Na H-Oganaich (UK): Gael Force 3 (Beltona Sword SBE 160, 1974)
This isn’t their third album: the title refers to the fact that this folk band from the Outer Hebrides was a trio. Some tracks are acapella, but most feature full band backing plus strings in places, with a sound similar to Shades Of Mac Murrough. GRADE: C+.
Naervaer (Norway): Demonstration 95 (Lynor Kopiering, cassette, with booklet, 1995)
Synne Larsen (joint lead vocals), Tanja Birkeland (flute), Hanne Kyllingstad (cello)
Since band members Jan Kenneth Transeth and Synne Larsen went to the superb In The Woods…, I expected this to be metal. Instead, it’s beautiful, eerie and minimalist acoustic folk, sometimes with a breezy and jazzy feel but mostly dark, haunting and contemplative.
See also Green Carnation, In The Woods…
Naissance (Switzerland): Entre Tes Mains (Jef 325.111, France, 1975)
Christiane Chanson (percussion, violin, flute, backing vocals)
This obscure Christian folk/rock album covers a fair amount of ground, with a mixture of acoustic and electric backing. Hardly surprisingly, the dreamy, slightly eerie tracks are the best, and there are some stunning moments here, particularly on the heavier, rather psychedelic closer. On the other hand, this can also be overly jolly and earnest, but that comes with the territory. GRADE: C+.
Naja Rosa (Denmark): Naja Rosa (Zewski Music Group 5099990755620, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2010)
Naja Rosa Koppel (lead vocals, piano)
Naja Rosa Koppel has been a backing vocalist in her parents’ band Savage Rose for several years, but certainly didn’t achieve her position through nepotism, having been a consistent (and accomplished) songwriter for the group. Her solo debut, backed by most of the band, unsurprisingly isn’t a million miles away, offering the same kind of dramatic soul-tinged pop/rock, and her voice, whilst not as distinctive as her mother Annisette Hansen’s, is also likely to be less divisive. This is classy pop music with great hooks and an outstanding production, and should definitely be of interest to Savage Rose fans. GRADE: C+.
Naja Rosa (Denmark): The Place I Call Home (Zewski Music Group 5099994116823, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2011)
Naja Rosa Koppel (lead vocals, handclaps)
This isn’t completely different from her first, nor notably inferior, but the Savage Rose-like epic dimensions are tamed somewhat and dance music elements (including some reggae rhythms) are more prominent. As such, I like it slightly less, though there’s still plenty to enjoy here, including a fine production and some excellent fuzz bass work. GRADE: C+.|
Naja Rosa (Denmark): These Are The Times (Universal Music 0060253791453, with download card, 2014)
Naja Rosa Koppel (lead vocals)
There’s no question that Naja Rosa is a great pop artist: this is even more commercial and mainstream than her first two, without losing an iota of quality, The big question is why Naja Rosa isn’t a greatly successful pop artist, since these songs are better than 90% of what makes the singles chart these days. GRADE: C+.
See also Savage Rose
Nana & Marlou (Sweden): Pornofonia (Pornofon PLP 401, 1974)
Folk/Chanson/‘Incredibly Strange Music’
The album title, label name and odd low-budget artwork immediately make clear that this private pressing isn’t just another album of jaunty folk songs and orchestrated chansons. Doubtless the lyrics are deeply filthy and highly provocative, but not understanding a word of Swedish I can judge this only on its musical merits, which are limited. However, as an artefact it’s weird enough to deserve a place on the fringes of my collection. GRADE: D.
Narnia (UK): Narnia (Myrrh MYR 1007, with insert, 1974)
Pauline Filby (lead vocals)
In a completely different league to leader Pauline Filby’s dull solo album five years previously, this LP (also known as Aslan Is Not A Tame Lion after the inscription on the front sleeve) is superb, sometimes resembling Mellow Candle at their most robust. The three prog-oriented tracks – ‘Agapé’, ‘In The Forest’ and ‘Water’ – are all-time genre classics, but the disc is excellent throughout, with memorable melodies, powerful performances and some beautiful and joyous singing. GRADE: B.
