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Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

JUDGE SMITH: They love him in Israel

Gonzo 2012
An ancient Greek hero as a Wembley-straddling guitar hero: a VAN DER GRAAF originator twists the myth with much verve and imagination.
Lurking in Peter Hammill's shadow, Judge Smith is no less adept with a word and a tune, a string of albums and stage productions under his belt, so his "songstories" gained a certain following which is bound to grow after this, the British veteran's third one. To see Orpheus in the modern spotlight is, perhaps, not that original an idea but to project a dilemma of an artist, who has to deliver his crowd-pleasing money-making hits while longing for creation of something, on the famous "to hell and back" anabasis - where a glance behind one's shoulder means losing the Muse - is interesting move, indeed. That's all theory, yet Smith shaped it in practice as a rock opera, a tag that Judge's quite unwilling to apply, even though one can see similarities between his protagonist being unwell and staying at the hotel instead of playing a big festival and Pink in "The Wall", but there's more experimentation in the George Orfeas near-death experience.
Great librettist as he is, Smith makes unnoticed the absence of rhymes on most of the songs as well as the melodies and recital unison, a result of speech transformation into music so gripping feel the story's peripeties and so strong is delivery - in a broad variety of genres - which involves Lene Lovich plus, in instrumental compartment, another VDGG alumnus David Jackson on brass and guitarist John Ellis, formerly with THE VIBRATORS and THE STRANGLERS. Of course, idiosyncrasy reigns o'er the proceedings, but it's of a tasty kind with Judge as an arresting rhapsode backed by a fantastic band who bend "Seven Yard Promenade" into a classic sax-oiled rhythm-and-blues piece in Act One and don a death metal group masks in dry metal of Act Two's "Carpet Of Bones", a thematic relative of "Carpet Crawlers", and "Tear Him Asunder" from Act Three. There's even a power ballad here, "Orphic Lullaby", whereas "Orfeas' Audition" rides an orchestra-drench twang. Less seriously, "Wolfman George" parodies a famous riff in swinging fashion of a Zappa canon, "In-Flight Movie" comes on in a disco inferno form, and "The Crab Nebula" glides on lounge electronica - all organic, even the Mediterranean fusion and rap of "Don't Deafen Me, Persephone" or theatricality of Smith and Lovich duets in "Orfeas and Eurydice".
An immersive tale that's never boring and bearing a happy end - not to everyone's taste yet daring in its scope and fun to listen to - "Orfeas" might be Judge's best work yet.

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