(Kayo) Best known (to our readers, at least) for his work with Klaus Nomi and Lance Loud, Kristian Hoffman has been a fixture on the Los Angeles music scene for years, popping up whenever someone very interesting is doing something very interesting. Last April Fool’s Day I was invited to a private magic/variety show in a tiny theater built a half century ago in a residential backyard, and there accompanying the illusionists, mimes, puppeteers and Prince Poppycock was the masterful, florid, moving piano playing of Mr. Hoffman (dressed magnificently, I should add). His latest recorded work is a grand, brilliant song cycle balancing excess and subtlety…Hoffman’s compositions have intense drama and no expense seems to be spared, but he also knows how few notes to play, and when to reference a spare vaudeville performance instead of a glorious Broadway fantasy (though the latter usually wins out). I wouldn’t compare the rock opera nature of “Fop” to a Jim Steinman production, because this doesn’t have rock excess aspirations. The grand music and grand theatrical achievements are never overwhelmed by wailing guitar. The guitar playing on this (by David Bongiovanni, and Hoffman, with a few appearances by our friend Andrew Sandoval) is excellent, but knows its place, never taking the rock route of overwhelming the composition and singing (which falls somewhere between Off Broadway one man show singing and 60s pop crooning). Why have a guitar solo when a string section can swell magnificently? There are some straight up rocking exceptions, of course, including a great naughty God Rock song called “Hey Little Jesus Get Out of that Hole.” Other standout tracks include the sexy “Soothe Me” and the grand “Out of the Habit” (best song ever to mention a davenport), and I should mention that the design (including a thick lyric book) is breathtaking. I’m sorry you can’t all experience Hoffman in a private magic theater like I did, but amazingly, listening to this CD was just as satisfying as that remarkable experience.