By People Staff
February 23, 1998 12:00 PM

James Galway

Classical musicians who dabble in pop music inevitably have to counteract the stiffness that carries over from their usual formal approach. In this collection of mostly pop songs, Galway, a spirited Irish flutist, combines extraordinary technique with warmth and ease and manages to seem at home with popular material without turning it into Muzak.

Unhappily, even he can’t do much with the tuneless gruel of “River-dance,” which is tedious even without those dancers galumphing about. But given a shapely melody—”In My Life,” say, or “The Wind Beneath My Wings”—Galway can turn the familiarity of an oft-heard tune into a virtue. He plays with great emotion, especially on Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven,” and he’s particularly moving when he plays against a pop performer, as he does with singer Cleo Laine on John Denver’s “Like a Sad Song” and with the Chieftains on the traditional “Over the Sea to Skye.” Crossover attempts by classical artists can be discomfiting, but Galway seems as at home with Lennon and McCartney as he does with Mozart and Bach. He manages to communicate the joy of music in both domains. (RCA Victor)