'Voodoo Princess' -
K C Devereaux
'The only voodoo conjured here is the dread spectre of "Smooth Jazz".'
The treacle-factor predominates in circus-maven Linhardt's latest.
Christina Linhardt's diffuse musical preoccupations reflect her eclectic resumé, which includes, among many other pursuits, stints as a Renaissance Fair fool, a boxer in training, songstress for Cirque du Soleil, and music therapist. Voodoo Princess, her second solo CD, was ostensibly inspired by a visit to the Caribbean, but the disk's genre-bending mélange of styles combines elements of English, American, and French balladry, with rap, art song, and opera. The overall category, if I were still at my old job at Borders and required to shelve this, would be 'Easy Listening'. The concept suggested by the subtitle -- 'pirated' opera or lieder with a satirical rap twist, was intriguing. (A sort of boyz-in-the-hood Anna Russell?) However, as is too often the case with clever positioning, all the sizzle is in the slogan.
The opening cut, Bedlam Boyzz, echoes (without attribution) the traditional (Irish and American) folktune Flora, the Lily of the West. Redwood Theatre (track No 2, after Puccini's O Mio Babbino caro), has a deadly earnest interpretation, with Linhardt's reedy voice singing her new-agey original lyrics to appropriately reedy accompaniment. (Kenny G comes disturbingly to mind.) Most of her reinterpretations credit the original. (Waterfall, No 3, is based on Death and the Lady, a renaissance air 'pillaged from Handel's Piangero aria from Julius Caesar'.) Bengal Prince (No 4) appropriates the tune of Danny Boy (The Londonderry Air). The only overtly Caribbean reference is Bring a Torch, Jamaica's Good People, a version (not credited, but obvious) of Un Flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle, sung in an embarrassingly affected Jamaican accent, introduced by a calypso-basso voiceover. (One expects a Disney singing crustacean to jump in at any time.)
Perhaps Linhardt's equatorial odyssey included a side-trip to Brazil -- hence the 'new wave' bit? Dobru Noc, Dvorák's lullaby based on a traditional tune, is given an insipid bossa nova gloss in Waltzes and Razor Blades (No 7). The modified samba beat is repeated in Wolf at Bay (No 8), recognizably based on Moscow Nights and in Purgatory (No 9), not so recognizably 'plundered' from Dance of the Blessed Spirits, and Spring is Coming. (Schubert's Der Hirt auf dem Felsen part III? It's anybody's guess.) Linhardt's voice, though pleasant, is too thin and cloying, and she makes up in rolled consonants what she lacks in vibrato.
Listen -- Erlkönig
(track 10, 0:00-0:58) © 2007 Linhardt Circus Music
Only the last cut (No 10), a version of Schubert's Erlkönig, has a hip-hop beat. The Erlkönig, intended no doubt to be the hit single of the album, is promising. The rap element (with a disconcerting nod to Tijuana Brass) provides an interesting backbeat to Schubert's familiar stormy accompaniment. However the piece crosses an admittedly fine line between parody and poor taste, when Schubert's horror tale (lyrics by Goethe) about a sick child lured from his father's arms by the blandishments of the evil Elf-King ends with an unduly gleeful voicing of the final phrase 'das Kind war tot' ('the child was dead'). However, thanks to Linhardt's operatic delivery on this track, her voice is deeper and more resonant (a few sharp and breathless moments aside) than the Muzak whine that treacles up her performances elsewhere on this album.
Listeners who were expecting a truly witty vamp on some 'top forty' classical repertoire will be disappointed. The only voodoo conjured here is the dread spectre of 'Smooth Jazz'.
Copyright © 13 April 2009
K C Devereaux,
CD INFORMATION: CHRISTINA LINHARDT'S VOODOO PRINCESS