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Angel CD weds classical and pop

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RYLAND ANGEL; "Ryland Angel" (Manhattan)** 1/2

Fans of Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban ought to check out the debut album of the newest voice in the classical pop scene, Ryland Angel.

While Angel's sound is similar enough to what has been done before to be familiar, he also has a few twists to make it interesting — beginning with the fact that he is a countertenor. His voice is smooth, straight-toned and in the falsetto range has an ethereal English choirboy sound (especially when enhanced with reverb that makes him sound like he could be in a cathedral).

Most of the tracks on the CD are either liturgical or otherwise religious in nature and were written or co-written by Angel. They're easy on the ears, but the drawback is that there's not a whole lot of variety in style between the tracks — they're all pretty sweet and are mostly the same sound, style and speed. He varies the instrumentation (a plus), but when he adds drums, they're usually pretty bland (a minus), and reminiscent of a synthesized drum track.

The back of the CD compares his writing style to that of James Taylor, but these aren't anything like Taylor's folk-inspired songs (except that both are mellow) — they're very much a marriage of classical and pop.

He has some nice writing on this CD, though.

E-mail: rcline@desnews.com