L-Las

 

L’Empire Des Sons (France): L’Empire Des Sons (No label 356257, 1986?)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Bip Redon (joint lead vocals), Isabelle Lentin (keyboards, accordion, xylophone), Valérie Gonzalez (keyboards), Nadine Leroy (keyboards),

Françoise Basset (cello)
Composed entirely of short tracks, this enjoyable album mainly offers weird but melodic songs rooted in jazz but with pronounced pop, folk and chanson edges. Side two is considerably stranger than side one, and the album becomes steadily more experimental and dissonant as it progresses. Despite the keyboard-heavy line-up, percussion is actually the dominant instrument on most tracks, with some notable world music elements. In some ways, this is a surprising release, given members’ backgrounds in outfits like La Fille Qui Mousse and Les I, but it’s a very pleasant one nonetheless. GRADE: C+.
L’Empire Des Sons (France): Le Saucisson De Mer (Muséa Parallèle MP 3006.AR, CD, 1990)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Bip Redon (joint lead vocals), Isabelle Lentin (joint lead vocals, keyboards, concertina, drums, vibraphone), Christiane Cohade (bass)
Their second and final album, recorded with a smaller line-up, is similar to their first but a little more dynamic. With a good balance of catchy hooks and avant-garde developments, this is a fine LP that often takes them close to Henry Cow or Slapp Happy in style. GRADE: B–.
See also Christiane Maria Cohade, La Fille Qui Mousse, Les I, Virgule 4

La Horsa Bianca (Ukraine): Somatic Schematic (No label, download, 2018)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Olga Ksendzovska (occasional vocals, keyboards, trombone)
This is perhaps a bit slight for a B–, both in terms of its length (33 minutes) and musical content. But La Horsa Bianca – whilst drawing from everyone and everything – ultimately don’t sound like anyone else, which makes them unusual among modern prog bands. Mainly instrumental, their trippy music ranges from straight early seventies-style jamming to pure experimentalism, with plenty of symphonic keyboards along the way and some evocative riffs and melodies. As such, it’s a low-key delight, and this album definitely leaves you wanting more. GRADE: B–.
La Horsa Bianca (Ukraine): Oneiric Numeric (No label, download, 2019)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Olga Ksendzovska (keyboards)
This is only slightly longer than their debut, at 37 minutes, but it’s a significant step forward musically. Entirely instrumental, Oneiric Numeric offers entirely instrumental keyboard-led prog of a superb standard and is packed with great moments. One could argue that it’s less unusual than their first, but it more than makes up for it with its sheer confidence – and once again, another 20 minutes or so would have been extremely welcome. GRADE: B–.
La Horsa Bianca (Ukraine): Oneiric Numeric (No label, download, 2019)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Olga Ksendzovska (keyboards, trombone)
At 42 minutes, this is their longest release to date – and possibly their best too. Opening with a quirky song drawing on local musical styles, it offers four instrumentals that are by turns dynamic, whimsical, folky and richly symphonic. The album ends with a haunting ballad that adds another dimension to the band’s unusual, virtuosic and highly impressive music. GRADE: B–.

La Horsa Bianca (Ukraine): Welcome Back My Friends… The Show Is Cancelled (No label, download, 2021)
Progressive
Olga Ksendzovska (synthesiser)
Previous Horsa Bianca releases were rather impressive, so what of this oddity – two attempts at a jam they intended to use as a set-opener for shows that got cancelled due to Covid? Well, it’s certainly very different from the structured material they’ve released thus far but enjoyable enough on its own terms, though it would probably have worked better in its originally intended context. GRADE: C+.

Mimesis (USA): Mimemis (No label, download, 2019)

La Revolución De Emiliano Zapata (Mexico): Tema De La Pelicula La Verdadera Vocacion De Magdalena (Polydor 2389 028, 1972)
Garage/Psychedelic
Pati McLean (occasional vocals)
Also known as Hoy, this was the long-running Mexican band’s second album, and as far as I know the only one to feature female vocals (uncredited, though Pati McLean was apparently a full member). Musically it’s a nice mixture of jamming garage psych and occasional acoustic folk, displaying a strong Big Brother & The Holding Company influence. GRADE: B–.

La Roche (Canada): La Roche (Emprise EP-0010, with inner, 1981)
Rock/Metal/New Wave/Progressive
Pierrette La Roche (joint lead vocals, piano, percussion)
This Quebecois family band produced an album that is almost unclassifiable. Several cuts are excellent hard rock, with catchy riffs and choruses, a couple are new wave with a satirical feel, there are a couple of sensual ballads (including the very Véronique Sanson-like ‘Votre Personne’), and the album ends with a loungy, jazzy, proggy instrumental. Along the way, they work in influences from everything from pop to funk and AOR; the only constant is the very French feel and the very high standard of songwriting and musicianship. GRADE: C+.

La YNE (Finland): La Grande Illusion (Muséa Parallèle MP 3287, CD, France, 2014)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive
Kari Reini (joint lead vocals, percussion, didgeridoo)
I was expecting this to sound like their countrymen Piirpauke, and in a way it does – though it steps forward from their sound into a much more commercial blend of jazz, world music and rock elements. Trawling through different musical styles around the globe and serving it up with a glossy pop sheen, the band creates a pleasant album that never pushes any boundaries. GRADE: C+.

Lac Placide (France): Away (No label, CD, 2003)
Progressive
Sa Majesté Roy (joint lead vocals)
This interesting and varied album blends hard rock, progressive and ambient elements and a few minor psychedelic touches into a convincing suite of music. On the downside, both the playing and singing can be amateurish at times; with a little more polish, this could have been outstanding. GRADE: C+.
Lac Placide (France): Closer (No label, CD, 2006)
Progressive
Sa Majesté Roy (joint lead vocals)
Their second is a bit simpler than its predecessor, moving closer to a hybrid of hard rock and prog-metal, with some knotty riffs. Once again, the feel is a little sloppy, especially in the vocal department; this time round, it’s quite noticeable how Roy’s vocals often resemble Dagmar Krause, of all people. GRADE: C+.

Lacewing (USA): Lacewing (Mainstream S/6132, 1971)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Mary Stepka (lead vocals)
In no way psychedelic, although usually described as such, this obscurity in fact blends melodic folk/rock and baroque progressive. With a slick and polished sound, it also hints at the sort of soft rock that would bring bands like Fleetwood Mac superstardom in the mid-seventies, though the second side has longer, heavier and more complex tracks. Opinions differ as to the LP’s merits, but I love it and regard it as the best release on the Mainstream label. GRADE: B.

Lady June (UK): Lady June’s Linguistic Leprosy (Caroline C 1509, 1974)
Avant-Garde
June Campbell-Cramer (lead vocals)
This fun album from Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth’s former landlady has quite a bit in common with Smyth’s eighties work, setting half-spoken, half-sung poems against quirky, mildly avant-garde electronic and rock backing. Thanks to the Gong connection, the cast of musicians is pretty stellar too, including Kevin Ayers, Brian Eno, Pip Pyle and David Voorhaus. GRADE: C+.
Lady June (UK): Lady June’s Hit And Myth (GAS AGASCD 10, CD, 1996)
Avant-Garde
June Campbell-Cramer (lead vocals)
The guest cast isn’t as impressive as on her first, though Gilli Smyth, Harry Williamson and Gerry Fitzgerald all put in appearances. Musically, it’s fairly similar, with a slightly more conventional and folky bent, making for another nice and unpretentious record. GRADE: C+.

