Art Of Time Ensemble with Steven Page A Singer Must Die

The Art Of Time Ensemble's experiments combining chamber and pop music have been winning them fans in Toronto for quite a few years, and their latest endeavour, A Singer Must Die, finds them recruiting former Barenaked Ladies front-man Steven Page to provide vocals to their arrangements of other people's songs. There are some very bold choices here, such as Elvis Costello's "I Want You" and Radiohead's "Paranoid Android," both of which, not surprisingly, don't live up to the originals, although they aren't the disasters they could have been. Songs by the Mountain Goats, the Divine Comedy and Rufus Wainright fare much better. Naturally, the irony of selecting a Barenaked Ladies song ("Running Out Of Ink") doesn't go unnoticed, even though it appears to be there more as a statement rather than anything else. One unexpected highlight is a reworking that turns the Magnetic Fields' "For We Are The King Of The Boudoir" into a piece of light operetta that would delight Stephin Merritt. The robustness of Leonard Cohen's "A Singer Must Die" makes it also stand out, thanks to a magnificent arrangement and Page letting loose with his big voice. A Singer Must Die is a better album in practise than in theory. Page's voice manages to carry the majority of the material without coming across as too goofy and definitely suits the more classical, string-laden arrangements, which have an earnestness that requires a counterpoint. Consider his rehabilitation and re-launch officially started. (Pheromone/Universal)