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Hazards of Love
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|2. The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the Thistles Undone)|
|3. A Bower Scene|
|4. Won't Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)|
|5. The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)|
|6. The Queen's Approach|
|7. Isn't it a Lovely Night?|
|8. The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid|
|9. An Interlude|
|10. The Rake's Song|
|11. The Abduction of Margaret|
|12. The Queen's Rebuke / The Crossing|
|13. Annan Water|
|14. Margaret in Captivity|
|15. The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)|
|16. The Wanting Comes in Waves (Reprise)|
|17. The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)|
2009 release from the acclaimed U.S. Alternative Pop outfit. The album began when band leader Colin Meloy, long fascinated by the British Folk revival of the 1960s, found a copy of revered vocalist Anne Briggs's 1966 EP, titled The Hazards of Love. Since there was no actual song with the album's title, he set out to write one, but was soon immersed in something much larger. The Hazards of Love tells the tale of a woman named Margaret who is ravaged by a shape-shifting animal; her lover, William; a forest queen; and a cold-blooded, lascivious rake, who recounts with spine-tingling ease how he came "to be living so easy and free" in 'The Rake's Song'. Becky Stark and Shara Worden deliver the lead vocals for the female characters, while Jim James, Robyn Hitchcock, and Rebecca Gates appear in supporting roles. 17 tracks.
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Top Customer Reviews
Their previous full-length release, the much-praised Crane Wife (2006) was a sonic journey through a well-known Japanese folk tale. In Hazards, the Decemberists create their own folk tale about an ill-fated love. Hazards plays as a rock opera, each song flowing into the next, carrying themes, refrains and riffs.
Colin Meloy's lyrics, humor and voice are in top form. Guest vocals from the incomparable Shara Worden soar (and almost steal the show). Musically, the band is at its finest, with heavy guitars punctuating darker themes and spectacular instrumentation from the Wurlitzer to the hurdy-gurdy.
Grab the lyric sheet, put on your headphones and hit play; you're in for a full hour of musical adventure, mayhem, love and longing. Supremely entertaining.
That said, I DO appreciate their creative efforts and risk-taking, and at time the disk does succeed. As a creative venture, it surely is a good thing for the band's growth. Also, most current fans will nevertheless enjoy it.
That said, while I have nothing against "concept discs" or rock operas, they are extremely difficult to pull off, and for me, this disc only partly pulls it off. Better than most attempts - for sure.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The Hazards of Love tells the story of Margaret, a meek villager who falls in love with William, an inhabitant of a nearby magical forest. Margaret soon discovers that she is pregnant with William's child and sets off into the forest to find him. But as is so often the case with Meloy's stories, their love and future are threatened by William's jealous mother, the Queen of the forest, and a crazed, murderous widower. The album's first 8 songs set up the love story between the two central characters, while the album's second half brings the action to the story, ultimately ending with a beautiful, touching finale.
As already noted, the album's greatest strength is the story that it tells. Obviously, this should come as no surprise to any seasoned Decemberists fan, but the elongated format provides Meloy the opportunity to tell his story differently than has been done in the past. One of the devices that Meloy relies heavily on is foreshadowing, something that can't really be done on a single song. Throughout the tale, subtle imagery and lines are implemented that hint at the fate of not only William and Margaret, voiced by Meloy and Becky Stark respectively, but their antagonists as well. The implementation of foreshadowing lends itself to repeated listenings, and as the puzzle pieces all fall into place over time, I've found myself smiling at the intricacy of the tale.
One of the perils of concept albums that The Decemberists have overcome with The Hazards of Love is that they have kept the story about as coherent as possible. If one were to go back and examine all the "great" rock operas and concept albums of the past (Pink Floyd's The Wall, or The Who's Tommy), they are likely to find that the stories are weak, confusing, and stimulate little emotion from the listener. The Hazards of Love exceeds where these albums have failed, and though it's difficult to make a call on it this early in the game, it may be the greatest story that Meloy has ever told. Without question, though, it has already risen to the upper echelon of my "favorite concept albums" list.
A lot of that has not only to do with the story, but with the music as well. The Decemberists have taken a great risk in making this album as they have, relying heavily on aspects of progressive rock and metal. With the exception of "Isn't it a Lovely Night," there is little on The Hazards of Love that harkens back to the band's Victorian-era stylings of past albums. This is a rock opera, after all. With that leap comes the threat of alienating many of the fans that they have gained over the years. This album is awash with grandeur and bombast that would have never even have been considered for previous Decemberists' records. But all of it has its place on the album, and all of it feels appropriate for the story being told. For example, The Queen, voiced by Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, is always accompanied by heavy metal riffs that mirror her evil, dark presence in the story. A lot of credit should be given to Meloy and Chris Funk who absolutely make these portions of the album feel natural and exciting, rather than forced. And while I'm dishing out praises, Shara Worden is a revelation as The Queen! Her few moments on the album alone make the whole thing worth listening to!
