All The Blue Changes: An Anthology 1988-2003

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This two-disc anthology from a British band that never truly got its just rewards is full of reflective, atmospheric, and at times lush arrangements. And it begins with a fine rendition of Nick Drake's "Pink Moon," featuring lead singer Tim Bowness accompanied by the smart, hushed tones created by multi-instrumentalist Steven Wilson. From there things pick up with the groovy trip-hop of "Colours," a cover of one of Donovan's hits that has touches of hip-hop, gospel, and ambient all blended into one. Think of Primitive Radio Gods rising above expectations and you might get a semblance of what's going on. The rich sonic landscapes make this album shine, often bringing to mind Moby supplying the music for Bryan Ferry or Depeche Mode's David Gahan. Some tracks take a tad longer to gel, including the funky bassline propelling the jazzy, almost improvisational, and midtempo "Walker," while others such as "Back to the Burning Shed" are reflective, instrumental interludes. Perhaps the highlight of the first disc is the mellow, sullen, and melancholic "Road," which glides along effortlessly. Another gem is the tender and bittersweet "Things Change." Complementing these songs are longer pieces such as the pretty Seal-meets-Savage Garden feel to "Housekeeping." Fans of Enigma would lap up the rather ethereal-cum-funky layers of the winding "Heaven Taste," a song that also initially brings to mind Pink Floyd's "Marooned" and one that never sags or falters for over ten minutes. However, the dance-oriented "Simple" is a lukewarm effort at best. One of the second disc's sleeper picks has to be "Pretty Genius," which sounds like it fell out of the Dead Presidents soundtrack album. Generally though, No-Man continue down this atmospheric road with the pretty ear candy that is "My Revenge on Seattle," which sounds like a U2 remix, and the somewhat poppy "Dry Cleaning Ray." The eerier moments such as "Sicknote" don't quite work, though, resulting in more drones than anything else. There are some highlights, particularly the cinematic "Carolina Skeletons" and engaging "Something Falls," which never goes over the top in terms of tone. The oddest song is "Only Rain," which is basically a slow, soothing track that evolves into an orchestral-meets-jazz tune. No-Man are consistently great in what they do best, creating fine pieces of music such as the yearning "Returning Jesus" and "Chelsea Cap," the latter sure to seduce the listener. And they also manage to put the icing on this rich, quality musical cake with the quasi-Americana-based "Photograph in Black and White."

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