Album: Heart Felt
Label: Soundsphere
Tracks: 7

The well-loved York-based female vocal ensemble Soundsphere suffered a major setback towards the end of 2013 when one member of the quartet, Angela Michel, tragically passed away. At the beginning of that year, Angela had made unaccompanied voice recordings of a collection of songs she had recently written, and she only managed to share them with Sarah, Paula and Judith for the first time in the last days of her illness. Now, as a tribute to Angela, they have built on her original recordings so that these songs can be heard as intended, harmonised and arranged in true Soundsphere style.

This beautifully presented mini-album is the result; it's gorgeous, sumptuously recorded and faithfully capturing the unique blend of joyous, passion-filled vocal exuberance and expertise that has always been Soundsphere.

Angela's solo recording of a traditional Bolivian song serves as the disc's prelude, following which it launches straight into the main menu, Angela's six original compositions, which both typify the astonishing breadth of the ladies' repertoire, mirroring its contrasts and reflecting its strengths - in other words, truly encapsulating the wonderful Soundsphere experience. It takes in world music (the brooding devotional Madonna), socio-political commentary (Boomtown, set to a clanking industrial-percussion backdrop), homespun optimism (Some People) and a spooky folk-tale (Donegal Fair), but the emotional fulcrums (or should it be fulcra?) of the sequence are the necessary spiritual journey of My Heart Is Calling and the intensely powerful, quite heart-rending closing lament This Land.

This lovely disc positively glows with affection, albeit inevitably tinged with great sadness at the loss. It does Angela's memory proud, and no more apposite tribute to Angela could be imagined. Fittingly, all proceeds from the sale of the CD will go to Médecins Sans Frontières, a charity close to the hearts of Angela and her husband Nick.

David Kidman