"Opera with an attitude" goes the promo line for soccer-arena tenor Russell Watson's debut disc; it should rather be "Opera without aptitude." The young Brit indeed has a voice, one perhaps better tha

"Opera with an attitude" goes the promo line for soccer-arena tenor Russell Watson's debut disc; it should rather be "Opera without aptitude." The young Brit indeed has a voice, one perhaps better than Michael Bolton's. But Pavarotti—or even Andrea Bocelli—he's not. Watson's clipped, anemic phrasing in "Nessun Dorma" makes it plain that Puccini's foolproof emotionalism isn't so foolproof. But Verdi's "La Donna e Mobile" actually fares better than do the pop tunes here. The sticky synths and vocal melodrama push Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" right over the edge, and the cool restraint that made Ultravox's "Vienna" compelling is foreign to this interpreter (and his producer). The duet with Maire Brennan is pure Celtic kitsch, but it's real art compared with Watson's pairing with former Happy Mondays leader Shaun Ryder. With seemingly fatal irony deficiency, the two let all the air out of the Freddy Mercury/Montserrat Caballé high-camp hit "Barcelona." This is obviously a no-brainer for Decca, if not quite in the way the label supposed.—BB