2003 album from the avant-garde performer is a song recital recruiting blues, R&B, Motown, southern soul, country & western, & her own 'Baby's Insane' (from 'This Sporting Life' ), her duo album with John Paul Jone... more »s). 15 tracks recorded between May 1999 & November 2002. Mute.« less
2003 album from the avant-garde performer is a song recital recruiting blues, R&B, Motown, southern soul, country & western, & her own 'Baby's Insane' (from 'This Sporting Life' ), her duo album with John Paul Jones). 15 tracks recorded between May 1999 & November 2002. Mute.
The Voice Summoning The Spirit--incredible live perfomances
Eric McCalla | Denver, COLORADO | 08/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First off let me just say IT WAS WORTH THE WAIT! I ordered the import version from Amazon UK last year upon its intial release. Now that it's available stateside, don't delay buying it now! Diamanda Galas' last album release was Malediction and Prayer from 1998, so having LA SERPENTA CANTA on a double-cd set is a prayer answered. The only negative associated with it is the format: two discs that could easily have fit onto one. The running time for Disc One is just 38:52, while Disc Two is 41:14.
Now that I have all that out of the way, let's talk about the performances heard on this set. Taken from several venues spanning a time period from September '99 up to November 2002, these are among the finest live recordings of any artist I have ever heard. Whoever was responsible for the editing and mixing should be given a round of well-deserved applause. Though the 15 tracks were recorded in different acoustical environments, the sound quality is superb. Of course you have to overlook the various background noises found on a truly live recording: coughing, murmuring from the audience, as well as the clink of dishes and silverware from the Joe's Pub venue. Once you're past the first listening, it only enhances the overall mood that the performances are authentic and not re-recorded in a studio after the fact, like on many classical-music recordings.
The Intro on Disc One is very enthusiastic applause for Diamanda as she enters the performance hall, then it segues into the first song, AINT NO GRAVE CAN HOLD MY BODY DOWN, which will send chills down your spine every time you play it. This is followed by BURNING HELL, a piece that opens with a long piano overture that unfolds into Diamanda's mournful rendition of John Lee Hooker's classic. Diamanda's original BABY'S INSANE follows and at the end, she offers up a lighter moment criticizing a journalist who gave her a "very very bad review." She then dives into Hank Williams' I'M SO LONESOME I COULD CRY, which she dedicates to Aileen Wournos. After hearing it you may feel like crying or just sit quietly with your head hung low. The intensity of her singing, particularly on this track, is nothing less than heartrending. LONELY WOMAN by Ornette Coleman is the only song with no real lyrics: it's just Diamanda's voice ululating and wailing for several minutes through a world of torment and despair. Closing out disc one is FRENZY, which has to be heard to be believed.
Moving on to disc two, BLUE SPIRIT BLUES by Spencer Williams is also intense like I'M SO LONESOME, but for different reasons. It's just one of those things you can't describe very well: every time I listen to LA SERPENTA, I hear a song in a different way or notice another nuance in Diamanda's voice or phrasing. From Malediction & Prayer, MY WORLD IS EMPTY WITHOUT YOU gets a wholly diffent pianistic treatment and the vocals are even more sorrowful than her M&P version. Loved this! Then, I PUT A SPELL ON YOU follows with a completely different sound than what was found on The Singer--again a new version to fall in love with. Then, AT THE DARK END OF THE STREET (also from The Sporting Life like Baby's Insane) gets a beautiful and new sound. Then, DANCING IN THE DARK knocks you out with what I think is one of her most unusual arrangements for a traditional song (traditional as in a piece that's not like Vena Cava, or Schrei X, etc.) Following this is DEAD CAT ON A LINE which has a dark humor all its own. Coming to the next-to last track is SEE THAT MY GRAVE IS KEPT CLEAN (which was first recorded on The Singer) but gets a richer sound and more nuanced reading on the concert version heard here. Finally, Diamanda closes LSC with a reprise of BURNING HELL, which sounds completely different in tone from the version heard on disc one. It's taken from an earlier performance.
