The remainder of the album features Ms. Astley singing solo. If I had to compare her vocals to anyone, it would most likely have to be Annie Haslam, who is best known as lead singer for the English progressive rock band Renaissance. Albeit neither reaching a vocal range as high nor performing quite as powerfully, which to be fair was unlikely the intention given the nature of the material, Ms. Astley sings with the same gentle quality that Annie had for Renaissance's ballad tracks, all the while exercising just the right amount of breath control.
In the second track "A Father", Ms. Astley expresses conflicting feelings of love and resentment towards the man who had abandoned her. She goes on state in the lyrics how a relationship is not something one is entitled to from birth, but rather it is something that develops by being present through both good days and bad. The lyrical nature of the seventh track "Love's a Lonely Place to Be" deals with the feelings of isolation one experiences when a relationship between two individuals ends, and how despite both being physically present, the emotional distance is further exacerbated by continuously putting up an evidently transparent facade that they are at ease with their situation.
The final two tracks on the album, "A Summer Long Since Passed" and "Darkness has Reached its End" respectively, are among my favorites. The former is an alternative version of the song that was originally featured on the 1983 release "From Gardens Where We Feel Secure", and while it has no actual lyrics, Astley's vocals serve as an additional instrument nonetheless. The latter serves as a conclusion to the dark chapter narrated in the preceding songs. Reference is made to a growing child, which symbolizes of how time will continue to move forward. Furthermore, she expresses how despite having her own share of regrets in life, the hope in her heart is stronger than the pain she had experienced. Her optimism is metaphorically compared to the "light that shines from the stars".
Although this album was a somewhat accidental discovery, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to explore it, and it is undoubtedly something I expect to revisit frequently. Ryuichi Sakamoto, who has always been known for his emotional piano pieces, creates melodies that are both suitable for the material and complementary to Ms. Astley's voice. Whether you are an avid fan of David Sylvian looking to examine yet another example out of his extensive history of collaborations, or are an individual with a profound appreciation for melancholic, introspective, and eloquent forms of self-expression, "Hope in a Darkened Heart" is certainly worth your time.