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Damon Albarn Appeals to a New Kind of Audience in 'Dr. Dee'

Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 20:05

Damon Albarn
Dr. Dee

(Virgin Records)

Grade: B-

I understand what the album is meant to be and I know it’s good. I just wouldn’t recommend it. Dr. Dee is a 48-minute story about the life of John Dee, a mathematician, alchemist, philosopher and advisor to Elizabeth I. If that description didn’t make you yawn, taking Dr. Dee for a spin might do the trick.

Fans of Damon Albarn’s bands Blur and Gorillaz are in for a shocker. Albarn’s solo album is completely different from his past work. It hardly sounds like him at all. It’s mature, classic and executed well, but as a historical concept album it appeals to a different audience.

It’s really quite beautiful and subtle but even as an Albarn fan, it feels a bit like walking through waist-deep mud. On the other hand, cultured fans of operas and plays will truly appreciate Dr. Dee for all it’s worth.

There are beautiful church choirs, nature sounds and interesting beats. Albarn uses his voice differently as often as he can, playing out different characters and setting the scenes in Dr. Dee’s eccentric life.

The 18-track album can feel exhausting after a while. It is complex and begs for a visual component. On its own it’s a bit underappreciated, especially as there is nothing quite like it from a musician such as Albarn. Still, going out on a limb the way he did is commendable. We tip our hat to you, good sir.

 

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