B-Ba

 

Bumble B (Norway): Flight Of The Bumble B (Acony Bell AB01, with insert, 2003)
Folk
SigneLine Lundstrøm (lead vocals, percussion, violin, viola, flute)
This solo project by Smell Of Incense's 'Bumble B' (aka SigneLine Lundstrøm) bears no resemblance to the parent band, despite all her colleagues putting in appearances. With sparse but varied backing, this is Norwegian traditional folk, often with a sombre, slightly eerie feel but with few psychedelic or progressive embellishments. The album was a limited edition of 400 numbered copies. GRADE: C+.
See also Smell Of Incense

B’s Band (UK): B’s In Your Bonnett
Folk
Moira Woolsey (joint lead vocals), Barbara Bonnett (joint lead vocals, accordion), Penny Bonnett (recorder)
Given that the sleevenotes are by John Kirkpatrick, this is exactly what you’d expect: most tracks are accordion-led interpretations of folk dance tunes. They’re rather well done, and fans of Kirkpatrick’s solo albums may thoroughly enjoy this, but I can’t see it having much appeal for mainstream audiences. GRADE: C.

B-Shops For The Poor (UK): The Iceberg Principle (No Wave NW CD1, CD, 1989)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Sarra Tyrer (lead vocals), Louise Petts (saxophone)
Joined by four other musicians, David and Louise Petts, formerly of the Poison Cabinet, return with a more ambitious musical venture. With four long suites, this is complex and challenging music, retaining the Poison Cabinet’s dissonance but adding much stronger free-jazz edges and throwing all kinds of other experiments into the mix. It’s frequently fascinating stuff, and often quite challenging; I just wish that in expanding the line-up they’d added a real drummer. GRADE: B–.
B-Shops For The Poor Featuring Peter Brötzmann (UK): Visions And Blueprints (No Wave NW CD2, CD, 1992)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Louise Petts (lead vocals, saxophone)
The additional of free-jazz saxophonist Peter Brötzmann changes their sound somewhat: this mostly consists of short instrumentals for squalling multiple saxophones. The results are frequently interesting, but the lack of variety means that after the first few minutes this rarely seizes the attention. The concept of free-jazz as background music may seem wilfully perverse, but for much of its playing time that’s exactly what this is. GRADE: C+.
B-Shops For The Poor (UK): The Wild Goose Chase (No Wave CDNW 005, CD, 1994)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Louise Petts (lead vocals, saxophone)
B-Shops For The Poor’s staccato, austere music – all saxophone stabs, off-key vocals and intrusive programmed drums – could divide opinion sharply. The first time I tried to review this, I stopped two-and-a-half songs in, as the music simply didn’t match my mood; the second time, I listened throughout and was thoroughly impressed. If you’re in the right mindset for their odd sonic experiments, this is a comfortable B–; if you’re not, you’ll probably give it a C+ for their sheer audacity – assuming you make it to the end. GRADE: B–.
B-Shops For The Poor (UK): A Passionate Journey (No Wave CDNW 006, CD, with poster booklt, 1995)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Louise Petts (lead vocals, saxophone)
This live album is certainly the Petts’ most uncompromising release to date, unifying the atonal weirdness of the Brötzmann collaboration with their usual song-based approach to create a cacophonous wall of noise. Whilst it may be all too much for many listeners, I find it frequently stunning, and it certainly proves that B-Shop For The Poor were a force of nature on stage. GRADE: B–.

B-Shops For The Poor (UK): Signals Through Flames (No Wave NWCD 008, CD, 1997)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Louise Petts (lead vocals, saxophone)
Whilst this isn’t as wild as the live album that preceded it, it’s every bit as varied and experimental and offers a fascinating tapestry of off-kilter songs and instrumentals. This was the band’s final work under this name; they continued as the Remote Viewers. GRADE: B–.
See also Poison Cabinet, Remote Viewers

B612 (France): B612 (Assyel Productions A006, CD, 2001)
Progressive
Jacqueline Thibault (keyboards), Marine Thibault (keyboards, drum programmes, flute)
Jacqueline Thibault’s band (or more accurately collective, as all four members only appear together on a few cuts) takes over from her very first album as Laurence Vanay, offering a similar mix of sensual folky songs and symphonic instrumentals. The two big changes is that the arrangements are largely electronic and that the vocals are supplied by her bandmate Alexandre Chassagnac, who has a very delicate and androgynous tone. GRADE: C+.
B612 (France): Impossible Amour (Assyel Productions A015, CDR, 2004)
Progressive
Jacqueline Thibault (joint lead vocals, keyboards, flute), Marine Thibault (bass, drum programmes, flute)
This is in the same style as their first, though this time round I find the instrumentals more effective than the songs. That’s not because the songwriting is inferior: it’s simply that the programmed percussion is mixed somewhat higher, making me wish they’d used real drums. GRADE: C+.
See also Laurence Vanay

Baba Yaga La Sorcière (France): Baba Yaga La Sorcière (AKT VII, CD, with poster booklet and obi, 1995)
Progressive
Mathilde Akimento (joint lead vocals), Caroline Aubert (joint lead vocals), Maud Avit (joint lead vocals), Gaëlle Ayoul (joint lead vocals), Claude-Sophie Bernet (joint lead vocals), Marion Bernon (joint lead vocals), Céline Biral (joint lead vocals), Salomé Blechmans (joint lead vocals), Emeline Bougealt (joint lead vocals), Nelly Chaille (joint lead vocals), Adèle Chaldoreille (joint lead vocals), Marie Charmion (joint lead vocals), Caroline Chatagner (joint lead vocals), Virginie Chatagner (joint lead vocals), Aurélie Chouet (joint lead vocals), Marie Descat (joint lead vocals), Céline Diarra (joint lead vocals), Carine Dourlent (joint lead vocals), Alice Dumontier (joint lead vocals), Pierre Dumontier (joint lead vocals), Mona Elkasi (joint lead vocals), Marie Fiers (joint lead vocals), Nadia Houssaye (joint lead vocals), Claudie Jousse (joint lead vocals), Ingrid Jouvin (joint lead vocals), Margot Kenigsberg (joint lead vocals), Clémentine Lambert (joint lead vocals), Anastasia Levy (joint lead vocals), Alice Mathiez (joint lead vocals), Chloé Mathiez (joint lead vocals), Laurianne Minjollet (joint lead vocals), Sarah Moreau (joint lead vocals), Flore Perigois (joint lead vocals), Florine Riera (joint lead vocals), Perrine Rosenberger (joint lead vocals), Julia Scherer (joint lead vocals), Jeanne Sivieude (joint lead vocals), Alexandre Sokolowski (joint lead vocals), Sonia Tailleur (joint lead vocals), Perrine Wachowski (joint lead vocals), Christine Bellec (joint lead vocals), Christine Berthon (joint lead vocals), Céline Fabre (joint lead vocals), Barbara Fabretti (joint lead vocals), Ingrid Leroy (joint lead vocals), Sandrine Robert (joint lead vocals), Céline Rouveyrol (joint lead vocals), Cécile Diebold (joint lead vocals), Naïma Bicep (percussion), Aude Quilici (percussion), Marie-Béatrice d’Anna (saxophone), Laure Debroissia (saxophone), Séverine Pannetier (saxophone), Hélène Foissart (trumpet), Nelly Bernard (flute), Anne-Claire Picard (clarinet), Karim Strahm (cor anglais)
If ever you wanted to hear a shortened version of Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh (just under 24 minutes) rescored for a children’s choir, this is your chance. The end result is interesting, inasmuch as this must be one of the weirdest school project-type LPs ever to get issued, but I’m still baffled as to why the venture was undertaken in the first place. GRADE: C+.

