If I had noticed that Welcome to the Voice was released on Deutsche Grammophon, I would have thought more about buying it. Or longer. But I was still in the mode of remembering when Elvis Costello introduced Nieve near the end of the recent Detroit show; he mentioned there was a forthcoming disc from Nieve, the maestro. So I didn’t notice. I didn’t stop and think. And now I have done my financial bit to support music that I’m not particularly interested in listening to. There are two reasons why this is so.
I’m not taken with the vocal stylings of Sting. And for many intents and purposes, Welcome to the Voice is a Sting-dominated recording. One might argue that the Brodsky Quartet is featured just as prominently, given their musical accompaniment, but Sting even trumps Barbara Bonney, a soprano opera singer, who sings the role of, well, the Opera Singer for whom Sting’s character, Dionysos, lusts. Robert Wyatt also sings quite a bit on the record, and when I think back to the Soft Machine selections that I enjoyed, I realize they were instrumentals. Costello does a couple of turns, as well, but comparatively speaking, they’re but cameos. So if I wanted to listen to Sting perform as he did when interpreting the work of Brecht and Weill, then I would have dug out a cassette of Lost in the Stars.
Which brings me to the second reason. Steve Nieve attended the Royal College of Music. He joined Costello in 1977. Back then, music by the likes of the Attractions was a reaction, in part, to the more elaborate music that was being produced by bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer: think only of Pictures at an Exhibition. Possibly Nieve has been harboring a desire to pay off all of that studying he once did. So he, along with librettist Muriel Teodori, created this operatic work. This is no Tommy. It is not a “rock opera.” This is in some ways closer to Preservation: Act 1, the music hall-turn-styled work of the Kinks. Yet WTTV is far more exquisite, its moderately raucous theme notwithstanding (i.e., Dionysos is a steelworker who is smitten with the Diva in more than a passing manner). While I respect Nieve’s desire to produce something other than variations on Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Brian Wilson, or whomever, I am simply not a great fan of the operatic turn.
Lots of streaming interviews, song clips and videos at the Welcome to the Voice mini-site.