Ladyship Black Mombaza. Famous for their collaboration with Paul Simon on Graceland (see S) they sold quite well in the late 80s. I picked up a greatest hits Spirits of South Africa in a charity shop. Perfectly pleasant but not exactly my cup of tea.
Ray Lamontagne. A strange one, this. I first became aware of Ray because his debut album was being advertised on TV in 2004. Now, in my experience this is usually a sign of some desperation. However, the few snatches of song accompanying the ad were intriguing and sounded quite good. I read a couple of reviews which were positive so I bought the album Trouble – besides I liked the cover, not the most reliable of indicators but somehow it looked good. And good it was. A great debut album, great songs and a good individual voice, nice production too, mostly acoustic guitars, piano and drums. Best songs -the title track and ‘Narrow Escape’. 2006 saw a new album – Till the Sun Turns Black; a bit bleaker really and more orchestration, not that that leavens the mood. I am partial to a bit of misery, but I never really liked this record. 2008 saw Gossip in The Grain. Not so bad and yet I felt he wasn’t moving on, no progression – and I sort of stopped listening to him after this. Saying that – ‘You Are The Best Thing’ and the title song are quite good really.
Ronnie Lane – Ah…so much affection for this guy, who to me always seemed the heart of The Faces (see F) and the Small Faces (see S). I loved his gentler songs back then, but when the Faces finally called it a day, as Rod (see S) sailed off to America and world domination, poor old Ronnie was left a bit homeless and helpless. He did make a couple of albums – one with Pete Townshend (see T) and I have a sort of best of called How Come, released in 2001. Sadly, he had MS and died at age 51 in 1997. He was much loved by fans and musicians alike. The album is a bit patchy. I do like some of it – the ‘hit’ – ‘How Come’, of course and a few of the tracks, mostly bucolic celebrating a mythologised gypsy lifestyle as in ‘Kushty Rye’ – but apart from ‘Stone’ – it is mostly light stuff.
k. d. lang…(all lower case) was originally a country style singer but who has veered more in classic torch song territory over the years. My first album of hers is Angel With A Lariat (1987) with her then band The Reclines. Many of the songs were so-written with Ben Mink, her guitarist. Best songs – the cover of ‘Rose Garden’ and ‘Watch Your Step Polka’ – but best of all is the closer torch song ‘Three Cigarettes In An Ashtray’. Not a bad album, but a bit too country for me. She followed this two years later with Absolute Torch And Twang. Much the same template as her previous album and mostly written with Mink again. Best songs are ‘Big-Bones Gal’, ‘Holding Back The Reins’ and closer ballad ‘Nowhere To Stand’. I feel that k d was almost torn between these torch ballads and the faster country stuff. Anyway, she sort of lost her band The Reclines and recorded her second solo album Ingenue (1992) next. At the time this seemed a huge change of direction but the signs were there all along. This was a real tear-jerker album, full of broken hearts and loss. This became her biggest album by far, a feat she has failed to follow up on really. She had a huge hit with ‘Constant Craving’ but I also like ‘Miss Chatelaine’ and ‘Season Of Hollow Soul’ – but overall the album was just too samey for me, I grew tired of it quickly. One last album before I gave up on her was actually a soundtrack from ’93 – Even Cowgirls Get The Blues – This was a sort-of return to her more country sound, but really it was all second rate stuff.
Daniel Lanois – had produced 2 great Dylan albums so I knew the name. A musician in his own write though I have 2 albums. For The Beauty Of Wynona came out in 1993 and is great. Very atmospheric with his signature production of foggy sounds but very good and distinctive vocals. Very much in the modern ‘rock’ medium with excellent guitar work. I really enjoyed this album, especially ‘Still Learning How To Crawl’, the Cajun influenced ‘The Collection Of Marie Claire’ and ‘The Unbreakable Chain’ – but really there isn’t a poor track on a varied and accomplished record. My other album of his is 2003’s Shine. This appears to me a much quieter, more reflective album; brilliantly produced as usual, every instrument – and sometimes it is basically guitar – clear and yet with that trademark muddy sound of Daniel’s. Less varied I think than Wynona, but hauntingly beautiful too. Best songs – the instrumental ‘Transmitter’, ‘I Love You’ and ‘Power of One’. Not sure why I have only 2 of his albums….but, the choices we make are often arbitrary and well….there we are.
Cyndi Lauper – ‘Twelve Deadly Cyns’ is a greatest hits, and hits it is and great it is. Very Eighties, very Poppy, very synthy, very excitable vocals…a bit boring too, but you can’t help singing along – especially to ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’.