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CD Review Obscure English soul man releases a killer rock album. Yeah, you read that right!

Lewis Taylor - The Lost Album

Hacktone Records

If I wanted to write a perfect review of Lewis Taylor's not so new album (more on that later) all I would really have to scrawl on paper (computer screen?) to get you going in the right direction is to stop writing after three little words: go buy this! Maybe I'd stick "now" on the end or something but that would pretty much be the end of it. But, since I have to try to live up to my cred as a knowledgable (ha!) music journalist, I have to beef up the review with a bunch of superlatives and backstory so the more choosy of you will have enough info to make a "intelligent" decision about whether or not to buy the record. But I know the truth: the real music fans will realize I only write about the best music, that my taste is impeccable, and stop reading right now and rush out and buy this record.

For the rest of you:
Lewis Taylor is an English guitar player who for many years during the early '80's played guitar in a re-vamped version of the Edgar Broughton Band. While playing with Broughton, Taylor got a little taste of the wild life on the road. By all accounts, it was too much of a taste as Taylor had to soon quit the band to save himself from his chemical indulgences and get himself back to reality. Deciding to hole himself up in his studio, he heard the XTC-offshoot band Dukes of Stratosphere and soon recorded a couple of psychedelic rock albums under the name of Sheriff Jack. Following those projects, he retreated from the music world due to those albums failure to rack up significant sales. After a near-decade of seclusion, Taylor re-emerged in 1996 with an Island Record deal and a new style of music. Eschewing the staright ahead rock he played in Broughton's band and the psychedelic excursions recorded under the Sheriff Jack alias, Taylor instead marshalled these influences into an innovative new modern soul sound dubbed neo-soul by pundits at the time. For those uninterested in labels, think Prince and maybe a younger, modernized Al Green playing Jimi Hendrix/Ernie Isley-styled guitar licks with a tad of psychedelia thrown in for good measure. Carefully crafted over several years, Taylor played every single note on the CD himself and wrote every song along with his songwriting partner Sabina Smythe. In other words - think something so otherworldly fantastic and soulful that most labels wouldn't know what to do with it. \par Including Island Records.
Unsure how to market a white English guy who excelled at retro soul music, Island Records more than dropped the ball and the record did next to nothing, sales wise. Depressed and pissed, Taylor went into the studio and decided to record another album, albeit very different than the neo-soul style he had worked for a decade perfecting. Instead, it was an album full of California rock in the style of Todd Rundgren and Fleetwood Mac. Once again, Taylor plays every note himself and wrote every song on the album. Being different than his neo-soul style, the label chose not to release it, which is funny seeing as Island didn't have a clue how to market him as a soul music artist. You think they would have welcomed an album where he just played straight-ahead rock but, despite their ineffectiveness, they believed in his psychedelic-tinged soul and wanted him to keep recording in that vein. So the tapes sat in Taylor's studio for years as he worked on his other projects.

This is where the story gets a little weird.
The album I am writing about, the one that has just been released, is that album - which was recorded in 1997 or so. Since then, he has released a handful of others, all pretty much in the neo-soul/psychedelic soul style he recorded for Island. In fact, there was one more Island album, which was also badly promoted, before Taylor decided to release his last few albums on his own label in England. This includes the album Stoned, which I reviewed a few weeks ago. Rumors persist that after a health scare and the relative indifference to his music from the general public, Taylor has retired from the music business. It is for this reason his US record company has been reissuing older albums. That, and they deserve to be heard because they're so damn good. The album Stoned was another example of this "delayed release" syndrome. Released in the US in 2006, it actually came out in 2001 in Europe. But, back to Taylor's new album, which is an unreleased old album....oops, I think I am confused myself. Anyway, The Lost Album is a melange of classic rock styles that anyone into Todd Rundgren will drool over. And, while the funk may be missing, there is plenty of soul in these songs. Love songs all, the melodies and soundscapes Taylor creates are transcendant of every genre and just pour out of his soul like a kaleidoscopic rush. It is one of those albums you listen to and wonder why you haven't heard of the artist before. His guitar work is both spacey and cutting, vocal work dynamic and expressive, and his work on other instruments will just boggle your mind. The words "freakishly talented" will no doubt pop up as you try to describe this album to anybody else. He excels at prodcution as well, capturing perfectly the intricacies of layering tracks and hiding surprises for those who pay close attention to the grooves. This could be the best headphone album to come along in years.

Anyone into progressive soul and California rock should check out this album and all of the rest of Taylor's releases. His talent is seemingly boundless and it is a crime he feels like he has to give up and retire due to the music business' mis-handling of his career. While the word genius gets tossed about quite a bit by reviewers and pundits, I can almost guarantee you that if you take the time to listen to this album (or any of Taylor's) you will feel the exact same way I do about his music.

He has been one of the best musical "finds" of my life and I bet you'll fall for his music just as I have. Pick this album up and bliss out - you won't be sorry. I can guarantee this will be on my top ten list this year.



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