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Rita Jean Bodine (USA): Sitting On Top Of My World (20th Century T 431, 1974)
Rita Jean Bodine was a talented singer/songwriter, but the music here is bluesy and soulful pop-funk rather than the sort of music one would normally associate with the term. At a push, this could be compared with Elkie Brooks’s first couple of solo albums. This was her second LP; I haven’t heard her self-titled debut, and I’m not aware that she issued any further solo material. GRADE: C+.

Body (UK): Madhouse (World Wide SPM-WWR-CD-0047, CD, Germany, 1993)
Maria Woods (joint lead vocals), Sarah Gaskell (keyboards)
This obscure prog band is probably best remembered for having issued the rare private pressing The Body Album back in 1981. The belated follow-up adds two female musicians to the line-up, and combines a Pink Floyd-like concept about the shallowness of TV entertainment with neoprog-style musical backing. The end result isn’t a particularly compelling album, but it’s mildly interesting and competent enough.


Joie Boeke (USA): This Is Joie (Superior Recordings LP S 171-03, 1970?)
Joie Boeke (lead vocals, guitar)
This is one of those earnest teenage singer/songwriter efforts with simple acoustic guitar accompaniment – a good comparison would be the equally obscure Thinkings by Robin – that appeared on a variety of tiny labels around the turn of the seventies. Gentle, charming and delicate, it’s all as precious as titles like ‘Lonely’, ‘Decisions’ and ‘All Alone’ and sleeve notes like ‘this is Joie – young and sensitive and in love with being alive’ suggest. GRADE: C+.

Polly Bolton (UK): No Going Back (Making Waves SPIN CD 134, CD, 1989)
Polly Bolton (lead vocals)
Bolton’s belated solo debut is a varied set, taking in everything from acapella folk (‘The Silver Swan’) to modern jazz (‘Foxtrotting’), Fleetwood Mac-like bluesy rock (‘Licence To Kill’) and a remarkably faithful pastiche of mid-seventies Richard & Linda Thompson (‘Madness Of Love’). Almost everything is self-penned and the list of backing musicians is impressive (including Phil Beer, Pete Zorn, Kevin Dempsey, John Shepherd, Kimberley Rew, Dave Mattacks and Trevor Foster). GRADE: C+.
Polly Bolton, Steve Dunachie & John Shepherd (UK): Woodbine And Ivy (No label PBB 01, cassette, 1990)
Polly Bolton (lead vocals)
Quite different from its predecessor, this features sparse, rather baroque instrumental accompaniment and all-traditional material. With sensitive readings of ‘Spencer The Rover’, ‘The Blacksmith’, ‘Lovely Joan’, ‘Sovay’ et al, it’s a lovely and very accomplished album. GRADE: C+.
Polly Bolton, Steve Dunachie & John Shepherd (UK): Songs From A Cold Open Field (No label PBB 02, cassette, 1991)
Polly Bolton (lead vocals)
Again recorded by Bolton with a keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist (guitar, keyboards, violin and viola)  this time plus several guests including Sue Harris – this is quite an unusual LP. The songs are spare, eerie and rather jazzy, with a slight neoclassical edge, whilst the numerous instrumentals are in a more baroque vein, making for a rather distinctive set. GRADE: C+.

Polly Bolton Band With Nigel Hawthorne (UK): Loveliest Of Trees (Shepherd Music SHEP CD01, CD, 1996)
Polly Bolton (principal vocals)
Offering musical settings of poems from AE Housman’s 'A Shropshire Lad', this interesting album alternates songs performed by Bolton and poems performed by Hawthorne, both with musical backing. The style is difficult to describe, being baroque, keyboard-led and decidedly classical, with plenty of strings as well as some flute and recorder. Albums of this kind don’t always work well, but the emphasis here is firmly on the music, and the results are highly successful, with Bolton in particularly fine voice. GRADE: C+.

