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A Love Supreme

 

The Twilight Singers: She Loves You

One Little Indian, 2004

Rating: 4.0

 

 

Posted: December 24, 2004

By Kevin Forest Moreau

In his love for grand gestures and his casual determination to pay living tribute rock 'n' roll's soul-music roots, Greg Dulli sometimes across as Bono's younger Gen-X sibling. (Certainly, no one can argue the fact that he wears Bono's Zoo TV-era persona, The Fly, with the same air of narcissism and irony.) But where Bono treats cover tunes as opportunities to reverently fly the flag for a distinctly Rolling Stone worldview of rock as a mythology with an ironclad (and, dare we say it, stuffy) pantheon -- the Beatles, the Ramones, Bob Dylan -- Dulli approaches other artists' material with the same sensual and predatory instinct that suffuses his own work.

She Loves You, then, isn't your father's covers record, meant as an homage to those who've inspired him (like, say, Rush's Feedback and Duran Duran's Thank You). It's a celebration of the insatiable drive, the conflicting tug of spirituality and carnal desire, behind his favorite music (and his own). That Dulli makes Lindsey Buckingham's "What Makes You Think You're The One" (from Fleetwood Mac's Tusk) sound like a lost outtake from Blackberry Belle, drenched in atmospheric, twinkling piano and Dulli's own sensual croon, isn't an audacious appropriation so much as it's an attempt to use familiar works to underline his own artistic vision.

Dulli and his shifting band of Twilight Singers deliver takes on Björk's "Hyperballad" and Mary J. Blige's "Real Love" that both make seeking and accepting love sound like the highest, most noble calling imaginable -- a thematic approach clinched by a nocturnal trip through John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme." Even when he's not singing exclusively about his own concept of love as viewed through the prism of others' material, Dulli leads his collaborators through works by Martina Topley-Bird ("Too Tough to Die"), Lewis Allen ("Strange Fruit"), Skip James (a bluesy "Hard Time Killing Floor," nailed via a typically worn vocal from Mark Lanegan), Hope Sandoval ("Feeling of Gaze") and of course Marvin Gaye ("Please Stay (Once You Go Away)"), investing them all with his signature luxurious, gauzy swagger.

In the process, Dulli can't help but make each of these songs sound like ruminations on desire in all its forms. He's certainly one of the few artists assured enough to turn the Gershwin chestnut "Summertime" into a bedroom track without once dipping into camp or kitsch. Similarly, She Loves You ties all of these diverse vignettes together without ever feeling affected or show-off-y. The result is a compellingly listenable record whose thematic signal points add up to one of the very, very few viable theme/concept albums composed solely of cover tunes -- an impressive feat in itself. Let's see Bono pull that off.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: A classic
 4.0-4.9: Stellar work
 3.0-3.9: Worthwhile effort
 2.0-2.9: Nothing special
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