Simultaneously transgressive and nostalgic, Drag rescues k.d. lang from the self-indulgent dead end of All You Can Eat. The punning title announces the CD’s double concept: a dozen ballads dealing with cigarette smoking and other addictions accompanied by a folio of glamour shots featuring the androgynous singer in a fetching assortment of men’s suits and ascots. Lang unleashes her voice, the richest and most technically assured in contemporary pop, on an eclectic repertoire ranging from vintage standards to recent compositions by David Wilcox and Jane Siberry. On the opening cut, Peggy Lee’s signature tune “Don’t Smoke in Bed,” lang begins with creamy Julie Londonish crooning and builds to a full-voiced coda in which her powerful tones pierce Jimmie Haskell’s string-and-voice orchestration like steel shears cutting velvet. Although the remaining tracks draw on a variety of idioms, including lounge, alternative pop, gospel, and country, producer Craig Street reprocesses the same pretentious devices—spacey acoustic ensembles, Philip Glassian drones and tremolos, long vaporous fades—that have rendered his collaborations with Cassandra Wilson arresting in small doses but numbing as entities. (Backed only by solo piano, lang recently performed some of this material, more effectively and affectingly, on the new PBS series Sessions at West 54th.) Long before the final track, “Love Is Like a Cigarette,” which Ivie Anderson recorded with Duke Ellington in 1936, you’re likely to feel as woozy as you would the morning after too many smokes and too many cocktails.—Joel E. Siegel

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