Maa-Mad

Lea Maalfrid (New Zealand): Goddess Of Love (MM MM001, CD, with inserts, Australia, 2002)
Singer/Songwriter
Lea Maalfrid (lead vocals, piano)
From the artwork, track titles (‘The Ancient People’, ‘Where The Two Rivers Meet’, ‘Waves Of Love’) and instrumentation (including shukuhachi, oud and ney), I expected the former Ragnarok vocalist’s solo album to be a fusion of new age and world music elements. In fact, it’s piano-based singer/songwriter fare with hippie sentiments and slight but definite influences from soul and gospel music. It’s a pleasant, gentle set, peaking on the more rhythmic title track (where new age and world music elements strongly come into play) and the Enya-like instrumental ‘Spanish Tango’ (which sounds neither Spanish nor tango). GRADE: C+.

See also Ragnarok

Maarit (Finland): Maarit (Love LRLP 95, 1973)

Pop/Rock
Maarit Hurmerinta
Hurmerinta’s debut album is a pleasant collection of covers, of everyone from the Rolling Stones to Procol Harum, Stevie Wonder and Goffin/King. The musical backing is excellent throughout, including some fuzz guitar and congas, with a definite period hippie feel (although this is a very polished and commercial record). GRADE: C+.
Maarit (Finland): Viis’ Pientä (Love LRLP 128, 1975)
Pop/Rock
Maarit Hurmerinta (lead vocals)
Like her debut, this is as good an album of seventies pop/rock as anyone could wish for, with funky rhythms, well-used horns and some assertive guitar work from husband Sami. Hurmerinta cut numerous albums after this, and is still active as a musician today, but these later discs are of limited relevance here. GRADE: C+.
See also Sami Hurmerinta

Mabel Joy (UK): Mabel Joy (Real RR2004, 1975)
Folk/Country
Gillian Finnie (joint lead vocals, tambourine)
With simple backing from acoustic guitars, electric bass and occasional tambourine, this is a pleasant album of country-tinged contemporary folk. Although the band were British, they took most of their cues from American music, and the album includes covers of John Denver, Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot and Ian Tyson, among others. American folk really isn’t my thing, and the British or Irish-flavoured songs here are definitely the highlights. GRADE: C.
Mabel Joy (UK): On The Border (Folk Heritage FHR090, 1976)
Country/Rock
Gillian Finnie (principal vocals)
After hearing their debut, I didn’t have high hopes for this, but the opening version of ‘3.10 To Yuma’ is absolutely stunning. The standard isn’t maintained, with much of the rest being closer to country than folk, but the fuller arrangements (now including keyboards and drums on some tracks) generally work well. GRADE: C.

Mabsant (UK): Trip I Forgannwg (Folktracks 60-054, cassette, 1983)
Folk
Siwsann George (principal vocals, guitar, concertina, harp)
This highly obscure album was a surprisingly low-key debut for Mabsant, who went on to become possibly the most important Welsh-language folk/rock band of the eighties and early nineties. At this stage, they were still a duo, playing straightforward acoustic folk, with the songs interspersed with short monologues. The latter are of no interest to non-Welsh speakers, but the songs are lovely, with well-judged, minimal accompaniment. This is a very long album, clocking in at over an hour, but there’s not much variety. GRADE: C+.
Mabsant (UK): Gwyl Mabsant (Gwerin SYW 240, with booklet, 1984)
Folk
Siwsann George (lead vocals, guitar, concertina)
Their first vinyl LP drops the spoken-word section and adds a guest double bassist here and there for a slightly livelier sound. It’s still all-acoustic and very traditional, featuring some quite beautiful and haunting tracks. GRADE: C+.

