by Pettigrew Faust
I Dreamed A Dream, Susan Boyle’s debut album, is a showcase for her crystal clear voice, untouched by the technological gimmicks on which so many singers rely. The production is a spare canvas against which her pure, gorgeous vocals are displayed to wonderful effect. The result is an album that owes its power solely to Boyle’s self-assured artistry.
In the title track, I Dreamed A Dream, Boyle gives a far different interpretation from her iconic performance on Britain’s Got Talent. In her audition, she gave a rendition that was more akin to a soaring anthem than a downtrodden woman’s rueful rumination on a ruined life. Here, however, Boyle gives the song a more nuanced interpretation that reflects the despair of dreams unfulfilled and a life shattered by loss. Her vocals are just as assured as in her first performance of the song, yet deeper here and more passionate.
Some of the song choices which may have seemed odd at first glance turned out to have been inspired. The selection of the Rolling Stones’ 1971 classic, Wild Horses, must have struck many as a bizarre decision doomed to failure. As listeners know well by now, Boyle, aided by Steve Mac’s spartan production, reworked the song into a haunting paean to love and loss. Another seemingly off-the-wall choice was Daydream Believer, first recorded by the Monkees. Here, the sprightly, upbeat tune is transformed by Boyle’s gentle, lyrical delivery into a dreamy and contemplative ballad. This, in my opinion, is the track that serves as the best showcase for her talents as her clear, lovely vocals float above the simple piano accompaniment. The effect is intimate, as if we are listening in on the singer’s reverie.
Boyle’s new rendition of Cry Me A River is stronger and more bitter than the delicate, gentle version she recorded in 1999. While never reaching the furious depths of some other versions of the song, she still conveys the anger of a woman scorned. You’ll See is also a delight as Boyle invests Madonna’s anthem with her personal pain and determination.
Overall, this is a beautiful album with every track a gem. Fans of Susan Boyle and of good music in general will love her debut effort.