Polly Bolton & Paul Dunmall (UK): View Across The Bay (No label PBB 03, CD, 1996)
Folk/Jazz/World Music
Polly Bolton (lead vocals, percussion)
This collaboration with winds player Paul Dunmall represents Bolton’s most experimental album to date. Blending elements of jazz, folk and world music into an eerie, rather austere whole, with mostly acapella vocals and occasional ‘Wicker Man’-like edges, the disc sees Bolton in fine voice and delivers more than a few surprises. GRADE: C+.

Polly Bolton & Paul Dunmall (UK): A Walk On The Beach (No label PBB 04, CDR, 2003)
Folk/Jazz/World Music/Avant-Garde
Polly Bolton (lead vocals)
Like its predecessor, this draws heavily on ethnic music and is wholly improvised, with plenty of Urszula Dudziak-like scatting from Bolton. With 28 songs, it’s on the long side for such a sparse and formless record, but it’s far from self-indulgent (which in itself is unusual for improvised non-rock music). GRADE: C+.
Polly Bolton (UK): A Capella Polly – Songs For Community Choirs (No label PBB 05, CDR, 2006)
Polly Bolton (lead vocals)
As the title suggests, this is entirely acapella, with Bolton perfoming all the vocals herself. However, contradicting the subtitle, it’s not choral music – instead the songs (all but one of which are self-penned) draw on jazz and folk traditions. There’s clearly a limit to how exciting something like this can be, but this is pleasant enough (though pretty slight, with 17 songs in around 25 minutes). GRADE: C+.
Polly Bolton (UK): The Magic Of Song (No label, CDR, 2009)
Polly Bolton (lead vocals)
Bolton’s clearly been bitten by the acapella bug – only a handful of the twelve songs here feature any instrumentation. However, they lift the disc enormously, and this is a more varied set than its predecessor, mixing original and traditional numbers, and with Abbie Lathe (who recorded the set at Maddy Prior’s Oak Barn facility) adding her voice to a couple of tracks. It’s also decidedly longer than its predecessor, making for a much more accomplished set. GRADE: C+.
See also Dando Shaft

Graham Bond (UK): Holy Magick (Vertigo 6360 021, 1970)
Diane Stewart (occasional vocals, gong), Aliki Ashman (occasional vocals), Annette Brox (occasional vocals)

The first side is a jazz/rock concept suite concerning various aspects of esotericism, whilst the second has four individual tracks of similar musical style and lyrical content. But whilst the album has an excellent line-up of musicians and contains many of the elements that characterise some of the finest early seventies rock, it’s all too generic and inconsequential. GRADE: C.
Graham Bond & Magick (UK): We Put Our Magick On You (Vertigo 6360 042, 1971)
Diane Stewart
Whereas Holy Magick was rambling and listless, this is punchy and exciting, with great ensemble performances, catchy tunes and influences ranging from jazz and blues to psychedelia and Afro-rock. GRADE: C+.

See also Ashman Reynolds, Ginger Baker's Air Force, Victor & Annette Brox, Gong, Sweet Pain, Steve York's Camelo Pardalis

Bondage Fruit (Japan): Bondage Fruit (Isis 0111, CD, with digipak, booklet and obi, 1994)
Saga Yuki (joint lead vocals), Aki Kubota (joint lead vocals)
Whilst rooted in zeuhl, this exciting album covers a wide range of territory, from gentle folky and ethnic sounds through to high octane, riff-driven rock. Whilst impressive throughout, the disc peaks on the two closing cuts: the manic ‘Kinzoku No Taiji’ sounds like Eskaton on steroids, whilst the aptly named ‘T-Rex’, though simpler, provides a suitably thunderous climax with some free jazz edges. GRADE: B.
Bondage Fruit (Japan): II (Mabo Roshi No Sekai MABO-006, CD, 1996)
Saga Yuki (joint lead vocals)
This isn’t as startling or as varied as its predecessor, for the most part sounding like an über-heavy fusion of early Eider Stellaire, Eskaton and Üdü Wüdü-era Magma. It is, however, a wonderfully dynamic album with some savagely intense playing, and among the best zeuhl LPs of the last twenty years. As with its predecessor, the two closing cuts are easily the wildest. The band went on to cut several more albums with an all-male line-up, whilst Saga Yuki had a fairly prolific solo career. GRADE: B.
See also Koenjihyakkei, Saga Yuki

