Tarja Turunen has always been someone different in the world of Metal. Even when she was making her name with Nightwish the classically trained Finnish soprano was simultaneously an icon of the female fronted Metal scene and someone who was apart from it and not like the other singers, or even her bandmates as it turned out.
Ever since she went solo her career has continued to be unique to her, whether she is touring as a solo artist playing Metal but dressed like the operatic diva she is with a cello player using effects pedals or pursuing unusual collaborations like this one.
'Beauty & The Beat' is a recording of a live show performed on a world tour where Ms Turunen combined with her regular drummer Mike Terrana (also known for his work with Rage, Masterplan and others) and an orchestra and choir to perform classical pieces and grandiose versions of some rock songs.
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On paper this sounds like an over the top idea but in keeping with the the Finnish diva's symphonic Metal meets classical background. Beefing up the orchestra's percussion section with a rock drummer thrashing away on a huge kit sounds like fun too. In practice though I just don't think it works.
When the performance is purely a classical exercise such as on Bach's 'Blute Nur' or Leonard Bernstein's 'I Feel Pretty' it's a professional orchestra backing an excellent soprano singer and if you like that kind of thing it is very well executed. However much of the album consists of well known classical pieces being played by the orchestra while Mr Terrana tries to find a way to play along with the melodies. It just sounds horrible and awkward. Try banging away on whatever you've got to hand at home to Rossini's 'Barber Of Seville' or Offenbach's 'Cancan' and you'll see what I mean. These pieces weren't built to have that kind of beat and to me they don't suit it now.
The first half of the show concentrates on classical pieces of music, the second half they start working versions of rock and Metal songs into the show. Queen's 'You Take My Breath Away' is almost unrecognisable, overwhelmed with soprano and choir to the point of strangualtion. When I saw 'Led Zeppelin Medley' on the track list I was worried and I was right to be. It starts off well enough with a section of 'Kashmir' which suits the orchestral set up and let's that huge drum kit pay tribute to John Bonham but when they go into 'The Immigrant Song' and 'Stairway To Heaven' it just becomes a kind of Spinal Tap what were they thinking moment.
Attempting Sinatra's 'Fly Me To The Moon' with Mike Terrana singing is actually less painful than I imagined but the cover of Nightwish's 'Swanheart' sounds much more natural and less forced.
The rest of the songs are all versions of Tarja's solo material and as such are much better suited to this kind of treatment. 'Into The Sun' and her signature solo tune 'I Walk Alone' are the best of the four here.
I only have the cd version of this release which is going out on DVD/Blu Ray too and maybe it works better with the visuals. As an album, however much I admire Ms Turunen's unique and off the wall style this is a step too far for me. There must be an audience for it as the tour this album was taken from was a great success but it escapes me who it is. Unless you absolutely must have everything with Tarja's name on it I'd recommend giving this a wide berth.
1. Mike - Concert For Violin & Oboe (Bach)
2. Tarja - Blute Nur (Bach)
3. Tarja - Zueignung - Op. 10, No. 1 (Strauss)
4. Mike - Barber of Seville (Rossini)
5. Mike - New World Symphony (Dvorák)
6. Tarja - Song To The Moon (Dvorák)
7. Tarja - Vilja Lied (Lehár)
8. Tarja - O mio babbino caro (Puccini)
9. Mike - Can-can (Offenbach)
10. Tarja - I Feel Pretty (Leonard Bernstein)
11. Mike - William Tell Overture (Rossini)
12. Tarja - Mein Herr Marquis (Strauss)
13. Mike - Eine kleine Nachtmusik (Mozart)
1. Tarja - You Take My Breath Away (Queen)
2. Tarja & Mike - The Reign (Tarja)
3. Tarja & Mike - Witch-hunt (Tarja)
4. Tarja & Mike - Led Zeppelin Medley
5. Tarja & Mike - Swanheart (Nightwish)
6. Mike & Tarja - Fly Me To The Moon (Frank Sinatra)
7. Tarja & Mike - Into The Sun (Tarja)
8. Tarja & Mike - I Walk Alone (Tarja)