Get in touch: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting YORK to 80360 or send an email»
Damon Albarn, Dr Dee (Parlophone) ***
SONGS and music inspired by a multi-talented, well-respected game-changer working at the tail end of the reign of a Queen Elizabeth?
Well, they say write what you know, and it seems Damon Albarn has taken that advice and run with it.
The former Blur frontman’s first solo album is, to put it politely, an oddity, made up of a blend of 16th and 17th century instruments, English choirs and occasional African sounds, all infused with Albarn’s voice at its most fragile since No Distance Left To Run.
Let’s get this straight – this is no Gorillaz or The Good The Bad And The Queen. Instead, it is a musical celebration of the life of John Dee, mathematician, alchemist, occultist and advisor to Elizabeth I, which will be a strain on casual listeners or die-hard fans of Albarn’s more accessible work.
Early tracks The Golden Dawn, Apple Carts and The Moon Exalted are beautifully put together, and transport you to the green fields and simpler times of Elizabethan England, with gentle strings and birdsong evoking scenes of pastoral idyll, while Albarn sings of angels and science.
While it can be beautiful – and even when the album turns dark, it really is – there’s an unshakeable air of pretension about Dr Dee, to the point where it’s impossible to ignore echoes of Spinal Tap’s epic Stonehenge.
Without a doubt, it’s a unique work, and Albarn clearly has a love, possibly even a connection with the subject matter. But it’s difficult to imagine how many times you’d listen to the whole thing. However many times you decide, it’s probably best left for sunny Sunday mornings, preferably looking out over open green fields.