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Bracken (UK): Prince Of The Northlands (Look LKLP 6438, with insert, 1979)
Folk
Julie Dunbar (joint lead vocals)
With several unaccompanied tracks, and simple acoustic backing on others, this is a pleasant but rather generic traditional folk album. In fact, its only unusual feature is Julie Dunbar’s vocals – unlike most female folk singers, she does not have a high, crystalline voice, but deep, commanding alto tones. GRADE: C.

Brainticket (Belgium/Switzerland/UK/West Germany): Cottonwoodhill (Hallelujah/Bellaphon BLPS 19019, West Germany, 1971)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Dawn Muir (lead vocals)
The most legendary of Krautrock bands (despite having only one German member) debuted with a truly astounding piece of work. The brilliant ‘Black Sand’ is catchy, funky psych and the equally impressive ‘Places Of Light’ is dreamy, trippy psych (with an eerie semi-spoken vocal that sounds like Joanna Lumley performing underwater) but the twenty-six minute ‘Brainticket’ is the centrepiece here. Over a repetitious fuzzed organ riff (which sounds like a sample, but clearly wasn’t given the era) and scratchy funk elements, the band overlay manic sound effects and occasional snatches of classical music, topped with Dawn Muir’s cut-glass English voice recalling an acid trip. Not for nothing is this astounding performance considered one of the most extreme psychedelic experiences ever committed to vinyl. GRADE: A.
Brainticket (Belgium/Switzerland/USA): Psychonaut (Bellaphon BLPS 19104, West Germany, 1972)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Jane Free (joint lead vocals, percussion, whistle, effects), Carole Muriel (occasional vocals)
This doesn’t have the shock value of its predecessor, but it’s a good deal more varied. ‘Radagacuca’ opens the album in an almost new age-ish vein, whilst ‘Watchin’ You’ starts out as hard acid-rock and ends up as a haunting raga; everything climaxes with the superb, rather eerie instrumental ‘Co’co Mary’, led by flute, Hammond organ and pounding drums. As with their first, this is a short LP, but it achieves more in just over half-an-hour than most albums manage in double that time. GRADE: B.
Brainticket (Belgium/Switzerland/USA): Celestial Ocean (RCA DLISP 34158, with poster, Italy, 1973)
Progressive/Psychedelic/New Age
Carole Muriel (principal vocals, synthesiser, zither, generator)In some ways, Brainticket’s third represents a step forward from ‘Co’co Mary’, with the same mantric jamming feel extended across much of the album, but it’s far more eccentric than Psychonaut, with little in the way of conventional songs. For the first time, they’re using synthesisers heavily, and this marks the beginning of Joël Vandroogenbroeck’s interest in new age music, but despite the ethnic elements and spoken voices whispering platitudes in English and French it’s all too trippy and unpredictable to be pigeonholed as meditational music. Ultimately, choosing a favourite Brainticket album is a difficult task –Cottonwoodhill is the most original and challenging, Psychonaut is the most varied and Celestial Ocean is the most hypnotic. Together, they add up to a truly exceptional oeuvre, and it’s a pity that the musicians did not continue in this direction, or on this level. GRADE: B.

Brainticket With Stephanie Wolff (Switzerland/Belgium): New Age Concert (Sphinx Tapes 3 85914 702 1, cassette, Switzerland, 1985)
Progressive/World Music/New Age
Stephanie Wolff (lead vocals, synthesiser, tambura)
The title says it all – don’t buy this expecting wild psychedelia in the style of Cottonwoodhill or even mystical psychedelia in the style of Celestial Oceans. The latter, however, clearly demonstrated Brainticket’s direction of travel, and whilst ‘new age’ is an accurate enough descriptor for this, it’s also pretty trippy. This lengthy release features to sets by Brainticket (one with Stephanie Wolff and the other without), each of around half an hour, an 11-minute solo piece by Wolff and ten minutes of ethnic percussion. The mixture of Brainticket’s twittering synthesisers and glistening soundscapes with Wolff’s overtone singing and ethnic instrumentation is intriguing, and the recording is superb; the results are both magical and tranquil, even if the music frequently meanders. GRADE: C+.
Brainticket (Belgium/USA): Alchemic Universe (Hologram HOL 2001, CD, USA, 2000)
Progressive/New Age
Carole Muriel (lead vocals)
Whilst this could be seen as a step forward from Celestial Ocean, it should arguably have been released as a Joël Vandroogenbroeck solo album rather than a Brainticket project: he plays all the instruments (essentially synthesisers and drum machines), whilst Carole Muriel’s spoken vocals are fairly infrequent. With full band arrangements, this could have been an interesting album and the follow-up Celestial Ocean deserved, but as it is it’s all rather thin-sounding. GRADE: C+.
Brainticket (Belgium/Switzerland/USA): Live In Rome 1973 (Cleopatra CLP 6611, 2011, recorded 1973)
Progressive/Psychedelic/New Age
Carole Muriel (lead vocals, synthesiser, zither)
First issued as part of the superb Vintage Anthology boxed set, then quickly released in its own right, this remarkable archive performance features the Celestial Ocean line-up performing most of the album plus a few jams. It’s all spacy and tripped-out to the max, apart from a long piano solo that surprisingly resembles Renaissance, with good though not flawless sound quality. Quite simply, this is a classic, indicating the remarkable quality of the band’s early seventies material. GRADE: B.
Brainticket (USA/Belgium): Space Rock Invasion (Cleopatra CLP 8809, double DVD, with insert, 2012)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Abby Travis (principal vocals, bass, percussion)
Reforming Brainticket with a new line-up of American musicians, band leader Joël Vandroogenbroeck turned in one of the most stunning live DVDs that I have ever seen. The only pity is that it’s not all Brainticket: they get half a DVD (an eight-song set plus an interview) with the remainder being given over to Nektar and Huw Lloyd-Langton. Nonetheless, this is breathtaking stuff both visually and aurally, with absolutely amazing performances of material from their first three albums. GRADE: A.