Babaouo (Japan): The Journey Through The Sea And The Sky (No label a-16976, with booklet and insert, 1976?)
Progressive/Lounge
This private pressing must be remarkably rare, as a Google search failed to turn up a single reference to it (which is hardly ever the case). It’s a concept album about a sea journey, and musically offers an unusual mixture of progressive and lounge influences. Some tracks are ballads or mid-paced soft rockers, whilst others are instrumentals with something of an end-of-the-pier flavour, although there are also jazzy touches, experimental elements and moments of complexity. This is a difficult album for which to find comparisons, but it’s a very enjoyable listen, although I could it imagine it not being to many readers’ tastes. Most of the lyrics are in English, but there are also pieces in French and Japanese, and even a snatch of Spanish. GRADE: B–.

Babe Ruth (UK): First Base (Harvest SHSP 4022, 1972)
Rock/Progressive/Metal
Janita Haan (principal vocals)
The opening ‘Wells Fargo’ is an instant classic, with its exceptionally powerful overlaid guitar riffs and frenetic vocals from Janita Haan and band leader Alan Shacklock. The album never recaptures the same heights, but it’s interesting throughout, and covers of material by Ennio Morricone and Frank Zappa give a fair indication of the band’s eclecticism. GRADE: B–.
Babe Ruth (UK): Amar Caballero (Harvest SHSP 812, 1973)
Rock/Progressive
Janita Haan (principal vocals)
Much inferior to their début, this rather undistinguished second album largely consists of lightweight funky rock (and even proto-disco on the opening ‘Lady’). It’s all the more annoying given that the instrumental ‘We Are Holding On’ and the lengthy, multi-part title track are excellent, indicating that the band could have been a superb progressive rock outfit had they paid less attention to American audiences and the charts. However, it’s probably ‘Gimme Some Leg’ that will stick in most people’s minds – but only for the almost unbelievable lyrics, as it appears to be a lighthearted account of a woman being abducted and gang-raped. GRADE: C–.
Babe Ruth (UK): Babe Ruth (Harvest SHSP 4038, 1975)
Rock
Janita Haan (principal vocals, bells)
With its prog-edged hard rock moves and Ennio Morricone cover, this sounds like the logical follow-up that Amar Caballero wasn’t. Admittedly, it’s nowhere near as adventurous as First Base, and for the most part pretty commercial too, but it’s a listenable enough set. GRADE: C+.
Babe Ruth (UK): Stealin’ Home (Capitol ST-11451, 1975)
Rock
Janita Haan (lead vocals)
The departure of main songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Alan Shacklock didn’t seem to affect Babe Ruth adversely; Stealin’ Home is a notably better album than its self-titled predecessor, let alone Amar Caballero. There are still a few rather weak funky pop/rock tracks (with proto-disco and even cod-reggae rhythms), but the band also manages to create some strong rock songs and accomplished jams. GRADE: C+.
Babe Ruth (UK): Kid’s Stuff (Capitol E-ST 23739, 1976)
Rock
Ellie Hope (lead vocals)
By this time, even Haan had jumped ship, but it makes no difference – Ellie Hope has a very similar voice, and the music is extremely close to its predecessor, although perhaps a touch less progressive and a shade closer to barroom rock. GRADE: C+.
Babe Ruth (UK): Que Pasa (Download, 2007)
Rock/Progressive
Janita Haan (lead vocals)
Babe Ruth never made a consistently excellent album in the seventies, so I didn’t expect much from this reformation effort by the original line-up, sneaked out as a download only then released on CD two years later (Revolver REV XD 265). But Que Pasa exceeds all expectations, partly due to the band’s odd history. At the turn of the eighties, Babe Ruth was just another long forgotten ‘classic rock’ band swept away by the tide of punk, but suddenly remixes of ‘The Mexican’ (from First Base) became enormously trendy among hip hop DJs and audiences. Consequently, the album takes ‘The Mexican’ as its blueprint and features plenty of scratching and rapping mixed up with the hard rock, progressive and Western elements, topped off with anthemic choruses, clanging tuned percussion, copious horns and even some Shakatak-style piano runs on a trad jazz-infused number. An album with all these elements could easily become a pretentious mess, and Que Pasa does come close on occasion – but ultimately it’s their landmark recording, with only the lack of a couple of outstanding songs in the ‘Wells Fargo’ mode preventing it from being a classic. GRADE: B–.
See also Liquid Gold

Babel (France): Babel (Philips 9101 060, 1976)
World Music/Avant-Garde/Psychedelic
Catherine Le Forestier
Drawing on African and Arabic music, this bizarre album offers long, unstructured jams with atonal, wailing vocals, sounding like early Amon Düül without any rock instrumentation. Odd, provocative lyrics and slogans on the sleeve add to the sense of mystery, although one of the biggest enigmas is how something like this was released on a major label as late as 1976. GRADE: B–.

Babel No To (Japan): Babel No To (No label MI 1437, 1982)
Folk/Psychedelic/Jazz/Avant-Garde
On the A-side, this unusual and striking album sounds like a dark and sinister twist on Popol Vuh’s Hosianna Mantra, with backing from electric guitar (including a long distorted solo to open the LP) and violin. The B-side is acoustic and considerably weirder, with strong free-jazz edges creeping in, and squalling saxophone and sound effects creating an unearthly cauldron of sound; the short closing track, in contrast, is delicate and haunting, hinting towards Extradition. It’s all fascinatingly odd and typically Japanese: I can hear influences from outfits like Geinoh Yamashirogumi, and in turn the cathedral-like sound clearly fed into modern bands like Sarry. Only 300 copies were issued, making this one of the rarest Japanese private pressings. GRADE: B–.
See also Catherine Le Forestier

Baboon Band (West Germany): Baboon Band (Bella Musica BMLP 5000, 1982)

Rock
Madeleine Davis (lead vocals)
Not Krautrock or prog of any kind, this is mainstream eighties rock with hard rock leanings and some very good guitar work. At various times, it also takes in some slight soul and even reggae elements, and it’s well composed and performed throughout, but it’s hard to see how they expected to break through with such a generic record. The amusing cover is rather striking, however. GRADE: C.

Baby Lemonade (UK): One Thousand Secrets (No label DISPLP22, 1988)
Pop/Psychedelic
Joan
The band name might lead you to expect something similar to early Pink Floyd, but this short LP simply consists of jangly sunshine pop. It’s agreeable enough, and Joan has a pleasantly girlish voice, but there’s nothing much of substance and little or no variety here. GRADE: C.

