In an exciting effort to bring the past to the present, Shakespeare: The Sonnets sounds out Billy's finest 14-liners as contemporary music played with traditional Elizabethan instruments. You know those classic songs that are written so simply that they can be interpreted in many ways by different artists? That's what's happening with Shakespeare's work on this album.
The album starts with the gently rolling Sonnet 60 "Like as the Waves Make Towards the Pebble Shore", reflecting its subject matter of likening the waves to life. It's much of a seventies folksy pop song. From there, the tempo picks up to a rocking Sonnet 137 "Thou Blind Fool Love" that could easily be sung by Bono. It's an addictive tune that will be in your head for days. Sonnet 109 "O Never Say That I was False of Heart" is a Once-like tune from a duet that softly proclaims their love. Sonnet 128 "How Oft, When Thou, My Music, Music Play'st" provides a big band flair to an eighties Journey-like atmosphere in a fun rendition that will have you swaying and toe-tapping in no time. Notably, the bassline is based off of a Renaissance baseline. It transfers well! Cara Dillon croons her usual self away in the notable Sonnet 18 "Shall I Compare Thee to a Midsummers Day?" She sweetly sings as if the tune was written for a movie soundtrack over a montage of two lovers having fun and doing super sweet things that make you want to vomit all over adorable puppies. Sonnet 49 "Against that Time--If Ever That Time Come" picks up a slight rock edge, and "Sonnet 71 "No Longer Mourn for Me When I am Dead" and Sonnet 151 "Love is Too Young to Know What Conscience Is" promises the folk-rock sounds of Bernard Fanning. Another tune uses the Renaissance baseline with Sonnet 12 "When I Do Count the Clock that Tells the Time." It's a beautiful harpsichord tune with rich and robust vocals provided by Robert Hollingsorth and his vocal ensemble I Fagiolini. It's the most Renaissance-sounding song by far, but it's incredibly lovely. Sonnet 17 "Who Will Believe My Verse in Time to Come" is very a modern pop-rock song with a nineties vibe. Sonnet 115 "Those Lines that I Before have Writ do Lie" is a haunting a capella Renaissancey choir piece sung again by Hollingsworth and I Fagiolini.
The album as a whole is a fun experience and a stellar work of art, but it is only 36 minutes long. This is the most disappointing aspect, and if you've got the curdles to shell out the shillings, it makes the album that much more savory. I hope there will be a sequel soon, and I hope Cara Dillon sings on it again! It's only available in the U.K., so those outside the U.K. have to spend a bit more. Buy the album on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. You can also find it on iTunes.