Snider’s twisted take on Broadway tunes
“Dee Does Broadway”
(Razor & Tie)
In a signature song early in his career, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider vowed “I’ll Never Grow Up.” But bless his twisted heart and frizzed-out hair, that’s exactly what’s happening to the heavy metal legend, best known for hits like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock.”
Dee Snider has become a brand. He’s done stints as a commercial voice-over actor, a radio DJ, a reality TV star and budding author. But “Dee Does Broadway,” a collection of iconic classics from the Broadway stage, is the boldest departure yet from the MTV fixture of the `80s. It melds the timeless melodies and passions of musical hits with the fire, intensity and energy of heavy metal. (Think Angela Lansbury meets Alice Cooper.) It makes more sense when you consider that Snider had a featured role in 2010 in the `80s rock musical “Rock Of Ages,” which put the Broadway bug into him.
They don’t keep records on this sort of thing, but it’s a safe bet that Snider is the first heavy metal star to record the words “ol’ chum” in a song when he covers “Cabaret,” the scene-setting opening track. “The Ballad Of Sweeney Todd” sounds like a perfect third act to Twisted Sister’s “Horror-Teria” and would fit seamlessly in one of the band’s live shows.
Norah Jones teams with Danger Mouse
“Little Broken Hearts”
Norah Jones is rich and beautiful and has one of the most gorgeous voices in popular music. None of that makes her immune to a broken heart.
Sad for her, good for us. Jones channeled her hurt into a collaboration with Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton with 12 reflections on love gone wrong.
It’s no pick-me-up, obviously. But Jones does more than wallow. She’s angry, defiant, wounded, all-too-willing to slip back into a bad thing and even entertains a murder fantasy.
In the catchy “She’s 22,” Jones imagines her ex’s life with a new lover, ending with “I’d like to see you happy.” Falser words were never spoken. On “Out On the Road,” she steps out with determination and a half tank of gas, only to hear a ghostly voice remind her that she’s got “nowhere to go.” Jones, sweet little Norah, tells the subject in “Miriam” that “I’m gonna smile when I take your life.”
Burton proves an excellent collaborator, the music sometimes spooky and bass-heavy but also surprisingly sunny in spots. If she’s not pushed or energized, Jones’ music can bore. There are enough good musical ideas here to keep the mind from wandering, and it brings her squarely into contemporary pop without sounding contrived.
Thematic albums are increasingly rare these days, good ones rarer still. Jones and Burton pull it off.
Albarn takes new direction with Dr Dee
Eclectic is Damon Albarn’s middle name. From Brit pop with Blur to the Chinese opera “Monkey: Journey to the West” and the Gorillaz in between, his musical journey has gone in pretty much every direction.
His latest offering is different again; Albarn refers to the album as “strange pastoral folk.” “Dr Dee” is from an opera which premiered last year during the Manchester International Festival in the United Kingdom. It tells the story of John Dee, Queen Elizabeth I’s medical and scientific advisor, whose career ended in sexual scandal and disgrace. Albarn created the stage production of “Dr Dee” alongside theater director Rufus Norris.
The album opens with an instrumental track called “The Golden Dawn,” which employs birds singing and the chiming of a clock, with an organ being ominously introduced midway through.
“Apple Carts” sees the welcome introduction of Albarn’s vocals and is strangely beautiful, his dulcet tones paired with a flute and lyrics that reference nature. This melts into “O Spirit, Animate Us,” where Albarn’s lyricism turns almost biblical – “Oh father, animate us,” he asks, before the song is pierced, rather uncomfortably and unexpectedly, with operatic female vocals.
Without the visual accompaniment of the stage production, it’s hard to grapple with the material. Perhaps aided by visuals, the tracks would have more purpose and impact. As it stands now, it’s an odd but interesting album that‘s hard to truly enjoy.