Pioneering 2006 Album Re-imagines Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”
A singular jazz work, Patricia Barber’s groundbreaking Mythologies is the result of the pianist becoming the only singer-songwriter to ever win a Guggenheim Fellowship. Allowed the time to craft a sophisticated album, the ambitious 2006 set is without peer in any musical genre. A cycle based on Greek mythology and Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” Mythologies brings each of the eleven characters from Ovid’s play to life in song.
Accompanied by guitarist Michael Alger, bassist Michael Arnapol, and drummer Eric Montzka, and assisted by a few special guest background vocalists – including a children’s choir – Barber has turned in one of the first legitimate masterworks of the new century.
Lyrically addressing lovestruck emotions, insomnia, desires, risks, and more, Barber habitually turns conventions on their head. She matches her sonnets, double entendres, and fascinating narratives with music that’s at once seductive, sad, beautiful, and powerful. Intended to be listened to from start to finish, Mythologies comes off as a sonic cycle that traces life and death in an engrossingly imaginative fashion that’s on par with the classic Greek influences.
Half-speed mastered from the original master tapes, Mobile Fidelity’s numbered edition 180-gram 2LP set of Mythologies boasts astounding sonics. Every vocal delicacy and breathy aspect of Barber’s singing is fully audible, balanced, and gorgeously textured. Instrumental decay and acoustic details are suspended against a pitch-black background. Vocal jazz records don’t get better than this! Don’t settle for the standard CD version, which is robbed of much of the presence, richness, and atmosphere.