See also Pauline Filby
Narrow Pass (Italy): A Room Of Fairy Queen’s (Muséa FGBG 5648.AR, CD, France, 2006)
Valeria Caucino (occasional vocals), Monica Terrana (occasional vocals)
This concept album about a night out at a gay club (not really, but it would have made for an unusual set) was essentially the project of composer and multi-instrumentalist Mauro Montobbio. Accompanied by guests on vocals, bass, drums and flute, he offers a few songs recalling Genesis (most notably on the uptempo ‘Lord Of The Headline’, which also brings to mind Marillion) bookending a few folkier, more pastoral instrumentals. Some of the material is pleasant, and the use of a real rhythm section means this isn’t as thin-sounding as some one man band projects, but ultimately this is rather average neoprogressive, with the disparate styles not hanging together too well. GRADE: C.
Narrow Pass (Italy): In This World And Beyond (Muséa FGBG 4809, CD, France, 2009)
Valerina Caucino (principal vocals, percussion)
For their far superior second album, the band was a duo of Montobbio and Caucino, plus lots of guests playing a wider array of instruments. Whilst not dissimilar to their first, this is much more accomplished, with a high level of virtuosity, some beautiful Celtic-influenced material, and thankfully very little resemblance to either eighties Genesis or Marillion. GRADE: C+.
Narrow Pass (Italy): A New Day (Muséa FGBG 4883, CD, France, 2014)
Anna Marra (occasional vocals), Kathy O’ Gara (occasional vocals)
A huge step forward from their inauspicious beginnings, this mixes delicate, folky instrumentals and slightly more rocking songs. The former are clearly superior, with the singers having the strong accents typical of Italian bands, but this is a solid set overall. GRADE: C+.
Diana Nasution & Lolypop Group (Indonesia): Jangan Kau Sangsikan (Lolypop LLP-004, 1975?)
From the cover, with Nasution in skin-tight leathers, this could easily be hard rock. In fact, it’s gentle pop/rock with a low budget feel and some good guitar work; aside from a Supremes cover, all the material is original. The standout cut is ‘Oh Nasibku’, which is drenched in fuzz guitar; even with the rest of the album being much softer, this is an expensive and sought-after LP. GRADE: C+.
Nanette Natal (USA): Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (Vanguard VSD 6509, 1969)
This isn’t as exciting or as distinctive as her next LP, but it’s still a lovely singer/songwriter affair, with rich orchestrations on some cuts and gentle soft-rock settings on others. Her talent as both a composer and vocalist is immediately evident, and she was unlucky not to achieve a higher commercial profile. GRADE: C+.
Nanette Natal (USA): The Beginning (Evolution 3009, 1971)
Nanette Natal (lead vocals, guitar)
For the first couple of minutes this appears to be a fairly normal early seventies singer/songwriter LP; then an unexpectedly heavy fuzz guitar solo kicks in. Powerful acid leads are present on a few other songs too, giving a psychedelic edge to Natal’s unusual material (as song titles like ‘Annie’s Magical Brew’, ‘Five Hundred Pieces Fully Interlocking’ and ‘Iron Butterfly’ suggest). Overall, this is one of the best albums of its type. GRADE: B–.
John Natchez (USA): Listen (Atropos JS-0005, 1977)
Diane Swaim (joint lead vocals), Peggy Johnson (joint lead vocals)
Despite the artist credit, this is more of a band than a solo effort, with Natchez writing and producing everything but sticking to drums and percussion. His instrumental role gives the album its odd and distinctive sound: the songs are fairly conventional early seventies-sounding rock with a hippie edge, but Natchez throws in unexpected drum fills and rhythm changes all over the place, determined to be the star of the show. The results occasionally recall the Haymarket Square LP, which also has unusually intrusive drumming, but Natchez is even more flamboyant, with his energetic performances taking this close to ‘incredibly strange music’ at times (although he, like his collaborators, is an excellent musician and this is very well recorded). Overall it’s an interesting and curious set that doesn’t really sound like any other album. GRADE: C+.