Bacamarte (Brazil): Depois Do Fim (Rarity SALP 001, with insert, 1983)
Progressive
Jane Duboc (lead vocals)
Blending influences from Brazilian, jazz and classical music, Bacamarte created a masterpiece of South American progressive rock, with just the right blend of melody and complexity. Evenly balancing songs and instrumentals, the disc features some brilliant electric and acoustic arrangements and boasts first-rate compositions throughout. Jane Duboc’s lovely vocals are the finishing touch, although beware of exploring her solo work: away from Bacamarte, she was actually a kind of Brazilian Elaine Paige. GRADE: B.

Bacchus Priest (Greece): Bacchus Priest (No label, download, 2015)
Metal/Progressive
Katerina Kostarelou (lead vocals)
The band name could only mean one thing: and yes, Bacchus Priest do indeed play metal with occult lyrical leanings. Their style is a mixture of doom, hard rock and traditional metal, with a predilection for long songs and spidery solos, with a powerful Grace Slick-style vocalist upfront. That in turn could only mean one thing: I find this an impressive and satisfying album, even though they resemble everyone and everything. GRADE: B–.
Bacchus Priest (Greece): Pater Peccavi (No label, download, 2018)
Metal 
Katerina Kostarelou (lead vocals)
The sound quality of this 16-minute, three-song EP is hugely impressive, but I can’t say I favour the band’s change of musical direction. The John Bonham-style drums are quite impressive, and the choppier approach to riffing works quite well, making this more distinctive than their debut. But why Katerina Kosteralou now favours death growls and off-key wailing baffles me – as their debut proved, she can actually sing, so why bother? GRADE: C+.

Sophya Baccini (Italy): Aradia (Black Widow BWRCD 114-2, with digipak and booklet, 2009)
Progressive/Singer/Songwriter
Sophya Baccini (principal vocals, keyboards)
I never liked Presence’s messy, lo-fi progressive metal, with Sophya Baccini’s shrill, strained singing being one of its worst features. It’s therefore a huge surprise to discover on her solo album that she actually has a lovely voice and considerable flair as a composer. This isn’t perfect throughout, with the first couple of tracks hinting at Presence without the rock elements, but improves to offer a charming tapestry of songs and symphonic passages with lots of neoclassical and operatic elements and a very Italian feel. In particular, ‘Don’t Dream That Dream’, ‘Elide’ and the Véronique Sanson-like ‘When The Eagles Flied [sic]’ are quite outstanding, suggesting that Baccini would be better off sticking to solo work and leaving Presence as a painful memory. GRADE: B–.
Sophya Baccini’s Aradia (Italy): Big Red Dragon (Black Widow BWRCD 162-2, CD, 2013)
Progressive
Sophya Baccini (principal vocals, bass synthesiser, keyboards), Marilena Striano (piano), Francesca Colaps (drums), Stella Manfredi (violin, viola)
Following the release of Aradia, Baccini formed a mostly female band named after the LP; they’re accompanied here by guests including Christian Decamps and Sonja-Kristina Linwood (who duets with Baccini on ‘While He’s Sleeping’). Inspired by the writing of William Blake, Big Red Dragon builds on the baroque elements of Aradia but is more bombastic and symphonic (though thankfully there are few moments recalling Presence). However, whilst beautifully crafted and consistently enjoyable, this doesn’t have the killer songs that made Aradia so impressive. GRADE: C+.
See also Presence

Bacio Della Medusa (Italy): Il Bacio Della Medusa (Black Widow BWRCD 101-2, CD, 2004)
Rock/Metal/Progressive
Eva Morelli (flute)
From the cover, I’d expected this to be neoprog with strong symphonic edges and a very Italian feel. In fact, it’s early seventies-style hard rock with strong progressive edges, quite a bit of complexity, and frequent jazzy and folky diversions. Add in a rather lo-fi recording and some quite strange vocals, and the end result is a peculiar, quirky, mostly rather interesting record. GRADE: B–.
Bacio Della Medusa (Italy): Il Bacio Della Medusa (Black Widow BWRCD 102-2, CD, 2006)
Progressive
Eva Morelli (flute, piccolo)
Toning down the hard rock elements considerably, this is classic early seventies-style Italian prog – rich, varied, complex and vivacious. With well-judged classical and jazz elements and a carefully woven tapestry of songs and instrumentals, it’s a genuinely remarkable performance that can stand alongside the seventies greats. GRADE: B.
Bacio Della Medusa (Italy): Deus Lo Vult (Glare, CD, with book sleeve, 2012)
Progressive/Metal
Eva Morelli (theremin, saxophone, flute, piccolo)
Again very Italian, this mostly operates in an early seventies hard rock vein, but adds in touches of everything from Jethro Tull-style folk/rock to blues/rock, opera and mediaeval music. Mostly performed as a continuous suite of music, it’s powerful, dynamic stuff, if occasionally a little too manic and arch for its own good. As a final bonus, the packaging is really outstanding. GRADE: B–.

Bacio Della Medusa (Italy): Live (AMS AMS 277 CD, CD, 2016)
Progressive/Metal
Eva Morelli (saxophone, flute)
When Simone Cecchini first indulged himself with a falsetto scream, I suddenly realised who Bacio Della Medusa remind me of – it’s early noughties retro-rock parodists the Darkness. On the plus side, he really nails that scream and Bacio Della Medusa pull off their seventies progressive hard rock pastiches with aplomb, with Eva Morelli’s pastoral flute passages giving them a distinctive edge. GRADE: B–.
See also Ornithos

Back Alley Choir (UK): Back Alley Choir (York FYK 406, 1973)
Folk/Rock
Sian Perkins (joint lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Hilary Tozer (joint lead vocals, percussion)
Much of this is excellent electric folk with a progressive edge, reminiscent of peak Fairport Convention, particularly on ‘Shady Grove’ and a superb, extended cover of ‘Meet On The Ledge’ (the two opening cuts). Some other tracks tend towards more of a singer/songwriter sound, whilst a couple have a rural edge reminiscent of labelmates Wooden Horse. Consequently, the LP has a slightly schizophrenic feel, but most of the material is first-rate, and its mediocre reputation is undeserved. The band also cut two non-LP singles, which are near impossible to find. GRADE: B–.

Miriam Backhouse (UK): Gypsy Without A Road (Mother Earth MUM 1203, 1977)
Folk
Miriam Backhouse (lead vocals, guitar, viola)
This pleasant traditional folk album spans a wide range of moods and textures, with a variety of instrumental accompaniments, ranging from mournful strings (‘Far Away Tom’) to medieval-esque acapella settings (‘The Widow’) to hints of folk/rock (the Barbara Dickson-like ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’). However, the absolute highpoint is ‘The Farmers Have Gone East’, whose haunting Mellotron-based arrangement is certain to delight psychedelic folk fans. On the downside, Backhouse should never have attempted a parody of a children’s song on ‘Nasty Spider’ – it certainly isn’t amusing, and borders on the truly embarrassing. GRADE: C+.
See also Fortuna

Bagger Bänd (West Germany): Lästermaul (NW 9010, 1983)
Rock/Metal
Biggi Jendrich (principal vocals, keyboards)
With powerful riffs and some excellent playing, this is an enjoyable hard rock album displaying slight influences from both new wave and progressive rock. Although there’s nothing enormously distinctive here, this is definitely one of the better German private pressings of the eighties. GRADE: C+.

