CD review: Damon Albarn 'Dr. Dee'

CD review: Damon Albarn ‘Dr. Dee'
Published: May 11, 2012
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ALTERNATIVE/OPERA

Damon Albarn ‘Dr. Dee' (Virgin)

Damon Albarn is almost prolific beyond reason, and yet the founder of Blur, Gorillaz, Rocket Juice & the Moon, Mali Music, The Good, The Bad and The Queen and probably 10 other bands he has yet to reveal is just now releasing a proper solo album (not counting the 2003 vinyl-only demo collection “Democrazy”). Fans hoping for a definitive album, an artistic statement summarizing Albarn's considerable gifts, might have unreasonable expectations. While few modern singer-songwriters capture Englishness quite as well as Albarn, “Dr. Dee,” an opera about Elizabethan mathematician, scientist and occultist John Dee, is more than four centuries away from modernity.

Extremely influential in the court of Elizabeth I, Dee advised the queen on astrology and is credited with choosing her coronation date. Albarn's work, performed in 2011 as “Dr. Dee: An English Opera,” is presented on “Dr. Dee” as a hybrid, partly composed of Albarn's renditions of pastoral folk ballads such as “Apple Carts” and the stunning “The Marvelous Dream,” partly operatic and choral performances by the original cast. As such, “Dr. Dee” plays alternately like Fairport Convention, an Anglican Church service and Blur at their most introspective.