Mabsant (UK): Chwar’e Chwyldro (Gwerin SYW 448, with insert, 1986)
Folk
Siwsánn George (lead vocals, guitar, spoons, concertina, harp)
This is where their own personality starts to emerge: extensive use of synthesiser adds a mournful, spacy and distinctive edge to their sound. The remainder is crystalline acoustic folk with lovely sparse arrangements, overlaid with Siwsánn George’s wonderful singing. GRADE: C+.
Mabsant (UK): Trwy’r Weiar (Sain 1404M, with insert, 1987)
Folk
Siwsánn George (lead vocals, guitar, spoons, concertina, harp)
The use of programmed percussion brings the band’s sound a little closer to folk/rock, though some of the material on side one is a little too jolly for my tastes. Side two is rather better, with a mystical progressive folk edge creeping in here and there. GRADE: C+.
Mabsant (UK): Cofeb (Sain 1580M, with insert, 1989)
Folk/Rock
Siwsánn George (lead vocals, guitar, spoons, concertina, harp)
The rock elements are again slightly more prominent here, including a guest drummer and percussionist, and this is often very eighties, with fretless bass, saxophone and even one number with a reggae rhythm. As such, it’s somewhat uneven, but when it’s good it's excellent. GRADE: C+.
Mabsant (UK): Tôn Gron (Fflach CD76H, CD, with booklet, 1990)
Folk/Rock
Siwsánn George (lead vocals, guitar, spoons, concertina, harp)
Returning to all-traditional material and utilising guest musicians more extensively, Mabsant offer their finest album here. The folk/rock numbers are more assertive than before, with dynamic drumming bringing them close to the sound of Steeleye Span, whilst the more delicate acoustic numbers provide excellent counterpoint. The result is an impressive set and a fitting conclusion to their musical journey. As a footnote, the CD is unusually packaged with two booklets. GRADE: B–.
Mabsanta (UK): Hywl A Chân Yr Haf A’r Gaea’ (Sain SCD 2029, CD, 1992)
Folk/Spoken Word
Siswánn George (joint lead vocals, guitar, concertina, harp), Eiry Palfrey (joint lead vocals)
This is an odd end to Mabsant’s career – a Christmas-themed collaboration with humourist and raconteur Eiry Palfrey. Recorded live, the set mostly sees Mabsant and Palfrey peforming separately: the latter’s contributions (thankfully in English) are slightly more amusing than one would expect, whilst Mabsant’s songs are pleasant enough, though represent a slight step back from the more adventurous Tôn Gron. GRADE: C+.
See also Siwsann George, Various 'Cwlwm Pedwar'

Mac Murrough (Ireland): Mac Murrough (Polydor 2908 014, with insert, 1974)
Folk
Mary O’ Neill, Josephine O’ Neill
Quite different from their debut (released as Shades Of Mac Murrough), this has much more stripped-down acoustic arrangements, with extensive use of dulcimer giving an eerie acid-folk feel. In particular, ‘Deus Meus’ combines almost funereal chanting with a strong Eastern flavour to the instrumentation, and is positively spinechilling. Overall, this is their best album by some margin, and among the very finest folk LPs to emerge from Ireland. GRADE: B.
Mac Murrough (Ireland): Merry And Fine (Polydor 2908 030, 1977)
Folk
Mary O’ Neill
Slimming down to a male and female duo, Mac Murrough offered a much more traditional third and final album. Lacking the rich harmonies and lush arrangements of Carrig River and the eerie Eastern textures of Mac Murrough, the LP isn’t quite the equal of its predecessors, but it’s nonetheless a very pleasant and ccomplished set. GRADE: C+.
See also Shades Of Mac Murrough, Various ‘From Lagan To Lee’

Macalla (Ireland): Mná Na hÉireann (Gael-Linn CEF 110, 1984)
Folk
Seosaimhín Bheaglaoich (joint lead vocals), Mary Clare Breatnach (joint lead vocals), Joan McDermott (joint lead vocals), Nóra M Ní Loingsigh (joint lead vocals), Róisin Gaffney (joint lead vocals), Ursula Kennedy (joint lead vocals), Mairéad Ní Gallchóir (joint lead vocals, bodhrán), Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (joint lead vocals, violin), Siobhán Breatnach (joint lead vocals, harp), Patsy Broderick (synthesiser), Mary MacNamara (concertina), Roma Casey (violin), Mary Corcoran (violin), Máire Ní Chaoimh (violin), Mary McElvaney (violin), Brid McElvaney (violin), Clare Eustace (violin), Pearl O’ Shaughnessy (violin), Maureen Fahy (violin), Edel McWeeney (violin), Siobhán Ní Chaoimh (flute), Clodach McGrory (flute), Catherine McGorman (flute)
Housed in an absolutely stunning textured sleeve, this huge all-female band’s album mixes acapella and instrumental tracks. With its massed vocals, echoey production and vaguely classical feel, the disc sounds like a school project, but all the musicians appear to be adults. The disc was produced by Nicky Ryan but sounds very different from Clannad, with a faint ‘Wicker Man’ vibe in parts. GRADE: C+.