Brainticket (USA/Belgium): Past Present And Future (Cleopatra CLP 2069, CD, USA, 2015)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Kyrsten Bean (joint lead vocals, guitar), Kephera Moon (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
Unlike Alchemic Universe, this is a true band effort, though like the live DVD Vandroogenbroeck’s collaborators are all new and all American (despite there being no musicians in common). Like the live shows, this has a muscular, slightly funky sound, with the material mostly consisting of long instrumental jams occasionally interspersed with Kyrsten Bean and Kyphera Moon channelling Dawn Muir via Abby Travis. Taken on their own terms, the jams work well: they’re trippy, spacy and atmospheric, even if they tend to ramble a bit. However, it’s impossible not to compare this to the original Brainticket, and this doesn’t recapture the audacity, the great songwriting or the weird, sacred atmospheres of CottonwoodhillPsychonaut and Celestial Ocean respectively, though it does blow Alchemic Universe out of the water.

GRADE: B–.
See also Drum Circus

Bramante & Cross (USA): When The Music’s On (Scold SMP-1009, 1972)
Folk/Rock
Joanne Bramante (occasional vocals, percussion), Phyllis Bramante (occasional vocals, percussion)
Despite the credit, this was actually a quartet rather than a duo, comprising three Bramantes and one Cross. Their LP is a charming rural folk affair, somewhere between Crosby Stills & Nash and the acoustic end of late sixties Jefferson Airplane in style, plus occasional hints of Collective Tools. The mood is ragged and communal and the harmonies are sometimes off-key, but to me this simply adds to the charm of a delightful record with a couple of really excellent songs. GRADE: C+.

Brân (UK): Ail-Ddechra (Sain 1038M, 1975)
Folk/Rock
Nést Howells (principal vocals, keyboards)
Alternating between fuzz guitar-driven basement hard rock and beautiful, flowing acid-folk, this Welsh LP is somewhat schizophrenic but generally very interesting. It followed an even rarer four-track EP issued on the local Gwawr label the previous year. GRADE: B–.
Brân (UK): Hedfan (Sain 1070M, 1976)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Nést Howells (principal vocals, keyboards)
A huge step forward from their debut, this magnificent record is possibly the best album ever to come out of Wales. The music is a seamless blend of West Coast psychedelia, progressive rock and acid-folk, almost like a mixture of Jefferson Airplane, early seventies Fleetwood Mac and Clannad. Picking individual tracks is almost impossible, but the opening ‘Nodau Hud’ is especially astonishing, with howling slide guitars and sudden shifts of mood and tempo, and the closing ‘Hiraeth’ is exceptionally beautiful and uplifting. Nést Howells quit the band before the recording of their third and final LP, and later featured prominently on the first album by Pererin, far and away the best acid-folk band of the early eighties. GRADE: A–.
See also Pererin

Chris Braun Band (West Germany): Both Sides (BASF 20 21399-4, 1972)
Rock/Progressive
Chris Braun (lead vocals)
Fronted by the talented singer and songwriter Chris Braun, the band offers well-crafted bluesy rock with progressive and psychedelic edges, often sounding like a straighter Frumpy or Tomorrow’s Gift. Hints of Julie Driscoll, Chris Harwood and Linda Hoyle can also be discerned among the varied mid-length songs, which feature some good tempo changes and some energetic rock jamming. As all those comparisons suggest, this is a slightly generic record, but it’s also an excellent one and anyone liking early seventies rock should thoroughly enjoy this. GRADE: C+.
Chris Braun Band (West Germany): Foreign Lady (Pan 87 856 IT, with inner, 1973)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive
Chris Braun (lead vocals)
Recorded with a somewhat different line-up, their second album is both much jazzier and much proggier, with tracks of up to nine-and-a-half minutes. With light funk, soul and pop edges here and there, this isn’t the most significant or ambitious LP, but it’s an accomplished and enjoyable period piece that takes a few risks (notably the weird semi-improvised closer ‘Be Proud’). GRADE: C+.
Chris Braun Band (West Germany): Soundtrack Aus ‘Jede Menge Kohle’ (CBS 70208, 1981)
Rock
Chris Braun
Playing at 45rpm and running for around 17 minutes, this film soundtrack was the band’s first release for eight years. After a hard rock song (strongly recalling Maggie Bell’s post-Stone The Crows outfit Midnight Flyer) and a lighter soulful number with a fifties flavour, the album offers a brace of short instrumentals that are pleasant but utterly inconsequential. Whilst this is by no means a bad record, there’s precious little meat on its bones. GRADE: C.
Chris Braun Band (West Germany): Ultra Braun (EMI 1C 064-65 050, with inner, 1983)
Pop/Rock
Chris Braun
Braun bowed out with this undistinguished album of light new wave-influenced rock, which displays most of the traits of the time (including extensive synthesisers and electronic drums, funky guitars and faux-reggae rhythms). Along the way, the band even take in a stab at a Kraftwerk pastiche on ‘Kredit, Kredit’, complete with robotic vocals from one of the male members. This kind of new wave/rock hybrid brought international success for fellow German singer Nena, but Braun never recorded again. GRADE: D+.

Brave New World (UK): Brave New World (No label, CDR, 2018?)
Rock/Psychedelic
Jenny Lynch Lewis (keyboards, backing vocals)
With a running time of 16 minutes, this EP features three songs of melodic trippy rock – mostly mellow and relaxed, though they can rock out pretty effectively too. It’s all charming and likeable stuff, and another 16 minutes would have been very welcome. GRADE: C+.
Brave New World (UK): Alice (No label, CDR, 2018?)
Rock/Psychedelic
Jenny Lynch Lewis (occasional vocals, keyboards)
Whilst retaining the slight indie edge of their first, their second EP is more blatantly psychedelic, sounding like a homage to the neo-psych of the eighties and nineties (rather than original sixties practitioners). As a footnote, this is a little more substantial than their first (five songs – including two versions of ‘Alice’ itself – in 2s minutes) but still nowhere near a full album. GRADE: C+.
Brave New World Band (UK): The Laddie (Lathe Cut House #3, clear vinyl, autographed, with posters, bag, trinkets, envelope and card, 2020)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic/Progressive
Jenny Lynch Lewis (joint lead vocals), Lydia Twigger (joint lead vocals)
There’s a strange modern tendency to offer small amounts of music with incredibly elaborate packaging – a case in point is an instrumental metal band (whose name temporarily eludes me) that only releases singles in insanely limited (and insanely packaged) quantities. This lathe-cut release, limited to 20 copies, is also a case in point: its autographed sleeve, two full-colour posters, cloth bag containing occult trinkets, and miniature tarot card in an envelope house a single track lasting nine-and-a-half minutes. But what a track it is: ‘The Laddie’ represents a complete change of direction for Brave New World and can only be described as the ultimate modern folk horror trip, eclipsing just about anything else I’ve heard in the style. Creating a pagan seventies-style Pentangle-meets-‘The Wicker Man’ vibe with its ethereal vocals,  delicate guitars, mournful solo horn and eerie sound effects, this is pretty much flawless in terms of quality. I just wish they’d delivered more than the one song. GRADE: B.

