37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
Let this album grow on you, and you won't regret it, 10 Feb. 2003
My first reaction upon listening to the album was, "well, I can see why this didn't make it to the pop charts..." but after listening to it several times, I have to say I am definitely falling in love with it. I have it on a loop on my laptop right now, in fact. It is beautiful! "Scenescof," "Strange Orchestas," "Dwarfish Trumpet Blues," "Knight," "Wielder of Words" and "Frowning Atahuallpa (My Inca Love)" are my particular favorites, and "Mustang Ford," "Chateau in Virginia Waters," "Child Star" and "Afghan Woman" are not too far behind. Which really only leaves "Hot Rod Mama" and "Graceful Fat Sheba" of the track listing, and these are both very good songs as well. The only reason I didn't list "Fat Sheba" as one of my favorites is that I can't recall it too well, and sandwiched between "Knight" and "Wielder of Words" it pales for me, and seems to be more of segue than anything. As for "Hot Rod Mama," originally I thought it a bit too jarring as an opener for the album, and something that would have been better done with electric guitar, but listening to it just now, I find I like it more than I thought I did. It just requires a bit of getting used to.
Much like the whole record. As I said, my first impression of it was, well, confused. I was prepared for anything (knowing this album wasn't anything like the T. Rex ones I already owned), and so swallowed it easier than others might have, but the album definitely isn't an easy first listen. Until the second or third listen, or perhaps until you are better acquainted with its sound, half of it sounds like layers of chirruped noise. Marc's voice is at its most twittery and shrill, constantly wavering up and down. I can now see where the "singing chippollata" description came from. He seems to sing into his nose, not taking the time to fully pronounce the syllables, making the lyrics hard to make out, which is not helped by the cacophony of bells, gongs, bird calls, claps and barnyard noises in the background. His backing singers provide more high-pitched wails and absent-seeming warbling. In short, it sounds like an album recorded on a trip, and best listened to on one as well.
And yet from he start, it has a certain compelling ambiance about it, if only because it *is* so different. At times, you are startled by how well the assorted instruments work: out of the hoof-beats of the bongos the sudden lilting melody of (sounds like) wind chimes comes like a spray of spring water, surprisingly beautiful and refreshing. Or you suddenly realize that in between all that incomprehensible singing and jumble of chords, the melody is pure pop (and I use the word in the sense it used to have, before all the c**p manufactured bands cropped up).
Eventually though, as you adjust to it, Marc's voice comes through stronger and you can sense the structure of the song in full, and you perceive that the so-called noise fits in perfectly, and that it's absolutely gorgeous. Everything falls into place, everything "clicks," and suddenly it's magic. It really is a "magical" album, it works like a spell: it transports you, it whirls your head around and fills you with its swirling inflections, and it all seems like one mystical, marvelous, lyrical poem.