Bondarz Super Starz (USA): Break-A-Leg (Starsongz SZ 19801, with insert, 1980?)
Progressive/Lounge/‘Incredibly Strange Music’
Debbie Bondar (joint lead vocals, keyboards, drums, percussion)
Starting out as straightforward barroom rock, this extremely rare private pressing quickly becomes much weirder and soon becomes completely unclassifiable. Mixing symphonic balladry, AOR, lounge, prog and funky, disco-ish moments in different combinations, it resembles the soundtrack to a slightly surreal stage musical and whilst musically accomplished is weird enough to have considerable appeal for ‘real people’ collectors. The minimalist textured paper sleeve is also very unusual, giving no indication whatsoever of the musical contents. GRADE: C+.

Bongwater (USA): Breaking No New Ground! (Shimmy Disc shimmy 0002, 1987)
New Wave/Garage/Psychedelic
Ann Magnuson
The 18½-minute debut by Ann Magnuson and Mark Kramer showcases a trashy ‘no wave’ aesthetic, blending garagy riffs and squalling acid guitar with sound effects and perversely catchy songs that sometimes resemble a scrappier, wilder early Blondie. But whilst they have early Blondie attitude on steroids, they don’t share the band’s gift for unforgettable melodies so the results are little more than an amusing diversion. GRADE: C+.
Bongwater (USA): Double Bummer (Shimmy Disc shimmy 0000000000011, double, 1988)
Ann Magnuson
From the slight to the gargantuan: this epic double album, featuring no fewer than 27 tracks, sloughs off their new wave influences somewhat for a more old-school acid-rock sound, though it takes in parodies of everything from country to Chinese music. Ditties and jams are contextualised against tapes of diverse dialogue, as on their debut, creating a sound that’s both highly conceptual and clearly satirical. But despite the length, I once again find the contents a touch insubstantial though never less than engaging. GRADE: C+.
Bongwater (USA): Too Much Sleep (Shimmy Disc shimmy 000000000000000000000000000000031, 1989)
Ann Magnuson (principal vocals)
The biggest surprise here is a cover of Slapp Happy’s ‘The Drum’ – it’s not as good as the original, but it’s still a stunning song in any rendition. Elsewhere, this offers the usual mixture of songs and sound effects and the usual range of pastiches – melodic, accomplished, sometimes quite beautiful or dynamic and ultimately a little forgettable. GRADE: C+.

Bongwater (USA): The Power Of Pussy (Shimmy Disc SHIMMY-040, CD, 1990)
Ann Magnuson (lead vocals)
Whilst in the same vein as their earlier albums, this is perhaps a touch straighter, with more focus on the music and slightly less on the sound effects. That’s no bad thing, and there’s plenty of variety here too – everything from folk to pop to heavy acid-rock – but once again there’s a certain lack of substance. GRADE: C+.
Bongwater (USA): The Big Sell-Out (Shimmy Disc shimmy 050, CD, 1992)
Ann Magnuson (principal vocals)
This isn’t a sell-out, big or otherwise, but the sound effects have disappeared altogether, with the duo focusing entirely on music. That’s no bad thing – this is a lot less arch than earlier works, offering a pleasing tapestry of songs spanning a broad range of moods. GRADE: C+.