When you are listening to LSC, some of the vocal effects (which are minimal) may remind the listener of Schrei X or Vena Cava. These effects enhance the mood of the lyrics, rather than being a distraction or distortion of it. Like any perfomance of hers, the listener is left to experience it on his or her own, forming their own impression of how they feel or think while listening to and being absorbed by all of it. This sounds maybe vague, but any longtime devotee will know exactly what I'm talking about!
lvdh | the Netherlands, well, most of the time anyway | 09/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"How often does it occur that you encounter music that gives you very real, fysical reactions? Like fright, or unease, or some other strong affect resounding in the body. Listen to Galas, and listen to it with all of your body. Don't play this in the background, while studying or cooking - this needs all of your attention. It will repulse you, fright you, or excite you, but doubtlessly, you will be 'moved'.
4 stars instead of 5 because the CD was - in the Netherlands at least - fairly expensive as a double CD, for which I see no precise reason."
A So-So Collection of Diamanda's Live Recordings
J. A. Freakin' Freestyle | CHICAGO, IL | 10/11/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This collection paled in comparison to Diamanda's 1998 release "MALEDICTION and PRAYER", which I can listen to non-stop. There are bright moments in this cd, which being in the intro for "BABY'S INSANE"(which she penned), she says how a critic gave her a bad review on this song while performing it in San Francisco. She had me giggling. She reprises three songs that appear on some of her other cd's such as: "SEE THAT MY GRAVE IS KEPT CLEAN," "MY WORLD IS EMPTY WITHOUT YOU," and "I PUT A SPELL ON YOU". I'm assuming some of the other songs are her interpretations of blues songs. My picks in order if you want more of "singing" Diamanda as opposed to speaking, shreiking, moaning etc., performance artist Diamanda are as follows: "MALEDICTION and PRAYER", "THE SINGER", "LA SERPENTA CANTA", her rocking out album with JOHN PAUL JONES- "THE SPORTING LIFE" and "DEFIXIONES, WILL and TESTAMENT.""
"Diamanda's music/performance art needs some time to grow on you. I bought this album a couple of months back and it's quite hard to get used to but when you do, it's such a powerful and heartbreaking album. This is a double album recorded live all over the world for her "La Serpenta Canta" tour. She mostly sings blues standards and a couple of her own songs. If you've never heard her before and are curious to check her out, this is a great starting point.
Diamanda Galas is a fierce and confrontational artist that delves deeper in the darker corners of the human soul that are quite often ignored because humans are afraid and don't want to be remembered by it. She has released albums since the early 80's and the topics differ from people with HIV/Aids or who are in a demented state of mind. At the same time this album was released she also released another double album about the armenian genocide earlier this century.
Her voice is something quite special and truly one of a kind. It's a sort of combination between opera and shrieking. On this album you can also hear some gospel influences. I can imagine that a lot of people are turned of by that because her voice can frighten the wits out of you, even me.
So, on this album a lot of blues standards and the lyrics of most of the songs fit her perfectly. Accompanied by a grand piano and some digital manipulation, she creates a disturbing but impressive atmosphere that definitely grows on you if you can approach this with an open mind and are not afraid of some more unconventional music. Not all the tracks are dark. She also sings a couple of songs with a sardonic snarl that always puts a smile on my face (Baby's Insane and Dead Cat On The Line) and that enlightens the overal dark atmosphere of her work on this album.
Disc one 1.Intro 2.Aint No Grave Can Hold My Body Down 5/5 3.Burning Hell 5/5 4.Baby's Insane 5/5 5.I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry 5/5 6.Lonely Woman 4/5 7.Frenzy 4/5 Disc Two 1.Blue Spirit Blues 4/5 2.My World Is Empty Without You 5/5 3.I Put A Spell On You 5/5 4.At The Dark End Of The Street 5/5 5.Dancing In The Dark 5/5 6.Dead Cat On The Line 5/5 7.See That My Grave Is Kept Clean 5/5 8.Burning Hell (Reprise) 5/5"