Il Divo

Columbia, 2006

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


While they’ve been responsible for a good deal of chart success in the past, manufactured groups -- musical acts put together by an A&R man or producer or promoter -- always make me a little nervous. For every one that’s good (say, the Alan Parsons Project) there’s a number of bad ones (New Kids On The Block? Angel? New Edition? Bow Wow Wow? Anyone admit to owning any of these CDs? OK, maybe Bow Wow Wow, but that’s because Annabelle Lwin was hot).

Anyway. So when I was sent the latest CD by Il Divo, the pop-operatic quartet formed by American Idol nasty man Simon Cowell, I wasn’t really sure what to think. Cowell formed Il Divo after hearing duets between Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli and realizing there was a market for pop/classical vocal crossover. He calculatedly put together a quartet of attractive, multi-national (members are from the my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 U.S., Switzerland, Spain, and Italy) vocalists. Il Divo has blasted through the European charts, gotten rave reviews for a performance on “Oprah” and generally been a pop culture phenomenon. But are they any good?

The answer -- at least in reference to their latest CD, Siempre -- is yes. For all their slick appearance -- all four of them are very attractive and look like they’re auditioning for “The Bachelor” -- their vocals are frankly incredible. The cynical part of me wants to scoff at their manufactured nature, but the music-lover in me smacked the inner cynic around until it hid under the table. I have interesting weekends.

While the production and engineering is competent (albeit slick and a bit bloodless), Il Divo’s song selection is really what makes them work. They mix originals written in a folk song or classical vein (“Come Primavera” and “La Vida Sin Amor,” both of which are excellent) with Italian-language covers of pop songs rearranged for the classical voice. It works surprisingly well; “Nights In White Satin” takes on a whole new life and John Miles’ “Music” is great.

A cover of “Without You,” written by Pete Ham of Badfinger -- admittedly, one of my favorite songs of all time -- is magnificent. Il Divo only falls short on Bryan Adams’ “Have You Ever Loved A Woman?,” although since I do not like the original song, you may need to take that opinion with a grain of salt.

It would be easy to dismiss Il Divo as a manufactured phenomenon. It would be easy -- and it would be wrong. Far from being a NPR-friendly version of a boy band, Il Divo is talented, powerful, and definitely worth checking out.

Rating: A-

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© 2006 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia, and is used for informational purposes only.