Friday, March 06, 2009

Musical Wonderwoman Behind the Scenes of The Watchmen

"Superman or Green Lantern ain't got a-nothin' on" singer-songwriter Allison Crowe.

The Canadian musician has transformed into a much-acclaimed and loved international presence in music - all without the sort of corporate-backing, grant-funding, and ad-shilling elements that can be like kryptonite to an artist of talent and integrity.

Crowe's latest props come from Hollywood director Zack Snyder whose movie version of The Watchmen opens today in theatres worldwide. The creative team behind The Watchmen blockbuster already list Allison Crowe alongside Jimi Hendrix in their fave pop culture music listening right now (on their Cruel and Unusual Films site).

What can now be revealed is that, for the past year+, two of Allison Crowe's recordings of iconic songs have been part of The Watchmen film's creation.

Crowe, one of the most original and exciting songwriters and performers to emerge since rock's golden age, is also world-renowned for the beauty and emotional power of her song interpretations.

"Allison Crowe is the best thing to happen to 'Me And Bobby McGee' since Janis Joplin changed Kristofferson's lyrics", says American culture blogger Allan Showalter (in his 1 Heck of a Guy blog).

Her recording of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", a song with devotees for each of its plenitude of renditions, has found a cherished place with global audiences. "Crowe's version is a living thing, a meditation and a celebration and a benediction," says one reviewer. Another calls her Tidings album, single/first take, version of Hallelujah, simply, "one of the most amazing things ever recorded onto magnetic tape".

The Watchmen movie, a faithful adaptation of the seminal graphic novel created by writer Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, presents an alternate reality set in a 1985 when Richard Nixon is still US President, and costumed heroes are outlawed as vigilantes. Characters inhabiting this twilight world, writes Slant mag, are "all psychological misfits, their perversions and sadism warped reflections of superhero virtues, and Snyder pulls few punches in his depiction of them, from the Comedian gunning down a pregnant woman in cold blood... to the sexually messed-up Nite Owl and Laurie (Silk Spectre II) sc***ing".

Discussing this latter scene, in which leather/latex fetishism of costumed crime-fighting serves to conquer male impotence, Zack Snyder provides insight into the wedding of music to imagery and action. "I originally had a different version of 'Hallelujah' on that scene - it was the version by Allison Crowe, and it was really beautiful," he explains to the Boston Phoenix. "Too beautiful, as it turned out, because when I showed it to my buddies, they were like, 'Wow, you really mean this, this love scene.' So I was like, okay, that didn't work."

To fit this particular dystopian vision, Allison Crowe's singular, modern, covers have made way for the film's use of the original song recordings. The famous Janis Joplin and Leonard Cohen tracks are paired, instead, subversively.

It's tremendously exciting for Crowe to be part of The Watchmen movie process and, "mind-blowing", as she describes it, to receive such respect and appreciation. Looking to the independent Ani DiFranco as a model, she says it's an honour, and, "stirs a certain somewhat buried hope that things can still be done the way I believe they can... and that there are still people who love music for music's sake".

Allison Crowe is readying now for performances in Western and Atlantic Canada, and her return to Scotland, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and more concert locations this Spring. Visit http://www.allisoncrowe.com for music and for more news.

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