National Gallery (USA): Performing Musical Interpretations Of The Paintings Of Paul Klee (Philips PHS 600-26, with booklet, 1968)
The title says it all: this odd but enjoyable album attempts to create songs to accompany various paintings (reproduced on the insert) by modern artist Paul Klee. These range from harmony pop to psychedelia with strong guitar leads, generally featuring catchy tunes and varied arrangements. Occasionally this reminds me of the Brazilian band Os Mutantes, although National Gallery are far more lightweight and not as original or creative. GRADE: C+.
National Health (UK): National Health (Affinity AFF6, 1977)
Amanda Parsons (lead vocals)
The band was essentially Hatfield & The North without the bass player/singer, but whilst this is in the same knotty Canterbury jazz/rock vein it’s a lot less playful. Indeed, with Amanda Parsons’s high-pitched vocals upfront, interspersed with long instrumental passages, it often sounds like a less weird and exploratory Cos. GRADE: B–.
See also Gilgamesh, Hatfield & The North, Laurent Thibault
Náttúra (Iceland/USA): Náttúra (Náttúra NTR 008, with insert, 1972)
Shady Owens (principal vocals)
Formed by a couple of members of Trúbrot, Náttúra was a somewhat different proposition musically, offering light though sometimes quite intricate progressive jazz/rock. The album often sounds like a low-budget answer to Affinity or Brian Auger & Julie Driscoll and is consistently enjoyable. American vocalist Shady Owens subsequently guested with the eightes jazz/funk band Mezzoforte. GRADE: C+.
See also Hljómar, Trúbrot
Natural Acoustic Band (UK): Learning To Live (RCA SF 8272, 1972)
Krysia Kocjan (principal vocals, guitar)
With its intricate acoustic guitars and hand percussion, the band’s sound often recalls labelmates Dando Shaft, but Krysia Kocjan’s vocal and songwriting style is more reminiscent of Magic Carpet’s Alisha Sufit. Unlike those outfits, Natural Acoustic Band add pop and slight jazz edges to their music, with a rhythm section used extensively, to create a more commercial mood. Like a lot of hippie-folk, it can be a little precious, but the standard is consistently high and there are some truly beautiful moments here. GRADE: C+.
Natural Acoustic Band (UK): Branching In (RCA SF 8314, 1972)
Krysia Kocjan (joint lead vocals, guitar, percussion)
In parts this is more commercial than Learning To Live, with unwelcome strings on three cuts, but on the plus side their songwriting has come on in leaps and bounds. At least half the material is really excellent, making for an accomplished LP offering a superior alternative to Tudor Lodge at a tiny fraction of the price. GRADE: C+.
See also Krysia Kocjan
Nazjazz (USA): Nazjazz (No label NJ 4871, 1980)
Jackie Callahan (joint lead vocals)
Nazjazz was a duo of John Nazarenko and Jackie Callahan, although the former was very much the dominant member: writing everything, playing almost all the instruments and taking the lion’s share of the lead vocals. Musically this is polished jazz-fusion with a mellow mood and a folky edge, and features some very well crafted and produced songs. GRADE: C+.
Nazjazz (USA): January Thaw (No label, 1981)
Jackie Callahan (joint lead vocals)
Like its predecessor, this is very much a vehicle for John Nazarenko’s talents as a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist; indeed, he performs half the songs entirely solo. Once again, it’s slick, mellow, jazzy and introspective, creating some nice laid-back grooves. Oddly, Nazarenko and Callahan operated simultaneously as the hard rock duo Callahan & Naz. GRADE: C+.
