Shades of Delight
I'll take a bold, foolhardy step and suggest that Van Morrison's "Moondance" ranks among the two or three best-crafted pop songs of the past half-century. Trouble is, it's impossible to find a cover version that can replicate the mesmerizing wizardry of Morrison's original. To her credit, though, Germany's increasingly interesting Lyambiko comes pretty close. Her sprightly rendition, less tonally enigmatic than Morrison's but just as ethereal, ignites an eclectic 11-track set, aptly titled Shades of Delight (Nagel-Heyer). Significantly more emotionally authentic than last year's Out of This Mood, this richly hued collection travels a stylistically serpentine path that extends from the velvety warmth of "Tenderly" and playful romanticism of "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" to the icy waspishness of Mose Allison's "Your Mind Is on Vacation." Along the way she nimbly handles that matched set of paeans to self-pity, "Lush Life" and "Black Coffee." Her "Dindi," always a tricky number but here accented with precisely the right amount of wistfulness, is exquisite. Even it, though, pales in comparison to a cunning medley of her self-penned "Drum and Bass and Bananas," the traditional "Ilangamo" and an "Afro Blue" that soars higher and shines brighter than the superb version that was the singular highlight of Out of This Mood.