The Old Soul

The Old Soul [Hand of God]

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The brain child of Luca Maoloni, The Old Soul comes across as a kaleidoscope of an album at first listen, one that careens through a mad, musical fun house. Duck before you bash into the ragtime, chug past R&B and British invasion, slide down the lavish electronics slide, make a sharp turn at the classical piano and grandiose classic pomp rock, crash through C&W and shudder as Brit-pop grabs at you with its skeletal claws. But take this wild ride a few more times and the set slowly starts falling into place, revealing the tightly interwoven themes at its heart. The inspired arrangements initially obscure these reappearing musical refrains, as with "River of Daughters" and "I'd Love You in the Haystack." The former is a pop/rock extravaganza, lavished with lush electronics, the latter an upbeat C&W duet, the melody however is the same, as are most of the lyrics, which are subtly and cleverly altered to move the romantic action from the riverside to the farmyard. The pop slapdown of "Robert Wyatt" and the instrumental "Better B Good" are also flipsides of the same musical coin, the latter initially led by a harpsichord and then Stax brass. The former opens in a Rolling Stones mode, then ladles on a glee club of vocals, while shifting through a blur of British Invasion styles and into mariachi. That mariachi style reappears on "A Shotgun Wedding," and evokes a group of German tourists holding Oktoberfest in Tijuana. Elsewhere, the '50s-styled glee club vocals that featured on "Robert Wyatt" reappear on "And a Mexican Divorce," but in a far more stately surrounding amid classical piano and a cathedral atmosphere. Amazingly, "A Shotgun Wedding" and "And a Mexican Divorce" are variations of the same musical theme. Not everything connects directly, the stunning cover of Brian Wilson's "Vege Tables," for instance, stands apart, although elements within, like the Stax styled horns, and the British Beat style do. Even shreds of the ragtime instrumental "Fuck It" can be spotted elsewhere on the set. One can spend days following all the musical threads or, for the less obsessive, just sit back and enjoy the thrill of pop seen through a hall of mirrors.

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