See also Callahan & Naz
Nebulous Sun (France): First Tale (Baboon Fish BFL 14, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2021)
Charlotte Pace (violin)
What happens when you cross Magma-derived avant-prog (though with faint industrial edges making it sound Japanese as much as French) with Principal Edwards Magic Theatre-style folky songs? In four words: Nebulous Sun’s First Tale. If that makes it sound like a peculiar listening experience, it certainly is, though it’s much more mellifluous – and even homogenous – than one would expect. By turns fascinating and faintly baffling, this is ‘fusion’ in the most literal sense of the term. GRADE: B–.
Neighb’rhood Childr’n (USA): The Neighb’rhood Childr’n (Acta A-38005, 1968)
A long-time favourite among psych collectors, the oddly-named Neighb’rhood Childr’n tackle various strands of late sixties San Franciscan rock, generally rather well. Highlights include the sparse, eerie ‘Long Years In Space’ (fronted by Dyan Hoffman’s best Grace Slick impersonation), the uptempo ‘Feeling Zero’ and the instrumental freakout ‘Chocolate Angel’, but almost all tracks benefit from the winning combination of acid guitar and trebly organ. On the downside, they should never have attempted to cover ‘Over The Rainbow’, which simply doesn’t lend itself to this sort of treatment, and ends up soundly faintly ridiculous. GRADE: C+.
Neighborhood (USA): Debut (Big Tree BTS 2001, 1970)
This nine-piece vocal group’s first album was also their last, so far as I know. Unsurprisingly, it’s big production pop, consisting entirely of cover versions with a bias towards singer/songwriter numbers (from Lauro Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Simon & Garfunkel and others). Groundbreaking and exciting it isn’t, but it’s a solid enough album of its kind and (unusually for the genre) not marred by overbearing orchestrations. GRADE: C.
Nekropolis (Denmark): Suite Til Sommeren (Hookfarm HLS 76-8, with booklet, UK, 1976)
Gitte Lund (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
This Christian soft rock album adds lots of progressive touches, especially on the superior first side, and has a typically mellow Scandinavian sound. Whilst it’s not brilliant, it has a certain charm that makes it well worth repeated plays; in particular, the opening ‘Tidlig Søndag Morgen’ has an absolutely gorgeous hookline and is something of a minor classic. Although this was a very small label pressing, manufactured in the UK, they clearly had a large budget, as it featured both a laminated gatefold sleeve and sixteen-page lyric booklet. As a footnote, the band had a cut on the Hookfarm Records compilation Hookfarm Julepladen (Hookfarm HLS 76-10, 1976), but it’s nothing special. GRADE: C+.
See also Various 'Hookfarm Julepladen'
Graham & Sheila Nelmes (UK): High Is The Tower (Tradition TSR 042, 1983)
Sheila Nelmes (joint lead vocals, guitar, psaltery)
It’s a pity that the talented Graham & Sheila Nelmes released just this one album, as it’s among the best traditional folk LPs of the eighties. At its best, this can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the peerless Laine & Alan; it also reminds me of Shirley & Dolly Collins or the best moments from Miriam Backhouse’s debut. Subtle use of mediaeval instrumentation adds a beautiful baroque edge to their sound, and the harmony vocals (including contributions from Tickawinda’s Alison Tulloch) are simply superb. Some listeners may feel there’s an acapella track too many, but these also benefit from the stunning harmonies and to these ears add variety. GRADE: B–.
Neom (France): Arkana Temporis (Soleil Zeuhl 21, CD, 2009)
Carole Duchene Sauvage (piano)
Varied, dynamic and highly creative, this excellent zeuhl album also draws significantly on Canterbury stylings, especially in its guitar tone. The band was a husband-and-wife duo plus a bassist, with the husband contributing the vocals, guitars, drums and all the material; although Carole Duchene Sauvage is credited solely with electric piano, I’m sure I hear some female harmony vocals here and there.
