Given the pair have been moving in the same sorts of musical circles for the better part of 20 years, it should come as no surprise that Aled Jones and Russell Watson are firm friends. What is surprising however is that the pair have taken this long to record an album together.
‘In Harmony’, released on November 9, is the Jones and Watson’s first album together. Comprising 14 tracks it’s a lot of what you would expect from two of the best classical voices in the world; lots of hymns and songs, but there’s a couple of unexpected tracks there, such as ‘Where Have All The F’owers Gone’/’Here’s To The Heroes’, which they released as a double A side in time for Remembrance Sunday last week. There’s also a Welsh track, ‘Cilfan Y Coed’, written by Rhys Jones and Lloyd Davies, which Aled performs with the New Zealand Sinfonietta, the latter who support Jones and Watson throughout the album.
Opening with the classic, ‘How Great Thou Art’, we’re immediately swept up into how massive Aled and Russell’s voices are, and what a good pairing they prove to be. Strong voices, enunciating every participle of the words, they split the track evenly between them. Russell rolls his “rs” on the word “great” and it’s an absolute joy to hear.
‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone’, the Pete Seeger standard, is given the cathedral treatment, rich and full, transporting us to a higher plane, with brass instruments giving way to a full orchestra on ‘Here’s To The Heroes’, originally made famous by Australian vocal group, The Ten Tenors. It’s sobering and thoughtful, and will prove to be the perfect addition to Remembrance Sunday events in future years.
‘Cinema Paradiso’ is the love theme, composed by Ennio Morricone, for the 1988 Italian film of the same name, and Aled and Russell take the Italian in their stride, as well they should – each note sliding off their tongues as if they were born speaking the language. The Sinfonietta fills the room with their music, a grand production which could stand alone as an instrumental piece.
From here we enter a section of Church and sacred songs, starting with ‘May The Good Lord Bless And Keep You’, followed classic standard ‘Ave Maria’, ‘Where Should This Music Be? (Nimrod)’, and a hymn medley comprising ‘I Vow To Thee My Country’, ‘Abide With Me’, and ‘Guide Me Thou O Great Redeemer’ lifting up the hearts and spirits of every listener. We can’t help but think of another great Welsh vocalist, the wonderful and much missed Sir Harry Secombe, who is synonymous with ‘Abide With Me’ – Aled Jones does however come close to Secombe in tone and timbre.
Possibly our favourite track on the album comes in at just over the halfway mark, at song number 8. ‘You Raise Me Up’, originally composed by Irish-Norwegian duo, Secret Garden, but made famous by Josh Groban, is sung stirringly and emotionally packed by Jones and Watson, and it’s impossible not to feel moved by their rendition.
‘Mattinata’ lets Aled and Russell show what they can really do – the track was the first ever written for the Gramophone Company, the present day HMV, and was dedicated by the most famous modern male operatic voice, Enrico Carouso, who recorded it in 1904. The pair let rip and clearly enjoyed being able to get their chops into such a classic.
‘In Christ Alone’ is a nice adjunct to the bravado of ‘Mattinata’ – Russell opening softly and then joined by Aled, we feel as though we are standing with the mourning disciples at the foot of the cross – but Victory comes with the rolling away of the stone and likewise the strength and joy in the mens’ voices.
‘Bright Horizons’ is another that sounds like it could be on a film soundtrack, and segues quite nicely into ‘Cilfan Y Coed’, with its gentle piano and flute accompaniment suggesting an autumnal walk in the Welsh woods, with leaves falling gently all around.
The mood is raised dramatically with ‘Volare’, which co-writer Domenico Modugno (with Franco Migliacci) took to 3rd place in the Eurovision Song Contest for his native Italy, back in 1958. The song is still the most played Italian song in the entire world – and it well-deserves its place on this album, with Aled and Russell once again showing their skills with the language, and sounding like they’ve had a really great time recording it. It’s a jolly track and is guaranteed to lift your spirits.
The album closes with the Christmas classic, ‘Silent Night’, a suitable track for the end of the album. Hopefully the song will be released as a single, in time for Christmas.
‘In Harmony’ is out via BMG. Aled and Russell will be touring the UK and Ireland throughout September and October next year. Tickets for the concerts are available here, with ‘In Harmony’ available to stream and download here.
2019 UK Tour Dates:
Tues 17- Llandudno Venue Cymru
Wed 18 – Blackpool Opera House
Fri 20 – Northampton Royal & Derngate
Sat 21- London Palladium
Mon 23 – Southend Cliffs Pavilion
Tues 24 – Eastbourne Congress Theatre
Thurs 26 – Cardiff St David’s Hall
Fri 27 – Oxford New Theatre
Sun 29 – Plymouth Pavilions
Mon 30 – Bournemouth Pavilion
Wed 2 – Nottingham Royal Concert Hall
Tues 3 – Ipswich Regent
Sat 5 – Cambridge Corn Exchange
Sun 6 – Gateshead Sage
Tues 8 – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Wed 9- York Barbican
Fri 11- Stoke-on-Trent Victoria Hall
Sat 12- Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
Mon 14 – Sheffield City Hall
Tues 15 – Warwick Arts Centre
Oct 17 – Belfast Waterfront Hall
Oct 18 – Dublin Bord Gáis Energy Theatre