Jasmine Bonnin (West Germany): Gelöstes Haar (Hansa/Der Andere Song 88 435 IU, 1974)
Jasmine Bonnin (lead vocals, guitar)
Sweet, delicate and crystalline, this charming album evenly mixes original songs and German-language covers, including ‘Streets Of London’, ‘As Tears Go By’, ‘The Last Thing On My Mind’ and, less predictably, Véronique Sanson’s ‘Chanson Sur Une Drôle De Vie’. The results, whilst delicate are winsome, are a touch lacking in personality, though this is a pleasant album by any measure. GRADE: C+.
Jasmine Bonnin (West Germany): Keine Angst (Pläne 88153, with insert, 1979)
Jasmine Bonnin (lead vocals)
Whilst broadly similar to her first – once again this mixes original songs with German covers of material by other singer/songwriters – this is both more varied and a good deal slicker. In parts, the sound is almost funky, with an adult contemporary sheen, so whilst it feels more professional the sense of gentle innocence from her debut is less in evidence. GRADE: C+.

Jasmine Bonnin (West Germany): Zuhause (Pläne 88259, with inner and poster, 1981)
Jasmine Bonnin (lead vocals, handclaps)
For her third album, Bonnin dropped the adaptations of foreign songs and wrote or co-wrote nine originals. However, this concludes the musical transition begun on its predecessor: dropping her original folky style, this offers slick funky pop that’s accomplished, melodic, lightweight and utterly forgettable. Bonnin returned in 2005 with the album Sehn-süchtig, but I can’t say I’m particularly keen to obtain it. GRADE: C.

Jasmine Bonnin (Germany): Sehn-Süchtig (Quint-essence Musik LC 04188, CD, 2005)
Jasmine Bonnin (lead vocals, keyboards, drum programmes)
Unlike her earlier albums, this one is entirely self-penned and it’s possibly her most varied, as she uses several different teams of musicians. It’s also perhaps her most effective, varying from near-ambient moments to funky light rock, and is beautifully recorded too (though I can’t offer similar praise for the rather loud mastering). If it has a failing, like her earlier work it’s a touch insubstantial (especially as its 36 minutes include both vocal and instrumental versions of the same number), but it’s still an accomplished and enjoyable comeback. GRADE: C+.

See also Fenster

Jasmine Bonnin (Germany): Sehn-Süchtig (Quint-essence Musik LC 04188, CD, 2005)
Jasmine Bonnin (lead vocals, keyboards, drum programmes)
Unlike her earlier albums, this one is entirely self-penned and it’s possibly her most varied, as she uses several different teams of musicians. It’s also perhaps her most effective, varying from near-ambient moments to funky light rock, and is beautifully recorded too (though I can’t offer similar praise for the rather loud mastering). If it has a failing, like her earlier work it’s a touch insubstantial (especially as its 36 minutes include both vocal and instrumental versions of the same number), but it’s still an accomplished and enjoyable comeback. GRADE: C+.

See also Das Fenster

Book Of Intxixu (Spain): The Book Of Intxixu (Wah Wah LPS179, double, with book sleeve, 2016)
Leslie Mackenzie (joint lead vocals, percussion, tampura)
Whilst credited to ‘the Book Of Intxixu’, this is listed on the back cover as two solo albums by the creative minds behind Can AM Des Puig: My Immortality by Juan Arkotxa and My Moon Goddess Magic by Leslie Mackenzie. With both artists collaborating on each other’s material and the same backing musicians (though Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth appear only on Mackenzie’s disc), the style is pretty consistent. Stepping forward from The Book Of AM’s mystical psychedelic folk but adding electric rock arrangements and some progressive edges, it’s a lovely set that occasionally hints towards Gong and a number of modern acid-folk bands. Apparently ‘The Book Of Intxixu’ was a work published in Basque and Spanish in 1982, with an accompanying cassette by Artkotxa appearing a year later. However, these all appear to be modern recordings, masterminded by Will Z, featuring some of the final performances by Allen and Smyth (who is clearly audible at one point), though the arrangements for the first side of Arkotxa’s set were based on demos from 1978. As a footnote, another original Cam AM Des Puig member, Carmeta Mansilla, helps out on backing vocals. GRADE: B–.
See also Can AM Des Puig

