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The Hazards of Love

4.5 out of 5 stars 167 customer reviews

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Audio CD, March 24, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

2009 release from the acclaimed U.S. Alternative Pop outfit. The album began when band leader Colin Meloy, long fascinated by the British Folk revival of the 1960s, found a copy of revered vocalist Anne Briggs's 1966 EP, titled The Hazards of Love. Since there was no actual song with the album's title, he set out to write one, but was soon immersed in something much larger. The Hazards of Love tells the tale of a woman named Margaret who is ravaged by a shape-shifting animal; her lover, William; a forest queen; and a cold-blooded, lascivious rake, who recounts with spine-tingling ease how he came "to be living so easy and free" in 'The Rake's Song'. Becky Stark and Shara Worden deliver the lead vocals for the female characters, while Jim James, Robyn Hitchcock, and Rebecca Gates appear in supporting roles. 17 tracks.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 24, 2009)
  • Original Release Date: March 24, 2009
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Capitol
  • ASIN: B001LK1LA6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (167 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,740 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Cale E. Reneau on March 24, 2009
Format: Audio CD
More than a singer, a songwriter, or an instrumentalist; Colin Meloy has always been a storyteller. From The Decemberists' humble debut in 2001, this has always been the case. It is for that reason, perhaps, that it's perplexing that it took the group this long to release a concept album, a record that tells one story throughout its length. 2006's brilliant The Crane Wife came close, with a story told over several tracks. Even with that under their belt, however, tackling a rock opera, a genre notoriously riddled with incoherent storytelling and major disappointments, is quite the mountain to climb - even for Meloy. Still, if any artist in today's musical world could right this troubled format, it would be Meloy. Fortunately, he has outdone not only the artists that have tried this method before, but even himself in the process.

The Hazards of Love tells the story of Margaret, a meek villager who falls in love with William, an inhabitant of a nearby magical forest. Margaret soon discovers that she is pregnant with William's child and sets off into the forest to find him. But as is so often the case with Meloy's stories, their love and future are threatened by William's jealous mother, the Queen of the forest, and a crazed, murderous widower. The album's first 8 songs set up the love story between the two central characters, while the album's second half brings the action to the story, ultimately ending with a beautiful, touching finale.

As already noted, the album's greatest strength is the story that it tells. Obviously, this should come as no surprise to any seasoned Decemberists fan, but the elongated format provides Meloy the opportunity to tell his story differently than has been done in the past.
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Format: MP3 Music
I admit I was nervous when I first heard about the Decemberists new album, the Hazards of Love. A sprawling concept album is a very ambitious effort and the margin of error is very small. No one would have begrudged them had it fallen flat, because the degree of difficulty is so high and success in this format seems very hard to achieve.

However my worries were for naught, as the Decemberists came through and they came through big. This album is nothing less than a home run, and may go down as being this band's masterpiece. They managed to make an album that is clever, complex, that contains a complete narrative, and at the same time is the Decemberists most rocking by far.

The album effortlessly shifts from one style to another with four main song types, the instrumentals (Prelude, Queens Approach, and Interlude), the narrative interludes (Bower Scene, The Abduction of Margeret, Margaret in Captivity, and the Hazards of Love 3), the folk-type ballads (Hazards of Love 1, Hazards of Love 2, Isn't it a lovely night?, Annan Water, Hazards of Love 4), and the pure rockers (Won't Want for Love, Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid, The Rake's Song, The Queen's Rebuke/Crossing, Wanting Comes in Waves Reprise). All of these song types work well, with the last group I think being the strongest and most compelling, but that might just be my own music tastes talking.

This is of course a concept album and thus is best suited for straight start to end listens, and is marvelous in this capacity. The album starts off well enough, but really picks up at the Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid. At this point the Decemberists take it to the next level and never let go.
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Format: Audio CD
This album was released a week early through Itunes, so that's when I firts listened to it. At first listen, it was really good and then I listened to it again and it became awesome. Finally, I waited for it to be released on CD and went and bought that version of it so I could have the artwork and liner notes (as they pritned lyrics). I then listened to again and was in awe of what I was listening to. The first two listens allowed me to become familiar with the music so when I listened to it the third time I could focus more on the lyrics. This is how I came to believe, with little hesitation, that this is and will remain the best album of 2009.

The story, simplified, is this: William and Margaret fall in love with one another. The Queen (Williams mother) doesn't want Margaret in Williams life so she convinces the Rake to abduct Margaret and take her away from William forever. William then ventures out to rescue Maragaret. Now, there's a lot of folklorish substance added to this story, such as fawns, shapeshifters and what have you... but the story at it's core is a very simple and universal one and the ending is very Shakesperian.

There aren't really any songs on this album that have that instant catchiness of "We Both Go Down Together" or "Yankee Bayonett," but this is a concept album...it should, and must, but judged in it's entirety. For instance, prior to the albums release Sirius XMU had been playing The Rake's Song pretty heavily, and while it was good I thought it was one of their weaker songs. However, I found the song to be absolutely amazing when hearing it in it's place on the album.

A true album's album in a time when radio hit makers are running the show. You owe it to yourself to listen to this album... you owe it to music to listen to this album.
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