Saturday, July 23, 2011

Julee Cruise - "Floating Into the Night" (LP Review)

To most people, Julee Cruise will remind them of the TV series "Twin Peaks", but I didn't watch much TV in college when the series was on. But this music does remind me of my senior year of college, when I and my roommates Terry, Jason, and Frey would stay up all hours of the night drinking beer and playing Hearts and Spades. It didn't do much for our studies, but we became expert at shooting the moon and going under with almost any hand. Of course we'd listen to music as we played, and this LP was a constant favorite for all four of us. Individually we all had substantial CD collections and together we had maybe 15 linear feet of CDs, which was quite a lot at the time. I'm not sure who had this CD (Jason?), but I quickly purchased my copy after moving out.

Simply put, "Floating Into the Night" is one of the best LPs of all time, featuring the perfect collaboration between Julee Cruise (vocals), Angelo Badalamenti (composer), and David Lynch (lyricist). Badalamenti has composed many soundtracks for Lynch, and the collaboration with Cruise actually began with the song "Mysteries of Love" for the film "Blue Velvet". That song lead to them recording a full LP's worth of songs, culminating in the 1989 release of "Floating Into the Night", prior to the release of Twin Peaks (90-91).

If you're familiar with Lynch's films, you know that they are surreal, dream-like, and often deal with dark, disturbing themes and images. Badalamenti's dream/lounge arrangements perfectly complement Lynch's imagery but the real surprise is Lynch's lyrics, which depict scenes which are best described as bittersweet, bucolic, Rockwellian, nostalgic, and child-like. The lyrics juxtaposed with the foreboding soundscapes makes the entire experience that much more powerful. Consider the closing lyrics to "Rocking Back Inside My Heart":
Do you remember our picnic lunch?
We both went up to the lake
And then we walked among the pines
The birds sang out a song for us
We had a fire when we came back
And your smile was beautiful
You touched my cheek and you kissed me
At night we went for a stroll
The wind blew our hair
The fire made us warm
The wind blew the waves
Out on the lake
We heard the owl in a nearby tree.
I thought our love would last forever.
Simple enough, but when combined with the music they become quite unsettling in an unexpected way.

With the possible exception of "Swans", all the songs on this LP are perfect, memorable, and distinct: the horn riff on "Floating", the bass on "Falling", the 50s-era "shu bops" at the end of "I Remember", the swing sound of "Rockin' Back Inside My Heart", sweeping sounds of "Mysteries of Love", the musical surprise at ~3:28 of "Into the Night", the horns of "I Float Alone", the vocals of "The Nightingale", the solemnity of "The World Spins". "Swans" is not bad, but at 2:33 it does not add much to the LP.

Cruise, Badalamenti, and Lynch would all work together again on 1993's "The Voice of Love", and while that is not a bad LP it does not come close to capturing the magic of "Floating Into The Night". Danette says I'm too generous with my perfect scores, but this LP clearly deserves it. Whether it is evokes late nights playing cards, Twin Peaks, or simply nostalgia viewed through the twisted prism of David Lynch, once you've listened to it this LP is not easily forgotten.

Standout songs: "Floating", "Falling", "I Remember", "Rockin' Back Inside My Heart" (live), "Mysteries of Love", "Into the Night", "I Float Alone", "The Nightingale", "The World Spins" (live).

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final score: 10/10.

Bonus links: Entire LP.  Some of the live versions are from the concert film "Industrial Sympony No. 1".

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