Kevin Ayers, Lady June & Ollie Halsall (UK): The Happening Combo (Market Square MSMCD193, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2017, recorded 1980-2006)
Folk/Rock
June Campbell-Cramer
Ignore the misleading title, which implies that this is a collaborative effort – the connection between Ayers, Campbell-Cramer and Halsall is that Marvin Siau, who compiled the set, was friends with all of them. Instead, this compiles four 1980 demos from Ayers, three Halsall demo from 1988 (intended for Ayers’s 1992 set Still Life With Guitar), four outtakes from Hit And Myth (two of which were overdubbed in 2006) and one song by Siau himself. The Ayers material is catchy electric rock, the Halsall stuff is pleasant acoustic folk/rock, Campbell-Cramer offers some charming whimsy, and Siau’s number is nice mellow rock. The whole thing adds up to an enjoyable, inconsequential, perhaps mildly cynical tribute to the three principal musicians. GRADE: C+.
See also Various 'An Odd Acts Event'

Yves Laferrièrre (Canada): Yves Laferrièrre (Le Tamanoir TAM 24074, 1978)
Progressive
Marie-Michèle Des Rosiers (joint lead vocals), Monique Fauteux (joint lead vocals), Paule Baillargeon (joint lead vocals)
The former Contraction bassist’s solo album sounds very much like his previous band, offering mellow, jazz-tinged sounds with wordless female vocals on some tracks (plus several instrumentals and a couple of actual songs). To call this great background music might seem like damning it with faint praise, but that was largely its intention: Laferrièrre saw it as a stepping stone into composing film soundtracks. With some lovely, unassuming, typically Canadian grooves, this is well worth a listen. GRADE: C+.
See also Beau Dommage, Neil Chotem, Contraction

David LaFlamme Band (USA): Beyond Dreams (Repertoire REP 5018, CD, Germany, 2003)
Rock/Progressive
Linda Baker LaFlamme (joint lead vocals)
Perhaps not entirely surprisingly, the cover design is a pastiche of that used for the first It’s A Beautiful Day LP, while three tracks (‘Bombay Calling’, ‘Girl With No Eyes’ and the inevitable ‘White Bird’) are re-recordings of material from that album. None is as good as the original, and the new songs – ranging from country/rock to hard rock and prog – are mostly solid rather than great. Nonetheless, the closing instrumental ‘Santa Cruz’ is excellent, and overall this is decidedly better than most of It’s A Beautiful Day’s output. As a footnote, Linda Baker LaFlamme is not the same person as Linda LaFlamme, who was a founding member of It’s A Beautiful Day. GRADE: C+.

Lagartija (Italy): Ricordi? (No label, CD, 2009)
Progressive/Jazz/Rock
Sara Aliani (lead vocals)
Gentle and melodic, yet also subtly discordant and experimental, this is a very effective album of jazzy progressive. With saxophone and keyboards well to the fore, the eight compositions create slightly eerie moods with some strong instrumental passages. Yet despite the consistently high calibre of the music and the quite outstanding closing cut ‘Lacrime Inconcluse’, the actual compositions do not really stick in the mind. GRADE: C+.
Lagartija (Italy): Particelle (Lizard CD 0079, CD, 2011)
Progressive
Sara Aliani (principal vocals, bass)
Very different from its predecessor, this is atmospheric mid-paced prog with psychedelic edges, a rather doomy feel and some folk and free jazz edges (although it definitely isn’t jazz/rock like their first). Concentrating mainly on texture and atmosphere, and hinting towards other modern prog bands like Paatos, this isn’t the most striking or memorable of records, but it’s commendably understated and superbly crafted. GRADE: B–.

Laike (Sweden): Fängen I Det Senaste (Monterey DM 004 LP, with inner, Spain, 2014)
Pop/Folk/Psychedelic
Lisa Isaksson (organ, handclaps, violin, flute, harp, saw, backing vocals), Karin Engqvist (organ, backing vocals)
Laike was the brainchild of singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Christofer Ståhle; with most of the Vårt Solsystem crew providing the backing, his album has a lovely, trippy mood. However, despite the effusive sleevenotes, describing it as a seventies-style Canterbury masterpiece, it’s all fairly slight, with the pop elements predominating. GRADE: C+.

See also Hashish, Life On Earth!, Lisa & Piu, Lüüp, Me & My Kites, Promise & The Monster, Vårt Solsystem

Laine & Alan (UK): On An Autumn Day… (Coldstream CRS 426, 1982)
Folk
Laine Nunn (lead vocals, guitar, autoharp)
This unassuming LP, by a husband-and-wife duo who never recorded again, is among the finest British traditional folk LPs, beating almost all the big-ticket items on Folk Heritage, Midas and Westwood hands down. Laine Nunn’s vocals are simply exquisite, as are the delicate acoustic arrangements embracing guitar, harmonium, mandolin, violin, flute and autoharp, and the traditional material is performed with exceptional restraint. In fact, this equals (and sometimes resembles) the peerless Folkal Point, but at about a fiftieth of the price. GRADE: B.

Shona Laing (New Zealand): Whispering Afraid (Vertigo 6390 901, 1973)
Singer/Songwriter
Shona Laing (lead vocals, guitar)
It might be unfair to describe Shona Laing as a ‘teenage poor man’s Carole King’, but it wouldn’t be particularly inaccurate. But whilst she wears her influences on her sleeve, she has a good voice and solid songwriting chops, and this is a pleasingly varied LP, with accompaniment ranging from solo piano to soft rock, strings, Hammond organ and even some Moog synthesiser. Anyone who likes seventies singer/songwriter music should thoroughly enjoy this. GRADE: C+.
Shona Laing (New Zealand): Shooting Stars Are Only Seen At Night (Philips 6334 012, with booklet, 1974)
Singer/Songwriter
Shona Laing (lead vocals, guitar)
Her second album is in a very similar style to her first, although perhaps a little more rocking, with some quite heavy fuzz guitar on a couple of cuts. This is a lavishly packaged LP, with both a gatefold sleeve and a foldout lyric insert. Surprisingly, given that she enjoyed considerable commercial success in New Zealand, Laing subsequently relocated to the UK and did not release any more records until the eighties. GRADE: C+.

Lake Superior State College (USA): What’s UP? (Conductorflex DR 8395, with booklet, 1971)
Rock
Shirley M Andrews, Jo Anne Baugh, Yvonne Bednarz, Linda Cadeau, Candace DeMolen, Hélène Dul, Carolin King, Kathleen M Kinney, Gail Kirkendall, Patricia Petkus, Marjorie Schmidt, Marilyn Shananaquet, Christine Steck, Mary L Tadgerson, Carol Walkiewicz, Patty McCoy, Linda Verette
This college project album is well above average from a musical standpoint, with stripped-down, jamming rock backing including acidic guitar and plenty of organ. The spoken and sung vocals are more par for the course, and pretty amateurish, but this is a solid album with plenty of charm and some nice garage edges. GRADE: C+.