Bread & Roses (UK): Mr Fox’s Garden (Dragon DRG911, 1981)
Folk
Alison Fenner (joint lead vocals, concertina), Sheila March (joint lead vocals, guitar, harmonica), Sarah Morgan (joint lead vocals, concertina), Alison Muir (joint lead vocals, drum)
Focusing on four-part harmony singing, with musical accompaniment sparse if not non-existent, Bread & Roses display a definite fondness for New World material and influences. It’s all impeccably done, and very pleasant listening, but you’d have to like acapella singing and American folk a lot more than I do to love this. GRADE: C+.

Bread, Love & Dreams (UK): Bread, Love And Dreams (Decca LK / SKL 5008, 1969)
Folk/Psychedelic
Angie Rew (joint lead vocals, guitar, organ, drums), Carolyn Davis (joint lead vocals, guitar, bass, tambourine, horn)
This mainly acoustic multi-instrumental trio (a man and two women) provide all the accompaniment themselves, but a string section is used prominently on most cuts. The strings give their gentle, haunting songs a quaint, dated sound, even for 1969, that makes the LP quite distinctive. It can also be a little precious, though that’s hardly uncommon for hippie-folk, but for the most part their winsome material works very well. GRADE: C+.
Bread, Love & Dreams (UK): The Strange Tale Of Captain Shannon And The Hunchback From Gigha (Decca LK / SKL 5048, 1970)
Folk/Psychedelic
Angie Rew (joint lead vocals, guitar, percussion)
The band’s second album sees them slimmed down to a duo (with ex-member Carolyn Davis appearing only on her own song, ‘Purple Hazy Melancholy’) but backed by a rhythm section, which ups the rock quotient considerably. Like their debut, it’s a bit twee in parts, including a musical setting of ‘The Lobster Quadrille’, with Davis’s sole contribution ironically being the best thing on offer. As a footnote, this is one of those odd albums with nearly all the lead vocals mixed off-centre, so the rare mono pressing (which I haven’t encountered) might be a better bet. GRADE: C+.
Bread, Love & Dreams (UK): Amaryllis (Decca SKL 5081, 1971)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Angie Rew (joint lead vocals, guitar, percussion)
This was recorded simultaneously with The Strange Tale Of Captain Shannon… and the band was keen to release a double album comprising all the material, but Decca refused. This was a sensible decision, since the two LPs (rather surprisingly) sound completely unalike. Much less quaint and dated than their first two releases, Amaryllis is a beautiful and very creative folk/rock album, dominated by the ambitious and complex side-long title suite. The four shorter songs on the second side are also far superior to anything they had recorded before, with the haunting ‘Brother John’ in particular standing out. Even the off-centre vocals work well, with David McNiven and Angie Rew’s voices complementing one another perfectly, especially on ‘Amaryllis’ itself. Hardly surprisingly, this is by far the band’s most sought-after and expensive album.. GRADE: B–.
See also Wildcat

Breakout (Poland): Na Drugim Brzegu Teczy (Pronit XL 0531, 1969)
Blues/Rock/Psychedelic
Mira Kubasinska (joint lead vocals)
The band formerly known as Blackout returns with a new name and a more contemporary style – whilst traces of their beat group roots remain, this is mostly blues/rock with some psychedelic and slight progressive edges. The opening ‘Poszlabym Za Toba’, with its sparse, powerful riffs and flute break, is particularly good, but overall the songs are not as strong as the playing. GRADE: C+.
Breakout (Poland): 70a (Muza SXL 0603, 1970)
Blues/Rock/Progressive
Mira Kubasinska (joint lead vocals)
This is the band’s bluesiest album, mixing in influences from jazz and a few elements of progressive rock. With several lengthy tracks featuring excellent instrumental improvisations, it’s a fine LP. GRADE: C+.
Mira Kubasinska & Breakout (Poland): Mira (Muza SXL 0778, 1971)
Blues/Rock/Progressive
Mira Kubasinska (lead vocals)
Somewhat less bluesy than its predecessor, this sees the band moving towards hard rock on several tracks, although there are a few acoustic cuts. Overall it’s a strong LP, and probably their most mature work to date. GRADE: C+.
Mira Kubasinska & Breakout (Poland): Ogien (Muza SXL 1004, 1973)
Blues/Rock/Progressive
Mira Kubasinska (lead vocals)
This is the best of the Breakout albums, offering some really excellent bluesy prog. The thirteen-minute ‘Wielki Ogien’ is quite sublime, but several other tracks are of a very high standard, making for a consistently satisfying LP. GRADE: B–.
Breakout (Poland): Niezidentyfikowany Obiekt Latajacy (Muza SX 1300, 1975)
Rock/Progressive
Mira Kubasinska (principal vocals)
A couple of rather bland ballads aside, this is a fine funky, groovy, proggy rock LP, with a lively, intricate sound hinting towards Bare Trees-era Fleetwood Mac, Hedfan-era Brân or a number of Southern Rock acts. For sure, it won’t win any prizes for originality, but it’s simply a great album, with absolutely superb recording quality to boot. GRADE: B–.
Breakout (Poland): Zidentyfikowany Obiekt Latajacy (Muza SX 1766, 1979)
Blues/Rock
Mira Kubasinska (joint lead vocals)
This is as beautifully recorded as its similarly named predecessor, but is musically much more straightforward, consisting of short, bluesy rock songs. It’s a solid album, and occasionally a striking one thanks to the superb sound, but also a definite step down in terms of ambition and quality. GRADE: C+.
Breakout (Poland): Zagiel Ziemi (Pronit SX 1821, 1979)
Rock
Mira Kubasinska (joint lead vocals)
Their final album is a mixed bag of light rock, from bluesy stuff to borderline rock and roll to marginal prog borrowing heavily from Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ (‘Maraton’) – all perfectly pleasant but pretty inconsequential, and a bit of a disappointment after a run of strong LPs. Band leader Tadeusz Nalepa apparently reformed Breakout in 1993 with a different female singer to cut a comeback album (Jestes W Piekle, Bogdan Studio CD B-002, CD), but I’ve never come across it. GRADE: C+.
See also Blackout, Mira Kubasinska

