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This review was first published on CLUAS in 2000
Other albums reviewed in 2000

Hazel O'Connor

'Beyond The Breaking Glass'

With the film 'Breaking Glass' way back in 1980, Hazel O'Connor became something of an overnight icon and a Grade A star. But since then life in the public eye has been difficult for Hazel. She'll always be remembered for the sassy saxophone embellished hit 'Will You', a song that was the ladies' 'Baker Street' of its era. It's also a song that has been the staple of many a 'slow set' the world over popping up at discos, weddings and 80's nights ever since. They still play it in some discos. If you don't believe me then go to Stringfellows in Mullingar and you'll see what I mean. But Hazel has found it, if anything, tricky to break away from that era of 'Breaking Glass' and 'Will You'. She has released countless albums and has since settled in Ireland but for many she'll be fondly remembered as the blonde icon of Breaking Glass.

Hazel O'ConnorWith that in mind, in 1998 Hazel hit the boards with an autobiographical stage show called 'Beyond Breaking Glass.' In it she settled a few scores and her at times often painful life story was laid bare. Her uncompromising tales of teenage rape, fame, fortune, record company rip-offs and failure were played out alongside new interpretations of some old songs and a few new ones. The stage show became a surprise hit and in its wake Hazel settled back to Ireland with musicians Cormac DeBarra and African percussionist Mario N'Goma to record an LP of the show.

Mainly Irish in feel with low-pipes resonating throughout, 'Beyond The Breaking Glass' is a warm, not too fussy affair. Hazel's voice and Irish music is a curious mix, sometimes it doesn't fit but other times her honest approach to singing compliments the sombre playing around it. An as Gaelige track 'Scamaill' shows that O'Connor has knack for the native tongue without sounding too "I love Irish me." Some of the tracks are new compositions and some are new versions of familiar tracks. One or two sound like a mellow Caf?Orchestra. 'Calls The Tune' is another highlight that someone like Robbie Williams could do with listening to. A new version of 'Will You' is an early highlight also. The songs breathes new life as alongside a low-whistle and harp, Hazel purrs out the familiar lyrics as if her life depended n it. And it probably does, she needs to be cherished again and the at times painful and mournful singing is true testament to this.

All in all 'Beyond The Breaking Glass' is a heartfelt, easy listening and warm album. Nothing spectacular and at times a little innocuous but the Afro-Celt charm and the undoubted autobiographical nature of the lyrics make it endearing enough. Welcome back, and she still looks good judging by the cover shot...

Ronan Casey

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