Jan Macauley & Judith Champion (UK): Carry The Fire (No label JJI - 2007, CDR, 2007)
Folk/Rock
Judith Champion (lead vocals), Jan Macauley (keyboards, backing vocals)
The liner notes state that this is ‘Worship songs for reflection, encouragement and inspiration’, so don’t expect this to sound like Macauley’s band Magenta, even though the group’s leader Arthur Brown helps out and produces. In fact, Brown’s contributions are the best thing about the album, as the rest of the instrumentation consists of slightly symphonic keyboards and drum machines, giving something of an end-of-the-pier vibe. That said, this is decidedly better than that description might suggest, due to decent singing and playing and generally sensible choice of material (though I could definitely have done without ‘Amazing Grace’). GRADE: C.
See also Bulldog, Magenta

MacDonald Folk Group (UK): Take One (Folk Heritage FHR 001M, 1968)
Folk
Paula Cooper
This first and rarest album on the Folk Heritage label was allegedly pressed in a run of just 49 copies. It very much set the style for the label, with distinctively Northern acoustic interpretations of traditional and contemporary folk material, resembling a cross between Folkal Point and Marie Celeste. GRADE: C+.

Judy MacKenzie (UK): Judy (Key KL 005, 1970)
Singer/Songwiter 
Judy MacKenzie (lead vocals, guitar)
This Christian singer/songwriter’s debut sounds a couple of years behind the time, with a nice Swingin’ London vibe. It's varied, too, from acoustic folk to lively pop with horn arrangements and even a lively garage rocker, with her voice adding a smoky, slightly jazzy vibe to the proceedings. GRADE: C+.

MacKenzie Theory (Australia): Out Of The Blue (Mushroom MRL 34925, 1973)
Progressive
Cléis Pearce (viola)
This four-piece instrumental band – electric guitar, bass, drums and, less predictably, electric viola – deliver music that isn’t quite psychedelic and isn’t really jazz but blends elements of both on six long tracks. Like a lot of fusion music, it feels a bit detached and academic (especially considering it was recorded live) and it frequently meanders too, but when everything comes together their music can be quite striking and intense, with Cléis Pearce’s viola and Rob MacKenzie’s guitar adding real elegance to the proceedings. GRADE: B–.
MacKenzie Theory (Australia): Bon Voyage (Mushroom L 35276, 1974)
Progressive
Cléis Pearce (viola)
Oddly, the band’s second and final album (performed by an expanded five-piece line-up, with an electric pianist) was also recorded live. It’s similar to their first in terms of both style and quality, though more overtly jazzy, and shares the same strengths and weaknesses. GRADE: B–.
See also Kanguru, Cathie O’ Sullivan with Cléis Pearce, Max Ryan & Cléis Pearce

Ariadne Mackinnon-Andrew (Canada): Naughty Dreams (Polydor 2421 156, Greece, 1981)
Pop/Rock
Ariadne Mackinnon-Andrew (lead vocals, keyboards)
The nearest comparison for this unusual album would be fellow Canadian Theo Scherman; alternatively, this could be described as a hybrid of Lene Lovich, Kate Bush and Armande Altaï with off-kilter funky new wave backing, a few prog and sixties pop touches, and some good psychedelic guitar work here and there. Her very arch, helium-pitched singing and the high level of whimsy mean that this is likely to annoy many listeners, but I find this a very enjoyable album when in the right mood. Mackinnon-Andrew went on to become keyboardist with the Greek progressive rock band You Guys, which was fronted by her sister Niki (who contributes a little percussion here).