Breathing Space (UK): Coming Up For Air (No label BS0701CD, CD, 2007)
Rock
Olivia Sparnenn (lead vocals)
This Mostly Autumn offshoot offers mellow soft rock with a high degree of professionalism but without the inspired songwriting to make this stand out from thousands of similar albums. GRADE: C.
Breathing Space (UK): Below The Radar (No label BS0901CD, CD, 2009)
Rock
Olivia Spanenn (lead vocals, percussion)
After the first couple of tracks, it sounds as though they’ve really hit their stride – this is still predictable mainstream rock, but with great tunes, gutsy performances and a powerful production. But as the album continues, their disadvantages become more obvious, especially

via the presence of several uninspired and uninspiring power ballads. GRADE: C.
Breathing Space (UK): Below The Radar Live (No label BS1004PR, double CD, 2010)
Rock
Olivia Sparnenn (lead vocals, percussion)
Filled with twenty longish tracks of their usual melodic stadium rock and power ballads, this live set feels almost interminable. GRADE: C–.
See also Iain Jennings, Mostly Autumn

Máire Brennan (Ireland): Máire (RCA PD 75358, CD, UK, 1992)
Folk/Rock
Máire Brennan (lead vocals, keyboards, harp)
The Clannad vocalist’s first and best solo album is very similar to the parent band, albeit with a couple of cuts using a heavier, more drum-based style. Just about everything is self-penned, and the music is consistently good, but like all the Clannad albums after the mid-eighties, this is really all variations on the band’s Magical Ring and Macalla LPs. GRADE: C+.
Máire Brennan (Ireland): Misty Eyed Adventures (RCA 7432 123355 2, CD, UK, 1994)
Folk/Rock
Máire Brennan (lead vocals, keyboards, harp)
With a much trendier sound, Brennan’s second solo set combines elements of Celtic, African and occasionally Arabian music, featuring very high-tech arrangements. The problem is that although pleasant it’s generic and dull, and to make matters worse this is a long album. However, the original compositions are far preferable to her lazy techno-folk cover of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’. GRADE: C.
Máire Brennan (Ireland): Perfect Time (Word MCD 60052, CD, UK, 1998)
Folk/Rock
Máire Brennan (lead vocals, keyboards, harp)
Switching to the long-established Christian label Word, Brennan unsurprisingly included lyrics relating to her faith for the first time. This is a better album than Misty Eyed Adventures, with a more timeless sound more closely recalling Clannad. But as this description suggests, no new ground is broken here, and in parts this is a touch too hymn-like, though the one instrumental is very pleasant. GRADE: C+.
Máire Brennan (Ireland): Whisper To The Wild Water (Word 157 560-2, CD, UK, 1999)
Folk/Rock
Máire Brennan (principal vocals, keyboards, harp)
With a pleasingly laid-back and consistent mood, this is probably her best solo set after her debut. In addition to the thirteen credited tracks, there’s also a hidden bonus cut featuring her duetting with Michael McDonald on a rather lugubrious version of ‘Don’t Give Up’. GRADE: C+.
Margaret Becker, Máire Brennan & Joanne Hogg (USA/Ireland/UK): In Christ Alone – New Hymns Of Prayer And Worship (Worship Together 7243 8 20376/WTD 20376, CD, UK, 2001)
Margaret Becker (joint lead vocals), Máire Brennan (joint lead vocals), Joanne Hogg (joint lead vocals)
Folk/Rock
Uniting the vocalists of Clannad and Iona with Margaret Becker (apparently an American Christian singer/songwriter), this collaboration features all-original material composed with pianist, arranger and producer Keith Getty. With most of Iona providing the backing, plus a host of other musicians, this unsurprisingly sounds like a more MOR hybrid of Iona and Clannad, featuring some attractive songs but also a fair degree of filler. GRADE: C.
Moya Brennan (Ireland): Two Horizons (Universal 980 106-8, CD, EU, 2003)
Folk/Rock
Máire Brennan (lead vocals, keyboards, harp)
This is another good album, with a more ethereal and Clannad-like mood than much of her solo work. But whilst consistently enjoyable and frequently beautiful, it unsurprisingly goes nowhere and isn’t very varied – despite being extremely long (fifteen songs plus a bonus remix of ‘Show Me’). As a footnote, from here onwards Brennan followed her sister Enya (Eithne) in adopting a phonetic spelling of her forename. GRADE: C+.