Lal Meri (USA): Lal Meri (Six Degrees 657036 1156-2, CD, with digipak, 2009)
Pop/Jazz/Dance/Psychedelic
Nancy Kaye (lead vocals)
Fronted by progressive rock veteran Nancy Kaye, Lal Meri offer a thoroughly modern trip-hop sound with lots of jazz, world music and psychedelic references. The results are interesting and creative, though there’s not much here for rock purists. GRADE: C+.
See also Box Of Crayons, Harlequin Mass, Talamasca, Various ‘Beyond Rock’

Lalli (Italy): Tempo Di Vento (Il Manifesto CD 034, CD, 1998)
Singer/Songwriter
Marinella Ollino (lead vocals)
The solo debt of Marinella ‘Lalli’ Ollino (formerly of Environs, Franti, Howth Castle, Ishi. Orsi Lucille and Yuan Ye) is completely different from any of her earlier work. This is sophisticated singer/songwriter music with well-judged rock backing, including some quite heavy moments, providing an excellent showcase for her smoky voice. GRADE: C+.

Lalli (Italy): All’Improvviso, Nella Mia Stanza (Il Manifesto cd105, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2003)
Singer/Songwriter
Marinella Ollino (lead vocals)
Like its predecessor, this is sophisticated singer/songwriter music, with beautifully judged full band arrangements and effective use of a chamber orchestra. When one considers Ollino’s beginnings in a punk band and her wanderings through acid-folk, jazz and avant-garde music it becomes clear just how remarkable her career really was. GRADE: C+.

Lalli, Pietro Salizzoni & Èlia (Italy): Èlia (Il Manifesto, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2006)
Singer/Songwriter
Marinella Ollino (lead vocals)
Ollino’s new project doesn’t significantly alter her musical direction: this is sophisticated music drawing on chanson, jazz and (to a lesser extent) classic rock traditions, complete with chamber orchestra accompaniment. It may be a little too smooth for some ears, but there is no denying the exquisite quality of the singing, writing or arrangements. GRADE: C+.

Lalli, Pietro Salizzoni & Èlia (Italy): In Concerto (Felmay fy 7038, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2012)
Singer/Songwriter
Marinella Ollino (lead vocals)
This live album offers the same beautifully crafted, sensual ballads as their studio album, with a chamber orchestra again used to fine effect. Those who enjoy sophisticated, relaxed and consummately smooth sounds will find plenty to enjoy here. GRADE: C+.

See also Environs, Franti, Howth Castle, Ishi, Orsi Lucille, Yuan Ye

Lamb (USA): A Sign Of Change (Fillmore F 30003, 1970)
Folk/Rock
Barbara Mauritz (lead vocals, guitar, piano, tambourine)
The trippy cover makes this look like psychedelia, but it’s nothing of the kind. Instead, it’s jazzy and bluesy folk with dark, sombre moods, with most cuts based around acoustic guitar, double bass and sometimes a chamber orchestra. Occasionally it puts me in mind of Nico – although it’s nowhere near as avant-garde, most of the songs are very atmospheric and original. GRADE: C+.
Lamb (USA): Cross Between (Warner Brothers WS 1920, 1971)
Folk/Country/Rock
Barbara Mauritz
Opener ‘Flying’ is country/rock, but the second cut ‘Now’s Not The Time’ is ethnic acid-folk, the title track singer/songwriter fare, and ‘Sleepwalkers’ returns to the eerie folk/rock of their debut. The remaining cuts vary between these styles, even throwing in some mediaeval elements on ‘While Waiting’. Overall this is not as coherent or distinctive as its predecessor, but it still contains some fine material.

GRADE: C+.
Barbara Mauritz & Lamb (USA): Bring Out The Sun (Warner Brothers WB 1952, 1971)
Rock
Barbara Mauritz (lead vocals, guitar, piano)
The opening gospel rocker ‘Old Fashioned Remedy’ does nothing for me, but things quickly improve with the beautiful piano solo ‘The Wish’. Several rather ordinary countryish and bluesy rockers follow, broken only by the lovely ‘River Boulevard’, but the album ends with a haunting classical-tinged ballad (‘The Vine’) and a rather avant-garde Eastern acid-folker (‘Live To Your Heart’). Ultimately, this album makes one wonder two things: who they thought would want to buy a record covering so much territory, and why they didn’t play to their strengths and drop the uptempo rock influences altogether. GRADE: C+.

See also Barbara Mauritz

Riccardo Romano Land (Italy): B612 (Ma.Ra.Cash MRC069, double CD, with book sleeve and slipcase, 2017)
Progressive
Jennifer Rothery (joint lead vocals), Sonia Bertin (joint lead vocals)
This beautifully packaged concept album was inspired by ‘Le Petit Prince’, but despite the lovely graphics offers merely average neoprogressive (as the presence of Steve Rothery and Steve Hogarth would imply). Nonetheless it’s pleasant enough, if not the landmark work its creator probably intended. GRADE: C+.

Landmarq (UK): Science Of Coincidence (Synergy SYN 002, CD, 1998)
Rock/Progressive
Tracy Hitchings (lead vocals)
Even by the standards of neoprog, this is simplistic, monotonous stuff, with almost every cut having the same mid-paced tempo and dense synthesiser-led arrangements. At least ‘Summer Madness’ and ‘Between Sleeping And Dreaming’ have pleasant melodies. GRADE: C–.
Landmarq (UK): Thunderstruck (Synergy SYN 003, CD, 1999)
Rock/Progressive
Tracy Hitchings (lead vocals)
This live album is a bit more listenable than its studio predecessor, but it’s still slick, one-dimensional and ultimately rather uninteresting. Unsurprisingly, ‘Between Sleeping And Dreaming’ and ‘Summer Madness’ once again provide the relative highpoints. GRADE: C.
Landmarq (UK): Aftershock (Cyclops CYCL 124, CD, 2002)
Rock/Progressive
Tracy Hitchings (lead vocals)
Yet another live album, surprisingly enough; clearly they had some pretty serious writers’ block. Within the confines of their unambitious style, this is actually rather good, with some pleasant instrumental textures and decent performances from all concerned. In fact, it’s Hitchings’s best work by a country mile. GRADE: C+.
Landmarq (UK): Turbulence (Metal Mind Productions MMP DVD 0082, DVD plus CD, with digipak and booklet, 2006)
Rock/Progressive
Tracy Hitchings (lead vocals)
I still don’t like their music, but this is a solid live document, combining a well-filmed concert (also reproduced on the accompanying CD), a handful of bootleg quality clips from other shows and six bonus studio or live audio tracks. A couple of the bonus video clips feature the interconnected Janison Edge rather than Landmarq themselves; there are also a few standard DVD extras, including musician biographies and a photo gallery. GRADE: C+.
Landmarq (UK): Entertaining Angels (Synergy SYN007, double CD, with minisleeve and slipcase, 2012)
Rock/Progressive
Tracy Hitchings (lead vocals)
The band’s first studio album for 14 years is oddly presented as one long disc (72 minutes) in a jewel case and one short one (28 minutes of finished music, plus two rough demos and a recording of a phone call) in a minisleeve. Several of the songs had previously been featured on the Turbulence DVD and CD, whilst others are new. All are in their familiar soft neoprogressive style, and most are absolutely packed with lyrics: not necessarily a good thing, as I’m far from fond of Hitchings’s breathy, theatrical vocal style which tends to recall the stage musical tradition. GRADE: C.

