11/21/2009 07:36 PM
Folks, she hits it out of the park, slams it into the bleachers, belts it onto the Beltway, hammers it into the night sky.
This is the "Big Lebowski," the big kahuna, the big enchilada, the big deal.
It is all there in Susan Boyle's new album, "I Dreamed a Dream." Her vulnerability, her spirituality, her hard times and driven dreams, losses and loves, her belief in family, faith and friendship.
This is the best-selling album ever in Amazon's pile for a reason.
Any worries that Susan might not be able to duplicate her extraordinary success so far are quickly removed once you slip this CD into your player.
What we find is Susan the person, interpreting the songs as if her life depended on it.
Imagine if you could choose 12 songs that reflect your own life, and then sing the socks off them. This is what Susan has done.
Her voice has never sounded better, especially on the slow ballads, in which she seems to hold the lyrics for an eternity before letting it slip away into the next lyric.
It is exquisite and extraordinary.
I am certain she had a major hand in selecting every one, which reflected best on her own life experiences, her complex emotions and her life dream. She gets it just right.
Yes, it is a big album, but it is an intimate experience listening to it, as if she was in the next room explaining her life to you.
I thought I would mainly like the old favorites, but I found myself much preferring those songs that speak to the Susan we have come to know and love.
Let me take you through it, from my favorite track on down.
"Who I Was Born to Be"
When she opens with "I am not a girl / I have known the taste of defeat / and I have finally grown to believe / It will all come round again" — you feel like Susan has welcomed you into her life. It is that intimate, unique and personal. This is her story. The song is pure poetry in her hands. My favorite. It is also the only original song on the album, written by Audra Mae, a relative of Judy Garland. Its connection to Susan's life is evident.
This is my second-favorite song, again for the intimacy of the moment, the precise and perfectly delivered lyrics. "I look into the windows of my mind / reflections of the fears / I know I've left behind." This song sings to her life, the bullying and beating as child, the sadness and loneliness before the dawn finally broke. Again, I think I'm listening in on her life — an extraordinary feeling.
I had the same feeling on 'You' ll See." The lyrics speak of Susan and an earlier life "All by myself. I don't need anyone at all. I know I'll survive all on my own."
There is a reason "Wild Horses" has been highlighted. It is an outstanding song for this album, the one that shows Susan's voice at its best. She soars on the high notes with slow, majestic delivery and wonderful timing. It is so outstanding a version that the Rolling Stones are re-releasing theirs.
"I Went up the Mountain"
"I Went up the Mountain" is an inspirational song, and one that shows Susan's spiritual side. She belts it out. "I went up to the mountain / because you asked me to / up over the clouds, to where the sky was." We are along for the ride. That is where her voice takes us to.
"Cry Me a River"
She sings "Cry Me a River' as well as Ella Fitzgerald, who owns this song. That's really saying something. Again, the song springs from a deep personal and emotional well. "Now you say you're lonely / You cried the whole night through" How many times was that the case for Susan before he breakthrough?
"How Great Thou Art!"
The great old hymn gets a new lease on life with Susan. I thought this would be my favorite, but there is nothing Susan about it other than her magnificent delivery and precise and crystal clear intonation. Yes, I still love the song — but surprisingly, it did not move me as much as several of the others.
"I Dreamed a Dream"
"I Dreamed a Dream," the song from "Les Miserables" that made her famous and deservedly so, feels like ancient history even though she only performed it a few months ago. It still surprises with its emotional intensity and beautifully crafted lyrics.
The old Christmas standard gets a deserved run here. Yes, the song has been done to death — but Susan adds a freshness and sparkle to it that is usually missing. "All is calm, all is bright" in Susan's life now.
Amazing as always, but I'm a little jaded about this song. It's the equivalent of "Danny Boy" for Irish people. And yet, Susan's version is a blast, a huge improvement on most versions.
My least-favorites are "The End of the World," which I find too maudlin for words and for Susan's talents. In the same way, I don't think "Daydream Believer" by that most-manufactured of bands, The Monkees. It has very little resonance for me about Susan or her life.
But overall, this album is an A-plus. It is an astonishing debut album, among the greatest in recent history. Susan has delivered — and how!
I'm just glad we are here to hear it.