White Indie Soul Boy Extraordinaire
My good friend Stephen lent me a copy of Lewis Taylor's 1st album a few years ago and I was immediately conflicted.
On the one hand there was something completely awful about it. At first glance the vocals can sound just like that ever abominable Hucknall from Simply Red or one of the many 'good' singers from American / Australian Idol. At the very least it's too much of a homage to 60's R&B stars (and this is probably closest to the truth). The retro feel to the actual music was also a little bit off-putting. Reminiscent of that faker Lenny Kravitz or, closer still, like he's channelling 70's Todd Rundgren (who was still channelling his favourite bits of Motown).
But if you listen long enough you can hear that it seems like his natural voice, although it must be something he's practised long and hard. And, well, 70's Todd was always a secretive favourite of mine (the comparisons don't end there either - almost all of their records are written, performed and produced by themselves alone - multi-instrumentalists one and all).
This starts off like a typical slow-burn soul stomper and does the build-up, take-it-down and vocal improv stuff really well. It gets to it's logical conclusion with a huge swamping, distorted organ tone with mellatron flourishishes... and that's completely unexpected. I doubt whether a 60's star would have been so uncommercial.
There are a few tracks on this release that I don't like that much at all - they don't have the sweep or melodies or strangeness that "Damn" has. And this lesser quality seemed to carry over to his 2nd album - Lewis II - where it all sounds a bit bland and commercial (Island wanted another hit after the surprise success of the 1st album). But this one flopped, his contract was dropped and... hasn't done a big company release since then.
mp3: Til The Morning Light
mp3: When Will I Ever Learn
These come from his 1st self-released album - Stoned Part I - which has all the things I enjoy and loathe about his music in one neat package. Great, swinging melodies; fantastic, intuiging arrangements; hard, distinctive playing and heaps of vocal overdubs (the Beach Boys loving Todd thing coming through). And then there's more tracks that are still bland ballads. And the lyrics are mostly risible. His next one - Stoned Part II - is a companion piece with some of the same tracks reworked and with some new things but it comes over a bit too piecemeal - a B-Sides collection.
mp3: Listen Here
mp3: See My Way
His last official, independant CD is last year's "Lost" which is the album he presented to Island as his 2nd release but which they rejected out of hand as too weird. The vocal overdubs are heavily prominent here and all the tracks are weighted down with instruments (especially the rock lead guitar he plays so well) competing for space. These 2 show also one of his favourite tricks - using main melody fragments from one song in other tracks. This gives a nice feeling of completeness to the releases - epics takin' you on a journey (or something like that I suppose).
He does interesting cover versions as well - the Limited Edition CD-R has version of Deep Purple, Yes and Led Zep tracks. So - for something in a slightly different vein - have a listen to the tracks at http://www.lewistaylormusic.com/special/ where (mostly) you'll find versions of songs from Beerfheart's Trout Mask Replica!
In all honesty, I can't listen to his lesser material at all - I skip them easily when they appear - but I can listen to his best stuff again and again. I hope his all-conquering avant-soul masterpiece is just around the corner.
Till then buy all your LT CDs at his own internet record store - http://www.slowreality.com/