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Back in Dublin in 1988, the Eurovision Song Contest had two francophone singers representing countries they were not from. Celine Dion represented Switzerland, despite being a French-Canadian. Lara Fabian, from Belgium, represented Luxembourg.
Both singers had big voices - and both performed the traditional French ballad that dominated Eurovision for so long in the first half of the contest's history.
Dion walked off the winner that day - and headed off to launch her hugely successful English language career. Fabian came fourth and headed to Dion's home city of Montreal to try her luck there. However Fabian shouldn't be compared to Dion apart from the Francophone tracks and Eurovsion 1988 - Fabian is a songwriter as well as a singer and for me anyway, her voice is infinitely superior to Dion's.
Her career grew slowly in the francophone market and she finally broke through with the album "Pure" in France in 1996, which yielded several hit singles there for her, including "Tout", "La Difference" and "Je T'Aime".
Her French success was duly noted by no less than Tommy Mottola at Sony, and she was signed by the label for her English language debut, and recorded this album in 1998 and 1999 in the US. The album was initially released in France and Belgium in late 1999 with various release dates around the world in 2000.
Fabian is a classically trained singer and I was initially drawn to her voice because of the control she has over her instrument. When she uses her voice to best effect this control gives her a beautiful tone and the ability to add several layers to her voice. Unfortunately she has the francophone habit of over-egging the pudding somewhat and her voice is nowhere near as impressive when she does this.
I first heard Fabian sing when, appropriately enough, I was in Belgium. My husband worked there for 5 years and when our daughter was tiny I would spend a couple of weeks there every month and he would come home weekends when I was at our home in London.
I used to watch MCM, a French music channel, when MTV Europe was playing dross, and I used to find some of the Francophone songs either amusing (the gangsta rap seemed odd to me) or melodic and I recall the video for "Je T'Aime" quite clearly from these times.
In 1999 I saw the video for "Adagio", Lara's first release in English. I was struck by the video and the start of the song, and being the curious sort, I headed to the Brussels branch of FNAC to buy her English album.
Overall this is a mixed bag, and the main problem is the fact there is no cohesion to this album - there is no single producer in charge and listening to this CD again, 9 years on, I can see how Lara seems to sing differently for different producers and this affects the overall feel of the album in my opinion.
Self penned with her long time collaborator Rick Allison, this is based on Tomaso Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor. The ballad starts slowly and showcases Lara's vocal talents perfectly. Slowly the song builds up to a vocal crescendo, which works well on this song because the classical melody is so good.
2 "Part of Me"
This song was co-written and produced by Patrick Leonard, who worked extensively with Madonna in the earlier phase of her career. Had the entire album been produced by Leonard, I think we would have had a better finished product - Leonard understands how to get the best vocally out of Fabian and while this is a ballad, it showcases a soulful side to her voice to great effect.
3 "Givin' Up On You"
Another successful song - this one is more uptempo and I particularly enjoy this song due to the control Fabian shows in her vocals. This is another Patrick Leonard produced song. I often felt when this album was released that this could have been a successful international single, but the powers that be clearly thought otherwise. It did surface on a "Dawsons Creek" CD a year or so down the line.
4 "You Are My Heart"
This was co-written and produced by Walter Afanasieff and is probably the weakest track on the album. The song is a very bland ballad, with ineffectual lyrics and Lara's vocals travel from the sublime to the histrionic. Not her finest moment.
5 "I Am Who I Am"
The first uptempo song on the album. This was co-written by Fabian and Allison with American duo Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers, who produced the track. The song is reasonably catchy, but not particularly memorable, and this isn't a great introduction to Fabian's true vocal abilities.
6 "To Love Again"
Overall, I find I enjoy hearing Lara Fabian sing in English over French - I find her French singing to be too dramatic and she uses less of the vocal intricacies I can pick up on her English songs. This song, however, is the exception to the rule.
Originally recorded as "Si Tu M'Aimes", this song was a big French dramatic ballad, and in French it works well. However the English translation is just too much - the vocals are too loud and the drama too much - one realises that there is something of a cultural divide between what works in francophone markets to what does in the English speaking world.
7 "You're Not From Here"
Another Walter Afanasieff produced track and this one is markedly better than "You are My Heart". There is far more control in Fabian's voice, and the change in tone as she works her way through the ballad work very well. Even the vocal crescendo at the end works in this song and while it would never work as a single, this is a good strong album track.
8 "Till I Get Over You"
This song was both written and produced by Louis Biancaniello and Sam Watters, who were the brains behind "I'm Outta Love" by Anastacia. You can actually hear bars of that song in this one, and Fabian clearly got their leftovers with this song. Its another uptempo track which might have worked in a remix as a dance track, but that's not a route Fabian was ever particularly interested in going down. It does have a far more modern feel than most of the other tracks on the album however.