GRADE: C+.
See also Koules, You Guys

Raun MacKinnon (USA): Raun Is Her Name! (Kapp KS-3556, 1968)
Pop/Rock
I’d owned this for years but had never bothered to play it, assuming it was rather wet and formulaic singer/songwriter stuff. Wrong: it’s a mixture of excellent uptempo pop/rock with a lovely period flavour, marred only by some overbearing horns, and beautiful and baroque ballads like ‘Angelia’ and ‘Today I Sure Got Nothin’ To Do’. I also like the acoustic guitar instrumental ‘Sacrifice Of The Goat’, not least for its inappropriate title, which makes it sound like a Black Sabbath outtake. Altogether, this was a very pleasant surprise. MacKinnon was a highly-touted folkie who had recorded earlier in the decade. GRADE: C+.

Macreel (Holland): Step It Out (JMR JMR 01/12-84, 1984)
Folk
Gemma van Houten (lead vocals, spoons, flute)
The opening ‘The Bonny Light Horseman’ is absolutely exquisite, but overall this suffers from a lack of variety (hardly surprising given that they were a trio playing acoustic instruments, and did not involve any guests). Thus whilst the music is beautiful and intricate, without any notably weak tracks, a little rock energy or jazz complexity would not have gone amiss here and there. GRADE: C+.

Mad Curry (Belgium): Mad Curry (Pirate’s 91001-1, with poster sleeve, 1970)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive
Viona Westra (principal vocals, percussion)
The dramatic opening cuts (‘Men’ and ‘Big Ben’) immediately recall Catapilla, though without the weird, dissonant edges and long instrumental passages. Other songs occasionally resemble Julie Driscoll, and there are some definite proto-new wave edges here and there; altogether, it’s surprising that this dates from as early as 1970. Whilst not outstanding, this is an interesting record, and notable for its huge (though fairly unattractive) poster sleeve. They also issued a good non-LP single ‘Antwerp’, which sounds very similar to their contemporaries Affinity. GRADE: C+.
See also Wim de Craene & Viona Westra, Stainless Steel, Sonny Zandueta

Madder Mortem (Norway): Mercury (Amazon 019, CD, with poster booklet, UK, 1999)
Metal
Agnete M Kirkevaag (lead vocals)
Bridging gothic and doom metal, Madder Mortem offer a procession of elegant songs with stately riffs, a mildly psychedelic atmosphere and excellent vocals ranging from midrange to soprano. There are also clear influences from post-punk, with hints of Siouxsie & The Banshees and Dead Can Dance, among many other elements. If there is a weakness, it’s their actual material: there isn’t anything here that really sticks in the mind, though they do blend metal styles in an unusual and inventive way. GRADE: C+.
Madder Mortem (Norway): All Flesh Is Grass (Century Media 777320-2, CD, Germany, 2001)
Metal
Agnete M Kirkevaag (lead vocals)
This is considerably more assertive and confident than their debut, effectively showcasing their distinctive gothic/doom blend. However, once again there’s relatively little variety and the band only really stretches out on the ten-minute closer, so ultimately it’s another good rather than great set. GRADE: C+.
Madder Mortem (Norway): Deadlands (Century Media TE033, CD, Germany, 2002)
Metal
Agnete M Kirkevaag (lead vocals)
Deadlands their best album to date: powerful, knotty and packed with complex riffing. But ultimately, there’s only so much you can do with electric guitars, bass, drums and percussion and whilst this contains some fine moments it doesn’t quite make it all the way to B–. GRADE: C+.
Madder Mortem (Norway): Desiderata (Peaceville CDVILEF144, CD, with digipak and booklet, UK, 2006)
Metal
Agnete M Kirkevaag (lead vocals)
Madder Mortem continue to evolve here: the eerie, spooky ballads ‘Cold Stone’ and ‘Hangman’ (with the latter developing into a heavy coda) aree something new for them, whilst elsewhere they slough off their gothic-cum-doom influences for a more modern style influenced by alternative rock. There’s plenty of variety too, given their self-imposed limitation, though once again I retaun the impression that they could reach another level with a wider sonic palette and some more jamming. GRADE: C+.
Madder Mortem (Norway): Eight Ways (Peaceville CDVILEF246, CD, with digipak and poster booklet, UK, 2006)
Metal
Agnete M Kirkevaag (lead vocals)
This is another good album: plenty of knotty riffing, lots of stürm und drang, some spare jazzy interludes, you name it. But – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – to these ears they’ve yet to release a truly great album. GRADE: C+.

