I’ve featured Sarah Brightman here before, but her music’s so good, I’m going to feature her again!
Sarah Brightman has been making music in the “classical crossover” genre for the last few years to great effect, but in 1995, for a brief, shining moment, Ms Brightman made a pure pop/dance album: Fly. Sarah had, of course, dabbled in disco while she fronted Hot Gossip – ‘I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper’ is fabulous proof of this. But then she spent most of the 80s on stage and singing Andrew Lloyd Webber songs, with driving beats and spiky synths nowhere to be heard.
In the early 90s Sarah released two albums that came closer to “pop” than she had for the last decade. And finally, what I consider the peak of Sarah’s pop career came about in 1995. Fly was the pinnacle of that short time between “Showtune Sarah” and “Classy Contemporary (with occasional forays into dance) Sarah”.
Fly opens with the buzz of… well, flies. A trip-hop beat and eerie synths begin to weave a hypnotic rhythm and then Sarah starts singing about pies and star juices and Mars! It’s weird, it’s kinda wacky, and it’s wonderful. ‘Why’ starts off all dreamy and synthy, then the guitars come in to rock it up a bit! A reversed drumbeat and breathy vocals from Sarah make this a dreamy rock/pop confection.
Back to the weird and wonderful with ‘Murder in Mairyland Park’! Atmospheric ambient synthesizers lead into an intimate, piano-accompanied Sarah vocal. The production, lyrics, and Sarah’s vulnerable vocals give the whole song a pretty creepy atmosphere. It all goes along fairly sweetly, then big drums come in and Sarah unleashes her more formal, operatic voice to sing some lines in Latin, accompanied by guitar. The song ends with the sound of footfalls. Creepy!
We get some more rock and pop with ‘How Can Heaven Love Me?’, featuring Chris Thompson. The album version of this song is, to me, better than the video edit. The video mix is cleaner, more polished – I like how the album version is a little more subdued and doesn’t scream “ROCK!” the way the video edit does. It doesn’t sound like it’s trying to be a rock song; it just is! Thompson’s guest vocals sound great with Sarah’s, and his little German interlude is neat. The song ends abruptly and then…
We come to one of Sarah’s all-time best tracks – ‘A Question of Honour’. Sarah classes things up with a bit of opera in the form of some lines from ‘La Wally’, then there’s the crash of thunder, some ambient synths, and some epic string work. A dance beat heightens the tension while more atmospheric production swirls around the mix. Snippets of Sarah singing from ‘La Wally’ pop up and the mix becomes thicker, leading up to a truly epic high note from Sarah! A male chorus sing some lines and more strings come in – then the guitars come to add yet more awesome to the song. Sarah doesn’t actually sing very much in this track, but when she does, oh man is it cool! We come to a breakdown with tinkling piano and then another very nifty breakdown that finds Sarah singing more lines from ‘La Wally’. If the last few seconds of the song don’t send chills down your spine, then I don’t know what’s the matter with you!!
After that bit of perfection, ‘Ghost In The Machinery’ starts with a neat bassline and grungy beat. Nice lyrics and more nifty production touches (sound effects, great guitars) make this another highlight of Fly. ‘He’s a shock to the system, he’s a wicked clown – no matter what you do he turns it upside down’. How cool is that?
Have you heard Sarah’s Harem album? Hear where it all started with ‘You Take My Breath Away.’ A sample of Asha Bhosle singing ‘Dil Cheez Kya Hai’, accompanied by synths, wind chimes, and sitar, takes us far away from the industrial sound of ‘Ghost In The Machinery’. Light beats and a chanting chorus support Sarah’s vocals. Then the instrumentation drops out to only feature Sarah and some Middle Eastern beats. The instrumentation and vocals build and then drop back out, coming in again with some acoustic guitar. The bassline is cool and the addition of some Middle Eastern-sounding samples make this song a gorgeous, atmospheric affair. Like ‘A Question of Honour,’ Sarah doesn’t sing a whole lot here. It’s kind of a set piece, really, but her vocals are beautiful and there’s this one bit where her vocals are phased – it sounds very cool. More guitars, a chorus, Sarah, and Chris Thompson come in to sing ‘You take my breath away’ as the beats get heavier and the mix gets thicker. Then the Asha Bhosle intro comes back in to wind everything down. Beautiful.
‘Heaven Is Here’ is a low-key ballad with subdued production (until the heavy drums and guitars come in at the end!) and sweet vocals from Sarah. For some, this may be too sugary sweet, but it manages to not sound saccharine and is actually a nice little tune. The track ends with some nifty bleeping ambient synths that lead into…
…’I Love You’, which is the only song so far in her career in which we hear Sarah “rap”! Well, sort of. And you know what? It works. Guitars and those bleepy synths lead into a trip-hop beat and semi-spoken vocals from Sarah. The lyrics are almost entirely composed of past pop culture references and with the 90s-sounding production on this song, you feel like you’re in a bit of a time warp while listening to this! The chorus is pretty and Sarah’s vocals sound as sweet as ever.
‘I Love You’ ends with lots of neat sound effects and spacey, sweeping synths, leading into ‘Fly.’ A sample of Neil Armstrong’s famous quote upon setting foot on the surface of the moon crackles as a flute whistles out a spooky melody. The tinkly, eerie synths of the first track are paired with a reversed drumbeat as more atmospheric production touches wind their way around the mix. Sarah sings some lines from the first track and then it all sort of explodes into a stunning mess of wailing guitars, marching drumbeats, electronic screams and sound effects. An ending to an album that will really take your breath away.
The FLY II edition, only available at La Luna Tour performances (and purchased by yours truly during a special sale thing from the official site a few years ago), has really great tracks that you can’t find anywhere else. Pretty much every song could have been an album track, and are must-listens for fans – both of Sarah Brightman and good music in general!
If you know Sarah Brightman only as a former stage diva, take a listen to Fly and get to know Sarah Brightman: Pop Diva!