9 "Love by Grace"
This is a beautiful song - beautifully sung and arranged. Originally recorded by Wynonna Judd, the country feel has been stripped from the song and in Fabian's hands it becomes a stunning ballad. Produced by Walter Afanasieff, he reigns in Fabian's vocals until close to the end, but still finishes the song softly.
10 "Yeliel (My Angel)"
This is a whimsical ballad which showcases the softer side of Fabian's voice, and works extremely well for it. This is another Patrick Leonard produced track and once again he brings out the best of Fabian, allowing her to sing her self-penned lyrics with panache and restraint.
11 "I Will Love Again"
This is the strongest track on the album - a real pop song with great uptempo beat. Written by Paul Barry and Mark Taylor, and co-produced by Brian Rawling, its easily the most modern song on the album, and should have been a huge hit with the correct promotion. It actually was a huge hit in some parts of the world, including Spain and performed well in the US too. Fabian sings optimistically about getting over a broken heart and finding a new love.
12 "Broken Vow"
"Broken Vow" was written by Fabian and Walter Afanasieff, the lyrics Fabian wrote inspired by her broken engagement to Patrick Fiori.
It is a very sad song and starts off very slowly, dealing with infidelity and builds up to a strong ending, with Fabian singing from her heart about her loss. The orchestration on this track is outstanding.
The song was later covered by Josh Groban who did a very good job with it, but failed to convey the true emotion Fabian has in her version.
13 "Adagio" (Italian Version)
And so the album ends as it began, with "Adagio". The music was written by a classical Italian composer and Fabian penned lyrics in Italian to catch that Tuscan feel. Despite being born in Belgium, Fabian spent five years in Italy as a child with her Sicilian mother, and her mother tongue is Italian. Vocally, there isn't much of a difference between this version and the English one, but the English version just nudges it for me.
Despite Sony promising a huge promotional push for this release, it was not a commercial success. Fabian herself didn't help matters by performing concerts in France and Belgium to the detriment of promotion in North America. When this CD was finally released in the UK, almost a year after its initial release in France and Belgium, she did barely any promotion and the album and single "I Will Love Again", vanished without trace.
I feel this is a shame and it saddens me that someone with such a great voice has been lost to English speaking audiences whilst Dion, the victor in Dublin that day in 1988, who I personally find has an inferior voice, became an international superstar.
Overall - lacks cohesion and some songs are pretty bland. Fabian also needs to learn that less is sometimes more - her voice is more effective when she isn't belting out big notes.
Available on Amazon for £11.98 - but can be got for a lot less used or on Ebay.
Lara Fabian is a singer I was only recently introduced to. Because I am learning French at Uni, I was trying to find some music to help me learn phrases as well as pronunciation and I find it so much more easier to learn lyrics than I do reading sheets. Apart from Patricia Kaas, Lara has certainly made the learning process a lot easier.
Name: Lara Crockaert
Born: January 9, 1970 - Eeterbeek, Belgium
She was born in Belgium and began her singing career at the age of 14 (although she knew she wanted to sing from the age of 5). At the age of 18, she entered the Eurovision Song Contest singing 'Croire' (To Believe) and came in 4th place. She was selling well and went to Canada to promote her songs but fell in love with the place so she decided to break America. She released a self-titled album in 1991 that went gold in 1993 and Platinum the next year. Her later releases were again French language based but in 1999 Lara released another self-titled album (this one I am reviewing) breaking new markets. She has since released another English album called 'A Wonderful Life' which was released in 2004 and I have just discovered there is to be a new album out in February 2005 called '9' - French language.
Many of you may have most recently heard her sing the track 'So In Love' in the film, De-Lovely.
Lara has many different styles in her albums as well as singing in French, English and Italian. This self-titled album 'Lara Fabian' was released in 2000 (her debut English album) and I got it free through a music site I am a member of but it only cost £1.29 from Amazon Marketplace and it is practically brand new!
2. Part of Me
3. Givin' up on you
4. You Are My Heart
5. I Am Who I Am
6. To Love Again (Si Tu M'Aimes)
7. You're Not From Here
8. Till I Get Over You
9. Love By Grace
10. Yeliel (My Angel)
11. I Will Love Again
12. Broken Vow
13. Adagio (Italian version)
The reason for choosing this album over all of Lara's others was (apart from the price!) because this one contained 'Broken Vow'. I recently bough the album 'Closer' by Josh Groban which is an amazing CD although a lot of tracks are in Italian and he sings this one. Lara and Walter Afanasieff originally wrote the track and all Josh has done was to change the lyrics from 'she' to 'he'. To be quite honest, I prefer Josh's remake of the track to Lara's because he seems to be a little more clearer and has a wider vocal range but Lara still has very strong vocals and makes it a lovely track.
