Some more modern lullabies for Latvians

  • 2006-06-07
  • By Paul Morton
RIGA - When taken together, the 17 smooth pop songs collected in Micrec's latest addition to the Lullabies series, "Latenight Lullabies: Innocent When You Dream," are like a good one-hour, 13-minute massage. There's Nick Cave's transcendent "Foi Na Cruz" and Minnie Riperton and Jose Feliciano's hit cover of "Light My Fire" which re-imagined The Doors' raunchily suggestive song as a much cuddlier romantic duet. Don't bother asking whether the music always fits the lyrics. Many of the Latvian listeners probably don't care. That Klass Vavere, the gentleman responsible for picking the songs here, manages to touch all your key pleasure points is much more important.

When you listen to this with someone special, it makes for a good soulful evening. But it's really the kind of thing you like best when you're by yourself, driving on an empty highway late at night or drinking an after-midnight glass of wine.
Mick Harvey and Anita Lane's English-language version of Serge Gainsbourg's "Bonnie & Clyde" is rather faithful to the original. Harvey's voice has all of Gainsbourg's impish wickedness. Lane sounds far more dangerous than Brigitte Bardot. Gainsbourg wrote the song after being inspired by Arthur Penn's classic 1967 film, utilizing violins and a good constant guitar strum to endow the story with a melancholic French flavor.

Harvey and Lane sing, "They say we kill for cold-blooded pleasure. / Well that's not true and sure it's in our nature, / To shoot first and ask questions later." It's hard to know which side you're supposed to be on.
Nina Simone has lent her crystal-clear blues voice to classics like "Here Comes the Sun" and "Trouble in Mind." She's represented here with her rendition of "Mr. Bojangles." The love she has for her subject, who, next to Fred Astaire, was the greatest dancer America has known, a man whose genius played with and rose above the notions of black minstrelsy, is so strong it's painful.

Mark Eitzel's cover of Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night" feels a little too put-on, a play at depression. It lacks Kristofferson's semi-drunken, self-loathing intonations which made it so wonderful in the first place. Likewise Cassandra Wilson's oddly happy version of Bob Dylan's nostalgic lament "Shelter From the Storm," is a little painful to listen to.
But if the problems with these songs are so salient, it's only because so much of the album works so well.
Lullabies, trans-generational and timeless in nature, are always tied to nostalgia. We are supposed to remember the lullabies sung to us as a child, even if no one ever actually sung us lullabies. They're tied, more strongly than anything else, to our collective memory. And this is what makes the album's final track, Home's "Dance Rock N'Roll," a perfect coda.

The song has a backbeat that hearkens back to '60's beach rock. It's a time for which our culture tells us we are supposed to remember fondly. But the soft-spoken French-language lyrics and the slightly subdued arrangement make it feel like anything but a dance song. You have no desire to dance listening to this song. You only wish to remember the sensation of dancing, before you drop off into a deep listless sleep.