CD La Serpenta Canta [CD Boxset] [2 discs] (CD 950692),
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La Serpenta Canta [CD Boxset] [2 discs]
0. DISC 1:
2. Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down
3. Burning Hell
4. Baby's Insane
5. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
6. Lonely Woman
0. DISC 2:
1. Blue Spirit Blues
2. My World Is Empty Without You
3. I Put a Spell on You
4. At the Dark End of the Street
5. Dancing in the Dark
6. Dead Cat on the Line
7. See That My Grave Is Kept Clean
8. Burning Hell - (reprise)
Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 9255
Personnel: Diamanda Gals (vocals, piano).
Blues is a scary form of music. The authentic blues relies on the turmoil of strong, often shameful emotions. Bluesmen like John Lee Hooker and Screamin' Jay Hawkins could sing in a very scary voice that sent shivers down your spine. So can Diamanda Gals. In fact, she's the scariest of them all. Then again, she's not a blues singer. Or isn't she? Her fantastic vocal range and powerful lungs are certainly more opera than roots, but her gothic looks and her topics of choice (despair and redemption) put her much closer to the Blues (with a capital B) than one could suspect at first. And when she dives into "Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down" or Hooker's "Burning Hell," she is one of the greatest blueswomen who ever lived. But what she does to the blues is unique, and makes La Serpenta Canta a unique album. Recorded live, mostly in 2001-2002, it features the dark dame alone at the piano (her soundman Blaise Dupuy occasionally adds effects in her piano or microphone). She reinvents from top to bottom a cross section of songs about people hurting. It's not all blues; there's some country in there, some jazz, even a bit of Motown (the Supremes' "My World Is Empty Without You," the strength of which is unbelievable). She slipped in one original, "Baby's Insane," which first appeared on her collaboration with John Paul Jones, The Sporting Life. But it's all about hurt. Her voice shreds your soul into pieces and each piano chord throws a dagger through your heart. The quality of her interpretations is staggering; each song -- from Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" to Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You" and the standard "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" -- sounds like it was tailored to her voice. The only downside is the duration: 80 minutes is short for a double album. By cutting a few seconds of applause here and there, it could have been scaled down to a single disc. Then again, the pause between the two 40-minute sets is beneficial. Along with The Sporting Life, this is one of her most accessible releases. And so fine it hurts. ~ Franois Couture
Alternative Press (p.162) - "She sings the blues till they turn as black as a cancerous lung. Ditto for country, jazz, Motown and R&B songs, to which Galas adds stark piano embellishments..." - 4 out of 5
CMJ (p.7) - "LA SERPENTA CANTA shows ever-histrionic avant-screecher Diamanda Galas taking a solo voice-and-piano turn, reconstructing modern American standards."
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