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An Invitation is an intimate collaboration between Inara and legendary arranger Van Dyke Parks. The result is a lush, elegant, fully orchestrated song cycle, a catalog of experiences equally inspired by the sophistication of Frank Sinatra and the storied, cinematic wonder of Richard Sherman's oeuvre. Throughout the record, Van Dyke's cerebral (psychedelic, even) arrangements twist the music into multiple directions at once, a swirling canvas suspended over the sonic mantelpiece of Inara's songs, bewitching and perplexing, a truly organic achievement among friends in an era of artificial pleasures.
Top Customer Reviews
That about describes the sound of Inara George's second full-length solo album (no bird and the bee, no Living Sisters, nobody!), a quirkily orchestral collaboration with Van Dyke Parks. George's vivid songwriting and huskily pretty voice would be enough to make this a solid effort on their own, but the lovely backdrop of twitching swirling strings and faint accordion take the songs to a whole new level.
It opens with a trumpeting overture and nimble strings, and you can almost imagine a line of heralds welcoming George into a fully furnished little album. And then: "Wanna find the bottom of my heart/wanna be alone until I'm lonely," George sings plaintively, sounding weary and careworn. As the violins spin themselves around her, she tells us what she wants to do: "I want to have regrets/because I want to do absolutely all i can... open the door and find/a destination, a revelation/I'll see a ghost/he'll steal my voice and I'll begin again..."
The next two songs are both sprightlier and darker -- "Accidental" is a barbed little song with a lively melody ("when you speak to me/I speak too pleasantly/where's the knife? where's the fire?") and "Bomb" is a darker version of the same, with a more bittersweet tone. George slips through a wall of swaying strings and gentle accordion, sounding like she's singing a number in a musical set in Parisian springtime.
And after that, George dabbles in other pop songs filled with orchestral grandeur: a languid sunlit ballad ("I can break my heart before we start...Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"An Invitation" is much like a theater-piece, complete with overture and a closing "Good night, good night to all of you." The songs are beautiful and spare; George sings them in a strong, cool, unstagey voice that makes the meaning of every word register. Her poignant and witty lyrics offer varied glimpses of someone in love, desirous, self-abasing, jubilant, ruefully self-aware, still hopeful. Parks' arrangements for small orchestra are elegant and endlessly supportive.
"An Invitation" is inviting. I've listened to this CD five times in two days, and will be listening again and again. It's contemporary music of the highest order.
A beautiful voice, sometimes quirky tunes, and the amazingly lush arrangements by Van Dyke Parks.
I can't stress enough how delighted I am with this record. The orchestral arrangements are so beautiful I could even listen to the record without the vocals and still be taken by it.
No, you don't have to be a fan of this-or-that type of music to enjoy it. Rather, you just have to have a sense of and appreciation for the carefree whimsy of songwriting and music in general.
I remember when I opened the brown Amazon box, I was very impressed by this little CD's colorful and cute packaging. As soon as I noticed the little rabits and birds in the pile of food, I couldn't help it, but smile in glee. I went straight toward my stereo, plopped in the CD, and hit play.
What I heard threw me off. It sounded like Van Dyke Parks, with all the odd key changes and lush orchestration for smaller broadway style groups. Then on the second track came the vocals. I usually avoid most contemporary music so I was caught off guard when this quiet, mousey, jazzy voice came through the speakrs, singing something closer to poetry than just lyrics on a page.
I listened to about half the album, and then had to go somewhere. Everyday since, I've avoided that and tried listening to it the whole way through everyday. Every song has a simple joy to it, something severally lacking in art today. This CD is most definatly up there with the best contemporary popular music albums I've heard in the last few years.
I'm so glad my curiosity got the best of me in this case - it has been months now and I've listened to this album so many times, but it still sounds as startling and fresh as the first time. "An Invitation" is a challenging and intellectual collection of flitting strings, sneaky bursts of woodwinds, and twirling, counter-intuitive melodies. The instrumental arrangements are demanding and are as much of a "voice" as the beautiful vocals, forming more of a duet than a backdrop.
This album is evocative and theatrical. Like some of my other favorite albums, it is one of those pieces of music that become almost multisensory the more attention you turn toward it, inspiring both images and sensations. Visions of a dramatically-lit concert hall or a black and white film rolling along on stage in a gilded theater tend to spring to mind when I listen to this music. There's a quality of nostalgia here, a jazzy feeling that reminds me vaguely of the 30's and 40's music my grandfather loves (incidentally, he likes this album too, since I introduced him to it!).
It is easy for me to rave about this album, but at the same time, it's not one I'd easily recommend - "An Invitation" is such a strong flavor and will not appeal to everyone. It is pretty obstinate about not fading into the background, a real show-stealer. If you find yourself intrigued, fascinated, or curious after listening to the samples a few times, give it a try and you might find a new favorite! If you are looking for more of her first album, you might be a bit disappointed by this one, unless you really enjoyed the jazzier moments of "All Rise".