Landmarq (UK): RoadSkill – Live In The Netherlands (Synergy SYN 009, CD plus DVD, 2015)
Rock/Progressive
Tracy Hitchings (lead vocals)
Like their previous DVD, this is nicely filmed and the band turns in a solid performance, but I still find their lightweight symphonic rock rather dreary. The CD omits a couple of cuts, whilst the DVD adds (separate) interviews with Tracy Hitchings and the rest of the band. GRADE: C.
See also Gandalf Featuring Vocals By Tracy Hitchings, Tracy Hitchings, Quasar, Strangers On A Train

Lana Lane (USA): Love Is An Illusion (Think Tank Media, CD, 1995)
Rock
Lana Lane (lead vocals)
Blending influences from AOR, pomp-rock and neoprog, this is an amiable set of melodic rock songs recalling mid-period Heart and to a lesser extent Pat Benatar. Unsurprisingly, there’s very little ambition and even less complexity on display here, but Lane’s principal collaborator Erik Norlander certainly has a knack for a catchy melody. Three years later, the album was remixed for its Japanese release, with three additional cuts inserted; both versions are of about the same quality. GRADE: C+.
Lana Lane (USA): Curious Goods (Think Tank Media, CD, 1996)
Rock
Lana Lane (lead vocals)
Album number two is in the same vein as her first, with a few more progressive touches and a more seventies sound. However, the songwriting is nowhere near as good this time around, and the album drags noticeably. Once again, she remixed the disc for the Japanese market, replacing her quite good cover of Steely Dan’s ‘Do It Again’ with an ill-advised stab at the James Bond theme tune ‘You Only Live Twice’. GRADE: C.
Lana Lane (USA): Garden Of The Moon (Think Tank Media, CD, 1998)
Rock
Lana Lane (lead vocals)
Her third album again features some pretty mediocre songwriting, with a succession of mock-anthemic choruses that are the very antithesis of memorable. Whilst well assembled, this is a rather dull record that sometimes feels interminable. GRADE: C–.
Lana Lane (USA): Ballad Collection (Avalon MICY-1083, CD, with obi, Japan, 1998)
Rock
Lana Lane (lead vocals)
Issued only in Japan, this mixes new songs with re-recordings and overdubbed remixes of a few older numbers. The end result takes Lane closer to Céline Dion than Pat Benatar, offering a succession of slick power ballads with something of a stage musical feel. GRADE: C.
Lana Lane (USA): Live In Japan (Avalon MICY-1065, CD, with obi, Japan, 1998)
Rock
Lana Lane (lead vocals)
This live album offers slick, highly polished renditions of a number of Lane’s better songs. Whilst not an especially compelling listen, it offers a good overview of the first few years of her career. GRADE: C+.
Lana Lane (USA): Queen Of The Ocean (Avalon MICY-1100, CD, with obi, Japan, 1999)
Rock
Lana Lane (lead vocals)
This marks a return to the style of Curious Goods or Gardens Of The Moon; pure formula stuff, but with an above-average set of songs that makes it one of Lane’s best albums. The European release (Limb Music Products LMP 9903-009) dropped her cover of Marillion’s ‘Season’s End’ (which reappeared as a bonus track on the reissue of Ballad Collection) and added two cuts from Live In Japan plus a remake of ‘Through The Rain’ that also appeared on the ‘special edition’ of Love Is An Illusion. GRADE: C+.
Lana Lane (USA): Secrets Of Astrology (Limb Music Products LMP 0004-019 CD, CD, Germany, 2000)
Rock/Metal
Lana Lane (lead vocals)
In parts, this is a much heavier album, with Lane emphasising her roots in hard rock and metal. It’s also among her better releases, with a solid collection of songs, although it’s all very derivative (‘Alexandria’, in particular, borrows liberally from ‘Hotel California’ in its arrangements). For the most part, the disc was recorded with a different set of musicians, including prominent contributions from Ayreon’s Arjen Anthony Lucassen. GRADE: C+.
Lana Lane (USA): Ballad Collection II (Avalon MICP-10214, CD, with obi, Japan, 2000)
Rock
Lana Lane (lead vocals)
With a well-chosen set of covers and a few competent instrumentals, this is a definite step up from the first volume. But whilst it’s excellently crafted and quite varied, it’s all too clichéd, with a succession of power ballads with interchangeable soaring choruses.

GRADE: C.
Lana Lane & Erik Norlander (USA): European Tour 2001 Souvenir CD (Think Tank Media TTMD-1028, CD, with digipak, 2001)
Rock/Metal/Progressive
Lana Lane (joint lead vocals)
A marginal case for inclusion, this odds-and-sods collection features an alternate version of ‘Secrets Of Astrology’, a live version of ‘Season’s End’ from a single, a live King Crimson cover from a Japanese compilation, a new Norlander number fronted by Lane and four cuts by other Norlander projects (one with Lane on backing vocals). The results are a bit heavier, and a bit proggier, than most of Lane’s work, but mostly fall firmly into the category of competent but unmemorable pomp-rock. GRADE: C.
Lana Lane (USA): Project Shangri-La (Limb Music Products LMP 0202-037 CD, CD, Germany, 2002)
Rock
Lana Lane (principal vocals)
This mostly concentrates on mid-paced rock and ballads, with a rather poor set of songs even by Lane’s usual standard. A rock version of ‘Con Te Partiró’ provides an odd, and not particularly successful, diversion. GRADE: C–.
Lana Lane (USA): Storybook – Tales From Europe And Japan (Frontiers FR DVD 005, DVD, with booklet, 2005)
Rock
Lana Lane (lead vocals)
This three-hour live set, including interviews with the musicians about each song, is quite an endurance test. Even if the monotonous nature of the material weren’t such a problem, the indifferent sound and video quality would reduce this to the second division. GRADE: C–.
Lana Lane (USA): Covers Collection (Avalon MICP-10342, CD, with obi, Japan, 2002)
Rock
Lana Lane (lead vocals)
Lane’s first covers albums concentrates on the pomp-rock acts that influenced her: Kansas, Argent, Queen, the Scorpions, Uriah Heep, Rainbow and Led Zeppelin. I’m not clear on her purpose in offering a note-for-note remake of ‘Kashmir’, but overall this is perfectly pleasant and a definite step up from her last couple of albums of original material. GRADE: C+.
Lana Lane & Erik Norlander (USA): European Tour 2003 Souvenir CD (Transmission TMD-038, CD, with digipak, Holland, 2003)
Rock/Progressive
Lana Lane (principal vocals)
Mixing some previously unreleased live tracks, a couple of rare Japanese bonus cuts and various non-Lane material from Erik Norlander and bassist Don Schiff, this is once again something of an odds-and-sods assortment. With quite a few symphonic ballads from Lane (including an odd semi-acoustic version of ‘No Quarter’), the end result is not high on excitement. GRADE: C.
Lana Lane (USA): Winter Sessions (Think Tank Media TTMD-1034, CD, 2004)
Rock
Lana Lane (lead vocals)
Mixing originals and covers (‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’, ‘California Dreamin’’ and, bizarrely, two jazz standards), this mostly consists of lugubrious ballads and light rockers. As usual, it’s extremely polished and professional, but of very limited substance; the best cut (and the album’s one nod to progressive rock) is the closing instrumental ‘Terminus Pro Tempore’. GRADE: C.
Lana Lane (USA): Return To Japan (Think Tank Media TTMD-1036, double CD, 2004)
Rock
Lana Lane (principal vocals)
In small doses, Lane’s pomp-rock bombast works very well in a live setting. Unfortunately this double album has nearly two-and-a-quarter hours of it, and about a third of the way through you start begging for it to end. GRADE: C.
Lana Lane (USA): Lady Macbeth (Think Tank Media TTMD-1040, 2005)
Rock
Lana Lane (lead vocals)
This collection of hard rockers and ballads is slightly above average for Lane, but it’s all a little too lugubrious for its own good. With a slightly looser approach, this could have been a solid album, although it never had the ingredients to be a great one. GRADE: C.
Lana Lane (USA): 10th Anniversary Concert (Think Tank Media TTMV-1103, DVD plus CD, with booklet, 2005)
Rock/Metal/Progressive
Lana Lane (lead vocals)
Unlike the turgid Storybook DVD, this is Lane at her best, with a well-filmed, dynamic concert comprising carefully chosen material with quite a few progressive embellishments. With a bonus CD featuring 17 tracks, this is probably the best introduction to her work and is worth obtaining by anyone who likes melodic pomp-rock. GRADE: C+.
Lana Lane (USA): Gemini (Think Tank Media TTMD-1051, 2006)
Rock
Lana Lane (principal vocals)
Another day, another covers album – this time with a twist, as Lane interprets two songs apiece from Cream, Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, Heart, Foreigner and the Moody Blues. The oddest moment is the ‘Pink Moon Suite’, in which Lane interpolates a version of Heart’s ‘Johnny Moon’ into most of side one of The Dark Side Of The Moon. Whilst the resulting album is mildly interesting and Lane displays impeccable taste in her choice of material, the real acid test is that every cover is notably inferior to the original (especially the closing double whammy of ‘Wooden Ships’ and ‘Nights In White Satin’). GRADE: C.
Lana Lane (USA): Red Planet Boulevard (Frontiers FR CD 355, CD, Italy, 2007)
Rock/Metal
Lana Lane (lead vocals)
Concentrating mainly on mid-paced hard rock songs, this is one of Lane’s more consistent LPs. Admittedly, it’s a bit dreary in parts and there’s precious little variety, but she’s competent enough at what she does – and sensibly sticks to what she does best. GRADE: C+.
Lana Lane (USA): El Dorado Hotel (Think Tank Media TTMD-1055, CD, 2012)
Rock/Progressive
Lana Lane (principal vocals, programming)
This is a clear attempt to create a more atmospheric and progressive albim, especially on the twelve-minute closer ‘In Exile’. That’s a pretty good cut, but for the most part the songwriting here is rather weak and the competent arrangements don’t come close to papering over the cracks. GRADE: C.
See also Erik Norlander, Roswell Six