In truth, every musician who has leant their talents to the creation of this album has done a fantastic job. I do feel, however, that Jenny Conlee might have been underutilized this time around, as her skills are sort of downplayed throughout the album to make room for Meloy and Funk. There are moments where she shines, like on the instrumental "The Crossing," but these are scarce on the record. And yet despite all the musical changes that have been made to the band's sound to make this album work, I can't help but love every second of it! A Decemberists record or not, this is a fantastic work of art that I've listened to over and over again for the last few weeks. It is an album filled with beauty, emotion, and of course, Meloy's dark-twisted humor! I get chills when Shara Worden hits that last note of "Repaid," I chuckle at the ultimate fate of The Rake in "Revenge!," and a little bit of me breaks every time I hear the gorgeous finale, "The Drowned" (possibly the best song Meloy has ever written). This is an album that begs to be heard. It is one that is deserving of every positive word that it receives from myself or any other fan. The Decemberists have risked their reputation to release a record that is markedly different from anything that we have ever heard before. The result is something far too beautiful for words, too poignant for further commentary. My words end here.
1. "Won't Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)"
2. "The Wanting Comes in Wave/Repaid"
3. "The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing"
4. "Annan Water"
5. "The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)"
10 out of 10 Stars
However my worries were for naught, as the Decemberists came through and they came through big. This album is nothing less than a home run, and may go down as being this band's masterpiece. They managed to make an album that is clever, complex, that contains a complete narrative, and at the same time is the Decemberists most rocking by far.
The album effortlessly shifts from one style to another with four main song types, the instrumentals (Prelude, Queens Approach, and Interlude), the narrative interludes (Bower Scene, The Abduction of Margeret, Margaret in Captivity, and the Hazards of Love 3), the folk-type ballads (Hazards of Love 1, Hazards of Love 2, Isn't it a lovely night?, Annan Water, Hazards of Love 4), and the pure rockers (Won't Want for Love, Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid, The Rake's Song, The Queen's Rebuke/Crossing, Wanting Comes in Waves Reprise). All of these song types work well, with the last group I think being the strongest and most compelling, but that might just be my own music tastes talking.
This is of course a concept album and thus is best suited for straight start to end listens, and is marvelous in this capacity. The album starts off well enough, but really picks up at the Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid. At this point the Decemberists take it to the next level and never let go. The story line is at times tough to follow but you can easily get the main gist of it and with time and a lyric sheet I'm sure one can parse out some of the more subtle directions of the tale.
One quick highlight I think is worth mentioning, Shara Worden's appearances in Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid and Queen's Rebuke/Crossing are nothing short of fantastic. She brings haunting vocals to a new height and does an all out wonderful job. This is a wonderful album that really can and should be listened to multiple times.
So yes, I give this album nothing short of an A+, it is a great and interesting work that I happily give my highest recommendation to.
The story, simplified, is this: William and Margaret fall in love with one another. The Queen (Williams mother) doesn't want Margaret in Williams life so she convinces the Rake to abduct Margaret and take her away from William forever. William then ventures out to rescue Maragaret. Now, there's a lot of folklorish substance added to this story, such as fawns, shapeshifters and what have you... but the story at it's core is a very simple and universal one and the ending is very Shakesperian.
There aren't really any songs on this album that have that instant catchiness of "We Both Go Down Together" or "Yankee Bayonett," but this is a concept album...it should, and must, but judged in it's entirety. For instance, prior to the albums release Sirius XMU had been playing The Rake's Song pretty heavily, and while it was good I thought it was one of their weaker songs. However, I found the song to be absolutely amazing when hearing it in it's place on the album.
A true album's album in a time when radio hit makers are running the show. You owe it to yourself to listen to this album... you owe it to music to listen to this album.
So many stunningly beautiful parts...
So inventive in so many places...
A great story -- While I'm as about as far as one can get from being romantic, I still cry at the ending every time, and I've probably heard the album like 40 times now...
An absolute classic. I didn't think they could top the excellent Crane Wife, but they most certainly did. Kudos to Colin Meloy for creating a masterpiece.
[Oh, and a word to the wise (but inexperienced): As with any prog-ish album, you have to give this one at least, say, 5 spins in its entirety before it starts to grow on you. That may seem kind of tedious the first few times through, but the eventual payoff is HUGE.]
In addition to all the pretense and encyclopedic folk-rock-opera goings on the make geeks drool, guest vocalists include Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond and Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, as well as Jim James from My Morning Jacket, Rebecca Gates of the Spinanes), and (bonus nerd points!) Robyn Hitchcock. The music swings from plucked banjos to crunching metal riffage, from 4/4 pounders to gentle, woodsy waltzes. There's also an evil sense of humor ("The Rake"), which helps leaven the seriousness of it all. And let's face it, "The Hazards of Love" wants to be taken really seriously. With Colin Meloy's bookish lyrics and unsung bearded guitar hero Chris Funk lays down such an amazing variety of licks, he makes the gumbo of styles come together mightily.
"The Hazards of Love" may have been the album to get The Decemberists to settle down, ultimately. Rich, bulky and ambitious, it gave way to the compositionally tighter and more cohesive "The King is Dead" two years later. But for sheer chutzpah, "The Hazards of Love" wins for one of 2009's best albums.