time to continue with some musical culture – or whatever one considers culture. after all it is always deeply personal and what i find musical, others might classify as noise!
nonetheless here are some more favourites of mine:
TORI AMOS – night of hunters
this is tori amos’ most classical album, which is fittingly influenced by classical music pieces which she has taken as inspiration and/or reworked into heartwrenching works of art. there is really no real way to describe this album other than saying put it on, close your eyes and listen. it goes from simplicity to monumental and back and is full of gems (and you get to hear tori’s daughter singing on several tracks as well!). the highest recommendation possible – this is no easy listening but it shoots right to your emotional core!
good place to start: star whisperer, your ghost, job’s coffin
UTE LEMPER – punishing kiss
ute lemper always divides opinion and here she is at her most ‘kunstdiva’ possible, which i mean as a great compliment. she interprets modern songwriters such as nick cave, elvis costello and the divine comedy and adds her own inimitable flavour to it – as well as throwing in a classic by kurt weill (in a duet with neil hannon from the divine comedy). this is cabaret in its most progressive form and ‘kunst as kunst can’. artful but in no way artificial.
good place to start: little water song, tango ballad, you were meant for me
CYNDI LAUPER – at last
whoever still considers cyndi lauper a pop-relic from the 80s, should listen to her take on standards and classics from burt bacharach, edith piaf, etta james or nina simone (just to name a few) from 2003. i promise you that your jaw will drop as her vocal abilities make them sound fresh and anew and the arrangements go from sparse and faithful to slightly cooky. it feels like a breath of fresh air blown all over you and the whole album is full of highlights (and her version of piaf’s hymn to love is simply to die for).
good place to start: hymn to love, at last, unchained melody
HILDEGARD KNEF – knef
in germany, everyone knows hildegard knef who has been immortalised through songs such as ‘für mich soll’s rote rosen regnen’ (who still remembers that she was the first german to have a hit in a long-running broadway musical with ‘silk stockings’ though…) – ella fitzgerald once called her ‘the greatest singer without a voice’. admittedly she was not your usual singer, but more an interpreter and the way she used her smoky voice via enunciation and accentuation was shere perfection, as her phrasing was always immensely musical and intelligent.
in 1970 she took on modern ‘vibes’ and created an album that was both forward looking as well as tradiotional, both avantgarde and highly unique. the lyrics are witty and critical (as in ‘herren dieser welt’) and are typically knef. this is german chanson at its very best!
good place to start: ich brauch’ tapetenwechsel, herren dieser welt, friedenskampf und schadenfreude
MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND – all things will unwind
if you like sufjan stevens, you might have come across my brightest diamond before, as shara worden (how she is known in real life) has collaborated with him frequently on his albums, so you might have heard her voice before. her own style is, quite similar to sufjan stevens, highly personal and quirky and combines many different musical styles. this is a singer/songwriter at her most developed stage with a voice that seems both angelic and earthy and comes right out of heaven.
good place to start: we added up, high low middle, i have never loved someone
THE TIGER LILLIES – shockheaded peter
whatever one considers to be ‘twisted cabaret’ or ‘dark cabaret’, the tiger lillies are it to a 1000%! nothing about them is conventional – from the high-pitched vocals of martyn jacques to the orchestration of ukulele, piano, harmonica and more, it is just what defines the genre. it is quirky and alternative without sounding arty-farty and it makes you smile even when the stories told are dark and gruesome. ‘shockheaded peter’ is called a trash opera and based on ‘der struwwelpeter’ (a book of moralising children’s tales that is very well know in germany … and you wonder why we have a word such as ‘schadenfreude’????!!!) and i first discovered it as a stage play (of course with the tiger lillies performing). the mere aural version on its own still conveys much of the stories, as you see poor harriet burn in front of your inner eye and robert flying away in a storm. it is truly exceptional and so much worth a listen (should you ever see it being performed live, i implore you to book a ticket straight away!)!
good place to start: flying robert, bully boys, the dreadful story about harriet and the matches
stay tuned … more music to follow in the near future as one can never have enough cocktails or culture!