Soulsavers - Broken
Mark Lanegan vs Mike Patton.
I could just post that and plenty of you would part with your money. Some of you have probably given up reading already and are clicking the links on the side of the page to buy this CD. Others are trying to find their car keys to get to the shops as fast as possible.
If I was making up fantasy collaborations between vocalists, Patton and Lanegan would be near the top. Two extremely gifted and unmistakable singers, each with their unique vocal mastery and the ability convey emotion through even the slightest breath. If that was the only bout on this heavyweight fight card it would be worth the price of entry. But check the undercard: Jason Pierce, Bonnie Prince Billy, Rosa Agostino, Gibby Haynes and Richard Hawley - all come to the ring to do battle with the mighty Lanegan in various guises.
Mark’s vocal sandpaper for hire has always been in demand. Larynx-based duties for Queens of The Stone Age were among the finest tracks on Songs For The Deaf and more recently his duets with Isobel Campbell and Greg Dulli have been recent album highlights. With such pedigree it’s clear why the English duo of Rich Machin and Ian Glover (collectively known as The Soulsavers) have built these songs around the unfettered central pillar of The Godfather of Gruff.
It’s on ‘Unbalanced Pieces’ that Lanegan and Patton duet. I may have set this up as some fantasy cage match, a battle for the ages, but it’s a captivatingly restrained affair, no giant foam hands moving rhythmically in the crowd. This is far closer to Tom Waits than it is to Tom Araya - and it’s brilliant, but it’s not even the best track on the album. ‘Can’t Catch The Train’ is the most beautiful, heart wrenching and emotional performance I have heard this year. It’s a career best for Lanegan: just him, the piano and subtle string arrangement; his voice allowed to bare all. Bonnie Prince Billy cover ‘You Will Miss Me When I Burn’ is reformed: “When you have no-one, no-one can hurt you” is as poignant today as it was in 1994’s Day’s In The Wake, the fragility of love exposed once again.
No matter what style is presented be it rock, gospel or blues each vocalist raises their game and delivers. Collaboration albums can often be gimmicky but there is no filler, no inclination to check your watch or skip onto the next track.
I came to get blood and sweat from Broken, but instead I got tears. It’s rare that an album with so many cooks can make such a human connection. But this is a rare album and one I’d implore you to investigate.