Lois Lane (UK): Lois Lane (Mercury 20125 SMCL, 1968)
MOR
Lane was previously half of the excellent Caravelles, but this album isn’t beat – with lush orchestrated versions of ‘The Look Of Love’, ‘59th Street Bridge Song’ and many more, it’s pure MOR. It’s also pretty expensive, as it’s sought after by genre collectors. GRADE: C.
See also Caravelles

Penny Lane (UK): Penny For Your Thoughts (Satril SATL 4004, 1976?)
Pop/Singer/Songwriter
I can’t imagine this rather middle-of-the-road pop LP engendering great excitement among collectors, but it’s all very well done. Unusually for this sort of thing, most of the cuts are self-penned. GRADE: C.

Catherine Lara (France): Catherine Lara (CBS 64912, 1972)
Folk/Avant-Garde
Catherine Lara (lead vocals)
Lara’s debut album is as striking and eerie as its textured black-and-white gatefold sleeve, complete with a centrespread of scarlet poppies. Opening with crashing prepared piano, it draws heavily from her classical background and from folk music, creating a beautiful but very desolate sound. On ‘Ab Libitum’ she adds sparse rock band backing and dramatic strings, whilst ‘L’Étranger’ favours church organ and choir, and ‘La Pierre Tombale’ has some scorching fuzz guitar. It all comes together on the album’s best-known track: the epic choral piece ‘Morituri’, which remains one of her defining statements. GRADE: B–.
Catherine Lara (France): Catherine Lara (CBS 65304, 1972)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic
Catherine Lara (lead vocals)
Whilst not entirely removed from the style of her first, Lara’s second album ups the rock quotient considerably. The astounding opener ‘Tu Sais Mieux Que Personne’ alternates quietly despairing verses with simple piano accompaniment with choruses featuring squalling acid guitar and pounding drums, finally adding strings and horns before collapsing under its own weight. The other trippier cuts here (‘Mais Qu’y-A-T’il Au Fond De L’Eau?’, ‘Fleur De Sommeil’, ‘Ton Âme Se Lit Sur Ton Voyage’ and ‘Laisse Aller’) maintain the same stellar standard – the latter may just be the best psychedelic folk song ever recorded. A couple of the softer numbers (‘Et Le Printemps’ and ‘Les Années-Poussière’) actually remind me of Nana Mouskouri, but are delicately beautiful nonetheless. Once again, Lara’s classical and avant-garde roots strongly show through, and the album has an over-the-top production style using rock band, prominent Hammond organ, flute, backwards tapes, orchestration, horns and more. This aspect of the disc may annoy some listeners, but for me this is simply the pinnacle of the acid-folk genre, beating every celebrated rarity in the genre hands down. As the crowning glory, it also has one of the most beautiful psychedelic gatefold sleeves I have ever seen. GRADE: A+.
April Orchestra (France): Vol 2 (CBS SPR 84, 1974)
Progressive
‘April Orchestra’ was the generic artist credit for a lengthy series of library music LPs issued by Lara’s then-publisher April Music. ‘Vol. 2’ consists of reworked instrumental segments from both her albums, along with a couple of pieces I don’t recognise. As is typical for the genre, there are no musician credits, so it’s not clear whether Lara participates as a performer as well as a composer. For no obvious reason, nearly all the tracks are retitled, and her arranger and keyboardist Jean Musy receives co-writing credits. GRADE: C+.
April Orchestra (France): Vol 3 (CBS SPR 85, 1974)
Progressive
Like its predecessor, this library music disc features instrumental reworkings of previously released Lara numbers (in this case, mostly from her second album). Once again, it’s not entirely clear whether she actually plays on the LP. GRADE: C+.
Catherine Lara (France): Catherine Lara (CBS 65982, 1974)
Folk/Rock
Catherine Lara (lead vocals, violin)
The stark black-and-white sleeve, depicting Lara looking homely in a long peasant skirt, immediately makes clear that her third album proper will be very different from its predecessor. Gone are the fuzz guitars, orchestrations and studio effects, replaced by a much more stripped-down (though still sometimes quite weird) folk sound. Overall this isn’t as good as her first two, including several rather throwaway cuts, but it really hits its stride on side one with three consecutive winners: ‘La Craie Dans L’Encrier’ (a mournful jazzy shuffle that became a mainstay of her live set throughout her career), ‘Les Immortelles’ (a wonderful piece of shimmering acid-folk) and ‘L’Arrière Paysage’ (equally haunting psychedelic folk with a menacing avant-garde introduction). Also notable is the excellent eight-minute instrumental ‘Le Manoir’, which closes the disc – the first time Lara had showcased her classical violin skills on one of her own albums. GRADE: C+.
Catherine Lara (France): Nil (CBS 80788, 1975)
Singer/Songwriter
Catherine Lara (lead vocals, guitar, violin)
Her fourth album proper sees Lara moving in a more mainstream singer/songwriter direction, and is quite MOR in parts. However, there are strong classical and progressive influences here – this is a concept album, commencing with an orchestrated overture and closing with a violin-led instrumental, and most cuts have tempo changes and notable moments of complexity. Although highly mellow, this is a beautifully crafted album, and remains one of the highpoints of mid-seventies singer/songwriter sounds. GRADE: B–.
April Orchestra (France): Vol 9 (CBS SPR 98, 1975)
Progressive
Unlike Lara’s previous contributions to the ‘April Orchestra’ series, this isn’t entirely devoted to her music: nine cuts are instrumental adaptations of pieces from Nil whilst the remaining five are by other composers. Nonetheless, this is the best of the three, since Nil had an inherently filmic quality that mean its songs work brilliantly without lyrics. There are also some good contributions among the non-Lara pieces, including a couple of cuts with strong fuzz guitar. GRADE: B–.
Catherine Lara (France): Jeux De Société (CBS 81703, 1976)
Singer/Songwriter
Catherine Lara (lead vocals, guitar, piano, violin)
Jeux De Société crosses the rather sedate style of Nil with the baroque orchestrations of her second album (though not, sadly, the wild psychedelic and experimental edges). The end result is a sumptuous, beautifully crafted LP that many listeners will find too precious. As was her custom at the time, the disc closes with a rather good proggy instrumental. This was the first of several albums on which Lara collaborated with the former Magma guitarist Claude Engel. GRADE: B–.
Catherine Lara (France): Catherine Lara (CBS 82385, 1977)
Singer/Songwriter
Catherine Lara (principal vocals, guitar, violin, viola, cello)
