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21.6.12

Doris Brendel & Lee Dunham 'Not Utopia' (Sky Rocket) 4.5/5

One of most interesting releases of 2010 was the album 'The Last Adventure' by Doris Brendel a remarkable album that manged to capture every type of rock genre from prog to punk and wrap it up in one very coherent whole. That album became a listener favourate and ended up being nominated for the Album of the Year award.Now, two years on, Doris is back, this time working with Primary Slave guitarist Lee Dunham (NOT the racing motorcyclist) on this her latest opus.

Not Utopia sounds like The Last Adventures older and more grown up brother - as with the earlier album this one is another glorious mating of styles and genres, but Not Utopia is a far more together and complete work, it dances smoothly from style to style. And what a range of styles we have on offer. Opening cut No Lonely Girl sounds like a female fronted Pendragon on a Hawkwind trip, Going Out is a meaty slice of disco influenced dance rock that hints a little at the Scissor Sisters in feel and bounce. Beyond Words is a strings lead sadly introspective ballad and Too Bad To Be Good is a quirky post rock and roll ditty with a shade of the Jim Steinmans about it.... and so it continues.

However whatever the style the music, the real killer here is Doris' voice. She has the power and range of the true greats and whats more has a real earthy and warm Janice Joplin type edge to it. What is even better; she does none of that annoying cat wailing and flash vocal gymnastics that often passes for 'good singing' these days (just watch any episode of the 'America has the voice factor' to see what I mean), just good old school gusty rock steady old school rock and roll vocalisations. Just check out the post prog excellence of Conflicted to hear one of the vocal performances of the year so far.

It must not also not be over looked that this is not a solo album, a lot of praise must be heaped on Lee Dunham as well, playing everything on here apart from the strings, saxophone and the piano (yup he did the drums as well) and producing the whole kit and caboodle he has forged a series of emotive and sonically stunning soundscapes  that not only bring the best of Doris distinctive voice and song writing talent, but also marks himself out as an arranger, producer and musician of real note.

Highlights? Well I'm getting to like this album lots, but if I had to pick just one track to take to a desert island it would be the closer Your So Not a sweet folky influenced prog track in the Jethro Tull / early Genesis vein with some fantastically dark and cutting lyrics. (and the hidden bonus track is pretty sweet as well of you can find it)

All in all this is a damn fine album from a couple of great British musicians, who deserve to be far better known.

Well worth a spot purchase

For fans of... Joni Mitchell, The Subways,  Janice Joplin, Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac, ...and many more.