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Bumble B (Norway): Flight Of The Bumble B (Acony Bell AB01, with insert, 2003)
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
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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?)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)

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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.

See also Contraband, Joanne Hogg, Iona, Mae McKenna

Baird Sisters (USA): At Home (No label, CD, with minisleeve, 2003)
Meg Baird, Laura Baird
Don’t expect anything like the stunning psychedelic folk of Meg Baird’s band Espers. Do expect stunning female harmony vocals and simple, heartfelt acoustic backing based around acoustic guitar, banjo and cello. The better half of this (to my ears, the less American half, without the banjo) is a comfortable B­– and the other half a solid C+, though still with the beautiful harmonies, so I’ll upgrade the whole thing due to its charming homespun atmosphere. GRADE: B–.
Baird Sisters (USA): Lonely Town (No label, CD, with minisleeve, 2008)
Meg Baird, Laura Baird
Whilst unquestionably pleasant and undeniably in the same vein as their first, this is a slight but definite step down. The reasons are simple: fewer harmonies, lots more banjo, more American in feel. GRADE: C+.
Baird Sisters (USA): Until You Find Your Green (Grapefruit GY2-2, 2012)
Meg Baird, Laura Baird
The obvious highpoint here is the delightful 10½-munute title track, which adds flute for a mildly psychedelic ambience and is the single best thing the sisters recorded together. However, there’s plenty more to enjoy, with a return to the slightly more ethereal style of their debut, bolstered by an added spaciness that makes the textures all the richer. GRADE: B–.

Meg Baird, Helena Espvall & Sharron Kraus (USA): Leaves From Off The Tree (Bo’Weavil Recordings weavil 16CD, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2006)


Meg Baird (joint lead vocals, guitar), Helena Espvall (joint lead vocals, cello), Sharron Kraus (joint lead vocals, guitar, dulcimer)

Whilst Espers are known for their shimmering acid-folk, Helena Espvall for her experimental leanings and Sharron Kraus for her psychedelic tendencies, this is straightforward traditional folk with three-part harmonies, acoustic guitars, dulcimer and cello. However, that description undersells it: this is absolutely stunning traditional folk with a subtly spacy atmosphere, stunning harmonies and perfectly judged, restrained instrumental backing creating an atmosphere that feels both sacred and austere. GRADE: B–.

Meg Baird (USA): Dear Companion (Drag City DC340CD, CD, 2007)


Meg Baird (lead vocals, guitar, dulcimer)

This time round Baird really does offer straightforward traditional folk, accompanied only by her own acoustic guitar, dulcimer and occasional harmonies. The result is a nice album – delicate, restrained and well-judged – but this isn’t truly special in the same way as Leaves From Off The Tree. GRADE: C+.

Meg Baird (USA): Seasons On Earth (Drag City DC470CD, CD, with digipak, 2011)


Quite different from her first two, Seasons On Earth consists mainly of original songs and for the most part sounds like a semi-unplugged Espers. I can also hear marked echoes of Sandy Denny, although Baird’s stule is more ethereal, adding up to a lovely album that effortlessly bridges the seventies and the noughties. GRADE: B–.

Meg Baird (USA): Don’t Weigh Down The Light (Drag City DC632CD, CD, with digipak, 2015)


Meg Baird (lead vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion)

Beautiful, mesmerising and haunting, Baird delivers another atmospheric album of her own songs. On the downside, the lyrics and music here aren’t going to stick in your mind in the same way as Sandy Denny’s – to whom there is once again an occasional minor resemblance – but Baird is as much about sound as songs and this is certainly a stunning sonic tapestry. GRADE: B–.

Meg Baird & Mary Lattimore (USA): Ghost Forests (Three Lobed Recordings TLR-125, CD, 2018)


Meg Baird (lead vocals, guitar), Mary Lattimore (harp)

This takes ‘ethereal’ to the next level, setting blissful layers of Baird’s acoustic and electric guitars against Lattimore’s harp; no other instruments are credited, though I’m sure I can hear occasional keyboards. The whole thing has a dreamlike ambience, sometimes sounding like Clannad in the world’s largest echo chamber. GRADE: B–.

Meg Baird (USA): Furling (Drag City DCD782CD, CD, with minisleeve and poster booklet, 2023)
The supremely talented Meg Baird returns with another lovely connection of her own songs. Playing almost all the instruments herself, she creates another swirling tapestry of sound – delicate, haunting, eerie and spacy, almost like Sandy Denny on hallucinogenics. GRADE: B–.

See also Espers

Bakadi (Austria): Bardolini Songs 1 (No label 120 7321, with inserts, 1983)
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)
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)
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)
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?)
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)
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)
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.


Balzane (France): Paille (La Souterraine STRN-281, download, 2020)
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+.

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