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Diamanda Galįs - Malediction and Prayer CD (album) cover


Diamanda Galįs



4.74 | 9 ratings

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5 stars Malediction and Prayer is a live album, however, this is more like a studio album recorded live (where the studio just happens to be a concert hall) than a live album in the traditional sense. Just the singer and her piano this is far from being a simplistic performance, it can also be viewed as a concept album, with the songs telling a story of death and a life unfulfilled, filled with anger, regret and despair. The recording not only showcases Galąs's often startling vocal skills but also reveals her ability to pound the living daylights out of the piano, beating it into submission in angry emphasis to the rage and despair in the songs.

Collated from a series of world-wide concerts of cover versions, the album opens with US singer Phil Ochs's 'Iron Lady' - an anti capital punishment song, that is rendered with controlled sung and spoken-like vocals that only give a slight inclination of what is to come. However, it does not take us long to find out: 'The Thrill Is Gone' begins with an insistent piano introduction before Galąs's places her no-compromise cards firmly on the table and lets rip with lung-fulls of gymnastic wailing that B. B. King could never have imagined preceding the opening verse of this song. Then she calms down again to give the gothic blues to a Supremes number, 'My World Is Empty Without You', a lament to the depression of a relationship breakdown that never sounded so empty as this before. The first of three sung poems put to music by Galąs herself, 'Abel et Cain' is a French language poem by 19th century poet Charles Baudelaire, dealing with the first biblical murder and is symbolically the pivotal 'crime' that links these songs together. 'Death Letter' (by legendary Son House) is another blues song about depression, here brought on by a letter that brings news of a loved-ones death which Galąs portrays from the heart with uncompromising passion, singing 'Loved you honey better than I did myself' with a conviction that you just feel she means.

'Supplica A Mia Madre' (Prayer To My Mother), which in the liner notes Galąs dedicates to her own parents, is beauty by comparison, a plea to mother not to leave this world from someone scared to be left alone. 'Insane Asylum' is pure vocal madness, bluesy spoken and sung vocals rapidly spiral out of control into manic gibbering that puts Bedlam inside your head accompanied by discordant piano that reflect the psychotic lyric. In an impassioned plea to The Grim Reaper to go away and come back when she has finished living life, Galąs sings 'Si La Muerte' (If Death) in Spanish, using the phrasing and tempo of the language to deliver impatience and frustration against a life being cut short.

Returning to the opening theme of death row and capital punishment, '25 Minutes To Go' documents the regret in the last 25 minutes of life before the final execution, counting down the minutes (with a slight error at '20 minutes to go') the vocal excesses are put on hold as she sings this in a breathy voice, holding the final note for several seconds as the song (and life) ends. As if now waking up in the pit of hell fire, Galąs turns to her native Greek for 'Keigome Keigome' (I'm Burning, I'm Burning), blending middle-eastern influences into the vocals. Then comes redemption in the form of 'I'm Gonna Live The Life', which is sung as a soulful blues though it soon twists (like a coda to 'Si La Muerte') into a song that has no regrets and begs no forgiveness, like the lady herself.

The album finale is also the highlight, the (in)famous Hungarian Suicide Song: Gloomy Sunday, but here we are treated to the lesser known Desmond Carter version, (previously recorded by Paul Robeson), of a song sung from the grave, that Galąs imparts with typical melancholy, yet she tinges the words with an underlying anger that subtly shifts the meaning of the song to a different perspective that ensures that this version is unlike any you have heard before. The bell tolled for me and the wind whispered, "Never!"

Malediction and Prayer is Diamanda Galąs most accessible album to date, yet it is no easy ride, it is an emotional roller-coaster of an album that takes time to appreciate, but is well worth the effort. A well deserved five stars, and another five for the listener.

Dean | 5/5 |


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