Diamanda Galás / John Paul Jones

The Sporting Life

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Having explored sheer extremity throughout her fascinating range of solo efforts, Galas takes a turn to the slightly more accessible with her collaboration with Jones on The Sporting Life. Her vocal approach is still something which will freak out the unfamiliar listener, so anyone expecting some VH1-friendly switchover needs to think again. Keyboards are once again her other main instrument of choice, with both Hammond organ and piano used. Meanwhile, the Led Zeppelin bassist and arranger handles production as well as guitar and bass, while one Pete Thomas -- apparently the Attractions' drummer on an interesting side effort indeed -- handles percussion. While it's inaccurate to say the results are Galas fronting Led Zeppelin, Thomas does put in some heavy pounding with a hint of John Bonham's massive stomp. Hints of gently majestic arrangements here and there -- consider the introduction to "Skotoseme" and its understated string swells -- help draw a connection further. On the flip side, Thomas and Jones' rhythms often have a crisp urban funk touch at points, sounding more no wave than heavy metal; elsewhere it's jump blues ("You're Mine," an obsessive portrait of erotic desire) or smoky late-night ballads. Galas' subject matter of love, sex, and romance makes audible inspiration: Marianne Faithfull's excoriating take on "Why'd Ya Do It?" seem like a simpering, slushy love ballad; "Do You Take This Man?" isn't going to be played at any weddings any time soon -- at least not unless elderly relatives don't mind lines like "we talked about the wild thing for 24 hours." There's one great ringer of a cover -- the soul classic "Dark End of the Street," given a ragged but right run-through -- while the sleeve photos of Jones and Galas striking poses in a car are amusing touches.

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