It almost doesn’t matter what Robert Wyatt is singing; the veteran British art-rocker has a voice so distinctively dreamy and smoky that it’s like the spawn of a saxophone and a violin, and it fits into a composition the way any other classical instrument would. On For The Ghosts Within, Wyatt actually works with a saxophonist and a violinist—Gilad Atzmon and Ros Stephen, respectively—on a set of standards and re-imagined Wyatt originals. But Ghosts isn’t some staid, tasteful covers album. It’s lush, yes, and frequently beautiful, but there’s also something subtly unsettled about these songs. The string arrangement on “Lush Life” is a fraction too busy, like something out of a ’30s movie melodrama, the somber ballad “Lullaby For Lena” pushes toward the funereal, and so on. Wyatt, Atzmon, and Stephen don’t work magic on all of these tracks: Some come off as unnecessarily acerbic, others too “normal.” But the album on the whole has a powerful sense of drama, as it transports listeners from the worries of “Round Midnight” to the optimism of “What A Wonderful World.” Through it all, Wyatt croons softly and hypnotically, caring less about the words than the mood they convey.
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