Special collaboration albums can either be classics or duds. Still, there is always something special about the spirit of special collaboration LPs. Even if they do not work well, they still can be appreciated. Dean Wareham, the lead singer/songwriter of Luna (and formally of Galaxie 500) teamed up with Britta Phillips (Luna’s bass player and backing vocalist) for a chanteuse-style collaboration project.
L’Avventura is an exceptional album with a classic feel. While Galaxie 500 made amazing music and the incredible LP On Fire, Luna never made that perfect LP, although they did have many wonderful songs. While all of Galaxie 500’s songs were generally extremely slow and long, Luna had some shorter songs that were much more up-tempo. Still, the quirky charm of Luna’s music was always enjoyable (especially the first 3 LPs).
Musically, Dean Wareham has been a busy man. He has released many Luna LPs and even did music for Noah Baumbach’s movies Mr. Jealousy and High Ball. Still, many fans longed for the passion and emotion that were in Galaxie 500 songs like When Will You Come Home, Another Day, and Blue Thunder. Reminiscent of the Luna collaboration with Stereolab’s Latitia Sadier on a cover of Bonnie & Clyde by Serge Gainsbourg, L’Avventura has that smoky and cool feeling.
L’Avventura is an album in the tradition of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood or Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin. Some songs are duets. Some songs have just Dean Wareham singing while some have just Britta Phillips singing. Phillips even wrote a couple of songs. Also, there are many excellent cover versions on this album too which range from Opal to The Doors to Madonna. Each one has that Wareham’s signature. L’Avventura is a complete album with beautiful production by the magnificent Tony Visconti. There’s diversity but also a consistency. The LP flows with a grace and can be enjoyed over and over again.
Britta Phillip’s contributions are brought up front on this LP more than any other Luna album. Your Baby, written and sung by Phillips, is a sultry and exquisite song with deep bass, nice drum brushes, and lyrics that are filled with passion and desire. Britta’s just woke up voice sounds like Hope Sandoval from Mazzy Star without the desperation or depression. Britta Phillips is a true chanteuse and this song is a shining example on how she is underused in Luna. Out Walking is another lovely songs penned and sung by Britta. Her sensual moans and other vocals are accentuated Tony Visconti’s mellotron and Sean McCaul’s vibraphone. The track is simply beautiful. Knives From Bavaria, (written by Dean but sung by Britta), is an alternate version from the movie Piggie. Here, Britta’s vocals are very low and not as ethereal or angelic as her other solo tracks. Basically, Britta is one of the brightest jewels in the crown of this album.
Together, Dean and Britta make excellent duets. The LP opener, Night Nurse, is a lush mid-tempo track with a charming string arrangement by Visconti. (Note: Night Nurse is England’s version of Nyquil.) It is a perfect way to open this LP. The chemistry flows through the chords and the vocals. Britta’s vocals are charming, elegant, and sensuous, “…I am local / I am express / I am a tourist in a Sunday dress / I am the night nurse/ I am the most / I am the visitor, you are the host…” The track instantly seduces the listener and is the perfect opener for this splendid album. The second song (and duet) is the up beat Ginger Snaps which has a peculiar yet charming disco rhythm. On the chorus, they gently sing honest lyrics that makes them sound vulnerable yet strong: “…I don’t need to know who’s right or wrong / It’s not a crime to change your mind…” The second verse is especially clever due to the play on words: “…When the kitchen sinks / When the sugar links / When the doctor calls / When Niagara falls / I’m a wayward Tom, I’m a silver streak / Where the walls have ears but the walls don’t speak / We’re gonna make it after all…” While Ginger Snaps may sound like a typical Luna song, the duet gives it a whole new life with style and grace.
Dean Wareham has his share of solo work too and most of the songs are covers. Hear The Wind Blow (originally written by Opal), is a very entertaining and respectful version of the already classic track. Even though Dean Wareham does not have the same intensity of Kendra Smith, the emotion is evident. Perhaps if Britta handled the vocals on this track, it would have been much better. Still, the version is very well done. Moonshot (originally written by Buffy St. Marie, a Native American folk singer) is an excellent cover version. Moonshot was a protest song written when The United States were sending people the moon. The string arrangement (by Tony and Britta) is poignant and moving. Dean’s vocals also possess a sadness and heartrending quality. The names Madonna and Dean Wareham are two names I never thought would ever be connected. Here, Dean Wareham’s cover version of Madonna’s I Deserve It, from here Music LP, is actually well executed. With more guitars and a little distortion, Wareham makes the track his own, giving it a dusty and weathered vibe to the song. While Luna once covered Indian Summer by The Beat Happening, Dean and Britta do a cover version of Indian Summer by The Doors (from the Morrison Hotel album). Musically, The Doors influence and sound is still evident but Dean’s vocals on the hook give the song a more whispering Spacemen 3 quality. Other interesting songs are Random Rules, written by David Berman of the Silver Jews and Threw It Away, written by Angel Corpus Christi. Both tracks will satisfy any fans of Luna. While Britta does contribute to many of the backing vocals, bass, and synth on many of Dean’s interpretations, her lead vocals should have been more prevalent.
L’Avventura is a beautiful album filled sultry duets, charming cover versions, and an exquisite romantic vibe. While Britta Phillip’s sensual vocals and writing is underused in Luna, she finally has a chance to shine here. Still, Dean Wareham dominates the LP. As a whole, the album is practically flawless. Tony Visconti’s production is impeccable. The vocals soar over the chords of the guitars and string arrangements. The strings are perfectly arranged to create the little emotional soundscapes under these delightful songs. Britta Phillips’ chanteuse-style vocals are not only sexy but the passion, which fuels the vocals, will strike an emotional chord in the listener. Not only is the collaboration between Britta and Dean wonderful but also their collaboration with the legendary Tony Visconti proves to be magical. The chemistry and the creativity overflow in each and every song. Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips have made a classic collaboration album that is sultry, sexy, elegant, and emotional. L’Avventura is the best work Dean Wareham has done since Galaxie 500. Britta Phillip’s musical and vocal contributions are exceptional. It is a modern classic that is filled with songs for poignant moments. It is an album that should be played when you are falling in love
Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham
Record Label: Jetset Records