Don't fear the opera. "The Marvelous Dream," the first track to emerge from the soundtrack to Damon Albarn's latest opera, Dr Dee (out May 8), is a song with an extensive lineage in the Blur/Gorillaz mastermind's band-hopping discography. It's a delicate folk-pop ballad you need no knowledge of Western classical music's rich tradition to appreciate.
It's hard to say at this point where "The Marvelous Dream" will stand among Albarn's songs, but it's definitely a worthy representative of the quiet side of his oeuvre, ranging from Blur's Modern Life Is Rubbish's drum-looper "Blue Jeans" to his recent Rocketjuice and the Moon project's funkily pained "Poison." The ache in Albarn's voice adds a nice tension as he harmonizes with himself on delicately pretty, oh-so-English lyrics, backed sparingly by lightly jazzy acoustic guitar chords and a smattering of handclaps. The song also sets up the opera's Elizabethan material, preparing listeners for "a kind of time travel, or maybe just a marvelous dream."
Pieces of the song appeared in a trailer announcing Albarn's Dr. Dee album, and the full version, shown below with a subtle black-and-white video that's fixed on one brief stretch of traffic in front of the namesake John Dee House apartments, doesn't really add many new revelations. The artist himself has said the album will also include West African and early English musical elements, but those will have to emerge more prominently on future tracks.
Watch the video, and compare it with a relatively similar-sounding Blur-era B-side, "Woodpigeon Song":