Book Of Knots (USA): The Book Of Knots (Arclight AR05, CD, 2004)
Carla Kihlstedt (occasional vocals, violin), Megan Reilly (occasional vocals)
Matthias Bossi’s post-Sleepytime Gorilla Museum band has a rather similar sound, but with the metal and progressive edges downplayed somewhat, placing it more firmly in the avant-garde rock sphere. Although not a member of the core trio, Carla Kihlstedt contributed lead vocals and violin to two cuts and backing vocals to a third, whilst Megan Reilly sang ‘Frank’s Funeral’. Overall this doesn’t have the same jaw-dropping audacity as Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, but it’s nonetheless a fine and varied album with some good use of metal and industrial elements. GRADE: B–.
Book Of Knots (USA): Traineater (Arclight 86553-2, CD, with digipak and inserts, 2007)
Carla Kihlstedt (joint lead vocals, keyboards, violin, ukelin, charango, theremin, harmonica, bul-bul, marxophone, tapes), Carla Bozulich (occasional vocals), Megan Reilly (occasional vocals)
Recorded with Kihlstedt as a full band member and a host of guest singers, this is another interesting fusion of avant-rock, new wave, industrial and doom metal elements. GRADE: B–.
Book Of Knots (USA): Garden Of Fainting Stars (Ipecac Recordings IPC 127, CD, with digipak, 2011)
Carla Kihlstedt (joint lead vocals, organ, theremin, kalimba, violin, viola, harmonica, marxophone)
Again mixing industrial, electronic and metal influences, this is another powerful, varied, dramatic set. Frequent use of narration, found voices and sound effects creates a decidedly eerie mood, especially towards the end of the record. GRADE: B–.

See also Cosa Brava, Charming Hostess, Faun Fables, Carla Kihlstedt, Minamo, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Tin Hat Trio

Book Of Shadows (USA): Hanged Man (Whirling Rainbow, CDR, with minisleeve, 2004)
Sharon Crutcher (principal vocals, guitar, keyboards)
The dozen dreamy psychedelic jams that make up this disc don’t really go anywhere, but like a drive in the country without a destination they’re pleasurable in themselves. Sharon Crutcher’s gentle, echoed vocals provide the perfect finishing touch to an album that’s undeniable inconsequential but pretty beguiling at the same time. GRADE: C+.
Book Of Shadows (USA): IndigoM (No label, CDR, 2005)
Sharon Crutcher (lead vocals)
Consisting entirely of a single improvisation for a radio broadcast, this makes Hanged Man appear conventional by comparison. It’s never too cacophonous or too minimalist, with trippy electronics and echo effects being deployed well, but it’s also fair to say that nothing much happens here. GRADE: C+.
Book Of Shadows (USA): Mantis (Ethedrone Music, CD, 2005)
Sharon Crutcher (joint lead vocals), Lori Varga (joint lead vocals, Theremin)
Once again even more formless, this consists of long, spaced-out ambient industrial pieces with spoken vocals and Gilli Smyth-style space whispers laid over ebbing and flowing electronics. Occasionally it catches the attention, hinting towards a much weirder sidestep from Gong, but for the most part this does next to nothing and goes nowhere. GRADE: C.

Book Of Shadows (USA): You Were Seen In A Time Machine (Unfun UFR-045, CD, 2008)
Sharon Crutcher (lead vocals)
Their jams are much more interesting this time round, with the industrial edges mostly gone and their tripped-out soundscapes recalling everyone from the Grateful Dead to Nico. However, at nearly 77 minutes their lack of variety becomes obvious, and to these ears less would definitely have been more. GRADE: C+.
Book Of Shadows (USA): Eternal Now (200mg 042, CDR, with book sleeve, 2008)
Sharon Crutcher (lead vocals)
Once again, they sound like Gong gone-avant garde or early seventies Dead spacing out with Donna Godchaux vocalising wordlessly. Once again, this is interesting in small doses, but without any actual songs the whole thing is far too long. GRADE: C+.
Book Of Shadows (USA): 777 (Ikuisuus IKU-010, CD, with digipak and booklet, Finland, 2008)
Sharon Crutcher (lead vocals)
This album lives up to its track titles, including ‘We Have Entered The 4thDimension’, ‘Phosphorous Sea’ and ‘Hollow Earth’. Eerie, spacy, minimalisst and tripped-out, it should appeal to those who believe that the Grateful Dead had a tendency to get to the point far too quickly. GRADE: C+.

