Hayley Westenra’s “Treasure”
I cannot even begin to describe the amount of sweat and tears that went into trying to understand this album. The amount of effort I put into this CD to try and like it. I was waiting for some miracle, some revelation to appear out of thin air, as to why this album tends to be a favourite among Hayley Westenra fans. Why it is so highly esteemed, why it is the pivot of discussion. I am not so lucky this time. I have failed. I officially don’t get it.
Let me start with the postives. I do enjoy two songs on this album and tellingly they are two songs that are co-written by Westenra herself. ‘Let Me Lie’ and ‘Summer Rain’ are clear standout tracks from what is otherwise a highly predictable album. The other song that Westenra penned is the too-short-to-be-considered-a-song ‘Melancholy Interlude’ which is very pretty and haunting, it only fails for me because there is not enough time to be fully immersed in the song, which is a shame. ‘Let Me Lie’ is a dead cert for goodness, as Sarah Class (who composed my favourite album of all time; Aurora performed by Cantamus, if you’re curious) made up the rest of the composition team. There is an edge of new age to it, and Westenra’s lyrics are simply sincere. The absolutely stunning ‘Summer Rain’ sounds different from anything Westenra has ever done before, and it is all the better that Westenra had a part in its composition. I immediately thought of Enya when I first heard it, as it sounds like it could be one of her more upbeat numbers.
Another positive note is Westenra’s vocal performance. She has never sung badly in the past, and this is no exception. Technically speaking, she is flawless, hitting every note with ease. And although the concept of this album is uber boring, it is something that Westenra wanted to do. She decided to make a celtic album, she decided what tracks she wanted, and her record label had little to no intervention with her creative process. Treasure is such a safe album that it is hard to believe that it was not the record company that created it, but there it is. I have very high respect levels for artists that record whatever they want to record and this also applies to Westenra, and even though I do not like this album, I respect that this is what she wanted to do.
Now I am going to moan for a little while. I have the knowledge in the back of my mind that Westenra wanted to record songs that reminds her of her Nana and pay tribute to her Irish roots. Yes, okay. That is really lovely, but it still sounds dull. I cannot get away from the fact that it’s boring, try as I might. The main cause of this is the trap of any ‘celtic’ album, and that’s the typical tracklisting. Oh yes, here be ‘Shenandoah’, here be ‘Danny Boy’, and here be ‘Sonny’. I will give credit where it is due; her version of ‘Sonny’ (better known as ‘Sonny’s Dream’) is actually very beautiful and the arrangement is spot on.
We also have ‘Abide With Me’ (zzz) and whilst I normally embrace ‘One Fine Day’ (or ‘Un Bel Di’) with warm welcome arms Westenra has, well… destroyed it. Dully. I think her choice of weapon was a teaspoon and she kept tapping it gently until it cracked open, drifted into a coma, and died twenty years later. Other insipid tracks include ‘Santa Lucia’, ‘E Pari Ra’ ‘The Heart Worships’ and ‘Bist Du Bei Mir’. Her duet with Humphrey Berney is okay, but only okay.
This leaves two tracks that I really dislike. ‘Whispering Hope’ really gets on my nerves, much like ‘Hine E Hine’ did on Pure. Thankfully, it is really short, but I can definitely see its appeal to others. This is more prominent in what is personally my least favourite track ever recorded by Westenra; ‘Summer Fly’. My god, I hate this song, but this a good thing! I much prefer to hate a song than have no opinion at all (which is the case for the two previous paragraphs) as it means there is something distinctive about it and when something is distinctive, it means people either love it or hate it. I just so happen to come under the latter category. I like the fact that Westenra did this song. It’s more upbeat than to what she normally does and it’s a completely different style to the rest of the album. It will give listeners a jump start.
I have come to accept that this is an album I will never get along with. It has only two songs on it that I may put the album on for and even after a conscious effort, I am still lost. I am only glad that this seems to have been a one off and I can shrug this album off and put one (any) of her other albums on to remind me just how much I love the gal.