Chiitra Neogy (Uganda): The Perfumed Garden (Gemini GMX 5030 / Morgan M1003L, 1968)
Chiitra Neogy was a Ugandan Asian who relocated to London and ‘explored the myth of London ‘high-life’’. This bizarre album supposedly charts her disappointment with Western men’s attitudes to women and sex. Consisting of readings from an ancient erotic text interspersed with traditional Indian music, it at first appears like a hippie cash-in (and Neogy’s dramatic vocals often resemble Gong’s Gilli Smyth with an Indian accent), but according to the sleevenotes she was entirely sincere in her intentions and wished to ‘retire to a monastery’. GRADE: C.
Nephila (Sweden): Nephila (The Sign CRC022CD, CD, with digipak, 2021)
Josephine Asker (joint lead vocals), Stina Olsson (joint lead vocals)
Led by former Children Of The Sün guitarist Jacob Hellenrud, offer a similar early seventies-style hard rock sound, though in this case with progressive rather than psychedelic edges. However, good as this is, the songs are mostly solid as opposed to great – with the delicate, ornate ‘Belladonna’ being the best thing on offer – and the band never really stretches out and jams, so ultimately this is a high C+ rather than a B–. GRADE: C+.
Neptune’s Empire (Norway): Neptune’s Empire (Polymax PXX 01, 1971)
Regarded by many as one of the worst privately-pressed collectibles, Neptune’s Empire’s sole album typically turns up in lists and discographies described as ‘soft psychedelia’ or even progressive rock. In reality, it’s anachronistic pop with a very slight popsike edge, giving a fair indication of what Abba might have sounded like had they formed in 1967. Opening track ‘Witchita Falls’ is a stunning piece of Europop with an irresistible hookline and wonderful Hammond work, but thereafter the disc is pleasant rather than memorable. The title track (which appears in two parts) is completely different to the other material, being a delicate, classical-styled instrumental with full orchestral arrangements; perhaps this explains why some people call the album progressive. GRADE: C+.
Nervous Ice Mummy (UK): Chrome Hoof Vs Nervous Ice Mummy (Broken Claw BC001, 2003)
Missy Em (keyboards, backing vocals)
Although they appear to be active today, this split album was Nervous Ice Mummy’s only release. It’s pleasant melodic indie-rock with some psychedelic edges and a few minor experimental edges; the other side is given over to an embryonic Chrome Hoof (at that point with an all-male line-up, so far as I’m aware), whose fractured but more creative contributions would probably merit a B–. GRADE: C+.
Nervous Wrecks (UK): Nerve Ending (No label, 1972)
Sue Whitman (occasional vocals)
This university project album from a small collective is in the same spirit as the York Pop Music Project LP. Musically it’s very different, however, offering relaxed late-night folk/rock with a mid-Atlantic flavour and some excellent cover versions. Only one copy has resurfaced on the collectors’ market. GRADE: C+.
Neutrons (UK): Black Hole Star (United Artists UAG 29652, with inner, 1974)
Caromay Dixon (joint lead vocals)
This largely consists of keyboard-driven instrumental prog, with the lengthy opening cut being probably the best thing on offer. However, there are also songs ranging from mainstream seventies rock to slightly mystical hippie folk, creating a rather unfocused album that sounds like a collection of demos recorded over an extended period. The oddly-titled ‘Dance Of The Psychedelic Lounge Lizards’ was dedicated to the recently-deceased Graham Bond, but its extensive use of violin means that it more closely resembles Air Cut-era Curved Air. GRADE: C+.
Neutrons (UK): Tales From The Blue Cocoons (United Artists UAG 29726, 1975)
Caromay Dixon (joint lead vocals)
Their second and final album is slightly more song-based, but otherwise it’s business as usual, mixing prog-edged seventies rock and quaint hippie folk/pop. Like their debut, it’s all strikingly inconsequential, as though the band was merely rehearsing and not intending the resulting music for release, but it’s never less than pleasant, and a couple of the female-sung tracks are rather lovely. GRADE: C+.
