One thing I always love about Daman Albarn is that you never quite know where he is going to go next. From brit pop with Blur, to prog rock with The Good, The Bad and the Queen, frequent dalliances with African music and of course his forays into dance with Gorillaz, it seems Daman has done it all.
Except perhaps opera; until now.
Dr Dee is an opera about the life story of John Dee an advisor to Elizabeth I who in those straightened times lived a dangerous life as he dabbled with the occult, astrology and an attempt to speak with Angels. When you think about it, the only surprise is that an opera hadn't been written about his life sooner.
While Dee was of course viewed with suspicion at the time (and subject to interrogation by the Church upon occasion), today's revisionists see him as one of the more learned men of the times; using Copernicus' theories to expand upon mathematical theory as well as building up one of the most comprehensive libraries of the time.
The music is modern opera in style with a lot of Elizabethan and operatic singing. Damon himself doesn't attempt to sing in operatic style but is in fine voice in an understated and serious way.
I certainly get something of the Elizabethan era from the tracks on the album, although I wouldn't describe the outcome as authentic; more "based upon the idea of Elizabethan music".
I don't imagine De Dee is particularly acclaimed within classical music circles as Damon's vocals are so obviously rock based, but it still does have a serious air about it and would not be classed purely as pop.
There are some beautifully sung songs with soaring but gentle choruses together with some more challenging and jarring pieces. Overall Dr Dee isn't a particularly easy listen but it does grow on you and I enjoy listening to it when I'm around and about the house.
I conclude that Dr Dee is something of an acquired taste overall but if you like Damon Albarn's voice and enjoy seeing where the man's many talents take him, then this is a very worthwhile purchase.
* first published at ciao
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 The Golden Dawn
2 Apple Carts
3 O Spirit, Animate Us
4 The Moon Exalted
5 A Man of England
8 The Marvelous Dream
9 A Prayer
10 Edward Kelley
12 9 Point Star
13 Temptation Comes in the Afternoon
14 Watching the Fire That Waltzed Away
15 Moon (Interlude)
17 Tree of Beauty
18 The Dancing King