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Jude Cowan – Lamb & Tyger

May 2, 2011 by  

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Jude Cowan – Lamb & Tyger

NAME: Jude Cowan
ALBUM: Lamb & Tyger
DATE: 7May2011

LABEL: Unsigned


FIVE WORD REVIEW: Songs Of Ignorance And Expedience


LINE UP: Jude Cowan (vocals, Hammond organ)

Jude Cowan.jpg

WHAT’S THE STORY?: “Billington trots out his school essay on Kafka”, sniffed Alan Bennett once, reviewing the reviews for his 1986 play ‘Kafka’s Dick’. ‘Lamb & Tyger’, in offering a new musical interpretation of William Blake’s GCSE set text ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’, presents a similar temptation for the self-consciously literate critic. But you don’t need any insight into themes of contrast and anti-establishment to hear that this is a poor album, failing on every attempted level.

It is a curious choice of source material in the first place. Jude Cowan must surely have done some research, in which case she would have read about or heard previous attempts to score the poems by Vaughan-Williams, Britten, and Ginsberg. Yes, Vaughan-Williams and Britten. It must have taken some arrogance (or more worryingly, ignorance), to think that anything worthy could be added to this canon by a musician of such limited ability. No, Blake should be seen as an unwilling librettist, his words held hostage to attract ill-deserved attention from his followers.

The songs are set for voice and Hammond organ, an instrument over which the artist clearly has little mastery. The default method, which accounts for 75% of the album, is to hold down a chord, and keep it held down until melody requires a change. Only the occasional simple arpeggio, as on ‘Tyger Tyger’, takes the album out of Casio auto-accompaniment setting. David Bowie sang Simon and Garfunkel’s America at the Concert For New York City with a child’s keyboard, but that was David Bowie, and that was Simon and Garfunkel. This is Jude Cowan, and she has neither the voice nor the songwriting talent to make it work.

The arrangements are, for the most part, deeply banal – ‘The Lamb’ is a jolly nursery rhyme, ‘The Sick Rose’ is portentous and funereal – and sung in a voice that unsuccessfully uses irritating quirks and tics to mask its technical weakness. The higher register of “Infant Sorrow” is untrained, toneless singing of the worst kind, and the harmonies adorning ‘The Blossom’ would make Kate McGarrigle join Blake in his dizzying grave-twirl. The album ends with Blake’s address to his Tyger – “Did he who make the Lamb make thee?” – but the potential significance to this cyclical link is drowned out by the amateurish melisma. Meanwhile, the inexplicable attempt to fit the pentameter of ‘The Little Black Boy’ into a lilting quadrameter leaves the deeply rhythmical lyric sounding like one of those word pile-ups Richey Edwards would occasionally foist upon his long-suffering singer.

Given the benefit of the doubt, this is a project conceived with naivety and a lack of imagination, rather than opportunism. But such distinction is rendered irrelevant by the glaring lack of musical worth. This is the creation of a very, very mortal hand and eye.

SOUNDS LIKE: No one whose musical output goes through any kind of quality control process.

YOU’LL LIKE THIS IF: You run an open-mic night and she brought along a lot of friends.


Submitted By Martin Headon



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