There is ambition and there is David Byrne ambition.
"Here Lies Love" (Nonesuch) - a 22-song, disco-drenched song cycle about the rise and fall of Imelda Marcos and her former baby-sitter Estrella Cumpas - is most certainly the latter. For his massive undertaking, more than five years in the making and likely heading to the stage, Byrne teams up with Fatboy Slim for the dance-floor rhythms and nearly two dozen notable singers, from Florence Welch (without The Machine) and Santigold to Cyndi Lauper and Tori Amos.
It's an amazing piece of work, running from the mundane ("How Are You?" is an imagined letter from Cumpas to Marcos, sung sweetly by Nellie McKay) to the personal (the chugging "Men Will Do Anything," sung with fire and soul by Alice Russell, reveals how Marcos dealt with her husband, Ferdinand, former president of the Philippines, and his extramarital affairs) to the historical ("Order 1081" is Natalie Merchant giving the Marcos spin on putting the country under martial law). As stand-alone music, the results are sometimes uneven, usually because of the need for story development.
But when Byrne and his team get everything right - as they do in the title track, the funky "American Troglodyte," which details the Filipino obsession with America, or "The Whole Man," Marcos' wild theories sung by B-52 Kate Pierson over what sounds like Ready for the World's follow-up to "Oh Sheila" - "Here Lies Love" is a thrilling success.
DAVID BYRNE AND FATBOY SLIM: "Here Lies Love"
BOTTOM LINE: A disco musical about Imelda Marcos - yes, really