Kali Bahlu (USA): Takes The Forest Children On A Journey Of Cosmic Remembrance (World Pacific WP-21875, 1969)
Psychedelic
The title says it all, really: Bahlu spouts cosmic guff (some sung, some spoken in a whiny nasal tone) over twangling sitars. In a sense, this could be seen as the American counterpart of the Chiita Neogy LP, and is equally pretentious. Bahlu was later a member of Lite Storm, whose three albums range from good hippie-rock to Hare Krishna-type mysticism. GRADE: C–.
See also Lite Storm

Dave Bainbridge (UK): Veil Of Gossamer (Open Sky OPENSKYVPCD4, CD, 2004)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Mae McKenna (principal vocals), Joanne Hogg (occasional vocals)
The Iona member’s solo album concentrates mainly on the ethereal, Celtic and progressive aspects of the band’s sound (whereas Joanne Hogg’s solo work brings the singer/songwriter elements to the fore). Alternating instrumental and vocal pieces, it’s often quite beautiful, but like Iona’s work rarely very memorable. Contraband’s Mae McKenna handles most of the lead vocals, whilst Hogg also sings and Rachel Jones (Karnataka, the Reasoning) helps out with some harmonies. Unsurprisingly, musicians from Iona provide most of the backing.

GRADE: C+.
See also Contraband, Joanne Hogg, Iona, Mae McKenna

Bakadi (Austria): Bardolini Songs 1 (No label 120 7321, with inserts, 1983)
Folk
Sylvie Granville (occasional vocals), Eva Harrer (occasional vocals), Andrea Leitner (occasional vocals)
Rather like Sue Walker’s earlier The Bard And I, this largely features lyrics inspired by Shakespeare and performed with simple acoustic guitar backing. Although Bakadi were a five-piece, the three women do very little, with the two male members handling nearly all the lead vocals and guitar work (indeed, only on the closing tracks on each side do the women sing lead). The disc was limited to 500 numbered copies and has a very home-made feel, with a paste-on cover featuring a hand-drawn design as well as several amateurishly photocopied inserts with typed and handwritten lyrics. GRADE: C+.

Bakakaï (France): Bakakaï (No label, download, 2020)
Garage 
Marie Portier (lead vocals, bass)
If you like stripped-down, unpretentious heavy garage rock, you should enjoy this 23-minute EP. They’re not the most ambitious band in the world, but they’re undeniably good at what they do, and they’ve got a sense of humour too – witness the odd spoken word passages that provide amusing counterpoint to the songs. GRADE: C+.

Isabel Baker (USA): I Like God’s Style (Remaco HF-101, 1965)
Rockabilly/‘Incredibly Strange Music’
Isabel Baker (lead vocals, guitar)
Long a big ticket item among ‘real people’ collectors, this is an extremely rare LP with a huge price tag to match. It’s a good one too, offering lively but fairly conventional rockabilly topped off with Baker’s bizarre bellowing vocals – not completely atonal like some ‘incredibly strange’ singers, but passionate and powerful without the slightest hint of good technique. GRACE: C+.

Susan Baker (UK): Susan Baker’s Fiddles And Follies (Argo ZK86, 1979)
Classical
Susan Baker (mandolin, violin, viola, phonofiddle, zither, hurdy-gurdy)
Aside from a few spoken words by her former Barrow Poets colleague William Bealby-Wright, this is entirely instrumental. It mostly operates at the lightest end of baroque classical, with some mediaeval and folk references, with Baker’s own playing counterpointed by piano, harpsichord, spinet and cello. The result is a lovely and relaxing album, and in its own way a logical side-step from Barrow Poets. GRADE: C+.

See also Barrow Poets, Doggerel Bank

Ginger Baker’s Air Force (UK): Ginger Baker’s Air Force (Polydor 2662 001, double, 1970)
Jazz/Rock/World Music
Jeanette Jacobs (occasional vocals)
On the plus side, this epic double LP contains some powerful African-edged jazz/rock grooves. On the downside, the sound is every bit as messy and self-indulgent as you’d expect from a ten-piece all-star band with three percussionists and a horn section, and the recording is poor even by the standards of late sixties and early seventies live albums. Added to which, Baker and friends treat the audience to not one but two very lengthy drum solos, including a version of his party piece ‘Toad’. GRADE: C.
Ginger Baker’s Air Force (UK): Ginger Baker’s Air Force 2 (Polydor 2383 029, with insert, 1970)
Jazz/Rock/World Music
Aliki Ashman (occasional vocals), Diane Stewart (occasional vocals)
Their second and final album is a studio set, but just as unwieldy as their debut, with Graham Bond, Ric Grech, Denny Laine and others piling in this time around. Once again, one feels that the band were probably capable of creating an outstanding LP – but once again, they didn’t. GRADE: C.
See also Ashman Reynolds, Graham Bond, Gong.

Gary Baldwin & Mass Murder (USA): If I Could Only Play Piano (Airhole AH 00001, 1979)
Psychedelic
Mrs Ellner (backing vocals), Diane McEllroy (backing vocals)
This low-budget acid-rock album is an interesting curio to say the least. Side one starts with new age-ish flute mixed with the sounds of a cocktail party, but quickly gives way to scrappy, free-form psychedelic jamming. Meanwhile, the first half of side two is given over to an acoustic acid-folk improvisation bringing to mind the seventies Krautfolk underground, whilst the second half is a ten-minute silent track apparently intended to test hi-fi systems. Packaged in a paste-on sleeve, the disc was allegedly limited to 100 copies but it doesn’t appear to sell for big money. As a footnote, the artist credit on the labels is ‘Gary Baldwin & The Wombat Suicide’. GRADE: C+.

Lisa Ballentine (USA): ’69 Eldorado (Bama 78 x 67, 1974?)
Singer/Songwriter
Lisa Ballentine (lead vocals, guitar)
Competent but unexceptional singer/songwriter stuff, with a rural feel (mainly country, but sometimes folky and sometimes soft rock). The mildly humorous ‘Bluejeans’ is annoying, but most of the rest is well executed. GRADE: C.

Balletto Di Bronzo (Italy): Ys (Polydor 2448 003 L, 1972)
Progressive
Daina Dini (occasional vocals)
This doomy progressive album is a marginal case for inclusion here – not because of its quality (on the contrary, its status as a cornerstone of dark Rock Progressivo Italiano is well deserved) but because the only female musician – guest singer Daina Dini – appears only at the beginning and end. However, the album was entirely composed by Nora Mazzocchi, who does not play on it. Through a series of powerful, atmospheric movements, the music ebbs and flows, with its rich, eerie keyboard textures bizarrely counterpointed by the rather strained male singing, creating an unsettling atmosphere unlike anything else. The work ‘classic’ is used all too often but is entirely appropriate here, making one wonder what Ms Mazzocchi did with the rest of her life. GRADE: B.

Baltik (Sweden/USA): Baltik (CBS 65581, with inner, Sweden, 1973)
Rock
Beverly Glenn (joint lead vocals, percussion), Karin Stigmark (occasional vocals, percussion)
I’d have expected this one-off supergroup of Swedish musicians (Janne Schaffer, Ola Brunkert, Björn Jason Lindh, Jan Bandel, Malando Gassama, Tomas Ledin et al) to have made something more ambitious than this straightforward album of ballads and hardish rock songs. That’s not to say it’s band – this is solid early seventies fare, with the quality musicianship and production one would expect. But only once (the heavy metal instrumental ‘Leslie Briggs’, which opens things with a bang, before abruptly giving way to the gentle, jazzy folk number ‘Wildness Meant My Freedom’, beautifully sung by American jazz and gospel vocalist Beverly Glenn) does it deliver any surprises.