This is Lara’s ‘unplugged’ album, with stripped-down, mainly acoustic, arrangements and the bulk of the instruments played by herself and Claude Engel (who contributes guitar, bass, synthesiser and percussion, and duets on ‘Babylone’). It’s still quite baroque in parts, with the usual classical and progressive touches, but overall this is much more sombre and reflective than her usual work. Whilst it’s a solid album, only the sixty-second acapella opener ‘Vaguement’ stands among her very best compositions. GRADE: C+.
Catherine Lara (France): Coup d’Feel (CBS 83586, with inner, 1979)
Pop/Rock
Catherine Lara (principal vocals, guitar, keyboards, bells, violin, clarinet)
Recorded in Canada with a new set of collaborators (although Claude Engel remained), Coup d’Feel marked a complete change of direction for Lara. This is essentially mainstream pop/rock with a bluesy feel to several tracks, although her odd and ornate compositional style remains. The title track, composed by Engel, is even more of a departure: cheesy funk with soul edges, possibly intended to cash in on the success of Véronique Sanson’s similar ‘Bernard’s Song (Il N’est De Nulle Part)’. This gave Lara her first (minor) hit single. Elsewhere, she duets with Kate McGarrigle and Nanette Workman and covers a range of styles and moods; the best cut is the elegant, proggy ‘Éblouis-Moi’. GRADE: C+.
Catherine Lara (France): Geronimo (CBS 84246, with inner, 1980)
Pop/Rock/Progressive
Catherine Lara (lead vocals, piano, percussion, violin)
One of the more obscure albums in Lara’s back catalogue, Geronimo is mostly remembered today for the inner sleeve, which depicts her topless. That’s a shame, as it contains three outstanding cuts: the atmospheric title track, the irresistibly catchy ‘Bateau De Pluie’ and the mainly instrumental closer ‘Visage Pale’, an impressive piece of prog with a rather cinematic feel. Nothing else is of the same standard, but this is a solid pop/rock album throughout. GRADE: C+.
Catherine Lara (France): Catherine Lara (Tréma 310 100, 1981)
Progressive/Folk/Pop/Rock
Catherine Lara (lead vocals, guitar, synthesiser, violin, flute)
Lara’s most eccentric album not only straddles genres across songs, but even within them: ‘Johan’ (her first big hit single) fuses Parisienne café folk and space-rock like an imaginary hybrid of Édith Piaf and Jean-Michel Jarre before concluding as a mournful instrumental played on the cymbalon. Elsewhere, ‘Cabine Dans La Nuit’ sounds like Blondie gone prog, ‘Bûcheron’ is based around a bouncy synthesiser line and samples of a man grunting (yet somehow manages to add in bluesy acoustic guitar) while the closing ‘De L’Autre Côté’ marries a reggae beat, doomy melody, slide guitar and choral backing vocals. Most remarkably of all, the album somehow manages to cram eleven tracks into just thirty-one minutes. GRADE: B.
Catherine Lara (France): Révue Et Corrigée (Tréma 310 121, 1982)
Progressive/Pop
Catherine Lara, Annie Girardot, Agatha De, Patricia Gilbert, Florence Davis
Lara ploughed much of her new wealth from ‘Johan’ into an epic stage show named 'Revue Et Corrigée', to which this is the soundtrack album. It was a massive flop, closing after a few nights and costing her a fortune. The LP isn’t brilliant either, covering all kinds of territory from progressive and orchestral instrumentals to light pop, and with fragmentary tracks as short as thirteen seconds. Nonetheless, there are several good pieces here. GRADE: C.
Catherine Lara (France): Catherine Lara (Tréma 310 133, with inner, 1983)
Pop/Rock/Progressive
Catherine Lara (lead vocals, violin)
This is an odd album, featuring seven songs arranged by Jean Musy (who did the same for her first two albums) and three arranged by Jean Roussel (who worked with her on Coup D’Feel and Geronimo). The former are dramatic singer/songwriter and rock fare, with pronounced classical and progressive edges, and are mostly excellent; the opening ‘T’Es Pas Drôle’ (also the album’s hit single) is especially outstanding. The latter are bouncy pop/rock, sounding like cast-offs from her 1981 LP, and nowhere near as good. The result is a schizophrenic and unbalanced album, but the majority of the music is very enjoyable. GRADE: B–.
Catherine Lara (France): La Rockeuse De Diamants (Tréma 310 153, with inner, 1983)
Pop/Rock
Catherine Lara (lead vocals, violin)
Lara’s first album without any influences from progressive, classical or folk music is also her most slight, with eight songs totalling under thirty minutes. Nonetheless this is a good pop album, and the title track (once again demonstrating Lara’s fondness for terrible puns) gave her a smash hit single. GRADE: C+.
Catherine Lara (France): Catherine Lara En Concert (Tréma 310 171, 1984)
Pop/Rock/Progressive
Catherine Lara (lead vocals, violin)
None of the interpretations here match the studio originals (which is broadly typical for a live album) but there is a good cross-section of material. Nearly all of it is taken from Lara’s last two albums, with one previously unreleased instrumental and only three older cuts (inevitably, ‘La Craie Dans L’Encrier’, ‘Coup d’Feel’ and ‘Johan’). She offers a lively set with good musicianship, and the audience sound like they’re having a wonderful time. GRADE: B–.
Catherine Lara (France): Flamenrock/Espionne (Tréma 310 178, 1984)
Pop/Rock
Catherine Lara (lead vocals, violin)
This is another strong pop/rock set, with the energetic rocker ‘Espionne’ and the symphonic ballad ‘Dom Juane’ providing a powerful double whammy to open. The remainder is pretty varied, with nothing breaking any new ground or demonstrating any progressive tendencies, but the material throughout is lively and catchy, representing a slight step up from La Rockeuse De Diamants. GRADE: C+.
Catherine Lara (France): Au Milieu De Nulle Part (Tréma 710 197, CD, 1985)
Pop
Catherine Lara (lead vocals, violin)
After Flamenrock, Lara parted company with Claude Engel and installed Chilean keyboardist Sébastien Santa Maria as her new songwriting and arranging partner. It was not a move for the better. This is dull pop, sometimes listless and sometimes cheesy, with rather symphonic keyboard arrangements and lots of programmed percussion; it sounds very dated today. The album was quickly reissued as Nuit Magique to cash in on the big hit single of the same name. GRADE: C–.
Catherine Lara (France): À Travers Les Autres/Encore Une Fois (Tréma 710 239, CD, 1987)
Pop
Catherine Lara (lead vocals, violin)
This is in a similar style to its predecessor, but the standard of songwriting is far lower. In fact, the album is often so sluggardly that one actually begins to wonder whether it was mastered at the wrong speed. Significantly, this was Lara’s first album on which she had not composed the vast bulk of the material, suggesting that she was as uninspired and disinterested as she sounded. The CD version added an extended mix of ‘Encore Une Fois’ just to prolong the agony; a pity it wasn’t ‘À Travers Les Autres’, which is the only half-decent cut.

