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Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham

Dean Wareham has been down this road before. Back in 1997, the Luna frontman and his then-wife, filmmaker Claudia Silver, recorded an odd little covers album under the moniker Cagney & Lacee, but their endeavor was definitely more of a miss than a hit. Six years later, Wareham's giving the idea another go, only now his foil is current Luna bassist-vocalist (and reported paramour) Britta Phillips.

As it turns out, the second time's the charm. L'Avventura stacks six off-the-beaten-path covers on originals, which steers the focus away from novelty toward engaging vocal interplay. Phillips' voice has a fetching smokiness that brilliantly entangles Wareham's wary croak. The album kicks off with two newly penned duets: the elegant "Night Nurse" -- formed around Wareham's signature fluid guitar work and breezy violins -- and "Ginger Snaps," which sashays around the room in a quasi-disco style while offering such typically abstruse Wareham-isms as "When the kitchen sinks/When the sugar winks/When the doctor calls/When Niagara Falls." Next is a moody, urbane take on Madonna's "I Deserve It" (with Wareham assuming the vocal lead), followed shortly by the duo's shining moment -- a stirring, string-laden rendition of Buffy St. Marie's "Moonshot." The set does contain one or two missteps, notably a lukewarm interpretation of the Doors' "Indian Summer," but L'Avventura mostly glows.

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Michael Alan Goldberg

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