GRADE: C+.

Balzane (France): Paille (La Souterraine STRN-281, download, 2020)
Singer/Songwriter
Aurélia Ravaud Croisier (lead vocals, piano)
The always interesting La Souterraine label brings us another evocative slice of French underground music – this time a sensual singer/songwriter-styled set from the talented Aurélia Croisier and her collaborators. Typically for the label, it’s über-Gallic – think seventies Véronique Sanson or Catherine Lara, with the restrained and slightly spacy electric backing perefectly complementing Croisier’s lovely voice and piano. GRADE: C+.

Banda Del Gnomo (Chile): El Canto Del Angel (Mylodon MyloCD063, CD, 2009, recorded 1980-1990)
Rock/Metal/Progressive
Catalina Telias (joint lead vocals)
This collection of unreleased archive recordings demonstrates Banda Del Gnomo to have been a typical eighties South American heavy prog band, with a hard rocking, song-based style and assertive female vocalist recalling outfits like Sol Y Media Noche. Some Jethro Tull-like flute work adds pleasant counterpoint but the eighties drum sound is irritating, the production style is mostly unsympathetic and the sound quality is sometimes dreadful (the opening title track, clearly a rough demo, has all the vocals and instruments crammed into one channel). Had this been properly recorded in any decade other than the eighties, it could have been a half-decent album. GRADE: C–.

Banda Do Casaco (Portugal): Dos Beneficiós Dum Vendido No Reino Dos Bonifácios (Philips 6330 013, 1974)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Helena Afonso (joint lead vocals), Judi Brennan (joint lead vocals)
Not only is this one of the rarest albums from Portugal, but it’s also one of the most interesting European folk/rock LPs. That description doesn’t really do justice to the highly varied, experimental music here, though, which bears no resemblance to Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span et al. The opening ‘Aliciação – Espírito Mundo’, for instance, blends ethnic percussion and pipes with some baroque classical string work and a slightly eerie semi-spoken voiceover before becoming a richly-textured multi-vocal ballad with piano backing. Successive tracks also combine folk, ethnic, chamber music, jazz and avant-garde elements in intriguing combinations, with ‘Cocktail Do Braco De Prata’ slightly recalling It’s A Beautiful Day with some lyrical violin work. Altogether, this is a fascinating and very adventurous debut. GRADE: A–.
Banda Do Casaco (Portugal): Coisas Do Arco Da Velha (Philips 6330 019, 1977)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Helena Afonso (occasional vocals), Mena Amaro (violin)
As eccentric and experimental as its predecessor, this features at various times African chanting, traditional Portuguese melodies, church organ, unaccompanied harmonies, psychedelic electronically-treated violins and even an epic orchestrated ballad sung by a small child. Overall, this is perhaps a shade less consistent than their first (or is it simply less startling when one listens to their albums in sequence?), but it’s still an outstanding release by any standard. GRADE: B+.
Banda Do Casaco (Portugal): Hoje Há Conquilhas Amanhã Não Sabemos (Imavox IM-30033, 1977)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Mena Amaro (joint lead vocals, bells, violin)
Their third is another varied, exciting, creative album of ethnic-tinged progressive folk. The one thing it lacks is the element of surprise, as by now they had established a clear style and approach. GRADE: B.
Banda Do Casaco (Portugal): Contos De Barbearia (EMI E 072-040 474, 1978)
Folk/Rock
Mena Amaro (joint lead vocals)
Album number four sees a rapid softening of their style – dropping most of the ethnic elements and nearly all the avant-garde and progressive touches, this is fairly conventional folk/rock. It’s still good, with some fine material and sensitive, gentle performances, but the distinctiveness and sense of adventure that characterised their early work is notably absent. GRADE: B–.

Banda Do Casaco (Portugal): No Jardim Da Celeste (EMI 11C 074 40541, with inner, 1980)
Folk/Rock
Né Ladeiras (joint lead vocals), Emília Ferreira (occasional vocals)
They always had an unstable and shifting line-up; this time round, the big surprise is the addition of prolific American drummer Rick Marotta, whose heavy style completely changes their sound. On ‘Liliana Nibelunga’ they blend influences from hard rock and new wave, whilst ‘É Ouvi-Los’ has a definite funk tinge; a few elements of their original style remain, but overall this is an odd mix of folk/rock, jazzy fretless bass and pounding stadium-rock drums. It’s by no means bad, but it’s also by no means interesting, which is a great pity in light of their track record. GRADE: C.
Banda Do Casaco (Portugal): Também Eu (Valentim de Carvalho 3 VCLP 10009, with insert, 1982)
Progressive
Né Ladeiras (lead vocals)
Marotta’s drums are still a defining feature of their sound (and an unwelcome one, immediately dating this to the eighties) but this is musically quite different to No Jardim Da Celeste. Mostly instrumental or with wordless vocals, the album takes them closer to soft progressive rock than to folk and is overall quite good, although not a patch on any of their first three. GRADE: C+.
Banda Do Casaco (Portugal): Com Ti Chitas (Schiu SLP 001, with poster sleeve and inner, 1984)
Pop/Folk/Rock
Catarina Chitas (joint lead vocals), Maria da Conceição Batarda da Silva Granate (joint lead vocals)
The opening ‘Consilação’ makes clear that Marotta has gone – unfortunately he’s been replaced by a drum machine, and the track attempts to reinterpret a traditional folk song in a jazz/funk-meets-electropop style. It’s certainly original, and I’ve never heard anything else like it, but then I hope I never do again. The rest of the album isn’t as bad, but as a whole this is even more dated and quintessentially eighties than No Jardim Da Celeste. Altogether, it’s an odd end to their career. GRADE: D+.
See also Né Ladeiras

Bando (Brazil): O Bando (Polydor LPNG 44.043, 1969)
Psychedelic
Marisa Fossa
Although not as exploratory or exciting, this is very similar to Mutantes and on its best track offers some outstanding tropicália. In particular, the fuzz-driven opener ‘…E Assim Falava Mefistófeles’ is very impressive, but there are few really weak tracks. GRADE: B–.

Louis Banks’ Sangam (India): Citylife (CBS IND 1006, 1983)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/World Music
RA Rama Mana (lead vocals, tamboura)
This highly creative prog album blends elements of jazz and traditional Indian music with some modern synthesised elements to create an unusual blend of styles. If it’s occasionally ponderous (notably the long percussion break on the opening title track), it’s more frequently startling, with some impressive musicianship and notable references to the seventies greats (the same opening cut sometimes recalls Cos and even Magma). GRADE: B–.
See also Oriental Wind & The Karnataka College Of Percussion, Percussion Summit

Baraka (USA): Love Is As Open As Your Heart (Baraka BK1-0001, with insert, 1976)
Folk/Rock
Marjorie Lynn (joint lead vocals), Vickie Marriott (joint lead vocals), Penelope Townsend (joint lead vocals), Janis Lowery (joint lead vocals), Su-Zan (banjo, flute)

Gentle hippie folk from a religious commune, all as naïve and gently uplifting as song titles like ‘So Beautiful Inside’, ‘As A Man Thinketh’, ‘Allelujah’ and ‘Mystical Traveler’ imply. Much of this is pleasant but inconsequential, but four tracks really stand out: ‘Déjà Vu’ adds jazz/funk and progressive influences, ‘Night Flight’ and ‘Sower Of Seeds’ have excellent electric guitar work giving a psychedelic flavour, and the title track simply has a truly gorgeous melody and beautiful female harmonies. Were the whole LP of the same standard, this very rare record would be one of the most sought-after seventies private pressings. GRADE: C+.

