Tuesday, August 29, 2006

SUSANNA AND THE MAGICAL ORCHESTRA: Melody Mountain (Rune Grammofon)

SUSANNA AND THE MAGICAL ORCHESTRA
Melody Mountain
RCD2057
Rune Grammofon 2006
10 Tracks. 42mins35secs




Buy now: CD
Susanna And The Magical Orchestra | Rune Grammofon

Two years on from their wonderful debut, List Of Lights And Buoys, Susanna Wallumrød and Morten Qvenild return with this sophomore effort, once again produced by Deathprod. While their debut featured mostly tracks written by themselves, with the exception of the two opening tracks, Leonard Bernstein's Who Am I and Dolly Parton's Jolene, Melody Mountain sees the pair applying their delicately textured sound onto a variety of classic songs taken from the repertoires or artists as far apart as Joy Division, Leonard Cohen, Prince, AC/DC, Scott Walker or Fairport Convention to name but a few.

While the originals cover a wide musical range, Wallumrød and Qvenild apply the same gentle brushes and soft tones across all of their interpretations and offer rather radical reworkings of each song as they make them their own. If this worked beautifully on Who Am I, and even more so on Jolene, and works rather well on a number of songs here, this album nevertheless proves to be a rather hit-and-miss affair over its full length.

Melody Mountain opens with the Leonard Cohen classic Hallelujah, a song that seems pre-destined to be a masterpiece in the hands of Wallumrød and Qvenild. Yet, compared to Cohen’s soulful version and Jeff Buckley’s intense interpretation, this sounds rather colourless and somewhat lacklustre. Things pick up greatly with the rather clever adaptation of AC/DC’s It’s A Long Way To The Top. Stripped of its rock’n’roll outfit, the song becomes a resounding prayer which, surprisingly, suits the “a day in the life of a touring band” lyrics to the hilt. Matt Burt’s These Days is equally inspirational and delicate, and if Prince’s Condition Of The Heart looses most of its flamboyance here, Wallumrød and Qvenild give the song an altogether more poignant touch by highlighting its wonderfully crafted melody and pushing the lyrics at the forefront.

This approach works best on Love Will Tear Us Apart. Keeping the sombre mood of the original, Wallumrød and Qvenild give this intimate interpretation all the necessary soul and highlight shimmering melodic tones to make this the most compelling moment of Melody Mountain. Their rendition of Kiss’s Crazy, Crazy Nights and Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright are enjoyable, but Wallumrød and Qvenild don’t manage to inject any life in their version of Depeche Mode’s Enjoy The Silence. Thankfully, they do a far better job of Scott Walker’s It’s Raining Today, which becomes a rather haunting ballad in their hands, and Fairport Convention's Fotheringay.

If Melody Mountain offers quite a few moments of sheer beauty, one cannot help but feel slightly disappointed at Susanna Wallumrød's and Morten Qvenild's choice of recording a whole album of covers. The evidence of superb songwriting skills found on List Of Lights And Buoys, especially on songs such as Believer, Sweet Devil and Time is likely to leave anyone who has appreciated this album wanting for more.

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