Irish Independent -- Golden Glare -- 5 StarsNov 20th, 2009
The premise sounds ludicrous: a pop/soul singer and a classical superstar hook up through Facebook and then release an album together without writing songs in the conventional sense. It’s got to be a horribly self-indulgent clash of two very different worlds, right?
It is to the immense credit of Messrs McAlmont and Nyman that not only is this collection not awful, but it is in fact one of the most remarkable, heart-warming, thought-provoking and utterly essential albums of the year.
Nyman fans will be familiar with several of the pieces that appear here, including snippets from his soundtracks to Gattaca and Wonderland. Each of the compositions provides an evocative backdrop to McAlmont’s gorgeously expressive vocals and finely crafted lyrics.
The album’s title refers to the glare of publicity and each of the songs has been inspired by real news events. There are subjects beloved of the tabloids including Silvio Berlusconi’s much-documented womanising (In Rai Don Giovanni) and Susan Boyle’s super-swift rise from obscurity to ubiquity (The Glare), as well as more sobering themes such as the heartbreaking plight of a pregnant Nigerian prisoner (and the fate of Zimbabwean orphans (Fever Sticks and Stones).
The wonderfully giddy opener, Take the Money and Run, tells the story of a real-life couple who made their fortune from a banking error and did a runner—if ever there was a song that captured the dreams of the fiscally squeezed it’s that. McAlmont’s superb phrasing is perfectly complimented by Nyman’s jaunty orchestration—a feature to be found throughout the collection.
City of Turin, meanwhile, tells the heartbreaking story of an African prostitute doing her best to survive on Italy’s unforgiving streets. It is a reminder of what a gifted singer McAlmont is—and that’s something that wasn’t quite as apparent on his late 90s collaboration with ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, for instance.
And Nyman aficionados itching for a new composition should be sated with the closing number—Songs for Tony is a moving, 17-minute instrumental tribute to his late manager, Tony Simmons. It may not fit with what’s gone before, but it’s a beautiful composition none the less.