Barbara & Ernie (USA): Prelude To… (Cotillion SD 9044, 1971)
Jazz/Soul/Funk
Barbara Massey (joint lead vocals, piano, autoharp)
Orchestrations by Eumir Deodato and a stellar backing band including Keith Jarrett, Richard Tee, Joe Beck and Bill Salter are only part of the reason this is such a fine album. Barbara Massey and Ernie Calabria are the real stars of the show: she has a beautiful, plaintive voice and they are capable writers, blending elements of jazz, soul, funk and hippie mysticism into eight excellent original songs. I also love their radical cover of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Somebody To Love’, which transforms the assertive rock of the original into a sinuous, snaky piece of music that slowly unfolds its languid charms. GRADE: B–.

Annie Barbazza (Italy): Annie’s Playlist (Unifaun Productions Ephimerals UPE 001, CDR, with gatefold minisleeve and poster, 2015)
Annie Barbazza (lead vocals, guitar, piano)
If you’ve ever wanted to hear acoustic singer/songwriter-style performances of ‘House With Your Door’, ‘Epitaph’, ‘Astronomy Domine’, ‘Locomotive Breath’ and other progressive rock stalwarts, here’s your chance. On her live debut, Barbazza also throws in some more mainstream classics, including ‘Across The Universe’, ‘Pink Moon’, ‘Space Oddity’ and ‘A Case Of You’, again with the same stripped-down arrangements. Whilst she has a pleasant voice and is a competent enough guitarist and pianist, this is a rather odd release – ‘Casablanca Moon’ works well enough in this setting, with an inherent cabaret vibe in the original, but for the most part I can’t imagine who would crave to hear these songs in this style. GRADE: C+.

Annie Barbazza (Italy): Annie’s Playlist 2 (Unifaun Productions Ephimerals UPE 003, CDR, with digipak, 2017)
Folk/Rock
Annie Barbazza (lead vocals, guitar, ukelele)
The sleeve notes state the ‘the Annie’s Playlist concept was Greg Lake’s idea to improve both my skills as a musician and singer by covering the tunes that I loved’. Barbazza has certainly improved, as this is far superior to the first instalment, largely due to greater input from collaborator Lorenzo Trecordi, whose accompaniments flesh out her sound. In particular, his heavy, distorted electric guitar hugely lifts ‘Reanimator’ and ‘Cortez The Killer’, though most of this is pretty satisfying, with just two or three weak cuts. GRADE: C+.

Annie Barbazza & Max Repetti (Italy): Moonchild (Manticore Italy MAN 002, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2018)
Singer/Songwriter/Progressive
Annie Barbazza (lead vocals)
According to the sleeve notes, this album was originally intended to offer voice-and-piano reworkings of Greg Lake’s songs, with Lake singing and Max Repetti playing piano. However, when Lake realised he was terminally ill he proposed Annie Barbazza as vocalist and extensively coached her in the performances. As with Barbazza’s earlier albums, it’s certainly startling to hear progressive rock tunes performed in this way, but the strength of her singing and the quality of Repetti’s piano means that this is a more compelling listening experience than one might expect. GRADE: C+.

Anton Barbeau With Su Jordan (USA): The Automatic Door (Shifty Disco SHIFTY0704, CD, 2007)
Pop/Psychedelic
Su Jordan (backing vocals)
There’s some excellent psychedelic pop on offer here, sometimes reminiscent – in terms of both style and quality – of the Petals.

GRADE: C+.

Donatella Bardi (Italy): A Puddara É Un Vulcano (Elektra T 52028, 1975)
Folk/Rock
Housed in a triple foldout sleeve, Bardi’s sole album offers various styles of folk and folk/rock. The standard is inevitably a touch uneven, but overall this is an enjoyable and accomplished LP, peaking on the heavier electric folk of ‘No (Donatella)’, complete with a powerful guitar solo. GRADE: B–.

Bards (UK): Time For The Bards (Folk Heritage FHR019M, 1971)
Folk
Sheelagh Holt (joint lead vocals)
Nothing to do with the Irish band of the same name, these Bards issued one of the rarest albums on Folk Heritage. Typically for the label, it comprises rather dark, mournful traditional folk with simple acoustic guitar backing and a touch of Northern humour on the closing ‘Chicken Song’. GRADE: C+.

Bards (Ireland): Ireland’s Bards (Polydor 2908 024, 1975)
Folk
Ann Keaveny (joint lead vocals, bass synthesiser, keyboards)
Recorded live, this Irish folk outfit’s sole album features backing from acoustic guitar, mandolin and bouzouki, but also from synthesiser (covering both the bass and keyboard parts), adding a slight cabaret vibe. Overall this is nice enough, with a surprisingly lush sound, but it’s easy to see why this hasn’t been fetishised by collectors like releases from labelmates Loudest Whisper and Mac Murrough. GRADE: C+.

Alison & Jill Barff (UK): Alison And Jill (Profile GMOR 103, 1973)
Folk
Jill Barff (joint lead vocals, guitar), Alison Barff (joint lead vocals, autoharp)
Many of the rarer releases on Profile sell for big money, but not this one. Obviously there aren’t too many collectors keen to hear a vicar’s twin daughters performing an array of Christian folk songs with formal soprano vocals. GRADE: E.

Barley Cove Folk (Ireland): Fenians, Boats And Ballads (Golden Guinea GSGL 10457, UK, 1970)
Folk
Connie Draper (joint lead vocals, banjo, melodica)
If the title makes you expect angry rebel songs, think again: this is upbeat, slightly MOR stuff typical of the kind of folk music featured on TV in the seventies. That’s not to say it’s without merit – their version of ‘Siobhan Ní Dhuibír’ is quite lovely, with string synthesiser adding an unusual, progressive edge – but at its worst this is the sort of thing that gives folk a bad name. GRADE: C–.

