The Good, the Bad & the Queen

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Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
This British aggregation might be the most unlikely "supergroup" to emerge in recent years, what with members hailing from such diverse environs as the Clash, the Verve, and Blur and the Gorillaz. Surprisingly enough, the quartet really sound very little like any of their progenitors, concentrating instead on dark, minimal grooves that conjure up images of a world gone horribly wrong. That probably has as much to do with frontman Damon Albarn's litany of war allegories -- the topic looms large over a good many of the disc's songs, particularly the weary "Green Fields" and the portentous "Kingdom of Doom" -- as with the bass-heavy, dub-inflected foundation. Unlike less ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
This British aggregation might be the most unlikely "supergroup" to emerge in recent years, what with members hailing from such diverse environs as the Clash, the Verve, and Blur and the Gorillaz. Surprisingly enough, the quartet really sound very little like any of their progenitors, concentrating instead on dark, minimal grooves that conjure up images of a world gone horribly wrong. That probably has as much to do with frontman Damon Albarn's litany of war allegories -- the topic looms large over a good many of the disc's songs, particularly the weary "Green Fields" and the portentous "Kingdom of Doom" -- as with the bass-heavy, dub-inflected foundation. Unlike less savvy writers, Albarn, the primary lyricist here, doesn't peg his plaints directly to the headlines: Songs like the aforementioned pair and the aching "Herculean" are more universal in their expression of dissatisfaction, and more affecting for it. The musical tone isn't quite as monolithic, with flavorings -- like the tinker-toy piano that cleaves the appropriately titled " '80s Song" -- used to leaven the mood at regular intervals. That responsibility is often left to drummer Tony Allen, an Afrobeat veteran who's played with artists like Fela Kuti; Allen manages to hit both head and hips with the skittering rhythms he applies to pieces like "History Song." While it's not likely to spawn a mainstream following on the level of, say "Feel Good Inc," the best-known cut from Albarn's Gorillaz, The Good, the Bad & the Queen is sure to make listeners feel -- and think -- on many levels.
All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Around the turn of the millennium -- just after the release of Blur's moody sixth album, 13 -- Damon Albarn began to quietly back away from the very concept of fronting a rock band, turning his attention to a series of collaborative projects that soon overshadowed his main gig. First there was the electro-bubblegum group Gorillaz, which afforded Albarn the opportunity to masquerade behind a cartoon, a move that allowed him to let his music speak louder than his fame, a method that he found irresistible as he began to do several projects similar to this, including a voyage to Africa documented on Mali Music, along with other less-publicized forays into soundtracks. In this context, the post-Graham Coxon Blur albumThink Tank seemed less like a band effort than another conceptual project directed by Albarn instead of the work of a band, which is what all these new-millennium projects were at their core, including the Good, the Bad & the Queen, a quartet comprised of himself, Clash bassist Paul Simonon, Verve guitarist Simon Tong, and Tony Allen, Fela Kuti's drummer, who was name-checked in Blur's "Music Is My Radar," and whose eponymous 2007 album is produced by Danger Mouse, who previously collaborated with Albarn on Gorillaz's second album, 2005's Demon Days. A flurry of pre-release activity compared The Good, the Bad & the Queen to Blur's 1994 masterpiece Parklife, as it represents a conscious return to Albarn writing songs specifically about London at a particular point in time. Thematically accurate though this may be, it is also misleading, suggesting that Albarn is also returning to the bright, colorful, clever guitar pop that made his reputation -- something akin to Coxon's reclamation of that sound on his excellent recent solo albums, Happiness in Magazines and Love Travels at Illegal Speeds. That couldn't be farther from the truth, as The Good, the Bad & the Queen is deliberately drained of color and mired in moodiness. If Parklife exuberantly captured the giddiness of the mid-'90s, as fashions and politics changed, ushering in New Labor, Britpop, and new lad culture, The Good, the Bad & the Queen captures how all that optimism has calcified into weary cynicism, as the endless opportunities of the '90s have given way to a warring world that seems to lack any center or certainty. So, in that sense, it is a cousin to Parklife in how it captures a national mood, but in sheer sonic terms, the closet antecedent of Albarn's is Demon Days, which traced out an apocalyptic vision despite its insistent pop hooks. Which isn't to say that The Good, the Bad & the Queen is a Gorillaz album in disguise, nor should Simonon's presence suggest that this is the second coming of London Calling; if anything, GBQ suggest the Specials at their most haunted, which is hardly uncharacteristic of Damon, who has always used "Ghost Town" as a blueprint whenever he's wanted to get spooky. Despite these echoes of the past -- and there are other echoes, too, arriving in Simonon's thundering dub bass, Tong's spectral guitars, Allen's nimble rhythms, and Albarn's vaudevillian piano and carnivalesque organ -- The Good, the Bad & the Queen is most certainly its own distinctive thing, the product of five iconoclastic musicians working a theme endlessly, relentlessly, and inventively, producing music that plays more like a movie than an album. Early on, as "History Song" eases into view on a circular acoustic guitar phrase, it establishes an alluring, dank, and artfully dour mood that the band continually expands and explores without ever letting the gloom lift. But for as dark as this is, GBQ never sounds despairing -- it's wearily resigned, as Albarn and his bandmates prefer to luxuriously wallow in the murk instead of finding a way out of it. There's a comfort in its melancholy, particularly in how the album glides from one elegantly doleful song to another, but at times the album almost sounds too samey, with no individual song emerging from the whole. Part of the reason for this is Danger Mouse's production: it's as subtle and clever as ever, but built largely in the post-production -- to the extent that he'll mix out Allen for large stretches of the album just for the aural effect. He's orchestrated a unified, dramatic album -- it's a tapestry of impeccable, sorrowful, yet sultry soundscapes -- but given the pedigree of this band, it's hard not to wish that the album offered more of the quartet just playing, gussied up with no effect. Nevertheless, as an album The Good, the Bad & the Queen is singularly effective, bringing the roiling melancholy undercurrent of Demon Days to the surface and creating a murky, mud-streaked impressionistic rock noir that's sinisterly seductive in its gloom.
New York Times - Sia Michel
The Good, the Bad & the Queen is willfully hookless, though the music has a somber beauty.

