April 21, 2004

Hederos & Hellberg "Hederos & Hellberg"

Sometimes, all you need is a voice. When you have a really great song, there's no need to overdo it; a simple piano and a soft voice will suffice. That's the concept behind this collaboration between The Soundtrack Of Our Lives' keyboard player Martin Hederos and ex-Hellacopters Mattias Hellberg's collaboration. Though this album was released a few years ago and is just now seeing an American release, it doesn't matter; this album is timeless and the music is beyone its age.

The premise of it is simple; take several classic songs by some of the greatest rock songwriters and turn them into sedate piano ballads. It's not as easy as you'd think; covers are never easy, especially when you strip them down. Do it wrong and it fails; case in point: Cat Power did it and it was crap. Of course, when you're dealing with classic songs like Bob Dylan's "You're A Big Girl Now," Arthur Lee's "Signed D.C.," Tom Waits' "Soldiers Things" or Lou Reed's "Pale Blue Eyes," you're treading on especially thin ground. The original versions of these songs are utterly complex in lyrical content and the musical compositions are deceptive in their simplicity, so you have to be careful, or you'll fail miserably.

That's not the case with M Hederos & M Hellberg, though. Hederos' piano playing is simple and to-the point; it's soft, it's gorgeous and it's surprisingly dark depressing and cold, but don't be decieved; after a few listens, you'll discover that the music is warm and loving and seducitve and utterly, utterly sexy. See, when Hellberg opens his mouth, the album simply blossoms into something greater, and you'll be floored. Utterly floored. How can you not shed a little tear when he adds a tenderness to the austere"Pale Blue Eyes" or Gram Parsons' "She'? You can't. And it must be said that though the album's only eight songs long, the brevity is what makes this record even more powerful; as soon as "You're A Big Girl Now" leaves you breathless, you'll want more.

This is the simplest records I've heard all year, but it's easily one of the most beautiful records I've heard all year as well. Kudos to Parasol for rescuing this obscure little record, and here's hoping that their other collaborative release is reissued, too; if that record is half as good as M Hederos & M Hellberg, then it will easily be the second best album of the year.

--Joseph Kyle

Label Website: http://www.parasol.com

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