Klaus Nomi

Eclipsed: The Best of Klaus Nomi

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The image and legend of Klaus Nomi in many ways dominates over his music nearly 20 years after his death -- it's his appearance with David Bowie on TV or the way he wore his hair that most often seems to stand out in memory. Eclipsed: The Best of Klaus Nomi does an effective job of putting his music back first and foremost, though in many ways he's surprisingly conservative at a distance, or rather, his music is. There's a definite sense of creativity throughout, of course, and his swooping, multi-octave voice can't be resisted -- an Yma Sumac for a post-disco/new wave era, but just as capable of delivering merrily harsh German cabaret vocals as well. His more conversational English-language lyrics (check the verses to "Lightning Strikes"), in contrast, too often come across as Euro-trash sleaze, while his backing musicians don't summon up the sense of future shock that Marianne Faithfull did with such contemporary efforts as Broken English. Where Nomi's genius can be most fully seen is in his cover versions, resulting in often jaw-dropping reinterpretations of songs ranging from modern opera ("The Cold Song," a stately, affecting take on the Henry Purcell composition) to pop landmarks like "You Don't Own Me" and a merrily gooned-up prance through "Ding Dong (The Witch Is Dead)." "Can't Help Falling in Love" becomes a lovely, piano-synth-led composition for him to deliver a strong -- and notably non-falsetto -- and warm take on the Elvis Presley standard, while the mighty "I Feel Love" gets transformed into an orchestral synth pop aria like none other than Suicide or early Ultravox playing Carnegie Hall. As an overview, Eclipsed is excellent, though curiously not comprehensive (the brief but informative liner notes, for example, mention two songs that surfaced on a 1998 single, though neither are featured on the disc).

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