Russell Watson gets serious

'People's tenor' Russell Watson returns with a richer, more mature voice on this disc of late 19th century Neapolitan songs

Composer: Various
Repertoire: La Voce 
Artists: Russell Watson (ten)
Rating:  3/5
Genre: Vocal
Label: Epic 88697 77339-2

The Music While his debut The Voice darted hyperactively from Simon & Garfunkel to ‘Nessun Dorma’, Russell Watson’s new offering has a tighter focus – Neapolitan songs from the late 19th century alongside complementary Italian fare including Pino Donaggio’s 1963 hit Lo Che Non Vivo Senza Te (aka You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me). 

The Performance If his early recordings were criticised for their lack of technical skill and excessive reverb, this album might change their minds about the self-styled ‘People’s Tenor’. Watson has said the two brain tumour operations he underwent in 2006 and 2007 resulted in a deeper and richer voice – and on this evidence he’s not imagining it. His tone is warmer, his delivery more mature and expressive, and his bravura rendition of Albinoni’s Adagio bears witness to new strength all round. The Roma Sinfonietta – as used by Ennio Morricone – offer deft, subtle support. 

The Verdict He could have churned out pick ‘n’ mix crossover albums for years without losing his immaculately blow-dried core audience, but Watson deserves credit (and new listeners) for committing himself to more serious material.