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Ever since Charlotte Church turned into a tabloids' darling and a wannabe pop star, there's been a gap opened for a young, sweet-faced soprano. The best bet on filling it seems to be Hayley Westenra, a young singer/dancer from New Zealand.

The result: "Pure," an album that is reminiscent of early Sarah Brightman, back when she did folk songs and showtunes. Westenra sticks close to her classical sound with songs like the delicate "In Trutina" and the traditional New Zealand song "Pokarekare Ana," which is rendered with the backing of a a rather muddled male chorus and some swelling strings.

However, Westenra doesn't neglect more modern songs, and she does well in classical pop as well as straightforward classical. The big difference seems to be a bit of synth and a delicate guitar melody, in songs like the charming "Beat of Your Heart" and dreamy "Why Painted the Moon Black?" It's a smooth, thoroughly sweet crossover effect.

Westenra also eschews the usual round of classical-pop songs, like "Nella Fantasia." I love that song, but it's been done so many times. Instead, she opts for Maori lullabies, Vivaldi ballads, and the orchestral cathedral grandeur of "Benedictus." She even covers Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights," adding a modern feel to the finale.

That is not to say that every choice is an excellent one. "Wuthering Heights" has Westenra trying to sound more Bush-ian, while "Amazing Grace" is too simple vocally. Aside from those, her choices of song are excellent -- rich, uplifting and beautiful, and backed by a wide range of orchestral musicians, especially the strings.

Her vocals themselves are not operatic, but they are strong, clear and sweet, without pretensions or dramatic flourishes. The effect is stunning, more given to magic and sweetness than to keeping to classical standards. Since this was recorded when Westenra was only sixteen, one wonders how good she'll be in ten years.

Despite comparisons to Charlotte Church, Hayley Westenra is more like Sarah Brightman -- a sweet-voiced singer, straddling the fence between classical and pop. An enchanting experience.
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on May 12, 2016
Hayley has simply the most powerful, purest tone and voice i have even encountered. At a young age, here, she showcased her unmatched style and talent in a way that simply astounds. She can belt it out, softly caress, make you ponder, and in every way make you simply glad you have ears! Hayley is one of the most popular and renowned vocal artists in the world, and this album, even more than her later triumphs, will show you why.
Unmissable!
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on August 19, 2017
She has a voice like no one else. I loved every selection.
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on March 25, 2017
love her voice
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on March 15, 2007
In the interest of full disclosure, I'll say upfront that I'm a huge fan of Hayley's. Pure serves as her debut album for most of the world, and she's an amazing young woman. She has one of the most naturally beautiful voices I've ever heard, and I think it's almost genetically impossible for her to sing anything that doesn't come out lovely. As a singer and music teacher, I also appreciate her technique and near-flawless diction. (She realizes that words have final consonants that should be pronounced even when singing! What a concept!!) Everything I say in this review is in the overall context of noting that Pure is a CD that I listen to over and over.

There are 13 tracks in the US version, with a mix of familiar ("Amazing Grace"), classical ("In Trutina" from Orff's Carmina Burana), and other pieces. Of special note are two Maori songs (Pokarekare Ana and Hine e Hine) whose simple melodies showcase Hayley's admirable lyricism.

This isn't a perfect album. Hayley's taste at this point in her career seems to favor flowing melodies, medium tempos, and sustained lines that show off her voice wonderfully, and the sentiments often are not particularly deep. (She seems to be a very mature teenager, but she is still very young, and the song choices reflect that). As a result, there's a certain sameness to many of the songs that can leave one craving a little more variety. (This is solved on her second album, Odyssey.) An exception to the sameness is "Heaven," an upbeat calypso-inspired ditty about untimely death(!)

And then there's the last track, "Wuthering Heights." Hayley's been quoted as saying this is one of her favorite songs. It contradicts everything else I've said in this review. She shrieks, she swoops, she screeches, she's often unintelligible (thank goodness for the lyrics in the CD insert!). This is Hayley-tries-rock-music and Hayley-goes-wild. It was probably fun to sing. Maybe she needed to get it out of her system. To me, it's just strange.

But there are 12 other tracks that make this remarkable CD well worth having.
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on August 22, 2008
I had heard a few songs from this collection and really liked them. She's young but I would like to see how she matures as an artist.

I would have given this 5 stars, except for the execrable "Wuthering Heights" track, which she starts by emitting a note that could only be described as shrieky. I literally jumped the first time I heard it, and it's still unpleasant. Didn't anybody listen to that track before the CD was released? It sounds like a siren (a police siren, I mean), and I don't mean to be nasty because I think she's good, but it sounded as if she was struggling to hit that note, and there was no need for it. She could have taken it down a half-tone and the effect would not have been alarming, the way it is now.

She should also work a bit on her enunciation. For the longest time, when I listened to "Across a Universe of Time" I kept hearing "tell me your vision OF SUNNY DELITE" (instead if "a story begun") She isn't helped in that department by overwrought arrangements. Whoever's arranging the music should work with her fragile voice.

But I'm looking forward to her development as an artist. Just stop screaming, Hayley!
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on September 30, 2008
Pure represents the initial international, read US, CD release of Hayley Westenra. Other albums had been released outside of the US market, but Pure is an excellent cross-section of the wide ranging vocal talent of a sixteen year old New Zealand Popera. This is a must have CD for fans of pitch perfect singers. Her signature piece is Pokarekare Ana. This album has two versions: a basic and extended version. I recommend listening while looking at the CD cover photo. It is amazing to me that such a voice comes out of such a wonderfully talented young woman. If you fall in love with the album and the artist, you will have to have the DVD Hayley Westenra, Live from New Zealand. She is seventeen in it. She takes chances as demonstrated on the cut Wuthering Heights. Hayley has the voice of an angel and probably is one. Highly recommended as the first of many Hayley Westenra albums
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on December 27, 2006
A few weeks ago I saw a young girl singing with Celtic Women on a PBS special. As wonderful as the other girl singers are, there was something about this young girls voice which moved me to find out more. Through that search I found her web site and the group web site with all the timeline video clips. From that moment on, I became totally 'hooked on Hayley' Came here and ordered Pure. I will have to get a replacement as I am wearing it out. I also have ordered he other cd's and they are in transit. Just to test myself I have also, via the web, searched other soprano's. Some were good, but mostly all the same, good opera voices and oh well that was nice. I find something magical in Hayley's voice and Pure puts me front stage center. Her voice is a gift from God and I can't thank her enough for sharing.
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on July 1, 2015
Out of this world beautiful voice
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on April 8, 2016
Purchased this CD for a friend for her birthday & it's become one of her favourites to play when she's feeling a little melancholy. She says Hayley's music "lifts her soul" & makes her feel at one with the world again.
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