Damon Albarn is nothing if not versatile, which helps when you're writing an opera about an Elizabethan scientist.
Created for a Manchester arts festival last year, Dr Dee has harpsichords, pastoral flutes, choral singing and even a BBC orchestra, and gives Albarn another opportunity to continue examining themes of Englishness.
The Golden Dawn sets the scene with antique wind instruments and organ, but the album's liberal use of soprano vocals can be grating.
Sometimes, Albarn sounds like he's feeling his way through unfamiliar territory, as in The Moon Exalted, but threads of rock make O Spirit, Animate Us and A Man of England more cohesive, and Albarn's interest in world music is evident in the martial drums of Preparation.
But the simple songs are best – Apple Carts, The Marvellous Dream, with its visions of Jerusalem in London, and The Dancing King, where Albarn declares: "Across the green fields a procession grows/We are the out-of-time people of the rose."
Best tracks: A Man of England, The Dancing King
- Reviews by Nick Ward; CDs for review from Everyman, Nelson.
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