GRADE: E+.
Catherine Lara (France): Catherine Lara (Tréma 710 250, CD, 1988)
Pop/Rock
Catherine Lara (principal vocals, violin)
Although Santa Maria is still co-writing most of the tunes, this is a partial return to form. ‘Rocktambule’ recaptures the swagger and poise of Lara’s early eighties work, whilst ‘S’Envoyer En L’Air’ is an imaginative fusion of heavy rock, soul and jazz, and ‘C’Est Facile À Dire’ has a doomy, almost Depêché Mode feel. The two hit singles (‘Ticket Bleu’ and the African-influenced ‘IEO’) aren’t bad either, but there is some quite poor music here too, especially ‘Passion D’Avril’ on which Santa Maria proves himself an even worse singer than composer or arranger. GRADE: C.
Catherine Lara (France): Lara Live (Tréma 710 273, CD, 1988)
Pop/Rock
Catherine Lara (lead vocals, violin)
Lara’s second live album focuses on material from the last three albums (plus ‘La Craie Dans L’Encrier’ and no fewer than three cuts from La Rockeuse De Diamants), but the live versions are generally rather pacier than the studio takes. Whilst not a well balanced set, this is generally pretty good. GRADE: C+.
Catherine Lara (France): Lara Live – Olympia 1988 (Tréma, VHS, 1988)
Rock
Catherine Lara (lead vocals, violin)
Compared to the Lara Live album from the same year, this has a few extra tracks and presumably features an entire set (though probably taken from more than one show). The full-length performance makes clear the lack of variety in Lara’s material from the era, and a lot of the added soul touches don’t work well with her style. The performance isn’t spectacular visually, but this does look like a good concert to have attended. Overall this is a decent live document of one of the worst periods in her career. GRADE: C+.
Catherine Lara (France): Sand Et Les Romantiques (Tréma 710 355/720 355, double CD, boxed set with large booklet, 1991)
Rock/Progressive
Catherine Lara (principal vocals, violin), Véronique Sanson (occasional vocals), Maurane (occasional vocals), Joniece Jamison (occasional vocals)
Having settled into a pattern of producing comfortable, unchallenging mid-paced pop/rock albums, Lara surprised expectations by issuing this ambitious large-scale rock opera. Whilst it’s patchy, with some notably weak tracks, there is some fine music here and it’s beautifully put together, with excellent arrangements and orchestrations. Despite a plethora of big name guests (Véronique Sanson, Daniel Lavoie, Maurane and others), this avoids most of the pitfalls of the genre and succeeds in being grandiose without being pretentious. Only the first 3000 copies were issued as a lavishly packaged double CD (the second featuring orchestrated versions of selected tracks); the standard edition was a single disc packaged in an unusual printed jewel case. GRADE: C+.
Catherine Lara (France): Maldonne (Tréma 710450, CD, with blue tray, 1993)
Pop/Rock
Catherine Lara (lead vocals, violin)
This is mostly mid-paced rock – well done, but a bit lacking in excitement – although ‘Flash Black’ is cheesy funky rock and ‘Birdy’ and ‘Requiem Pour Un Amour’ are dramatic orchestrated ballads. Overall this is a slightly odd album, but a perfectly listenable one. GRADE: C.
Catherine Lara (France): Mélomanie (Tréma 710716, CD, with digipak, 1996)
Rock
Catherine Lara (lead vocals)
The opening ‘Errare Humanum Est’ almost sounds like ‘Morituri’ given a pop/rock makeover, and classical influences return on a number of the cuts. Whilst there are still notable pop tinges, this is somewhat more adventurous than Lara’s other work since the mid-eighties (Sand Et Les Romantiques aside). GRADE: C+.
Catherine Lara (France): Terre Indigo (Une Musique 191694 2, CD, 1996)
Progressive
Catherine Lara (violin)
This was not Lara’s first film or TV score, but it was the first to receive a full release on album. Musically it ranges from Enya-like piano music to more dramatic classical-influenced pieces, in keeping with the series’ early-to-mid twentieth century setting. The album closes with the title track, sung by Barbara Scaff and Philippe Candelon, which reached number one in the singles chart. Overall this is a charming album containing some lovely moments; with a few longer and more developed tracks, it could have been truly excellent. GRADE: C+.
Catherine Lara (France): L’Arlésienne (Une Musique 191 788 2, CD, 1997)
Progressive/Classical
Catherine Lara (violin)
Offering another mainly instrumental project, Lara reinterprets Georges Bizet’s score for L’Arlésienne with rock backing. Some projects of this type are dreadful, but despite a few modernistic production touches this is a good one, with some very powerful moments and some virtuosic playing. In fact, it’s her best work for nearly fifteen years. GRADE: B–.
Catherine Lara (France): Aral (Une Musique U 1026 2, CD, with digipak, 1999)
Progressive/World Music/New Age
Catherine Lara (strings)
A logical step forward from L’Arlésienne, Aral was mostly co-written by Deep Forest member Eric Mouquet and blends influences from classical, progressive, world and new age music. Whilst richly arranged and excellently performed, it’s all a bit catchy and trendy, recalling the kind of ‘uplifting’ world music regularly used in TV commercials. Nonetheless, this is a nice album with a beautiful multi-fold digipak. GRADE: C+.
Catherine Lara (France): Passe-Moi L’Ciel (Tréma 982 964 0, CD, with book sleeve, 2005)
Pop/Rock
Catherine Lara (lead vocals, keyboards, violin)
Lara’s first album of songs in nearly ten years isn’t a triumphant return – there is no really outstanding material here – but it’s a listenable enough collection of mid-paced atmospheric ballads. GRADE: C+.
Catherine Lara (France): Graal – Une Légende Musicale De Catherine Lara (BMG 8 2876 66925 2, CD, 2005)
Rock
Jenny Mackay (joint lead vocals), Julie Victor (joint lead vocals), Audrey Lavergne (joint lead vocals), Catherine Lara (violin)
Lara tries her hand at another rock opera, this time not undertaking any of the singing herself. This isn’t as ambitious as Sand Et Les Romantiques, being a straightforward single album featuring song-based material with a more symphonic and Celtic flavour than her usual compositions. GRADE: C+.
Catherine Lara (France): Au Delà Des Murs (AZ 531 684 4, DVD plus CD, 2009)
Progressive
Catherine Lara (violin)
Another collaboration with Eric Mouquet, this sounds like the follow-up to Aral rather than Passe-Moi L’Ciel or Graal. The music is mostly instrumental (though there are sampled vocals, spoken word passages and a couple of guest appearances) and draws heavily on gypsy and ethnic traditions, with Lara’s violin well to the fore. Overall, this is considerably better than Aral and is Lara’s most interesting recent album. The package contains a live performance of the work (featuring Lara accompanied by a number of dancers in quite an entertaining spectacle) as well as studio recordings of most of the pieces. GRADE: B–.
Catherine Lara (France): Une Voix Pour Ferré (AZ 276 381-2, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2011)
Rock/World Music
Catherine Lara (principal vocals, strings)
This collection of Léo Ferré covers, recorded with backing mixing rock, flamenco and world music, is enjoyable but an odd departure for Lara. Strangely, I could much more easily Catherine Ribeiro, Béatrice Tékielski or even Brigitte Fontaine having cut this, but then Lara’s career in recent years has been so unpredictable that a new album from her could explore just about any genre. GRADE: C+.
Catherine Lara Avec L’Ensemble Sirba Octet (France): Au Coeur De L’Âme Yiddish (Sony Music 88765414122, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2012)
Classical/Folk
Catherine Lara (lead vocals, violin)
As the title suggests, this unusual album sees Lara reinterpreting material from across her career (though mainly seventies and eighties stuff, stretching back to her first album) in a Yiddish style. Actually, I don’t hear all that many Jewish references: it’s essentially elegant chamber music with lots of strings and a very palm court feel. I’m not a fan of artists reinterpreting their back catalogue, and an approach this radical could have proved disastrous, but this is wonderfully done and very firmly places Lara at the heart of the modern chanson tradition. That said, it’s inevitably very sedate and definitely a record one needs to be in the mood for. GRADE: B–.