Barnabas (USA): Hear The Light (Tunesmith TS 6004, with insert, Canada, 1979)
Rock/Metal
Nancy Jo Mann (lead vocals)
This Christian hard rock album has a pretty basic sound, with several tracks displaying strong barroom, boogie and (less predictably) fifties rockabilly influences. There’s even a lengthy blues workout, which is usually a sign of a band struggling to fill an LP. On the plus side, Nancy Jo Mann has a fine voice, clearly modelled on Grace Slick, and there is some strong guitar work, but this never fully overcomes the mediocre material. GRADE: C.
Barnabas (USA): Find Your Heart A Home (Tunesmith TS 6009, with insert, Canada, 1981)
Rock/Metal
Nancy Jo Mann (lead vocals)
Losing their guitarist and main composer and expanding to a five-piece, Barnabas returned with a much more satisfying second album. The use of dual guitars and keyboards allows for much more intricate arrangements, emphasising their supple musicianship, and the material is much more progressive and also much heavier in parts. Even the ominously titled ‘Boogie Tyme!’ defies expectations by being a rather good funk/disco parody. GRADE: C+.
Barnabas (USA): Approaching Light Speed (Light LS 5829, with inner, 1983)
Rock/Metal
Nancy Jo Mann (principal vocals)
Album number three mostly offers solid early eighties metal, with a few diversions into pomp-rock and borderline prog (notably on ‘Waiting For The Aliens’ and the lengthy intro to ‘Subterfuge’). There’s nothing particularly distinctive or original on offer here, but it’s a competent enough LP. GRADE: C+.
Barnabas (USA): Feel The Fire (Light LS 5860, with inner, 1984)
Rock/Metal/Progressive
Nancy Jo Mann (lead vocals)
With more emphasis on keyboards, this ups the prog quotient considerably, as song titles like ‘Prelude’ and ‘Suite For The Souls Of Our Enemies, Part One: Hammer And Sickle’ indicate. Indeed, on the seven-minute ‘Hearts’ Nancy Jo Mann sounds uncannily like Tracy Hitchings, whilst the musical backing resembles Hitchings’s band Landmarq. Elsewhere, there is more of the band’s familiar eighties metal, with the high energy title cut being perhaps their best rocker. GRADE: C+.
Barnabas (USA): Little Foxes (Light SPCN 7-115-70896-7, 1986)
Metal
Nancy Jo Mann (lead vocals)
The band’s fifth and final album is also their heaviest, offering a procession of basic but brutally effective hard rock cuts. This isn’t enormously sophisticated or subtle music, but the lyrics cover some interesting topics and the music quickly refutes any claim that Christians can’t rock. GRADE: C+.

Barr (Sweden): Skogsbo Is The Place (No label, CDR, 2007)
Folk/Psychedelic
Hanna Fritzson (joint lead vocals, piano, glockenspiel, flute)
This obscure Swedish band offered an excellent album of hippie folk, featuring delicate long tracks filled with lively acoustic instrumentation and underpinned by hand percussion. If this lacks the truly stunning melodies to place it among the top echelon of psychedelic folk, it has an easy consistency and a lovely organic groove that justifies its place in any collection. GRADE: B–.

Barrett Elmore (Sweden): Woodlands (Trail TR-012, CD, with digipak, USA, 2012)
Psychedelic/Progressive
Mikaela Eriksson (joint lead vocals)
The ‘Barrett’ in the band name means Syd, so no prizes for guessing that this is pastoral psychedelia, in this case crossed with progressive rock to create an evolving tapestry of trippy sounds. It’s lovely stuff, and certainly one of the better neo-psychedelic (or indeed progressive) albums I have encountered recently. GRADE: B–.

Barrock (Italy): Barrock (Down Town Pordenone 001, cassette, 1989?)
Progressive
Paola Polese (joint lead vocals), Graziella Vendramin (joint lead vocals), Laura Ivan (joint lead vocals)
This Italian sympho-prog band’s debut album is quite professionally produced, with both printed labels and a printed inlay card. It features eight fairly short pieces dominated by synthesisers and alternating instrumental sections with pieces featuring mostly female vocals. It’s catchy, fairly lightweight stuff, but enjoyable at the same time, and at one point slightly reminds me of Abba. GRADE: C+.
Barrock (Italy): L’Alchimista (No label, cassette, 1990?)
Progressive
Demo tape number two (at least, I assume this follows the self-titled tape) is a more home-made affair, with no labels and a photocopied inlay card. Whereas their first emphasised the commercial and pop aspects of their sound, this is rather superior, with four rich, folky pieces recorded in the studio in the first side and two energetic live cuts on the flip. GRADE: C+.
Barrock (Italy): L’Alchimista (Moon Witch ERC-29236, CD, Japan, 1991)
Progressive
Paola Polese (joint lead vocals), Graziella Vendramin (joint lead vocals)
Not a reissue of the cassette of the same name, this combines reworkings of earlier material with a couple of new pieces. Mostly instrumental, the album features some excellent baroque arrangements (as the band name implies) but once again suffers a bit from a thin, synthesised sound. However, there are also two long, complex vocal pieces which are very impressive, making one wish the band had concentrated on songs and suites rather than instrumentals. Released only in Japan, allegedly in a run of 500 copies, this is now very rare and difficult to obtain. GRADE: C+.
Barrock (Italy): Oxian (SI SIMPly 58, Holland, 1994)
Progressive
Paola Polese (joint lead vocals), Graziella Vendramin (joint lead vocals)
Their fourth album has the same strengths (rich neoclassical textures, well-handled tempo changes), weaknesses (lots of dated synthesisers, a rather thin sound) and format (mainly instrumentals with some vocal pieces thrown in) as their first. On the plus side, it’s a good deal more consistent, but on the other hand it never comes close to equalling its predecessor’s best moments. GRADE: C+.
Barrock (Italy): La Strega (Mellow MMP 371, 1999)
Progressive
Paola Polese (lead vocals)
Even more instrumental than earlier work (only two out of nine cuts have vocals and both are wordless), this is their best album, with a much richer and more satisfying sound. In particular, the eleven-minute ‘La Mutazione’ is quite superb, and unlike their first four this rarely drags or sounds formulaic. GRADE: B–.

Barrow Poets (UK/Isle of Man): An Entertainment Of Poetry And Music (Argo PLP 1072, UK, 1963)
Spoken Word
Heather Black (joint lead vocals), Alison Milne (joint lead vocals), Christine Shotton (joint lead vocals), Susan Baker (violin), Lorna Gregson (oboe)
Led by eccentric Manxman William Bealby-Wright, this outfit made several interesting albums combining poetry with music. This one, however, is nearly all poetry, with only occasional interjections from Susan Baker on violin and Lorna Gregson on oboe, so its appeal is likely to be fairly selective. The album is also known as Barrow Collection, after the large title on the front sleeve. GRADE: D.