Book Of Shadows (USA): The Secret Garden (Folk Waste 11, CDR, with book sleeve, 2009)
Sharon Crutcher (joint lead vocals), Amanda Boutourline-Travis (joint lead vocals)
What makes this Book Of Shadows album special? Well, it’s got tunes, it has some variety and they even up the tempo from somnolent to relaxed in parts. Sure, it stills sound like the tail-end of a bunch of Grateful Dead jams before the song kicks back in, but it’s definitely one of their best. GRADE: C+.
Book Of Shadows (USA): The Morphail Effect (Instincto INO-042, CD, 2009)
Sharon Crutcher (joint lead vocals), Amanda Boutourline-Travis (joint lead vocals)
76 minutes of their usual cosmic sludge: some trippy, some industrial, some ambient. All mildly engaging; all completely inconsequential; all quickly forgotten. Whilst my rating suggests that this is inferior to previous releases, it isn’t: it’s simply that one can only listen to a dead horse being beaten for so long, and Book Of Shadows’ lack of artistic development meant I lost interest long before the end. GRADE: C.
Book Of Shadows (USA): The Bear Queen (Reverb Worship RW 085, CDR, with insert, 2009)
Sharon Crutcher (joint lead vocals), Amanda Boutourline-Travis (joint lead vocals)
This is no less rambling or diffuse than The Morphail Effect (it’s not like they’ve done anything radical like writing some songs!). However, it is a lot less boring. GRADE: C+.

Book Of Shadows (USA): Twelve Degree Chandelier (Tape Drift TD32, CDR, with minisleeve and booklet, 2010)
Sharon Crutcher (lead vocals)
This is the band at their most relaxed and spacy – all echoing guitar tones and glossolalia, multiplying infinitely and spreading out into the cosmos. It’s also one of their most consistently satisfying ventures. GRADE: C+.
Book Of Shadows (USA): Cosmic Sovereignty (Reverb Worship RW 120, with minisleeve and insert, 2010)
Sharon Crutcher (principal vocals)
This is one of their most varied ventures – each of their improvisations pulls in a slightly different direction, creating a wide range of moods and textures. As a result, it’s one of their best, suggesting they’ve hit something of a winning streak. GRADE: C+.

Book Of Shadows (USA): The Initiate (Folkwaste, cassette, Canada, 2015)
Sharon Crutcher
Limited to 19 copies (each with a unique wraparound paper sleeve bound with twine), this is the band’s rarest release by some margin. Book Of Shadows only get the first side, offering one of their typically formless cosmic improvisations, whilst the second is given over to Vishnu Woods. The latter’s music is actually more interesting, offering several short, varied instrumentals ranging from mournful solo piano to quasi-Kraftwerk to borderline industrial. GRADE: C+.

See also Sharon Crutcher

Booze Hoister Folk-Group (Holland): The More You Booze, The Double You See (Crossroad CR 477401, 1978)
Ina van Beek (joint lead vocals, percussion, kazoo)
This electric folk album, inspired largely by Liege And Lief-era Fairport Convention, is mostly pretty good and sometimes excellent. However, it relies far too heavily on jigs and reels, which make up a good deal of the material and result in the album sounding a little fractured and insubstantial. The best numbers by far are the pleasant original ‘Day-dream’ and a superb version of ‘High Germany’.

