"Laurie Anderson's third studio release, 1989's "Strange Angels", is the pinnacle of this artist's achievement; it's a brilliant, intelligent, and coherent masterwork that she's been unable to equal either before or since. Lyrically, the songs are much more optimistic than previous efforts, many of them reading like Tama Janowitz short stories. Others are firmly rooted in classic literature ("Monkey's Paw", "The Dream Before" and "Hiawatha" being the most obvious examples). The supporting music is ethereal, almost otherworldly, and works to unify the whole in a beautiful tapestry of sound. Best (and perhaps most surprising) of all, Anderson makes an honest attempt to sing in these tracks, and the effect is absolutely gorgeous. There's still plenty of wry spoken commentary throughout, but Anderson's melodic voice is definitely the focus, and it is a joy to hear. The overall accessibility of "Strange Angels", along with its fully-realized vision, makes this the one Laurie Anderson CD every serious music lover should own. Personal Favorites: the hauntingly melodic title track, and the stunning beauty of "My Eyes". Representative Lyrics: "She said: What is history?/ And he said: History is an angel/ being blown backward into the future" ("The Dream Before"); "They say that Heaven is like TV/ A perfect little world/ That doesn't really need you" ("Strange Angels")"
Strange and Beautiful! One of the Best CDs by a Woman
Christopher Schmitz | Rocky River, Ohio United States | 05/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a music freak. That's right: way gone. I've explored hundreds maybe thousands of albums: The ones I've purchased; the ones my friends own; the ones I've listened to on headphones in the store; the ones playing in the background at parties.So I hope it carries some weight when I say I find this album one of the four of five best ever made by a female songwriter. It ranks with Patti Smith's "Horses," Joni Mitchell's "Blue," Tori Amos' "Scarlet's Walk," and Carole King's "Tapestry," but it's less well known than these. This review is a drop in the bucket to change that.The CD cover, a soft lunar face-shot of Laurie by the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, gives us a clue that this will be dreamy ethereal stuff. The opener and title track "Strange Angels" was brought to my attention by the William Hurt film "The Doctor." Who's this Laurie Anderson? I wondered, rushing off to the record store. Well, this sublime song about being surprised by the nature of the afterlife is witty, poignant, and blessed with a fine melody. Other stand-outs include the forlorn "Coolsville" with its clicking train sounds and evocation of a lonely night-ride on an Amtrak. It's a song for every misfit kid left out of her high school's in-crowd. Blandly passing the sights, Anderson's monotone observes: "This train, this city, this train."Even the feminist lecture of "Babydoll" sounds good, saved by its clever wit.Quoting Longfellow's narrative poem, Anderson's "Hiawatha" bathes us in beautiful Americana. Here is another dreamy melody as if the phantom of the Native American past is reaching out to haunt a modern industrialized country from across its history. It's a gentle haunting, and it takes the form of a ghostly cooing that laces fragments of cultural reference: "Marilyn and John F. dancing." "The king sings 'Love Me Tender.'"Every bit as strange and beautiful is the spacy "My Eyes," a love song whose sonics evoke whizzing comets and wonder.Expect some of Anderson's deadpan spoken word performance--more typical of her albums "Big Science" or "Home of the Brave"--but also since some sweet feathery singing, which sounds at times like the gentle coo of a morning dove. Expect absurdist wit and philosophical depth. Expect intelligent poetry and world music-influenced rhythms. Airy-fairy? Arty-farty? You betcha! With a batch of songs this brilliant, Anderson has nothing to apologize for."
Don't buy this CD: buy two!
S. Grooms | St Paul, MN USA | 08/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can't add to the justifiably enthusiastic reviews above, as I agree with them. Anderson was never so approachable, lyric or beautiful as in this stunning recording. That does not mean she sold out and made a catchy little pop CD. These songs soar like strange angels. This is--by a substantial margin--my favorite Laurie Anderson recording. I wish she would do more work in this line, trusting her gorgeous voice to do what she proves it can do here.
But beware! This CD doesn't stand up to frequent play. The music will keep you coming back, but somehow the CD itself is fragile. Even though most songs play well, I need to replace my first copy. I just saw an article about the way CDs are more degradable than most people understand. This CD was cited as an example."
Pieter | Johannesburg | 05/30/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Strange Angels is sheer sonic poetry, one of the most amazing albums in any genre of music. The song Hiawatha is a vivid cinematic mix drawing on archetypes, modern myth and popular culture, incredibly powerful in the melody, instrumentation and dreamy images it evokes. Equally as exquisite as Hiawatha, The Dream Before unfolds its wistful philosophical musings in hauntingly beautiful imagery and melody lines. Ramon engages the listener with its hypnotic percussive textures and catchy tune; along with Strange Angels and My Eyes, two other melodic beauties, it comes closest to the traditional pop song. Coolsville with its classical structure, icy vocals and nature sounds reminds me a bit of Eurythmics circa Touch, whilst Baby Doll and Beautiful Red Dress have a quirky charm. This album is infused with a magic so unique, it's hard to adequately convey its appeal or to make comparisons, but it shares a certain quirky, spiritual quality with the exquisite music of Jane Siberry and a certain power of witty observation with the defunct Bongwater. Unlike the earlier albums, Strange Angels showcases Laurie Anderson's beautiful singing voice to full effect. This is sheer poetry, a blissful mix of pristine folk and pop vocals borne on electronic textures and mesmerising rhythms that shimmers with real soul and emotion."