Barrow Poets (UK/Isle of Man): Folk Rhymes Tunes And Verses (Fontana 886 487 TY, UK, 1968)
Spoken Word/Folk
Cicely Smith (joint lead vocals), Heather Black (joint lead vocals), Susan Baker (mandolin, violin, viola)
There’s a bit more music here, covering both folky and mock-classical styles, but for the most part this is once again a spoken-word LP. It’s extremely well recorded and performed, with the musical interludes lifting it considerably, but once again this is more a purchase for fans of performance poetry than folk music. GRADE: C.
Barrow Poets (UK/Isle of Man): Joker (RCA SF 8110, UK, 1970)
Spoken Word/Folk/Avant-Garde
Heather Black (joint lead vocals, harmonium), Cicely Smith (joint lead vocals, percussion), Susan Baker (violin, mandolin, harp)
Having really hit their stride, the band combine poetry (some humorous, some serious, all quite weird) with music (mostly chamber-derived, and all weird) to great effect. The instrumental tracks are quite impressive too, with ‘Bad Trip’ (entendre almost certainly double) aiming to recreate the sensation of car-sickness through weird interplay between harmonium and violin. GRADE: C+.
Barrow Poets (UK/Isle of Man): Outpatients (Argo ZSW 508, UK, 1972)
Spoken Word/Folk/Rock/Jazz
Heather Black (joint lead vocals), Cicely Smith (joint lead vocals), Susan Baker (violin, viola, mandolin, harp)
This time the band wrote all the poetry themselves, and the musical backing was augmented by Gary Boyle on guitar, Jeff Clyne on bass and Trevor Tomkins on drums and percussion. Consequently it’s much jazzier than Joker, but (whilst still interesting) not quite as good. GRADE: C+.
Barrow Poets (UK/Isle of Man): Magic Egg (Argo ZSW 511, UK, 1972)
Spoken Word/Folk/Psychedelic
Heather Black (joint lead vocals), Cicely Smith (joint lead vocals), Susan Baker (violin, viola, mandolin, harp)
Recorded at the same time as Outpatients and with the same guest musicians, this is the yin to its yang – specifically aimed at children rather than adults. It’s actually the more enjoyable album of the two, with a surreal atmosphere to both the monologues and musical passages that should appeal to any self-respecting popsike collector. One track, ‘Ridey Didey’s House’, appears on both LPs. GRADE: C+.

Barrow Poets (UK/Isle of Man): Islands Of The Moon (ASW 6001, UK, 1981)
Spoken Word/Folk
Cicely Smith (joint lead vocals), Heather Black (joint lead vocals), Susan Baker (mandolin, violin, viola)
The band’s belated final album is subtitled ‘Songs And Poems For Children’, but it has none of Magic Egg’s tripped-out edges. Instead, we’re mostly in Flanders & Swann territory here, with rather arch songs, nice folky instrumentals and a mixture of poetry and dialogue. The results are highly eclectic, occasionally irritating and mostly quirky and likeable. GRADE: C+.
See also Susan Baker, Doggerel Bank

Bára Basiková & Precedens (Czechoslovakia): Doba Ledová (Panton 81 0729-1, 1987)
Rock/Progressive
Bára Basiková (lead vocals)
Basiková’s other project, contemporaneous with the more celebrated Stromboli, is somewhat different, offering synthesiser-led neoprogressive with pop and new wave edges. In some ways the sound isn’t dissimilar from certain tracks on Stromboli’s second album Shutdown, although Doba Ledová is nowhere near as dark and gothic. Overall this isn’t a bad album, but it is certainly a very dated one. GRADE: C+.
See also Stromboli

Baskarma (Tatarstan): Kizleu (Gold Disc GDL 2091, with insert, Finland, 1991)
Folk/Rock
Dina Asis (joint lead vocals), Betül Hairedin (joint lead vocals)
Although not really exceptional in any way, this is a lovely gentle folk and folk/rock album with excellent dual female vocals and strong ethnic influences. GRADE: C+.

Batalion D’Amour (Poland): Dotyk Iluzji (Metal Mind Productions MMP CD 0076, CD, 1999)
Rock/Metal/Progressive
Anna Zacher (principal vocals)
Whilst probably best described as gothic metal, the album is in fact closer to hard rock, with a distinct seventies feel to some of the textures. In fact, much of the lead guitar work is almost psychedelic, with a marked West Coast flavour and hints of Jorma Kaukonen. The songwriting is of a good standard too, and there is plenty of symphonic keyboard work, making this a highly melodic and consistently enjoyable album. GRADE: C+.
Batalion D’Amour (Poland): 55 Minutes Of Love (Metal Mind Productions MMP CD 0110, CD, 2000)
Rock/Metal
Anna Zacher (principal vocals)
Much more commercial than the début, this second album is nowhere near as appealing: although it’s competently done, the melodies are far more obvious and some of the instrumental breaks noticeably plod. GRADE: C.
Batalion D’Amour (Poland): W Teartze Snów (Metal Mind Productions MMP CD 0147, CD, 2001)
Rock/Metal/Progressive
Anna Zacher (lead vocals)
The opening cut (also the single) makes overt the pop and industrial undertones from their previous albums, and doesn’t bode all that well for the rest of the disc. But the album quickly improves, never really staying in the same territory and blending in elements of West Coast rock, folk and progressive into a very lyrical and majestic whole. GRADE: C+.
Batalion D’Amour (Poland): Niya (Metal Mind Productions MMP CD 0381, CD, 2005)
Rock/Metal
Karolina Andrzejewska (lead vocals)
The guitars are still metallic, but the feel this time round is much closer to mainstream glossy pop/rock – well executed, but ultimately a little vacuous. GRADE: C.

Bättre Lyss (Sweden): Till Den Sträng Som Brast Än Aldrig Spänna En Båge (Musiklaget MLLP-6, 1975)
Rock
Kerstin Backman (backing vocals), Gunilla Ericson (backing vocals), Kristina Näsström (backing vocals)
This political rock album is varied indeed, from quite heavy tracks with progressive edges and lots of powerful guitar leads through to lighter folk- and country-tinged numbers. Whilst the songwriting is a bit pedestrian, the guitar work is frequently outstanding, resulting in a solid example of its genre. GRADE: C+.

Rainer Baumann Band (West Germany): Fooling Around (Line 6.25.654, 1983)
Blues/Rock
Sarah Kreuzer (joint lead vocals)
This album of commercial pop-tinged blues/rock was never going to be a masterpiece, but the production renders it virtually unlistenable. In particular, the piercing, trebly electronic drums (by Wolfgang Lindner, formerly of Release Music Orchestra, no less) are excruciating and the disc as a whole is something of an endurance test. Even the worst solo work by Baumann’s former Frumpy colleague Inga Rumpf sounds timeless in comparison to this LP. GRADE: D.

Bayan Mongol Variety Group (Mongolia): The Bayan Mongol Variety Group (Melodiya C90-15959-60, 1981)
Pop
Offering an odd mix of Far Eastern and loungy Soviet pop styles, this oddball Mongalian crew certainly lived up to their name. Plenty of synthesiser and fuzz guitar (especially on side two) adds a weird psychedelic edge, with the whole thing having a peculiar, tripped-out, lost-in-time feel. This is one of the three rarest albums on Melodiya, alongside Dos-Mukasan and fellow Mongolians Soyol-Erdene. GRADE: C+.

Bazoche (Switzerland): Bazoche (Evasion EA 100.608, 1976?)
Folk
Brigitte Roehrich (occasional vocals, percussion, concertina, dulcimer, kousse)
With simple acoustic backing and quite a bit of ethnic instrumentation, this is a pleasant traditional folk LP that occasionally resembles an unplugged Malicorne. Like most releases on Evasion, it’s a rare LP, and comes with a beautiful gatefold sleeve. The album is also known as Folk Romand after the inscription on the back cover. GRADE: C+.
Bazoche (Switzerland): La Lune Vole (Evasion EA 100.610, 1977?)
Folk
Brigitte Roehrich (occasional vocals, percussion, kousse)
Like their debut, this features a stunning laminated gatefold sleeve, and once again it’s traditional acoustic folk. Overall this is perhaps the better of their two albums, with a slightly brighter and livelier sound. GRADE: C+.