Booze Hoister Band (Holland): Tavern Tales (Peace Pie XLP-PP 33/ST/150980, with insert, 1980)
Ina van Beek (lead vocals, percussion)
Their second and final album sensibly prioritises songs over instrumentals, with the talented Ina van Beek taking all the lead vocals, and includes a few stunning numbers with a dreamy, symphonic, almost neoclassical feel. Both the traditional material and original compositions are interpreted superbly, so despite a couple of more throwaway numbers this is decidedly the better and more satisfying of their two releases. GRADE: B–.

BORB (USA): Trailer Full Of Smoke (Twisted Village TW-1011, 1992)
Kate Biggar
BORB – or Bongloads Of Righteous Boo, to give them their full name – are another offshoot of Crystalized Movements, with a sound close to the interconnected Vermonster. The back cover inscription ‘improvised to two-track by Tom, Wayne and Kate’ sums it up well: these are freeform freakouts drenched in effects, and without structure or purpose, taking one aspect of the Velvet Underground’s sound to its furthest conclusion. GRADE: C+.
BORB (USA): Blast Off With BORB (Twisted Village TW-1022, 1993)
Kate Biggar (lead vocals, guitar)
As weird and formless as its predecessor, this is an uncompromising and single-minded set, though there’s a definite limit to how creative this kind of thing can be. GRADE: C+.

BORB (USA): In Orbit (Twisted Village TW-1036, CD, 1995)
Kate Biggar
Recorded in 1993 but not released until two years later, this is by far BORB’s most interesting and adventurous outing. The scrappy jamming of old is replaced by a five-part suite that mixes their usual style with more relaxed cosmic passages and moments of pure avant-gardism with slight hints of free jazz. The results are a bit diffuse and not everything works brilliantly, but this certainly stands head and shoulders above their other work. GRADE: C+.
See also Crystalized Movements, Heathen Shame, Magic Hour, Major Stars, Various ‘Deep Funnels Of Entry – A Twisted Village Compilation’, Various ‘Marvelous Sound Forms’, Vermonster, Kate Village & Wayne Rogers, Wormdoom

Christian Boulé (France): Photo Musik (Polydor 2473 086, with inner, 1978)
Andy Slatin (principal vocals), Géraldine André (occasional vocals, saxophone)
A common view of the late Christian Boulé is that he was the French Steve Hillage (or more uncharitably, a poor man’s Steve Hillage). That’s somewhat unfair: he enjoyed a prolific career in his own right, including the Clearlight and Delired Chameleon Family projects (not to mention playing with Hillage himself). Indeed, the only cut here that sounds like a Hillage pastiche is ‘Inter Galactic Cosmic Triolet [sic]’, though the whole album operates in much the same area. It never equals Hillage’s best work, with more of a pop edge and less of a tendency to stretch out and jam (which is a shame, as the jams are the best bits). Apparently his Delired Chameleon Family colleague Valérie Lagrange was supposed to provide the vocals, but her record company objected so she was replaced by American Andy Slatin, who does an adequate (but no better) job. GRADE: B–.
Christian Boulé (France): Non-Fiction (Polydor 2393 277, 1979)
Andy Slatin (principal vocals)
Mirroring the transition seen in Hillage’s solo albums, Boulé’s second and final solo set is more accessible and commercial than his first. In fact, this is essentially funky, slightly trippy pop music: engaging and entertaining but pretty lightweight and throwaway. GRADE: C+.
See also Urban Sax

Bow Street Runners (USA): Bow Street Runners (BT Puppy BTPS 1026, 1970)
An oddity in record collecting circles: for years it wasn’t especially rare, yet it consistently seemed to sell for big money. For the most part, it’s pretty good psychedelia, peaking on the dreamy ‘Electric Star’ and ‘Another Face’, but it also takes in blues/rock, pop and even jazzy stuff. Overall, it sounds like more like a compilation of tracks recorded over several years than a true studio album, especially since two cuts have female vocals and the remainder male (without any female harmonies). GRADE: C+.