The Good, the Bad & the Queen is willfully hookless, though the music has a somber beauty.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 1/23/2007
  • Label: Parlophone (Wea)
  • UPC: 094637306727
  • Catalog Number: 730675

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 History Song (3:05)
  2. 2 80's Life (3:28)
  3. 3 Northern Whale (3:54)
  4. 4 Kingdom of Doom (2:42)
  5. 5 Herculean (3:59)
  6. 6 Behind the Sun (2:38)
  7. 7 The Bunting Song (3:47)
  8. 8 Nature Springs (3:10)
  9. 9 A Soldier's Tale (2:29)
  10. 10 Three Changes (4:15)
  11. 11 Green Fields (2:26)
  12. 12 The Good, The Bad & The Queen (7:00)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
The Good, the Bad & the Queen Primary Artist
Tony Allen Drums
Emma Smith Double Bass
Damon Albarn Keyboards, Vocals
Paul Simonon Bass, Bass Guitar, Background Vocals
Samie Evans Choir, Chorus
Harry Christophers Choir, Chorus
Simon Berridge Choir, Chorus
Julian Empett Choir, Chorus
Christopher Royall Choir, Chorus
Andrew Olleson Choir, Chorus
Amanda Drummond Viola
Adrian Lowe Choir, Chorus
Alice Pratley Violin
Simon Tong Guitar
Danger Mouse Synthesizer, Percussion
Izzi Dunn Cello
Gillon Cameron Violin
Sally Jackson Violin
David Clegg Choir, Chorus
Al Mobbs Double Bass
Stella Page Viola
Antonia Pagulatos Violin
Ben Bayfield Choir, Chorus
Emma Owens Viola
Ian Aitkenhead Choir, Chorus
Mark Dobell Choir, Chorus
Grace Davidson Choir, Chorus
Kirsty Hopkin Choir, Chorus
Charlotte Mobbs Choir, Chorus
Sixteen Choir, Chorus
Ben Rayfield Choir, Chorus
Technical Credits
Paul Simonon Drawing
Howie Weinberg Mastering
Jason Cox Engineer
Danger Mouse Producer, Audio Production
James Dring Programming
T. Sotter Boys Cover Painting
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Customer Reviews

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