Nevada (UK): Pictures In The Fire (Mooncrest CRESTCD 054 Z, CD, 2000, recorded 1980-1984?)
Annie Haslam (principal vocals)
With Renaissance temporarily in abeyance during 1980 and 1981, Annie Haslam and Michael Dunford formed this short-lived side-project alongside keyboardist Peter Gosling. Their recording career stretched to two singles, ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’/‘Pictures In The Fire’ (which reached the lower end of the charts) and ‘You Know I Like It’/‘Once In A Lifetime’; alternate takes were subsequently compiled into this album along with six unreleased cuts and five rare Renaissance tracks from the mid-eighties. The other Nevada numbers include ‘Faeries’ (later re-recorded by Renaissance for Camera Camera), ‘Star Of The Show’ (re-recorded by Michael Dunford’s Renaissance) and ‘Tokyo’ (an attempt to create a Eurovision entry). Musically, the material mixes elements of Renaissance’s symphonic style with touches of synth-pop; whilst pleasant, it’s probably of historical interest more than anything. None of the four new Renaissance numbers are essential either, but a live version of ‘Mother Russia’ is excellent. GRADE: C.
See also Akio Dobashi, Michael Dunford’s Renaissance, Annie Haslam, Renaissance
Nancy Nevins (USA): Nancy Nevins (Tom Cat BYL-1-1063, 1975)
The former Sweetwater singer’s solo album is nothing like her former band, being sophisticated singer/songwriter fare with jazzy, folky and ragtime edges. I don’t like it, but it’s undeniably well put together. GRADE: C.
See also Sweetwater
New Beginnings (UK): Change Of Heart (Kingsway Music KMR 339, 1981)
Sue Reeves-Bassett (joint lead vocals, tambourine), Sharon Armstrong (joint lead vocals, piano)
I can’t imagine this album of rather polished, rather middle-of-the-road, slightly folkish Christian pop being among anyone’s favourites, but it’s still better than that description implies. Several tracks are fairly throwaway but even these are well-crafted, and two cuts in particular (the vaguely Gerry Rafferty-like ‘London Rain’ and the haunting ‘Dancer In The Father’s Hand’) work very well. GRADE: C.
New Beginnings (UK): Masks (Kingsway Music KMR 376, with insert, 1982)
Sue Reeves-Bassett (occasional vocals, percussion), Sharon Armstrong (occasional vocals, keyboards)
Their second and final album is somewhat different from its predecessor. On one hand, it shows them moving in more of a light, frothy pop direction; on the other, the backing musicians (including Caravan’s John G Perry) are from progressive rock backgrounds and add all kinds of complicated twists and fills to the material; the result sounds like a fusion of Buck’s Fizz and eighties Renaissance. A quirky and mildly interesting LP, it would have been improved immeasurably had they given in to their prog leanings and really stretched out on some of the songs. GRADE: C.
New Dawn (UK): Mainline (No label, 1969)
Anne Henderson (joint lead vocals)
This is very unusual for a British private pressing, as about half the music is American-style psychedelic garage rock, complete with fuzz guitar, trebly organ and frantic drumming. The other half is loner folk with simple acoustic backing and a dark, despairing atmosphere, reflecting the gloomy, introspective lyrics (which are strangely at odds with the album’s religious theme). The disc comes housed in a die-cut printed sleeve, and is unsurprisingly a major collectible; my own copy comes with a programme from the performance as well as a photocopied script. GRADE: C+.
New Folk Harmony (France): New Folk Harmony (Velia 22 300 12, 1975?)
Danielle (joint lead vocals, spoons, kazoo)
If you ever fancied listening to a French cross between City Preachers and Faraway Folk, here’s your chance. It’s certainly an odd experience to hear a French band performing versions of ‘San Francisco Bay Blues’, ‘Leaving On A Jet Plane’, ‘Pick A Bale Of Cotton’ and ‘Whip Jamboree’ rather than material from their own musical tradition. GRADE: C+.
