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Il Divo


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Star Publications (Malaysia)

Friday November 11, 2005

From Ancora to world tour

By JASON CHEAH

JUST one year after the release of its debut self-titled, hugely successful album, international vocal quartet Il Divo is ready to take another bite of the musical cake with its sophomore album, Ancora.

The new album comes hot on the heels of some five million sales worldwide of its self-titled debut, and this in a genre considered as something of a niche, albeit a growing one – classical crossover.

The quartet comprising Spaniard Carlos Marin (baritone), Swiss Urs Buhler (tenor), American David Miller (tenor) and Frenchman Sebastian Izambard (vox populi) were in Hong Kong at the time of this interview late last month to launch Ancora to fans and curious onlookers in a ballroom setting at a plush hotel on Hong Kong Island.

The six-song showcase that accompanied the launch certainly sent thrills up your spine, as they rendered selected songs from the new long player.

The purity of both Izambard and Buhler balanced out the power (yet subtle when it needed to be) vocals of Marin and Miller, combining to make cover versions such as Unchained Melody (Senza Catene), Heroe and All By Myself (Solo Otra Vez), unique to hear.

There were also strong yet controlled performances of tracks such as Si Tu Me Ames and Pour Tu M’aimes Encore to enjoy.

But listening to the one encore Regresa A Mi (Unbreak My Heart) makes one think back (not very far back, mind you) to the debut self-titled effort.

In that album the music tended to concentrate on relatively more classical renditions of songs such as Regresa A Mi, Mama and Mi Manera (My Way).

Ancora, however, seems to be heading in a little bit of a different direction – as resident vox populi Izambard explains during an interview before the showcase.

“It is more pop,” he emphatically says of the musical direction of Ancora, adding, “we want to reach a larger audience (with this effort) as the first album was more specific.”

Nevertheless, there is still a certain sense of familiarity in the selection of songs for Ancora.

Like the first album, it contains a mix of original songs and cover versions.

Cover versions include the Righteous Brothers classic Unchained Melody (sung in Italian) and a re-working of Mariah Carey’s Hero (spelt Heroe in this album).

There is also a Spanish version of All By Myself, originally a hit by Eric Carmen back in 1976 and more recently remembered also in Celine Dion’s rendition.

And speaking of Dion, she makes a duet appearance on Ancora but on the half-French-half-English original track I Believe in You (Je Crois En Toi).

“It’s my favourite song,” Buhler admits, adding, “we were already planning for a duet with someone and we wanted to find a singer that suited our repertoire. With Celine, it was quite spontaneous.

“She’s even put the track on her (latest) French language album (the “Best of” collection titled On ne change pas).”

Other original songs include Si Tu Me Amas, Pour Que Tu M’aimes Encore and En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor.

Izambard goes on to say that even in the short time since the last album release, a lot of work had been done for Ancora.

“We wanted to make sure this is one level higher. We blend better now, the harmonies work pretty well, we also now sing in an additional language, French.”

Multi-lingual indeed as that means the guys now sing in Latin, Italian, Spanish, English, French, even Portuguese (for Portugal and Brazil).

“Our work was much easier this time. It took us half a year to organise,” Buhler adds.

Easier perhaps, but certainly no less worrying.

“Actually, I was very anxious (with this album) as it is very important to us. We had amazing success with our first record.

“For this second one, we wanted to prove that was not a lucky shot,” Buhler says.

“In the first album we were learning how to make the music as we did not know each other. We had to figure out all that –like which part suits whose voice.

“We know now (for example) that Carlos takes the big choruses while Sebastian brings (with him) a certain intimacy. But we still try to bring variety into it, as we always want to add something new.”

For Il Divo, success has come as something of a surprise since the debut album has made its way to selling five million copies without the commercial release of a single anywhere on Earth – only tracks released to radio have been featured.

This record has now outdone the previous best selling record to reach No.1 in the British album charts doing (or not) just that – Led Zeppelin 25 years ago.

That concept isn’t likely to change.

“What we do is try to bring the same quality in each track (of the album), trying to make each a single in its own right,” Izambard says.

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You can find a video of this group performing "All By Myself" in concert on their website. Il Divo is a worldwide phenomenon backed by American Idol creator Simon Cowell. They've sold millions of albums and will undoubtedly bring more confirmation to Eric's legacy as one of pop music's greatest composers and further reaffirm "All By Myself" as one of the biggest standards of the past thirty years!

IL DIVO

Bernie

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