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Music Review

Escala: 'Escala'

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Escala: 'Escala'
Released on Monday, May 25 2009

Thanks to a hairy spinster from Scotland, several teary-eyed youngsters and a buzzing Piers Morgan/Simon Cowell PR machine, Britain's Got Talent has gone from being a novelty sideshow to the biggest TV show of 2009. But will the ITV1 hit actually produce stars of the future? Paul Potts has sold a hefty number of records around the world and George Sampson is still plugging away with his cute dance routines, but what about the acts that don't quite make it to the Royal Variety? Is there a future for Stavros Flatley, Shaun Smith and dance troupes like Flawless if Susan Boyle walks away with the crown on Saturday night?

If any act is going to prove that Britain's Got Talent can act as a springboard for genuine, lengthy success, then electric string quartet Escala are probably it. With short skirts and never-ending legs that wouldn't look out of place in a Saturdays or Girls Aloud video, the slinky four-piece finished in fourth place last year behind a Bhangra Michael Jackson duo, but thankfully ahead of performing dog called Gin. Whether it was their classically-trained violin skills or impressive pins that first caught the eye of Simon Cowell is unclear, but Chantal, Izzy, Victoria and Tasya were quickly snapped up by the SyCo boss after the show ended.

After some delays - the album was originally due at Christmas - and a handily-timed performance on this year's Got Talent, the girls have finally got round to releasing an 11-strong set of classical/pop/rock covers. Like several other Cowell acts (Paul Potts, Il Divo), they follow a simple formula of finding well-known pop hits or famous classical pieces and giving them a new slant. The girls' pre-fame musical credentials may be impressive (performances with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, scholarships with the Royal College of Music), but sadly their song choices are tiresomely predictable. 'Adagio For Strings', 'Palladio' - which have both been covered before by fellow all-female string quartet Bond - and regular X Factor backing tracks 'Requiem For A Tower' and 'Clubbed To Death' are uninspired picks which give the record a tacky cash-in feel to match the whopping great Britain's Got Talent sticker on the album sleeve.

Fortunately, it's not all bad news. When the girls cut loose and move slightly left of centre, such as on their cover of 'Feeling Good' (the Muse version, rather than Nina Simone's), or their head-banging, string-crashing take on Led Zep's 'Kashmir', their music can be stylish and fun. Meanwhile, Trevor Horn's juicy pop production skills lift the record above most dross reality TV spinoff albums. Safe, parent-friendly and strictly inoffensive, this album should prove a bumper seller on Father's Day. Escala are undoubted proof that unusual and genuine talents can be given a spotlight by programmes like Britain's Got Talent. But whether this debut disc, which occasionally veers towards the slapdash, has successfully capitalised on those 15 minutes of reality show fame is less clear.


> Click here to read our recent interview with Escala

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