Yet another compilation record that details her stretch with Andrew Lloyd Webber, Encore raises its opportunistic little head in 2001 to showcase a series of tracks from the composer’s house of cards. The album is a release of the Really Useful Group – not Angel Records, where Brightman had been releasing her solo records – and appears to be another chance for Lloyd Webber to cash in.
At this point in her career, the soprano had released La Luna a year prior and was enjoying considerable solo success with producer and partner Frank Peterson. But Lloyd Webber, never content to let his angel fly on her own, delivers the stuff Encore is made of.
The album is comprised of tracks from The Songs That Got Away and Surrender, two previous compilation records featuring the work of you know who. There are four unreleased tracks, however, and that is where I’ll focus my attention.
“Whistle Down the Wind” is the first piece. It comes from the Surrender sessions but is being released for the first time here (probably). The track features music by Lloyd Webber and lyrics from Jim Steinman. It was part of the 1961 musical of the same name and feels really, really dated. It feels like an anchor, sort of a way to drag Brightman back down to where she was.
“One More Walk Around the Garden” comes from Carmelina and actually isn’t a Lloyd Webber-penned number. It was written by Burton Lane with Alan Jay Lerner’s lyrics. Originating in The Songs That Got Away sessions, the number is forgettable when placed against the loveliness of La Luna’s pieces. Brightman’s voice isn’t as well-rounded, either, but it’s another blast from the past.
The third of the “unreleased” tracks is “What More Do I Need.” This comes from Saturday Night and is a Stephen Sondheim song, so it’s decent to a degree. But once more, it comes from The Songs That Got Away sessions and feels like a relic.
Finally, Encore features the East Meets West piece “In the Mandarin’s Orchid Garden.” Another relic from The Songs That Got Away sessions, this Gershwin written track has the benefit of its writers on board – but not much else.
I know it feels like I’ve really brushed over Encore, but I can’t in good faith recommend this release. For an album to feature just four new tracks is shameful, especially when one considers the context. It’s hard to imagine this compilation as being worthwhile to anyone beyond the most stringent collectors, as the four unreleased pieces can flesh out a collection.
But it’s nowhere near up to Brightman’s modern standard, serving as a remnant (and an anchor) of a past full of songs that won’t ever get away.