About a year and half ago, several well known musicians came together to play a tribute concert for director/painter/icon David Lynch, all in celebration of the 10th anniversary of his David Lynch Foundation. The concert featured a variety of music, from famous pop songs used by Lynch in his movies, to scores of his films and TV series, and even covers of cuts from Lynch’s album, Crazy Clown Time. The songs cover almost every aspect of Lynch’s long and varied career.
For the most part, this recording of the concert features a collection of very faithful renditions of most of the most iconic music from Lynch oeuvre, and should make any Lynch fanatic happy. There are 15 tracks that pay homage to films from his entire career (well, except for Dune. Sorry Dune fans, but Mr. Lynch pretty much disowns that one). The concert was released as a two disc album the second week of October, but it’s now become available for digital download, exclusively on PlayingLynch.com. The album can be yours for a quick five-dollar donation to the David Lynch Foundation.
Lynch’s longtime collaborator and composer Angelo Badalamenti begins the album with the moody instrumental “Laura Palmer’s Theme” from Twin Peaks, one of the most iconic pieces of music from the entire series. It’s still as haunting and beautiful as you remember it, with only a slightly different arrangement than the classic version for this live performance. A preview for Twin Peaks 2017 maybe? In any case, it’s the perfect way to start this concert.
Next up is a cover of Elvis Presley’s classic “Love Me Tender” from Donavan. This interpretation is a slightly more bluegrass tinged than the original, but the new arrangement works well with with the vocal style. If you’re wondering what this song has to do with Lynch’s films, it was sung by none other than Nicolas Cage in the climax of Lynch’s 1990 road movie Wild At Heart. And I actually prefer Cage’s vocals to these to be honest.
The third track is a little more obscure, with singer Chrysta Bell’s song “Swing With Me,” from her 2011 solo album that she co-wrote with Lynch. I’d never heard this song before listening to this album, but it’s very reminiscent of Lynch’s collaborations with singers like Julee Cruise, in that it has that “1950s pop through a demented filter” that Lynch loves so much. Chrysta Bell has an amazing voice to boot, so that only helps.
With the fourth track, we venture into very familar Lynchian territory once again with a cover of Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams,” used several times to dramatic effect in Blue Velvet. This version is a collaboration between indie bands Tennis and Twin Peaks (gee, who would have thought a band called by that name were Lynch fans?) All kidding aside, they absolutely kill it with this cover, which manages to evoke the spirit of Roy Orbison without trying to outdo him. Having a female vocalist aids in making this one different from the original without losing anything. This might be my favorite cover on the album (it also helps that I adore this song).
Speaking of Orbison covers, my runner up for favorite is vocalist Rebekah Del Rio, who meticulously recreates her a capella cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” which she sang in Spanish in 2001’s Mulholland Drive as “Llorando.” I’d swear that this version was the very same version from the film, as it sounds almost identical. This is not a complaint–I’m amazed that Rebekah Del Rio’s voice hasn’t changed one iota in fifteen years. It’s still an astounding and heart wrenching version of the Orbison classic.
Next up, we return to the world of Lumberton, USA with a cover of “Blue Velvet” from acclaimed singer Sky Ferreira. It’s a gorgeous cover, and very wisely doesn’t mess with perfection by straying too far from the original. Much like with “Love Me Tender,” they decided to go a little country with the arrangement, but it all works. Let’s be honest here (shade forthcoming), Sky Ferreira’s vocals destroy poor Isabella Rossellini’s in the actual movie. As one would expect, this is another album highlight.
Singer Jim James then pays tribute to the late jazz singer Jimmy Scott, covering “Sycamore Trees,” an original composition from Lynch and Badalamenti from the final episode of Twin Peaks. The original version has a very surreal quality to it, as Scott’s voice was always a bit odd sounding, as he had Kallmann syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that prevented him from going through puberty. This caused Scott’s voice to have a peculiar quality to it, not quite feminine or masculine, but otherworldly, which is no doubt why Lynch wanted him to sing in the mysterious Red Room. Jim James also has a slightly bizarre vocal quality, and it ends up fitting perfectly with this particular song, and its otherworldly quality remains.
The next track is kind of a deep cut, as Karen O, form singer for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, gives us her rendition of “Pinky’s Dream,” a song from Lynch’s 2011 solo album Crazy Clown Time. I actually prefer this version to Lynch’s original–is that blasphemous?
Angelo Badalamenti returns once again with more of his classic Twin Peaks score, this time playing “Dance of the Dream Man,” the famous bit of snappy jazz that accompanied the show’s iconic dream sequence. This live version is a little more playful and fun, but it’s still the version you know and love. And to have Badalementi quote the Little Man from Another Place at the start of the song is just the cherry on top.
On the surface, you might be scratching your head at what ’80s pop superstars Duran Duran are doing on this album with the next song, singing their album track “The Chauffeur” from 1982’s Rio. Well, it’s because Lynch directed a 2011 concert of theirs that live-streamed on YouTube. This wasn’t one of the band’s hits, but it is a great song, even if it did feel totally non-Lynchian and briefly muted the overall vibe.
Swedish singer Lykke Li’s covers Chris Isaak’s hit song “Wicked Game” next, and while it’s an admirable attempt, it strays a little too far from the original, sounding akin to Bjork covering Patsy Cline or something, which is a weird combo. Not bad, just not a terribly good fit. And for those wondering what Isaak’s 1991 song has to do with Lynch: a year before hitting the top of the charts, it was used in Lynch’s Wild at Heart. Lynch directed the original video for the song, and later, cast singer Chris Isaak as an FBI agent in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
Next up is electronic music legend Moby, long known to be a Lynch uber fan, who in the past has remixed songs by Lynch and vice versa. He does one of his very first hits from back in 1991, the house track “Go“, which famously sampled “Laura Palmer’s Theme” (Everything comes full circle). EDM songs usually live and die by the studio version, but this version of the song works remarkably well live.
As we approach the end, we get a beautiful rendition from singer Zola Jesus of Eraserhead’s “In Heaven“, sung by the so-called “Lady in the Radiator” in one of the film’s trippiest moments. The song, both in the movie and in this cover, is really short, and pretty much consists of two simple verses: “In Heaven, everything is fine/You’ve got your good things, and I’ve got mine.” And that’s it. But the vocals from Zola Jesus are so strong in this cover, it makes you wish this was a full song, and not just a snippet.
What comes next is referred to as “Soundscape from Eraserhead and The Elephant Man. It comes with pedigree though, as it’s brought to us by Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips. This is basically a live version of Lynch’s sound design, mixed in with some poetry from The Elephant Man. It is appropriately unsettling, and I’m pretty sure that’s what they were going for.
Angelo Badalamenti returns one last time, and plays the iconic theme from Twin Peaks, which is, as always, perfection. Finally, the album concludes with the man himself, David Lynch, reciting “A Poem of Unknown Origin.” With a guitar gently strumming in the background, Lynch recites a short verse that says “May everyone be happy. May everyone be free of disease. May auspiciousness be seen everywhere. May suffering belong to no one. Peace.”
So how does it all stack up? If you’re a fan of Lynch’s films, then this album is simply a must have. Most of the covers included are truly loving tributes that don’t stray too far from the original renditions, but put enough of their own spin on them to make them unique. It’s all really an incredible encapsulation of the otherworldly feelings you gets watching a David Lynch film, which is a combination of haunting moods and sweet nostalgia. This one comes highly recommended.
RATING: 4.5 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
The Music of David Lynch is available now via PlayingLynch.com.
Images: CBS / MGM / Universal Pictures