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Old 08-27-2010, 12:08 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Isobel Campbell/Mark Lanegan - Hawk (4/5) {2010}

Hawk is the name of the collaborative album by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan. Campbell and Lanegan have both been successful in their own right. Campbell was a member of the indie band Belle and Sebastian from 1996 until 2002, and Lanegan's most notable success comes from his time (2000-2005) as a member of Queens of the Stone Age. This is their third album together, preceded by Ballad of the Broken Seas (2006), and Sunday at Devil Dirt (2008).

Hawk's opening track, titled 'We Die and See Beauty Reign', brings a feeling of ethereality. Vocals melding and harmonizing over thrumming electronic strings, crystal clear acoustic guitar standing out amidst it all. Some of the lyrics become difficult to decipher, but this slow, simple song invites you to take an interest in it.

The second track, 'You Won't Let Me Down Again', informs us quickly that track one was not at all indicative of the rest of the album. It begins with some country sounding rhythm guitar, and then comes Mark Lanegan's lead vocals, gruff and bluesy, with Campbell's harmonizing night club voice playing the background. It's as though she just isn't satisfied unless she's able to add some sultry, otherworldly harmonies. And it works.

'Come Undone', track 4, takes a walk back through time, to the roots of soul and R&B. Starting off with some staccato piano and strings, this tune adds yet another element of depth and variety to the album. We begin to see just how varied these two artist's can be, and from how many genres of music they draw their inspiration.

The next track, 'No Place to Fall', caught me off guard. It's a cover of a Townes Van Zandt song, and it's incredibly well done. It doesn't lose any of the heart that Van Zandt put into it. It is a worthy cover.

'Get Behind Me' moves the mood to old style rock-a-billy, pushing the album ever forward on it's sonic journey. The journey, I might add, is quite a successful one, barring track 8, 'Hawk', which I would suggest not listening to at loud volumes. It's a very experimental sounding tune, with screeching sounds and background noise in place of vocals. At two minutes and twenty-eight seconds, it's just a little too long for what it is; a segue into the next song.

'Sunrise' brings to mind the imperfect voice of Meg White, filling the room with a nearly creepy sounding mirage of music. 'To Hell and Back', sounds very familiar. In fact, you could replace the vocals of this song with Neil Young's 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart'.

'Cool Water', could easily be a lost Townes Van Zandt song, with it's simple folk melody and guitar. 'Eyes of Green' is reminiscent of a 60's pop song, and the closing song 'Lately' is a nice bookend to the album, sounding like a cross between Bob Dylan and Dire Straits.

This album seems to work it's best when Campbell takes a backseat. Lanegan's vocals are stronger (along with guest singer Willy Mason), and Campbell's seem to work better as accompaniment, or harmony. Too many bands are too caught up on 'genre', and it gets tiring when an entire album sounds the same. Thankfully, that isn't an issue here. Not one song on 'Hawk' is quite like any of the others, and I applaud them for the variety. I'll be looking forward to the next collaborative release by these two, when and if that ever comes along.

Hawk gets a 4 out of 5.

TRACK LISTING

1. We Die and See Beauty Reign
2. You Won't Let Me Down Again
3. Snake Song (Townes Van Zandt)
4. Come Undone
5. No Place to Fall (Townes Van Zandt)
6. Get Behind Me
7. Time of the Season
8. Hawk
9. Sunrise
10. To Hell and Back Again
11. Cool Water
12. Eyes of Green
13. Lately
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Old 10-06-2010, 10:52 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I liked the other two earlier Lanegan/Campbell collaborations better, but there's still plenty to like about "Hawk" and you've detailed it in your review. I think their music together is influenced by two influential male/female duet collaborations of the 60s, Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazelwood & Serge Gainsbourg/Jane Birkin. Two pairs of other contemporary artists; Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue & former Luna band mates Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips have done similar tribute projects to the Sinatra/Hazelwood and Gainsbourg/Birkin.

Isobel Campbell finest work is on her second solo album Milky White Sheets which is not available as a digital download and hard to find in both compact disc or vinyl. If you've heard that album you'd know that Isobel Campbell is a singer, songwriter, & multi instrumentalist of considerable talent and range. Her own inclusion of Mark Lanegan in three collaborations is more an act of her own artistic generosity, because Mr. Lanegan needs Isobel Campbell as a collaborator a whole lot more than she needs him.

Of the 39 songs recorded by Lanegan & Campbell over three albums, 34 songs were written by Isobel Campbell, 1 was written by Mark Lanegan and 4 are cover songs. She hardly takes a backseat to Mr. Lanegan because in addition to composing most of the songs, Isobel Campbell is the producer, arranger & player of most of the instruments on their collaborations. In fact Mark Lanegan only credited as a vocalist & Isobel Campbell is listed as the primary artist on all of their collaborations.
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Old 10-14-2010, 03:25 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I really like the album. But, after seeing them perform live, i never listed to it again. It was horror. Mark standing like a zombie on a overdose on stage, and Isobel just hanging on the mic standard like a sack of potatoes. You see her lips move, but no sound. Worst performence i seen last 5 years.
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Old 10-23-2010, 07:06 AM   #4 (permalink)
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That's an interesting perspective on the Lanegan/Campbell team. I've always been a big fan of Isobel's music.

On the other hand, Lanegan alway struck me as one of the rock and roll lifestyle's walking wounded, which made his musical relationship with Isobel a bit odd. I have noticed that on all three of their albums together, Isobel's voice is mixed at a much lower volume than Mark's voice, which is why I like her two solo albums Amorino and Milk White Sheets a lot more than her albums with Lanegan.
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