(19 October 2003) Vocalise, (EMI Classics (UK)
5576492, 2003) the fifth studio album by Adiemus marks a
significant departure in the series of Adiemus albums.
When listening to the album,
these changes immediately become apparent. As a
long-time Adiemus fan, these changes are impossible to
ignore and therefore have become the basis of this
The most significant departure is that the original
voice of Adiemus, Miriam Stockley, is no longer a part
of the project. While the other Adiemus players--composer
Karl Jenkins, the Finnish Adiemus singers, the London
Philharmonic Orchestra and instrumentalists such as
Pamela Thorby and Martin Taylor--remain in place,
Miriam Stockley's absence leaves a great emptiness
in the Adiemus sound.
Stockley's voice has an amazing dynamic and range,
taking songs from exuberant tribal chants to quietly
soothing interludes, and the previous Adiemus albums
made good use of this voice. Without Stockley, the
Adiemus vocals are far more shrill, less sensual,
and less warm. The album suffers from it. Songs
such as "Allegrettango"” could have benefited from
Stockley's lower range to balance out the sound.
Guest singers such as Belinda Sykes and Terence Barber
are greatly talented, but Adiemus songs without Stockley's
voice are simply lacking.
The second departure is the use of true language on
the album, rather than solely relying on meaningless vocal
sounds. This change is not too jarring when the languages
are Punjabi, Portuguese, or Latin, but the one song sung
in English--"The Protector"–-sounds like a plain and simple
choral piece, not like a true Adiemus song.
The third departure is the experimentation with new
musical sounds. The original Adiemus album featured
grand, majestic melodies. The serenity of these songs
provided much of the appeal for many Adiemus fans.
Slowly, composer Karl Jenkins has introduced other
influences on recent Adiemus albums, most notably the
more jazz-oriented sounds on The Eternal Knot.
This development is taken furter on Vocalise,
where jazz sounds--both vocal and instrumental--are
pushed to the fore on such songs as "Dona Nobis Pacem
Part II" and "Mi Contra Fa, DiaBolus in Musica."
The result is not always successful, as
jazz-improvisation does not result in the same grand
melodies Adiemus is known for. Other innovations such
as the Lisa Gerrard-soundalike "Dona Nobis Pacem Part I,"
the happy folk music sounds of "Schwanda The Bagpiper"
and its companion piece "Exit Schwanda," as well as
the eastern influenced "Mysterious Are Your Ways,"
are much more successful in pushing the Adiemus sound
in new directions. As for the album's final
track--"Boogie Woogie Llanoogie"--it sounds as
ridiculous as its name suggests.
The final departure is that on this album Jenkins
has adapted other composers' works to the Adiemus sound
rather than compose each piece himself. Some of the
adaptations work reasonably well. "Rondo" (after
Beethoven), the already mentioned "Schwanda The
Bagpiper" (after Weinberger), and "Aria" (after
Villa-Lobos) are creative interpretations of existing
pieces using the Adiemus sound. The album's title
track "Vocalise" (after Rachmaninov) offers quiet
serenity. "Allegrettango" (based on Beethoven's
7th Symphony) is an interesting interpretation with
good instrumentation choices, but the vocals are shrill
and the eventual fade of the song makes it seem as if
Jenkins could not figure out how to properly interpret
One of the best adapted pieces on this album was
originally composed by Jenkins himself: "Bendigedig"
is a new recording of the song “Good Night, House of
Dewi” from the Dewi Sant album. The song's
finale is obviously drawn from the Adiemus track
"Beyond The Century." This song is most reminiscent
of the earlier Adiemus albums and is likely to please
longtime Adiemus fans.
So in the end, Vocalise is a mixed bag,
lacking the thematic consistency of earlier Adiemus
albums. Jenkins is to be commended for not resting
on his laurals, doing the same thing over and over
again, but rather wanting to try something new. In
some cases, this experimentation results in some great
new Adiemus songs and a wonderful progression of the
Adiemus sound. Other attempts, however, are less
successful. Vocalise is likely to stir up a
lot of discussion among Adiemus fans--at least until
the next Adiemus album is announced.--Paul van Vliet
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An album certain to interest long time Adiemus fans in
its development from previous works and introduce the
material to new listeners, further investigation is
certainly worth a journey.