Bowery Electric (USA): Bowery Electric (Kranky KRANK 007, CD, 1995)
Post Rock/Psychedelic
Martha Schwendener (joint lead vocals, bass)
Drawing heavily from My Bloody Valentine in particular and the shoegaze scene in general, this minimalist set of space-rock drones isn’t especially original or varied. However, it is superbly crafted, with some wonderful languid grooves, placing it towards the peak of nineties space-rock. GRADE: B–.
Bowery Electric (USA): Beat (Kranky KRANK 014, CD, 1996)
Post Rock/Psychedelic
Martha Schwendener (joint lead vocals, bass, keyboards)
The loss of their full-time drummer isn’t a bonus; a guest helps out on four tracks, but the rest have echoing programmed percussion hinting at trip-hop. But really, the issue here is the album’s über-minimalism: nothing much actually happens in these indistinguishable grooves, and as is typical for the genre the vocals (and by extension, the melody lines) are buried so deep in the mix as to be almost subterranean. Nonetheless, they definitely have a certain something that places them ahead of most other bands in the style, and this is nothing if not atmospheric. GRADE: C+.
Bowery Electric (USA): Vertigo (Beggars Banquet BBQ31 5CDD, double CD, with gatefold minisleeve, UK, 1997)
Post Rock/Psychedelic
Martha Schwendener
This odd release – coupling an EP running for around 15 minutes with an album running for about an hour – features remixes of five Beat tracks (with ‘Fear Of Flying’ appearing in three different versions and ‘Black Light’ twice) plus the new ‘Elementary Particles’. With much of the material (pretty minimalist to begin with) teased out ad infinitum, it’s occasionally interesting but more often rather tedious. GRADE: C.
Bowery Electric (USA): Lushlife (Beggars Banquet BBQCD 213, CD, 1999)
Post Rock/Psychedelic
Martha Schwendener (lead vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards)
The band’s final album again has significant trip-hop elements, coupled with a trippy atmosphere and a few pop touches. It’s a nice enough set, with a much brighter and more commercial sound than anything they’d done before. GRADE: C+.
See also Echostar

Bowles Bros (UK): Roger Buys A Fridge (Decca TXS 127, 1978)
Sue Jones-Davis (joint lead vocals)
In case you ever wondered what Julian Smedley (and colleague Charlie Lupton, who appears on one cut) got up to after Oberon, here’s your answer. Despite the name, this is a five-piece band rather than a duo, and equally oddly there’s only one Bowles in the line-up. Musically, this is folky smooth jazz, as its best sounding like a semi-unplugged Steely Dan and its worst like a pastiche of Manhattan Transfer. As such, it’s somewhat patchy, but it contains three or four decent pieces. GRADE: C.

Box (Canada): D’Après Le Horla De Maupassant (Passeport PAS-CD-1228, CD, with digipak, 2009)
Isabelle Lemay (backing vocals)
Quite how this good-natured sympho-prog album relates to Maupassant’s dark masterpiece, I have no idea – it would have taken somebody like Art Zoyd or Univers Zéro to have brought his nightmarish vision to life – but it’s nonetheless a fine disc. GRADE: B–.
See also Ville Emard Blues Band

Box Of Crayons (USA): Colorblind Chameleon (WMMS 073, CD, Germany, 1997)
Nancy Kaye (occasional vocals)
The opening ‘Calico’ is a straightforward folky ballad, but Colorblind Chameleon quickly becomes much weirder, taking in elements of ambient, jazz, metal, symphonic classical music and the avant-garde on its various songs. Whilst it’s mildly interesting, the results are pretty incoherent and the material generally quite lightweight. Nancy Kaye is not heavily featured, appearing only on ‘Mona Lisa’. GRADE: C+.
See also Harlequin Mass, Lal Meri, Talamasca, Various ‘Beyond Rock’

Joe Bozzi Quintet (USA): On Stage (Norman MK 77-620, 1977)
Michelle Cardillo (lead vocals)
Despite the title, this lounge act’s sole album sounds like a studio recording. I like the jazzy, funky instrumentals a lot more than the loungier songs, but this has plenty to interest genre fans. GRADE: C+.

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