Susanna - Flower of Evil

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One of the many things which I love and admire about Mr. Bsag is his almost magical ability to pick great books and music for me. The extraordinary thing is that I have often never heard of the item in question, and if I had, would never have thought of choosing it. But when I listen to the music or read the book, I think it is wonderful and love it to bits. Even though he knows me pretty well, it baffles me how he decides that I would like a particular item, because they often don't fit obviously with my interests or taste. An excellent example is the book, Pilgrimage on a Steel Ride: A Memoir of Men and Motorcycles by Gary Paulsen, which he gave me a few years ago. It is a non-fiction book about Paulsen's journey from New Mexico to Alaska on a Harley-Davidson motorbike at the age of 57. For one thing, I very rarely read non-fiction books (other than those relevant to my work), and although I quite like motorbikes (particularly Harleys), it's not an obsession. And yet, I loved the book, and its perfect explanation of what it is to be a man. I've re-read it several times, and it remains one of my favourite books: a perfect choice.

Which brings me to 'Flower of Evil': I'd never heard of the artist or the album before, but put it on and was ravished by it. When I ripped it to iTunes to put it on my iPhone, the Gracenote database set the Genre as 'Unclassifiable', which sounds about right to me. The album is mostly composed of extreme cover versions, so different from the originals, that it's often quite difficult to identify the song. Her strong, clear voice reminds me a bit of P. J. Harvey's, and that combined with the great arrangements and stately pacing of the songs gives everything a haunting, almost sinister air.

The ABBA song, 'Lay All Your Love On Me' becomes a pleading, entreaty, and while I never thought I could like Without You, she turns it from overblown bombast to genuinely affecting emotion. The only relatively 'straight' cover is her version of Sandy Denny's 'Who Knows Where The Time Goes', which is beautiful and worthy -- but respectful -- of Sandy's original.

It's well worth a listen, though I suspect that it's something you'd either love or hate, which makes it all the more miraculous that Mr. Bsag made such a good choice.