously listed as "Bewitched" on the CD cover, "Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered" is Fabian's take on a classic Rogers & Hart song from the musical "Pal Joey". This is fantastic - Fabian really is in her comfort zone with her interpretation of this song and her voice is sweet, sexy and sassy and gives a classic song a nice new twist.
Sadly her reinterpretation of "Crazy" by Patsy Cline doesn't work so well - despite capturing the regret of the lyrics in her voice, the piano accompaniment doesn't really work with this song which is a country classic. Sometimes just a voice alone cannot make a song special and while Fabian undoubtedly sings the song well, there's no real spark to the song.
The two songs on this album which Tina Arena included in the aforementioned album "Songs of Love and Loss" are "The Man with the Child in His Eyes" and "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You're Going To)".
Fabian tackles the Diana Ross classic well by giving it a little bit of soul and adding a little bombast, remaining in tight control of her voice at all times. Her take on "The Man With the Child in His Eyes" is better than Arena's but still an ill advised song to cover - there is something about this song that only convinces in Kate Bush's original, possibly because it was written by a teenager and recorded by a teenager. Fabian isn't able to convey the teen angst which is so marked in the original. Technically it is beautifully sung, but misses the point I feel.
The Annie Lennox track "Why" works well as Fabian captures a world weariness in her voice. I didn't expect this to work with just the piano accompaniment but those fears were misplaced, giving the listener the chance to appreciate the emotional lyrics in what is an excellent interpretation of a song I have never been a huge fan of before.
"Wind Beneath My Wings" is the sort of song one would have expected Fabian to have recorded many years before, it being a standard of sorts. This finds her firmly on familiar territory and as a result this works very well. This is the only song on the album which belies her roots in bombastic French chanson but she controls her voice far more than she did when she was younger making it more enjoyable for the listener.
The album rounds off with Sarah McLachlan's sadly now ubiquitous song "Angel", and whilst it's not a patch on the original, it's far better than any other cover version I have heard - and I say that as someone who has sat through cabaret style versions in Las Vegas shows and karaoke by wannabe singing stars and felt murderous thoughts towards acts such as Westlife for butchering the song.
Fabian doesn't have the natural vocal purity that Sarah McLachlan possesses but she emotes in a subtle and effective way through the song and her ability to control her voice and intelligently interpret a song is evident throughout. Fabian doesn't really add very much to the song but her voice is up to the task of singing it convincingly.
This isn't an album that is going to set the world alight, but as her third English album release, it's actually probably Lara Fabian's best showcase to a wider audience as her voice is quite simply restrained and beautiful throughout.
I had originally felt it was a shame that this album didn't have a full band backing her like "Toutes Les Femmes en Moi", however I think the fact Fabian's voice is more exposed by the sparse piano backing has probably worked in her favour, meaning she has had to really consider every note she sang on this project in a way perhaps she hasn't had to do in the past.
You can pick up "Every Woman in Me" at the website listed below for Euro15 plus Euro5 shipping to the UK. There is another advantage to buying directly from Ms Fabian's website - I received a signed copy of the album, which I thought was a nice touch.
It's just a shame that this third English language album from Fabian hasn't received a wider release as I believe it definitely merits one.
***This review has previously been published by me on Ciao under the same user name***