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Diamanda Galas
Malediction and Prayer
Asphodel

October 1996: I am buying tickets for a November performance of what Diamanda Galas is calling Malediction and Prayer. Being one of the first performances of an eight month international tour, I know little about it. Seeing the title on the ticket, the woman behind the counter asks me if it is a religious event. "Sort of", I reply.

November 1996: The audience is mute as Galas moves across the dark stage, a single spotlight on her. Clothed in black leather, her black hair drapes onto her black shoulders as she glides along the black floorboards. As she reaches the grand piano, center stage, another light emerges from the high ceiling focused on her sheet music, which her long fingers shift to the appropriate song. The piano then grumbles and moans, as does her voice, which will throughout the night shift to shouts and wails, followed by whispers barely audible.

May 1998: Malediction and Prayer, based on this tour, is released, its twelve songs recorded live between November 1996 and June 1997 at the various cities toured, including Los Angeles, Vienna and Milan, and the atmosphere and haunting exhilaration of this intimate performance is well captured, both in the quality of the recording and the respectful applause allowed to be heard now and again.

Best known as a disciplined vocalist with a four octave range, Galas is also an exceptional piano player, her proficiency and fury on the ivories instantly apparent on the opening songs, Iron Lady and The Thrill is Gone. Followed by diverse selections including Baudelaire's Abel et Cain, Willie Dixon's Insane Asylum, and a seductive version of Johnny Cash's 25 Minutes to Go, Galas offers an intimate glimpse of her dark world, a world here stripped to just piano and vocal. As the titles suggest, these are not motivational hymns sung over simple taped melodies as the woman behind the ticket counter might have suspected, but rather songs expressing the darker aspects of love and loss and life, songs that can be just as motivating.

With lyrics in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Greek, Galas' full vocal range is again challenged and the result is as always rewarding. The album at once reflects Galas' dark nature and brooding force, but is also one of her most accessible recordings. Still an acquired taste, those brave enough to look iniquity in the eye will find there is always light, even in the darkest of times.

Copyright © 1998 J. A. Gilbert e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Diamanda Galas article/review: Schrei X.

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