Moya Brennan & Band (Ireland): Óró – A Live Session (BMG Music GOL001, CD, 2005)

Folk/Rock

Máire Brennan (principal vocals, harp)

Sold only at live concerts, this is Brennan’s rarest release – and one of her best. Despite the name and circumstances, this sees her performing in the studio rather than on stage, but the live recording adds depth and presence to her material, avoiding the self-conscious gauziness of her studio albums. I was torn whether to grade this as a B– or a C+ as it’s more-or-less on the cusp – the presence of a few more old  classics like ‘Dulamán’ would have pushed it way over the line – but it’s consistently lovely and shows her at her ethereal best, so I’ll go with the former. GRADE: B–.
Moya Brennan (Ireland): An Irish Christmas (Beo FIERCD19, CD, 2005)
Folk/Rock
Máire Brennan (lead vocals, keyboards, harp)
Albums of Christmas carols are certainly not a favourite of mine, and it sometimes seems as though every vaguely folkish artist has attempted one. But Brennan at least manages to recast the material into her own mould, creating an accomplished LP that can be enjoyed at any time of year. GRADE: C+.
Moya Brennan (Ireland): Signature (Fierce! FIERCD31, CD, EU, 2006)
Folk/Rock
Máire Brennan (lead vocals, keyboards, harp)
I had been hoping that the opening ‘Purple Haze’ would be a cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic – whilst probably gruesome, it would have been fascinating to hear Brennan reinterpret it in her usual semi-mystical Celtic folky soft rock mode. In fact, it’s self-penned, like everything here, and the album delivers no surprises. GRADE: C+.
Moya Brennan (Ireland): Heart Strings (Beo FIERCD43, CD, with digipak, booklet and insert, 2010)
Folk/Rock
Máire Brennan (lead vocals, harp)
As the punning title implies, this live album was recorded with the string section of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. It concentrates mostly on solo material, plus a couple of predictable Clannad numbers (‘In A Lifetime’ and an uncredited ‘Theme From “Harry’s Game”’). The result is another pleasant, mellow album that never defies expectations. GRADE: C+.
Moya Brennan & Cormac De Barra (Ireland): Voices And Harps (Beo BEOCD004, CD, with digipak, 2011)
Folk/Rock
Máire Brennan (principal vocals, keyboards, percussion, harp)
When I first encountered this, I wondered whether it might comprise music solely for voices and harps. In fact, Brennan and De Barra both also contribute keyboards and percussion, and there are quite a number of backing musicians. The end results are virtually indistinguishable from almost any Clannad album from Magical Ring onwards – lovely, dreamy stuff but nothing Brennan hasn’t done countless times before. GRADE: C+.
Moya Brennan & Cormac De Barra (Ireland): Affinity (Beo BEOCD005, CD, with digipak, 2013)
Folk/Rock
Máire Brennan (principal vocals, keyboards, harp)
This is in the same vein as its predecessor, but both more accomplished and more beautiful. In fact, it contains some of Brennan’s best work in years. GRADE: C+.

Moya Brennan (Ireland): Canvas (Beo BEOCD010, CD, 2017)
Folk/Rock
Máire Brennan (lead vocals, keyboards, harp)
For a Máire Brennan album to deliver any surprises would be surprising in itself, and this doesn’t. In fact, it’s the same blissed-out dreamy Celtic folk/rock that she’s been delivering both solo and with Clannad since the early eighties – all beautiful stuff, frequently quite haunting and very possibly one of her better works, but after a while it gets hard to tell. GRADE: C+.
See also Clannad, T With The Maggies

Breznev Fun Club (Italy): L’Onda Vertebrata – Lost + Found Vol. I (AMS 191 CD, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2010)
Jazz/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Giuliana Di Mitrio (joint lead vocals), Maria Mianulli (flute), Angela Schiralli (cello)
Composed between 1990 and 1996 but not recorded until 2010, this is a hugely ambitious suite of music divided into several movements and performed by a fourteen-piece band. Whilst there’s a strong RIO influence at play, this is probably closer to modern jazz than to prog, with significant classical tinges too. If it has a failing, it’s that the various elements don’t coalesce that well, making the album impressive and sometimes breathtaking but slightly less than the sum of its parts. GRADE: B–.

Breznev Fun Club (Italy): Il Misantropo Felice (Altrock ALT - 047, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2015)
Jazz/Classical/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Giuliana Di Mitrio (lead vocals), Simona Armenise (guitar, mandolin), Grazia De Vito Francesco (violin), Paola De Candia (cello)
The band’s second album is an almost continuous suite of music that once again draws heavily on jazz but is often as close to classical. Relaxed, atmospheric and mellow, it’s an interesting and unusual addition to the RIO canon. Whilst Giuliana Di Mitrio is credited with vocals, I don’t recall hearing any: if she does appear on the album, it’s only fleetingly. GRADE: B–.

Bridge (USA): Jesus Is The Bridge (Good GTE-5008, 1972)
Rock
Alisa Summers (occasional vocals, keyboards), Penny Bycroft (occasional vocals, organ, tambourine), Carolyn Eldridge (occasional vocals)
Only rediscovered a few years ago, this obscure Christian band’s sole album is a listenable enough rock affair with a loose, garage feel. However, despite some good fuzz guitar chords on ‘Look Right Up’ (probably the best cut, although the female-sung ‘I’m On My Way’ isn’t bad too) it’s a bit short on invention or excitement. GRADE: C.

Bridges (UK): Bridges (New City London MID 1367, 1971)
Folk/Pop
Catherine Beer, Lesley Ellison, Joanna Gueritz, Therese Henderson, Therese Lee
Alternating bright and breezy singalong folk/pop and more introspective ballads, both with Christian lyrics, this obscure album has a naïve charm and some pleasant original material. Band member Paul Gateshill went on to form Presence, whose album will be of much greater interest to acid-folk collectors. GRADE: C.

Bric A Brac (Chile): Los Bric A Brac (RCA CML-2558, 1967)
Beat
Paz Undurraga
Fans of beat and harmony pop will find plenty to enjoy here: the album has a lovely period ambience and plenty of trebly organ. Even better, it’s not burdened with overbearing strings or any MOR edges, making for a consistently enjoyable set. Oddly, the 1998 CD Lo Mejor (Warner Music 740 001046 2) isn’t a compilation as its name implies, but a straight reissue of this LP with a non-album single and its B-side appended. GRADE: C+.
Bric A Brac (Chile): Nuestro Show (RCA CMS-2588 / CML-2588, 1968)
Pop/Bossa Nova
Paz Undurraga
Surprisingly, their second album (supposedly recorded live, though I suspect the manic applause was overdubbed) is completely different, consisting of loungy bossa nova with lots of Latin percussion. Complete with versions of material like ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ and ‘Guantanamera’ (performed twice, for some reason), it’s all very well done, and arguably more representative of Chile’s own musical traditions, but this isn’t a favourite style of mine. GRADE: C.