At first, I really didn't like the opening track, Adagio. It was too slow and didn't seem to speed up - although I always changed the track after the first couple of verses. The track then re-appears in track 13 but is the Italian version. They are the same but of course the language is different and is not a direct translation but for some reason, I liked the Italian version! The tracks sounds more romantic being sung in Italian than in English and although I don't speak Italian I found this one quite easy to sing along to since it is a slow track and although I would have had no idea what I was singing about, track 1 did give me some idea. After listening to this album over and over, I still feel the need to skip the first track but always listen to the last.
The album seems to have a continuous theme running through it - love. This seems to be a pretty common theme running through the albums I review but Lara has put a lot of thought into the lyrics - most of them are very powerful and get her point across. This could be a man she loves but is no longer with, one that has cheated, and finally how she will love again. I'd describe the album as being part ballad and the rest of the tracks are a little more upbeat. The ballad tracks I'd say were 1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 12 and 13 although some merge into the more upbeat category. One thing that does slightly put me off this album is the volume Lara seems to put into her upbeat tracks - these are very hard to sing along to (but of course, Lara is very unique). Lara puts her heart and soul into a track but sometimes it sounds as though she is screaming and straining her voice rather than singing.
I already had a couple of tracks from a CD I received from a friend in America - You Are My Heart, You're Not From Here, Till I Get Over You and Yeliel (My Angel). I became a big fan of these tracks and always play them. They were strong vocally and lyrically, sounded similar to artists I already liked and had the ability to keep me wanting to hear the track over and over. I feel that is pretty important - normally I get bored hearing tracks several times but these ones I wanted to hear again.
As I have already mentioned, Lara sings in several different languages - her maternal language being French. This album contains one (that I know of!) which is the English version of one of her French tracks - To Love Again, or to give it its French title - Si Tu M'Aimes. Unfortunately I don't think I own the French version but going by other albums I own of Lara's, this could be the same tune just sung in another language or the style could change slightly as she has done with her 2004 album tracks (they are more acoustic).
If I were to choose my favourite tracks from the album, they would have to be Adagio (Italian version), I Am Who I Am and Love By Grace. As above, Adagio sound so much more sexy and romantic than it does sung in English and has an unusual style to it - it builds up but seems to come to an anti-climax half way through the track - certainly not a disappointment though! I Am Who I Am is one of the more upbeat tracks on the album but does not contain the straining voice that I seem to find on some other tracks. The title seems to sum up pretty well what the song is about and it has a great style to sing to. My final favourite track is one I am only keen on when I am in the right mood. For some reason, when Lara does sing the lyrics leading up to 'Love By Grace' it reminds me a lot of a country style track... it is only around one line though so if you are not a country style fan, you shouldn't be put off. The track starts off a little too slowly (in my opinion) but picks up the pace a little - this is one of the more ballad type tunes.
So overall, I would recommend this album for anyone that is a fan of Celine Dion - they do sound similar at times but each have unique styles. If you don't like Celine Dion, I'd also say she sounds like Faith Hill at times. This is more than half a ballad album but there are samples available at Amazon if you would like a peek before you buy. You shouldn't let the fact that Lara first performed in the Eurovision put you off, as she really isn't as bad as several acts I could mention! Have a search around some online shops - the CD is for sale at Amazon.co.uk for £12.99 but keep a look out in the Marketplace - mine was only £1.29 (Brand New!).
P.S. You may see this album in online shops with different covers but the same track listing - the one pictured above is from Lara's 2000 UK album (the one I have) while there are others from her '99 European release.
If you'd like more info on Lara, check out www.larafabian.com (this site has mostly info on her 2004 English album 'A Wonderful Life'). I will have a review on that coming up soon!
Previously, Lara Fabian was relatively unknown. However, after the release of this amazing new album, she is bound to do do well. Much of her success is due to her thorough knowledge of music and singing. Of particular interest are her songs "I Will Love Again", "Adagio" and "Light Of My Life" which combine meaningful lyrics with unique tunes. When listening to the track "Adagio", one can hear the versatility of her voice and her capabilities as a singer. This album is a must-buy for all those who can truly appreciate good music.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Part Of Me
3 Givin' Up On You
4 You Are My Heart
5 I Am Who I Am
6 To Love Again
7 You're Not From Here
8 Till I Get Over You
9 Love By Grace
10 Yeliel (My Angel)
11 I Will Love Again
12 Broken Vow
13 Adagio (Italian)