New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band & Chicago Women’s Liberation Rock Band (USA): Mountain Moving Day (Rounder 1001, with booklet, 1972)
Chicago Women’s Liberation Rock Band: Sherry Jenkins (joint lead vocals, guitar, bass), Patricia Miller (vocals, guitar), Susan Abod (guitar, bass, whistle), Naomi Weinstein (piano), Fania Montalvo (drums), Suzanne Prescott (drums). New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band: Jennifer Abod (principal vocals, tambourine), Judy Miller (occasional vocals, drums), Rika Alper (guitar, backing vocals), Lesh Margulies (flute, backing vocals), Harriet Cohen (guitar), Pat Ouellette (bass), Kathleen McClure (saxophone, trombone), Virginia Blaisdell (French horn)
This interesting album is split between two feminist rock bands, each being given a side to showcase its works. On the first side, Chicago open with the superb extended progressive number ‘Secretary’, but follow it up with two rather dull folk/blues songs; things improve again with the title track, which also has some progressive touches, including a drum solo. The New Haven Band on the second side are jazzier and more soulful, with lots of horns and some nice flute work; their five numbers are rather patchy too, but the lengthy ‘Sister Witch’ is quite memorable. GRADE: C+.
New Life (Finland): Kuules Kaveri… (No label LPSLP-1, 1976)
Sylvia Salonen (joint lead vocals, piano), Satumaria Salonen (joint lead vocals, flute)
In many ways, this is a typical Christian album, with a light folk-edged rock sound and a somewhat churchy feel. However, it has a certain charm that lifts it above most, with the naïve dual female vocals recalling school project LPs, some dreamy synthesiser work and some good guitar leads. GRADE: C+.
New Moon (USA): New Moon (New Moon NM-1.1, with inner, 1981)
Nancy Jean Buchan (violin)
Betwixt AOR and jazz/rock, with some notable progressive edges, this mildly interesting band clearly take many of their cues from Steely Dan. However, on the violin-led instrumental ‘3-Point Cruise’, they sound more like It’s A Beautiful Day, whilst elsewhere the spectre of pomp-rock occasionally rears its head. The beautiful fantasy sleeve, which implies that the LP is going to be proggier than it actually is, also deserves a mention. GRADE: C+.
New Season (USA): New Season (Tiny 0-110-WRY, 1972?)
Nancy Crawford (principal vocals)
Mixing nine covers and three originals, this is a pleasant soft rock set with a sound similar to Asylum’s First And Last. Occasionally it strays into lounge territory (notably on ‘Since I Fell For You’ and ‘I Believe In Music’) but it mosly has a solid, mellow guitar-rock sound, and the material (‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’, ‘Proud Mary’, ‘Me And Bobby McGee’ and an energetic ‘Somebody To Love’) is interesting and eclectic. The three originals are pretty good as well, particularly the dreamy closer ‘Morning’ (despite an amateurish vocal from guitarist William Pelrine), making for a solid album. GRADE: C+.
New Society (USA): The Barock Sound Of… (RCA LSP 3676, 1966)
Carol Stromme (joint lead vocals, tambourine), Carol Kimzey (joint lead vocals, percussion, autoharp)
Fans of sixties sleevenote hyperbole will love this one: ‘They have borrowed with discrimination from Elizabethan chambers and the cellars of Liverpool alike, have carefully brewed a potion of Hungarian cymbalon [sic], English hunting horn, harpsichord and violin with electric guitar, and vocally, have delivered counterpoint and unison, harmony and dissonance’. They may well employ all those instruments, but despite a couple of quasi-medieval numbers this is fairly mainstream sixties folk/rock and early psychedelia, rather than anything experimental or groundbreaking. Nonetheless, it’s an accomplished and enjoyable LP. Band member Carol Stromme went on to cut a solo album that is sought-after by soft-rock collectors. GRADE: C+.