Bric A Brac (Chile): Los Bric A Brac Versus Clan 91 (Arena ADLP-013, 1974)
Beat
Paz Undurruga
It’s not clear whether Los Brac A Brac’s contributions to this split album are unreleased sixties recordings or a seventies pastiche of freakbeat, but in any case they’re excellently recorded and represent the band’s best work. The other side is given over to Clan 91, who also offer enjoyable sixties pop, with a bit of a Beach Boys feel. GRADE: C+.

See also Cuatro Brujas

Kimberley Briggs (USA): Who’s Kimberley? (Kimbrig KS 001, 1971)
Soul/Funk/Rock/Psychedelic
As Kim Tolliver, Briggs had issued several highly regarded deep soul sides during the sixties. Her debut album blends elements of soul, funk, gospel, psychedelic rock and even prog, with some long and complex tracks featuring acid guitar leads (but also horns and massed backing vocals). Half the material is self-penned, and Briggs was no slouch in the vocal department, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Tina Turner. She also had a fairly eclectic taste in covers, ranging from ‘The Letter’ to ‘Leaving On A Jet Plane’. Altogether, this is an exciting and adventurous album, but anyone disliking soul music is not going to enjoy it. The original private pressing, which came in a hand-stamped white sleeve, is extremely rare and expensive; the disc got a major label issue the following year as Passing Clouds (Fantasy 8415) and even this second pressing sells for quite good money. In 1973, she issued a second and final album Come And Get Me, I’m Ready, but I’ve never encountered it. GRADE: B–.

Bright Side (USA): Just Us (RPC AZB-42481, 1969)
Folk
Ann Bjornsen, Jane McNulty, Juli Hempe, Diana Gaffney, Julie
Probably recorded as a college or university project, this is a sweet and gentle album of harmony folk with simple backing from acoustic guitar and occasionally bass, piano, harpsichord and percussion. The baroque opening version of ‘Society’s Child’ is probably the best thing on offer, but this is a beautiful and gentle LP throughout, taking in ‘Leaving On A Jet Plane’, ‘Sparrow’, ‘Sixteen Tons’ and ‘House Carpenter’ among others. If it has a failing, it’s all very much in the same mould – a few moments of sharpness, or a couple of cuts with electric rock arrangements, would have lifted the LP enormously. GRADE: C+.

Bright Sun (USA): Fenyés Nap (Magyar No. 7 Mag 42 – 107, with inner, 1977)
Jazz/Folk/Rock/Progressive
Erszébet Szalay (lead vocals)
No prizes for guessing from the album title and label name that this obscure disc was cut by three musicians of Hungarian descent. Musically, it’s quite an odd album, reworking traditional Hungarian folk songs in a Canterbury jazz/rock style, at times recalling everyone from Urszula Dudziak to Nico. The end results are very creative and interesting, and sometimes quite unsettling. GRADE: C+.

Brighthelmstones (UK): The Brighthelmstones (Theatre, with inner, 1972)
Folk
Vicki Johnson (lead vocals)
This is the rarest British folk album bar none, with just a single copy known. For years it was only rumoured to exist, and was reputed to be electric folk/rock in the style of Spriguns. In fact it’s delicate acoustic folk with mediaeval instrumentation (although not really mediaeval folk in the manner of, say, City Waites or My Lord Sheriffe’s Complainte). A fair amount of the material is self-penned, and at times this recalls both Courtyard Music Group and Folkal Point, although unlike those stellar albums this is ultimately pleasant rather than exceptional. The biggest mystery is why it’s so rare – since it has an excellent recording, a factory-finished sleeve and even a printed inner, one assumes they must have pressed at least 250, if not 500. GRADE: C+.

Serge Bringolf & Strave (France): Serge Bringolf Et Strave (Oméga Studio OM 67016, double, 1980)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive
Mano Kuhn (joint lead vocals), Mary Cherney (flute)
Drummer Serge Bringolf clearly modelled himself on Christian Vander and wrote, arranged and produced everything here, as well as contributing some vocals and saxophone. Not surprisingly, the album owes a heavy debt to Magma, although it also takes in influences from big band jazz, with lots of horns. There are just four side-long tracks, mostly instrumental but with occasional vocals, and full of invention and complexity, although this may stray too close to jazz for zeuhl or prog fans. GRADE: B–.
Serge Bringolf & Strave (France): Vision (Oméga Studio OM 67028, 1981)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive
Mano Kuhn (joint lead vocals)
Although again featuring a lot of horns, their second is decidedly closer to zeuhl than jazz, with a style similar to contemporary Magma. Full of inventive musicianship, complexity and fire, yet often minimalist and laconic at the same time, this is a great album by any standard. The band went on to cut a final, live, LP without Mano Kuhn on board. GRADE: B.

British Blues Quintet (UK): Live In Glasgow (Angel Air SJPCD203, CD, 2007)
Blues/Rock
Maggie Bell (joint lead vocals)
This blues/rock supergroup (including Maggie Bell and Colin Allen) sound like they’re having an extremely good time, and the musicianship is as deft as one would expect. But given the talent involved, I’d have preferred something a little more ambitious than crowd-pleasing versions of popular covers and their own back catalogues. Following this release, the group mutated into the Jon Lord Blues Project. GRADE: C+.
See also Maggie Bell, Jon Lord Blues Project, Midnight Flyer, Stone The Crows

Brooklyn Bridge (USA): The Brooklyn Bridge (Buddah BDS 5065, 1970)
Blues/Rock
Carolyn Wood, Shelly Davies
Judging by the sleeve, I expected this to be identikit harmony pop, but the opening cover of ‘Nights In White Satin’ puts paid to that notion. Radically different to the original, it features a full-throated bluesy delivery, growling fuzz guitar and prominent horns – a daring and exciting reinterpretation, although I couldn’t imagine ever choosing it over the original. The album continues in the same bluesy rock vein, with some folkier and more acoustic cuts thrown into the mix, and ends with a rather good foray into progressive rock on ‘Complainin’’. GRADE: C+.