Madder Mortem (Norway): Red In Tooth And Claw (Karisma & Dark Essence KAR114CD, CD, 2016)
Metal
Agnete M Kirkevaag (lead vocals)
Madder Mortem’s first album in seven years sometimes reminds me of their debut, both in the more pronounced gothic metal elements and the occasionally John McGeoch-like guitar work. But whilst this is a solid and satisfying album, it doesn’t sound as though they’ve learned any new tricks. GRADE: C+.
Madder Mortem (Norway): Marrow (Karisma & Dark Essence KAR151CD, with digipak and booklet, 2018)
Metal
Agnete M Kirkevaag (lead vocals)
Like Siouxsie & The Banshees, to whom I’ve frequently compared them before, Madder Mortem are about two things: guitar textures and rhythms. This is no exception, though the guitar textures are broader and richer and – perhaps more significantly – there is more emphasis on melody, with some songs taking them further from metal than they’ve ever been before. Thus, whilst I still don’t feel they’ve yet managed an album that crosses over from ‘good’ into ‘truly great’, this often comes close. GRADE: C+.

Made In Germany (West Germany): Made In Germany (Metronome MLP 15.416, 1971)
Progressive/Psychedelic/Pop
Rita Peuker (joint lead vocals, percussion)
The short opening cut sounds like a cross between Ougenweide, Earth & Fire at their most commercial and proto-glam rock, but the second is a superb heavy progressive number. Subsequent tracks also vary between progressive rock and psychedelic pop, with a detour into Music Emporium-like territory on ‘Leisure’, making for quite a schizophrenic album. Unsurprisingly, opinions differ widely on its merits, but I find it a thoroughly enjoyable, if inevitably dated, set. The band survived to cut a couple more singles and a few demos for a second album, but these are much inferior, showing them moving increasingly in the direction of mainstream pop. GRADE: B.

Madking Ludwig (Canada): Madking Ludwig (Gaia GD011, CD, 2005?)
Rock/Metal
Sophie Bourassa (joint lead vocals)
With powerhouse riff upon powerhouse riff, this sludgy hard rock album achieves quite a head of steam, whilst maintaining a consistently melodic approach. GRADE: C+.

Madou (Belgium): Madou (Lark INL 3529, with inner, 1982)
Jazz/Rock
Vera Coomans (lead vocals)
This offshoot of the prolific folk group Rum display a few minor folk touches, but their main influences were Brechtian song and mainstream rock. On the opening cut, they sound like a poppier Cos but elsewhere this is closer to a fusion of pop/rock, new wave and RIO elements, with a wistful and melodic mood. GRADE: C+.
See also Vera Coomans, Rum

Madrigal (UK): Beneath The Greenwood Tree (No label MAD 100, 1974?)
Folk/MOR
Valerie Wicks (joint lead vocals), Alessandra Jackson (joint lead vocals), Rosamund Crawford (joint lead vocals), Carolyn Whettell (joint lead vocals, Mellotron)
There’s no shortage of contenders for the title of ‘worst expensive British private pressing’, but this album puts up a spirited fight. The problem is that whilst it’s usually described as ‘baroque folk’, it isn’t really either. Not so much a band as a small folk choir, Madrigal leaned as closely to MOR as to folk music, so whilst there are interpretations of two Steeleye Span numbers, you also get ‘Take Me Home Country Roads’, ‘Mamy Blue’, ‘Bye Bye Love’ and ‘Trains And Boats And Planes’, all performed with ringing massed vocals and simple backing from acoustic guitar (plus occasional violin and even Mellotron). On the plus side, they wrote a few of their own songs, and the opening ‘Madrigal Theme’ and ‘Marvellous Clouds’ probably show their rather unusual style at its best. GRADE: C–.

Madu’s (Venezuela): Madu’s (Transamérica Electronics 86.021, 1986)

Pop/Rock

Luisa Garcia (occasional vocals), Maria Eugenia Ciliberto (guitar), Lorena Sulbaran (drums, percussion)

In the unlikely event that you wanted to know what Estructura guitarist Maria Eugenia Ciliberto subsequently got up to, here’s your answer. Totally unlike Estructura, this largely female band offer mellow, classy pop and soft rock with well-judged arrangements and a complete absence of eighties production touches.GRADE: C+.

See also Estructura