Records like Rome arent built in a day this one took Danger Mouse and his collaborators five years. And while this concept album doesnt have the staying power of, say, a 2,500-year-old city, its remarkable in its own right.
Most people learned the name Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) in 2004 when he fused the Beatles White Album with Jay-Zs Black Album to form The Grey Album. Traditionalists cringed, then got over it. Ingenuity tends to have that effect on people.
Hes had his hands on several successful projects since then, but perhaps none as obscure as Rome, a tribute to spaghetti westerns recoded in the Italian capital with the help of composer Daniele Luppi, rock virtuoso Jack White and the jazz-inspired Norah Jones. Before White Stripes fans get excited, White is just a nuance on what amounts to a feature-length film in album form, as is Jones.
Danger Mouse operates the soundboard and Luppi conducts an orchestra to recreate film scores by the maestro Ennio Morricone, who has The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on his resume of composed film scores. Together, they take orchestral pieces from the 60s and 70s and dose them with psychedelic drops to produce an elegant, post-modern sound.
The songs featuring White and Jones are, on the surface, the most interesting tracks on Rome, if only because the rest are purely instrumental. White spits venomously on the dark and sinister Two Against One: Make no mistake I dont do anything for free / I keep my enemies closer than my mirror ever gets to me / And if you think that there is shelter in this attitude / Wait till you feel the warmth of my gratitude.
And Norah Jones highlights one of the more robust tracks on the disc, Black, her voice mingling seamlessly through the plucks of a ranchero-inspired acoustic guitar and yawning strings.
Rome is filled with stirring string arrangements, gliding interludes and glowing piano parts. Sometimes jaunty and sometimes ethereal, Danger Mouse and Luppi create a musical narrative with a succinct beginning, an enticing middle (compliments of White and Jones) and flowing dnouement before White and Jones conclude on The World, a wrap-up of an interesting, if understated album.