Boiled in Lead

Songs from the Gypsy

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The Gypsy is a novel by Minneapolis fantasy writer Steven Brust (co-written with Megan Lindholm); an accompanying song-cycle written by Brust and Adam Stemple (frontman of that city's veteran Celtic-rockers Boiled in Lead); and Boiled in Lead's sixth album. While all these elements are present and accounted for, CD-ROM/Enhanced-CD hybrid Songs from the Gypsy represents a failure of multimedia integration. As an audio CD, the disc serves up ten songs, ranging from acoustic trad to bluesy rockers, that ironically form a less cohesive whole than previous Boiled in Lead releases. The better numbers (like the title track) incorporate Celtic rock with Hungarian, Middle Eastern and other interesting worldbeat influences. Dissonant closer "Red Lights and Neon," on the other hand, is virtually unlistenable. However, granting that this is perhaps what the song is meant to thematically convey in relation to the story, let's cue the novel. The reader is presented with 17 short chapters, scrollable text only, which also intersperse some 80 song lyric excerpts that you can play from hot bottons. Annoyingly, you must flip back to a main menu index to move from one chapter to the next. Separate menu items take you to a lyric sheet and to a sub-menu grouping all the song clips accessible from the story. Despite Brust's engrossingly poetic, impressionist story inspired by Hungarian folk tales and revolving around three Gypsy brothers, the project does not overcome the primary limitation of bringing literature to the computer screen, that being that the computer offers an inhospitable environment for viewing literature-length text. It's great for reference works where the purpose is to quickly search for and retrieve information, but lousy if you actually want to savor language. With no integrating visual elements -- stills, artwork, or video -- Songs from the Gypsy comprises isolated components floating about in search of a unifying force. (Note that this title was produced using i-trax technology, which masks the data track to resolve the "track one" issue; unfortunately, this masking may also fool certain makes of CD-ROM drives).

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