Petra Goes To The Movies
Petra Haden released her own version of The Who Sell Out in 2005, a home-recorded a capella version of the entire album by The Who. She has recorded and toured in many other configurations, leading a 10-piece choir, with her triplet sisters (The Haden Sisters) and as a member of That Dog and as a supporting musician working with many big names but it is her version of The Who Sell Out that is the obvious touchstone here.
Because, for Petra Goes To The Movies, Haden’s voice is front and centre – and in the wings – it’s the star attraction, it offers (almost) all of the supporting roles and Special FX.
She is a choir of herself across several of the movie themes here, both the big blockbuster and obvious fare (Superman, Psycho) and old classics (Cool Hand Luke) as well as films with iconic themes (Cinema Paradiso) and some pop balladry (Tootsie).
There are recent films too (The Social Network) and just in case the charge of gimmickry gets levelled – and taken seriously – Haden offers a few songs in a more conventional setting; her father, bassist Charlie Haden, and his friend, the great guitarist Bill Frisell assist on a version of This Is Not America and Frisell frames up the – frankly – lovely It Might Be You (from Tootsie). She has a lovely voice when she settles back into just singing. But she has a clever voice (and mind) in the way she recreates these themes; the way she pushes the idea of a capella, of vocals as not only an instrument, but several.
I am wowed by Petra Haden’s ability to perform vocalese, to be the lead instrument and all of the layers underneath; to be the song. But I can see (guess) that it’s not for everyone.
I hear beautiful – extraordinary – vocal work and clever, quirky ideas. I hear magic in this recording, particularly in the sense that many of the themes feel reborn to me/for me.
I love this. It’s both an amazing feat – and a great record.
But you might not like it at all. And there is nothing, really, to compare it to. Apart from Haden’s other work.