Elkie Brooks (UK): Rich Man’s Woman (A&M AMLH 64554, 1975)
Rock
Elkie Brooks (lead vocals)
Following the break-up of Vinegar Joe, Brooks sang backing vocals with Southern rockers Wet Willie and issued an obscure solo single on Island before gaining a deal with A&M via a demo comprising four self-penned songs. A&M paired her with Kiss’s producers Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise and sent her to the States to record those songs and several covers with an array of big-name sessionmen. Both artist and label professed unhappiness with the results, which were much slicker and more polished than anything she had cut with Dada or Vinegar Joe. That said, Rich Man’s Woman is a good album, with well-written and arranged material, although it’s all over the map stylistically, from blues (‘Roll Me Over’) and funk (‘Try A Little Love’) to girl group sixties pop (‘He’s A Rebel’), hard rock (‘Tomorrow’) and even an odd fusion of orchestrated balladry and reggae (‘Jigsaw Baby’). Sales were minimal, not helped by a graphic but unattractive cover featuring Brooks gurning in a tiny feather bikini, and the artist and label quietly disowned the disc as Brooks worked on the follow-up. GRADE: C+.
Elkie Brooks (UK): Two Days Away (A&M AMLH 68409, 1977)
Soul/Blues/Rock
Elkie Brooks (lead vocals)
For this quite different second album, Brooks teamed up with veteran songwriters and producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and barely wrote anything. This is her only solo album to play to her strengths, offering rootsy soulful and bluesy rock that demonstrates her voice to great effect. Not everything works well, and the disc as a whole is short and a touch slight, but this is a very enjoyable set that deservedly gave her a commercial breakthrough after nearly two decades in the music business. Her subsequent LPs took her in a wide range of musical directions that fall well outside the scope of this website and generally resemble the proverbial curate’s egg (though just about every album contains at least something of excellence). GRADE: C+.
See also Dada, Various ‘Flash Fearless Vs The Zorg Women, Parts 5 & 6!’, Vinegar Joe, Steve York’s Camelo Pardalis

Brooks & Potten (West Germany): Trencrom 3 (No label, with inserts, 1982)
Folk/Singer/Songwriter
Victoria Marx (occasional vocals)
Despite the duo credit, this was essentially a solo album by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Detlef Potten; Charles Brooks contributes a few numbers but doesn’t appear on the LP at all. Featuring a large number of short tracks grouped as suites, it’s a pleasant bluesy folk affair with a lo-fi, home-made feel. Victoria Marx sings ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ and duets with Potten on ‘The River’s Story’, whilst flautist Annerose Quade wrote and performed the closing instrumental ‘Alone’. The disc was quite elaborately packaged, with a paste-on sleeve, photocopied 12" x 12" poster and four lyric sheets paperclipped together. The notes mention that the ‘duo’ had previously issued two other albums, Atlas 1 and Trencrom. GRADE: C+.

Bröselmaschine (West Germany): Bröselmaschine (Pilz 20 21100-2, 1971)
Folk/Psychedelic/Progressive
Jenni Schücker (principal vocals, flute)
This Krautfolk classic often resembles a psychedelic twist on Pentangle, with quite a few Eastern elements thrown in (notably sitar and tablas on the superb nine-and-a-half minute jam ‘Schmetterling’). The sound is delicate throughout, with a deft mix of acoustic and electric instrumentation and a complete absence of drums. All the material is self-penned except for a delicate rendition of the traditional ‘Lassie’ (usually known as ‘I Once Loved A Lass’). A beautiful and virtuosic album with a haunting, tranquil atmosphere, this is just about as good as progressive or psychedelic folk gets. GRADE: A.

Bröselmaschine (Germany): Indian Camel (MIG MIG 01922 CD, CD with digipak and booklet, 2017)
Progressive
Liz Blue (lead vocals)
What does the word Bröselmaschine bring to mind? Do you think of delicate psychedelic folk, with intricate acoustic instrumentation, Eastern edges and that indefinable tripped-out Krautfolk aura? As soon as you hear the heavy riffing guitars that open this album, you’ll think again. Credit where due: the 12-minute title track hints towards their former style and the closing ‘Daydreaming’ is a delicate acoustic guitar piece, but everything else is slick modern heavy prog; they even cover ‘Children Of The Revolution’. This is actually a pretty good album, with some fine original compositions and deft playing, but I’m amazed that Peter Bursch had the nerve to pass it off as Bröselmaschine. GRADE: C+.

Bröselmaschine (Germany): Elegy (MIG MIG 00022, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2019)
Progressive
Stella Tonon (lead vocals)
This is perhaps even a shade further from classic Bröselmaschine, not withstanding some sitar and ethnic touches. The cover version this time round is ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ (not bad, but Chicken Shack won’t be shaking in their boots) indicating that the band’s sound is becoming decidedly bluesier. As with its predecessor, the issue isn’t whether it’s enjoyable but whether it should have been credited to Bröselmaschine. GRADE: C+.

Brothers & Sisters (UK): Are Watching You (No label, with insert, 1968)
Folk
Patty Connors, Janet Meyler, Sarah Simpson
Actually a compilation of different singers and bands from Sussex University, the album offers lo-fi, rather mournful folk club sounds typical of the era. Fans of albums like Number Nine Bread Street might enjoy this a lot. GRADE: C+.

Phyllis Brown (Canada): Phyllis Brown (Barnaby Z 30824, USA, 1971)
Pop/Rock
Brown will be better known to many as Northern soul superstar Charity Brown, and to readers of this book as principal vocalist with Rain, who issued an album in 1972. Her solo debut is rather different, however, with a singer/songwriter feel in parts (although only one cut is self-penned) and elements of rural rock in others. Overall, I prefer this to The Rain Album. GRADE: C+.
See also Rain

Suzann I Brown (USA): Suzann I Brown (No label, 1970?)
Singer/Songwriter
This very rare demo-only LP is a pleasant singer/songwriter affair with simple acoustic guitar backing. Brown has a lovely, gentle voice and is a competent writer; she also covers other singer/songwriters including Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. My copy comes in a plain white sleeve with a small printed slick taped to the front; I assume this to be original, but cannot confirm that all copies came with a cover. GRADE: C+.