Catherine Lara (France): Bô – Le Voyage Musical (Warner Music 0190295705213, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2018)
Progressive
Catherine Lara (violin)
Lara’s first album in six years is firmly in the vein of Au Delà Des Murs, offering instrumental music composed to accompany a live dance spectacle. The gypsy elements of that earlier work are mostly absent, with the music here being neoclassical and orchestral. It’s beautifully recorded too, with just enough variety and crescendos in all the right places, and it delivers one big surprise – Didier Malherbe appears on just about every track. GRADE: B–.

Lark Rise Band (UK): Lark Rise Revisited (Talking Elephant TECD124, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2008)
Folk/Rock
Ruth Angell (joint lead vocals, violin, viola, zither), Judy Dunlop (joint lead vocals), Jo Hamilton (occasional vocals, viola)
This isn’t a remake of the Albion Band’s Lark Rise To Candleford, as I had suspected, but a mixture of old and new material put together by Hutchings and various collaborators (including the three other members of the Rainbow Chasers). A very worthwhile accompaniment to the original set, it contains some lovely material. GRADE: C+.
See also Ruth Angell & Sid Peacock, Ashley Hutchings, Rainbow Chasers

Laser Pace (USA): Granfalloon (Takoma R-9021, 1973)
Progressive
Maureen O’ Connor (principal vocals, guitar, keyboards)
This rather odd album offers jazzy progressive rock. It’s song-based for the most part, with fairly short tracks for the genre, but often rambling and diffuse at the same time. ‘Avatar’, for instance, tops off a funky clavinet riff with weird synthesiser effects, clarinet and saxophone soloing, and Maureen O’Connor’s strange voice: high, piercing and yet rather androgynous, her singing would be more appropriate on a soul or heavy metal album. The following number ‘Whoever You Are (You)’ is also somewhat funky, with a definite post-new wave feel recalling early Talking Heads or mid-eighties Martha & The Muffins. Meanwhile, ‘Oh Yeah?’ sounds like Sly & The Family Stone gone avant-garde, whilst the closing instrumental ‘Scatter’ ranges from free jazz-like minimalism to powerful guitar-led rock jamming, reminiscent of King Crimson. The lack of distinctive songs means this isn’t brilliant, but it’s certainly interesting, not least because (unusually for an early seventies prog band, most of which were male-dominated) O’Connor was the driving force, writing and singing the bulk of the material and playing some of the keyboards and all of the guitars. GRADE: C+.

Last Call Of Shiloh (USA): The Last Call Of Shiloh (Last Call SRC-5136, 1972)
Rock
Diane Murray (occasional vocals), Vicki Tsapatoris (occasional vocals, percussion)
Offering loose, amateurish guitar rock with Christian lyrics, this is mostly a good album and peaks on two long songs (‘Great Day Of The Lord’ and ‘Marriage Supper Of The Lamb’) with great guitar leads. Only about half the original pressing of 500 copies came with printed covers; subsequently, some dealers manufactured paste-on versions using photocopies. The reissue on the Greek Anazitisi label adds a large format 16-page booklet packed with fascinating information and memorabilia. The band subsequently mutated into Living Sacrifice. GRADE: C+.
See also Living Sacrifice

Last Days (USA): The Last Days (Crusade Enterprises LP S 487, with inner, 1972)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic
Rita Browning (joint lead vocals, guitar, piano), Vickie Smith (flute)
This must be about the only top-flight rarity to open with a child singing an excruciating ditty about Jesus, but it quickly improves to offer some lovely mellow folk/rock. Acoustic guitars, bass and flute are the primary instrumentation, but drums are used on most tracks as well as some carefully judged electric leads. ‘Only His Few’, which opens side two, takes an unexpected detour into heavy acid-rock, whilst the closing ‘Daybreak’ adds a nice jazzy edge. GRADE: C+.

Last Thing On My Mind (UK): Last Thing On My Mind (MJB REV LP 373, with booklet, 1966)
Folk
Lesley Guest (occasional vocals), Marilyn Collins (occasional vocals)
Technically a various artists set, this early venture from the Holyground stable is generally known by its title, as with the follow-up Number Nine Bread Street. Given the era, Bob Dylan unsurprisingly casts a long shadow over proceedings, both in terms of covers of his material and the vocal style of several of the participants. Nonetheless, there are several decent original compositions and a lovely version of ‘Geordie’ sung by Lesley Guest. The album is also notable for including the first original song by Holyground mainman Mike Levon as well as several appearances by Chris Coombs, who would go on to become a stalwart of the label’s projects. GRADE: C+.

Last Void (Costa Rica): State Of Mind (No label, CD, 2010)
Metal/Progressive
Adriana Muñoz (principal vocals)
Bridging the gothic and progressive metal genres, Last Void’s album offers a song-based style with some faintly jazzy riffing. Adriana Muñoz’s gentle, hesitant vocals, occasionally counterpointed by a few death growls, are quite unusual, but for the most part this is a solid rather than truly striking album. GRADE: C+.