When Jackie Evancho showed the world her stuff on America’s Got Talent at the young age of ten, she easily wowed the judges, and the rest of us. Although she eventually lost the prize to WHO?, she has since made quite an impressive mark in the crossover world of Classical and Pop. With a series of albums already released, including a million-selling holiday set (Heavenly Christmas), Jackie Evancho is quickly – and early – setting herself on firm foundation for a rich and long career. Her latest album, Awakening, goes an immeasurably long way in helping establish that footing.
Awakening has twelve songs on it including the cover of the early U2 classic, “With Or Without You”, and her timeless version of “The Rains of Castamere”, the song from Game Of Thrones. But those two do not define the album. They serve to enhance what is already great. They join a remarkable selection of songs that explore the range of depth she is gathering unto herself.
On Awakening, she selects some classical standards like the traditional and important “Ave Maria” by Vladimir Vavilov; and the beauty of Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise”. With those two, she gives an ethereal beauty that is uniquely her own. In so doing, she makes the songs themselves unique performances. Her recording of “Ave Maria” is exquisite and absorbing. Jackie Evancho also gives “Think Of Me”, a piece from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom Of The Opera, her hypnotic voice treatment leaving many of us in awe of what can come further in her life.
One of the more surprising offerings on Awakenings is her rendition of “Memories”, by the Dutch symphonic metal band, Within Temptation. Within Temptation is fronted by Sharon den Adel, who has a great voice of her own. (As a record, “Memories” is from the 2004 The Silent Force album by Within Temptation.) On Awakening, Jackie Evancho stays true to the elements of the song, yet providing it the gorgeous vocal that seemingly makes it more elegiac than the original.
In addition to the many popular and previously recorded songs on Awakening, Jackie Evancho gives her stunning soul-reaching, able to reach in deep and squeeze, vocals to several original songs. “Take Me There”, written by Johan Oberholzer, (a songwriter employed by Universal Music), shows the polished range that is possible as a path for Miss Evancho, although I love her current explorations heard on Awakening. There is also her application of perfection to “Open Fields Of Grace”, a song of faith co-written by Lisa Venkatrathnam, and Paul Sumares. she converts her voice to deliver the mysteriously beautiful intent of the lyrics.
A final word about her version of “With Or Without You” found on this album is necessary. The song is well known to many across the world, and therefore, will draw up the requisite comparisons, her rendition to the original. But what needs to be said here is that not only does Jackie Evancho nail the spirit of the lyrics, indeed the song itself, she turns it into a powerful and evocative version that will not fall back after having heard it. Her version can easily stand on its own, without the comparisons. Yes, her “With Or Without You” is a powerful song, and should be heard by lovers of the original.
Jackie Evancho is a modern miracle of voice. Her new album, Awakening, provides twelve stunning examples and 49 brilliant minutes (and 39 seconds) of her greatness.
Release Date: September 22 (UK), September 23 (US), 2014
Label: Sony Music Masterworks / Portrait
Availability: CD, DD, LP