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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
A vision of Euro musical riches
Jessica Garlick made the final ten of Pop Idol
Jessica Garlick is the UK hopeful with ballad Come Back
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By Michael Osborn
BBC News Online

Enjoying an annual drunken night with friends to revel in the unique spectacle that is the Eurovision Song Contest is one thing.

But the prospect of owning an album containing all 24 songs vying for glory in this year's event in Estonia is bound to fill self-styled serious music fans with horror and disgust.

What Eurovision sticks in people's minds for - apart from the morning after hangover - is musical mediocrity and the blissful obscurity of European musicians who happily show off their wares in front of huge audiences.

The contest has never quite shaken off its image of being kitsch, ear-splitting and unintelligible.

Album cover promotes European harmony
Eurovision: you either love it or hate it
However, judging by this album, much of Europe is merging into a musical standard. But fear not - there are enduring elements of camp and sounds from the fringe which Eurovision would be a sorrier place without.

These days, countries can perform their songs in any language they please, and it is no big surprise that all but eight are in English, that international musical tongue.

This is an advantage to our ears, but there is a grumbling danger of everything sounding the same, in a brave new Eurovision world where decent quality pop songs and well-structured ballads (like the UK's own entry) hold sway.

Apart from Jessica Garlick, this album is a rare chance to hear artists who are huge stars at home, but remain unknowns to us.

Manuel Ortega is Austria's own Latin heartthrob, while Karolina is no stranger to the Macedonian top 10. Rosa is Spain's version of Pop Idol Will Young - with a berth in Eurovision being one of her hard-won trophies.

Aside from the usual pop fare, there are some songs on this album which defy the norm and would be hard to find elsewhere.

Corinna May has been blind since birth
Germany is odds on to win
Slovenia's song is performed by Sestre, a trio of transvestites who produce a high-energy romp of fabulous campness - made all the more fascinating since it is performed in their national language.

Turkey always stick rigidly to their exotic strain of warbling vocals and delicate instrumentation - putting Holly Valance's recent chart-topping crossover effort firmly in its place.

A whole crop of the Eastern Europeans bring to this album a quaintly old-fashioned brand of bouffant-haired rock - listen to Bosnia's Maja Tatic, who is a full-time cover version queen living in the Canary Islands.

And Romania's Anghel and Pavel enrapture us with an old-style, syrupy duet - could this be H & Claire, many years from now?

The stand-out track, and one of the favourites for this year's Eurovision crown, comes courtesy of Germany's Corinna May, who has been blind from birth. She blasts her way through a disco-tinged romp of Eurotastic proportions - and one that is of remarkably high quality.

So there is reason enough to make Eurovision more than an annual drunken, bawdy one-night stand and then forget about the whole thing.

This album shows how far the competition has come from its glaring technicolour days of dazzling costumes, inane lyrics and musical nonsense.

But we haven't quite lost the notion that Europe will never manage complete musical harmony - and this is what makes this album an interesting addition for all music fans - not just those diehard Eurovision enthusiasts.

Eurovision Song Contest Tallinn 2002 is released on May 20th on the BMG International label.

Jessica Garlick - UK
Listen to a clip from Come Back
Corinna May - Germany
Listen to a clip from I Can't Live Without Music
Monica Anghel & Marcel Pavel - Romania
Listen to a clip from Tell Me Why
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