Toni Brown & Terry Garthwaite (USA): Cross Country (Capitol 11137, 1973)
Country/Rock
Terry Garthwaite (joint lead vocals), Toni Brown (joint lead vocals, piano)
Recorded simultaneously with Joy Of Cooking’s unreleased fourth album, this is more Brown’s LP than Garthwaite’s, as she writes nearly everything. As the title suggests, it’s more country-oriented than the parent band, with fiddles and pedal steel guitars replacing the laid-back West Coast jamming. Nonetheless, the songwriting is of an equally high standard, and at its best (the funkier ‘I Want To Be The One’ and ‘I’ve Made Up My Mind’) the album is Joy Of Cooking’s equal. GRADE: C+.
See also Toni Brown, Joy Of Cooking, San Francisco Ltd

Toni Brown (USA): Good For You, Too (MCA 386, with insert, 1974)
Singer/Songwriter
Toni Brown (lead vocals, piano)
The former Joy Of Cooking member’s solo debut confirms her high level of talent – this is as good as mid-seventies American singer/songwriter fare ever got. However, there’s a qualifier in that praise: American singer/songwriter music from the period usually sounds slick rather than sincere, polished rather than profound, and this glossy, melodic effort is no exception. Contemporary Carly Simon would be a fair comparison for quite a few of the songs, so anyone enjoying her music should like this. GRADE: C+.
See also Toni Brown & Terry Garthwaite, Joy Of Cooking

Brown’s Home Brew (UK): Together (Vertigo 6360 114, 1974)
Pop/Rock
Vicki Brown (joint lead vocals)
The cover photograph of the band paddling in the sea, looking like ‘gumbies’ from ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ doesn’t fill one with confidence. However, this isn’t the novelty monstrosity the design portends, instead offering well-crafted rootsy pop/rock with none of the MOR schmaltz typical of the era. GRADE: C+.

Bertha Belle Browne (USA): Bertha Belle Browne (Mainstream 383, 1972)
Blues/Rock
Bertha Belle Browne (lead vocals, piano)
The gatefold sleeve and back cover credit (‘arranged and conducted by Ernie Wilkins’) give the impression that this is orchestrated singer/songwriter fare; in fact it’s slightly funky blues/rock with electric band backing. The sleevenotes describe Browne as a ‘souvenir of that unforgettable night when Momma Willie Mae Thornton made it with Giacomo Puccini’, but Browne’s voice is not particularly operatic, though it is rather high-pitched. Overall, this is a solid album with decent musicianship, and Browne is a competent songwriter; there’s nothing very original on offer, but it could certainly appeal to those enjoying the straighter end of Janis Joplin’s repertoire. GRADE: C+.

Brownhills Comprehensive School (UK): Devils And The Angels (Hollick & Taylor HT/LPS 1551, with booklet, 1978)
Folk/Rock
Only one copy is known of this secondary school album, which features all-original material. With a typical school project feel, it has rather amateurish male, female and massed vocals backed by a rock band and plenty of woodwind. Closer in feel to a stage musical than a folk or rock LP, it’s winsome enough, but only the pleasant ballad ‘Worst Place In The World’ really stands out. GRADE: C.

Brownstone (USA): Brownstone (Playboy PB 110, 1973)
Rock/Progressive
Barbara Lopez (lead vocals)
For the most part, the LP offers good-natured, riff-driven hard rock with competent female vocals, but there are also three excellent progressive numbers (‘Needs’, ‘Be My Friend’ and ‘Hard Road’). The album’s most noteworthy feature, however, is its elaborate die-cut gatefold sleeve, which may have inspired the cover design for Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti. GRADE: C+.

Victor & Annette Brox (UK): Rollin’ Back (Sonet SNTF 663, 1971)
Blues/Jazz/Rock
Annette Brox (joint lead vocals, percussion)
‘Brox is back – the return of the legendary Victor & Annette Brox’ proclaims the sticker on the colourful cover, whilst the rear announces that the LP was three years in the making. However, song titles like ‘Funky Dixie’, ‘Brox’s Boogie’ and ‘Working Man’s Blues’ make clear this isn’t going to be any kind of magnum opus. Instead, it’s lightweight and inconsequential bluesy, soulful and gospellish rock, and not a patch on Annette’s blues/rock tour de force with Sweet Pain GRADE: C.
See also Graham Bond, Sweet Pain

Jack Bruce Band (UK/USA): Live ’75 (Polydor 065 607-2, double CD, 2003, recorded 1975)
Rock/Progressive
Carla Bley (keyboards)
Jack Bruce guested on Carla Bley’s seminal Escalator Over The Hill; she returned the favour by joining his band (as one of two keyboardists, alongside Stone The Crows’ Ronnie Leahy) for his 1975 tour. This document of a gig in Manchester features some excellent improvisations and jamming, but the playing is more impressive than Bruce’s material, and ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ is the only number that has riffs you’ll remember. That said, this could have plenty of appeal for Grateful Dead fans. GRADE: B–.
See also Carla Bley, Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra, Michael Mantler, Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports

Bryony (UK): Last Of The Great Whales (Dragon DRGN 862, 1986)
Folk
Ailsa MacKenzie (joint lead vocals, dulcimer, mandola), Cathy Yarwood (joint lead vocals, keyboards, dulcimer), Alison Younger (joint lead vocals, keyboards, dulcimer, recorder)
Accompanying themselves primarily on keyboards and dulcimers, this female trio offer a hauntingly beautiful album filled with crystalline interpretations of traditional songs. Given the hymnal purity of their three-part harmonies, I’d have sworn they must be Welsh, but in fact this was recorded in Durham. It’s easily one of the best folk LPs of the eighties, so it’s a great pity they never issued a follow-up. GRADE: B–.
See also Beggar’s Velvet, Mrs Ackroyd Band

Valéry Btesh & Pollen (France): Rêves Cristal (Crypto ZAB 6414, 1979)
Folk/Rock
Valéry Btesh (lead vocals, guitar, piano)
Whilst this occasionally resembles Btesh’s former band Tangerine, for the most part it’s more electric, more rocking and more mid-Atlantic in flavour. The US singer/songwriter influences don’t do a lot for me, and I could have done without the occasional steel guitars and harmonicas too, but when this is at its best, it’s lovely dreamy stuff. GRADE: B–.
See also Tangerine