In 1980, artist and designer Tony Duquette prepared a special installation for exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of Science and Industry, and he asked Garth Hudson, best known as the magisterial keyboard player with the Band, to compose and record some music for the occasion. Hudson responded with a nearly hour-long tone poem which comprised some of the most striking and adventurous music of his life; the recording was issued on a cassette-only edition sold at the exhibit which quickly fell out of circulation, but this long-overdue CD reissue should be a real eye-opener for those familiar with Hudson's roots-leaning music with the Band. While the title might lead some to expect a gospel-leaning set (and bits drawn from the traditions of church music are visible here and there), for the most part Our Lady Queen of the Angels is dominated by spare, atmospheric keyboard textures, with massed vocals used to add mystery and resonance to the instrumental beds and horns, pedal steel guitar, and even bird songs punctuating Hudson's soundscapes. There are moments here that suggest the influence of Brian Eno's ambient compositions and flashes of angular abstraction, but the playful undertow of Hudson's best known work is also visible, and while the outward style and direction of this album may not be what one expects from Garth Hudson, the adventurous creative spirit and restless imagination that could take a simple organ intro and turn it into something as grand as "The Genetic Method" on Rock of Ages is certainly at work here. Also included is a recitation of poetry from Ray Bradbury by Charlton Heston (yep, the movie star) and backing vocals from Richard Manuel (though he's not specifically audible). A very pleasant surprise, Our Lady Queen of the Angels confirms Hudson's status as a master of his instrument while suggesting his gifts as a composer and arranger have been seriously shortchanged over the years.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming