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- Imitations by Mark Lanegan
7/10 Brian Staff review, 13 September 2013
I'm unsure where I stand with this gravel-voiced pioneer of grunge and his current brand of orchestrated folk-rock, lovelorn balladeering and Southern Gothic melodrama. It all strikes at a point some place between the anguished soul of Greg Dulli and the tender heartbreak of Richard Hawley, and so leaves me a feeling a little nonplussed. His adopted style here seems very much aimed at the ladies, whereas the charming records he made with l'il Izzie Campbell of B&S fame were largely lovely updates on the old Lee & Nancy staple, his gruff abrasiveness being the perfect foil to her sultry kitten-esque purr.
Indeed, this is his eighth album and is that most anticipated/dreaded of things - a covers album. Everyone from Nick Cave and John Cale to Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams get the Lanegan treatment here. Some renditions come across more successful than others.
Regardless of my lack of commitment and enthusiasm, I have to admit that the arrangements throughout are indeed infused with a restrained beauty and a certain seductive aura. Understated piano, dreamy brass, brushed drums, languid bass and acoustic guitar are the main anchors for Mr. Lanegan's take on classic sad-hued ballads.When strings are deployed, they are graceful and unobtrusive.
It's grand sounding stuff with a whiff of genuine classicism but the lyrics occasionally strike me as a little sickly, sorta cheesy 70s candlelit tuxedo club maudlin. This is obviously not his fault, being other folks' songs and such. Not a failure in any way, especially the gloriously sensual Gérard Manset piece with lyrics sung in French. He should do this more often...by far my favourite on the album.
There's seemingly a huge market for this kinda thing and undeniably he's in top form vocally so still commands reasonably high marks from little Brian.
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