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A new David Bowie tribute set delivers unique takes on the late rock star’s songs.

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Stuart Derdeyn David Bowie performs on stage during the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium in London, Great Britain, on April 20, 1992. Photo by Dylan Martinez /.REUTERS

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Various artists

Modern love | BBE music

genre: Tribute album

There have been a ton of David Bowie tribute shows since the star’s death in 2018. There were also plenty of covers of his music, usually centered around his glam rock personality and music of Ziggy Stardust.

Modern Love was put together by Drew McFadden, the music manager and DJ, and Peter Adarkwah, the founder of BBE Music, to demonstrate Bowie’s forays into R&B, funk, gospel, soul and jazz. The liner notes describe the project as an “interactive sonic map” on which 17 artists deal with some of Bowie’s lesser-known materials.

Of course, this description will lead fans to debate whether the song selection really fits the letter.

Here are five things you should know about modern love.

1: The artists may be darker than the songs. While Meshell Ndegeocello and Khruangbin are certainly well known, Brazilians Sessa and Brooklyn’s L Rain aren’t exactly household names. With that in mind, the project is both an introduction to some really interesting musicians and an examination of Bowie’s multifaceted career.

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2: Lady Grinning Soul. One of Aladdin Sane’s most shimmering songs is turned upside down by Kit Sebastian. Instead of a soaring piano ballad, the melody morphs into a pulsating dance track that features some of the coolest clavinets to appear on a song for many years. This version would not be out of place in any go-go dance scene in a swinging French or Italian film of the 1960s.

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3: Panic in Detroit. Another Aladdin Sane track, in this case one of the heaviest songs Bowie recorded, turns into a neo bossa nova acoustic shuffle. Complete with some wonderfully placed horn rests and a breathless background choir behind Sessa’s cool vocals, this is a fantastic cover.

4: Modern love. The best track on the wildly overrated Let’s Dance becomes a seductive pop piece that sounds like Vintage Seal when the Ugandan singer Jonah Mutono covers it. Using distortion in the vocals, big synthesizer washes, and a mechanical percussion blip far in the background works very well indeed. Extra points for the guitar solo that sounds like George Harrison made it up for the Beatles.

5: heroes. The album closer is from former BADBADNOTGOOD member Matthew Tavares. It completely removes the arena theatrics of the original to play a jazz tune with saxophone, drums, piano and much empty space. With a time of almost nine minutes, this is one of the standout features of the entire project. As different from the guitar-driven original as everything it offered in the 2020s with the delightful title Selected Ambient Squirts.

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black midi

cavalcade | Hard trade

genre: Experimental rock

With the raves for its explosive debut Schlagenheim barely fading, the newest British rock crazies Black Midi are back with yet another collection of unusual, angular third-person tales about the strange twists and turns of life. This can mean delicate odes to Marlene Dietrich who whisper requiems for an undefined something in Diamond Stuff or the big angular rocks of Slow. Guitarist Geordie Greep’s vocals can be like crazy ravings in John L or almost like Dead Kennedy’s Jello Biafra, sometimes in Hogwash and Balderdash. Without question, this is a band that the audience in concert probably belongs to. But I don’t expect them to ever be a single act on the radio.

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Can

Live in Stuttgart 1975 | Mute

genre: Krautrock

Key Track: Three

The first of a series of upcoming live albums from the legendary German “Krautrock” act Can. This performance, faked in Stuttgart in 1975, has been tenderly updated by band member Irwin Schmidt and producer engineer Rene Tinner to sound like it was recorded straight from a modern mixer. That’s great, because the five-part set – numbered one to five in German – is an extraordinary showcase for the genius of keyboardist Schmidt, bassist Holger Czukay, drummer Jaki Liebezeit and guitarist Michael Karoli. Essentially a long “jam symphony” this is a window to show how far ahead this group was of its contemporaries as they ventured into everything from psychedelic space rock to driving funk and early ambient atmosphere. The interplay of the players is telepathic, with Liebezeit deserving a special mention for its incredibly elastic beats.

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Rayhan

Scent | bandcamp.com

genre: Jazz from the Middle East

The multi-instrumentalist Emad Armoush from Vancouver picks up the traditional sounds of his childhood in Damascus, Syria, and bends them over a jazz landscape with his crack band Rayhan. With a who’s who of Canadian jazz musicians – trumpeter JP Carter, clarinetist François Houle, violinist Jesse Zubot, and drummer Kenton Loewen – the material can get pretty groovy, as in Che Mali Wali, or decidedly outside, as in The March. Meanwhile, the leader shows considerable talent in the fields of oud, ney (an old flute), flamenco guitar and singing. The traditional repertoire is seldom interpreted in this way.

Rayhan plays the 2021 TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival at Performance Works on June 29th at 2:30 p.m.

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Emma-Jean Thackray

yellow | bancamp.com

genre: Jazz / Pop Fusion

Key track: Say something

Add this spectacular 14-track debut from London-based multi-instrumentalist / producer / composer / bandleader Emma-Jean Thackray to the growing list of fantastic jazz fusion records currently emerging from the dynamic UK scene. Bringing elements from Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi to material and Labelles disco time, the album depicts a journey through the creator’s genre jumping songs that is a total delight. That said, elements of interstellar future funk shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the opening cut is titled Mercury and the closer Mercury is in Retrograde.

sderdeyn@postmedia.com

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