See also Carol Stromme
New St George (USA): High Tea (Folk Era 1415 CD, CD, 1994)
Lisa Moscatiello (lead vocals, guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, whistle), Jennifer Cutting (keyboards, accordion, melodeon)
British-style electric folk is the last thing one would expect from an American band, but that’s exactly what New St George deliver. Unsurprisingly, Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span are major influences, and their versions of the traditional songs and tunes are both lively and sensitive, with some robust instrumentation and some lovely singing from Lisa Moscatiello. In fact, aside from the modernistic production one wouldn’t know that this wasn’t an English album from the mid-seventies. GRADE: B–.
See also Jennifer Cutting’s Ocean Orchestra
New Trends (Zambia): The New Trends (EMI Columbia SX 6245, UK, 1967)
Stevie van Kerken (principal vocals, tambourine)
This Zambian trio offer pleasant jangly folk/pop with mostly self-penned material; the vibe often recalls the Seekers with an added late sixties Swingin’ London sensibility. Some discographies state that they issued a second album on Columbia, Coloured Rain, but I’ve never seen definite proof of its existence. Vocalist Stevie van Kerken later went to a prolific career as a session singer under her married name of Stevie Lange. GRADE: C+.
See also Night
New Troubadours (USA): Winds Of Birth (Lorian, 1974)
Lark Batteau (joint lead vocals, guitar, piano), Kathi Lightstone (joint lead vocals), Jewels Manchester (joint lead vocals)
This relatively easy-to-find private pressing by a mystical commune does not enjoy a good critical reputation. That’s a touch unfair, as it’s a rather charming mellow folk/rock affair, though most of the material straddles the line between beatific and twee. Two different cover variants are known, using the same basic artwork: one with a blue background and the other in green. GRADE: C+.
New Wine (USA): Holy Spirit Express (Anodyne SW 1048, 1972?)
Jane Miller (joint lead vocals, percussion)
This obscure Christian private pressing offers rather good light guitar rock with excellent playing and production but also an appealingly organic garage edge. Most songs feature fuzz guitar leads, adding a psychedelic flavour, with ‘Spirit Of Elijah’ and ‘Reap What You Sow’ being the best and heaviest things on offer. GRADE: C+.
Newbury Park (USA): Newbury Park (Cream CR 9003, 1970)
From the cover you’d expect them to be country/rockers, whilst some of the song titles (including ‘Green Tambourine’ and ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah’) make one expect bubblegum. In fact the opening track is a Christian number with a choral feel, whilst the remainder is a mix of heavily arranged folk/pop, rural and singer/songwriter material. Former Jefferson Airplane producer Tommy Oliver masterminded the album, arranging and producing everything as well as writing one song. The band went on to release a second and final album A Taste Of New Wine in 1972, which looks more overtly religious from the cover. GRADE: C–.
Del Newman Sound (UK): Flower Garden (EMI Columbia SX 6181, 1967)
Big production flower-power cash-in from studio musos, housed in a trippy laminated sleeve and featuring staples like ‘San Francisco (Flowers In Your Hair)’, ‘Sunny’ and ‘We Can Work It Out’, alongside a few originals by renowned arranger Newman and producer Derek Lawrence. GRADE: C.
News From Babel (USA/UK/West Germany): Sirens And Silences/Work Resumed On The Tower (Ré Ré 6116, with booklet and insert, 1984)
Dagmar Krause (lead vocals), Lindsay Cooper (keyboards, saxophone, bassoon), Zeena Parkins (accordion, harp)
Similar to its predecessor Art Bears in some ways (notably in the short, weird Brechtian songs) and different in others (much jazzier, with lots of saxophone and harp), News From Babel’s debut bravely went against the musical grain in 1984. With Lindsay Cooper composing rather than Fred Frith (who did not participate) the music is a bit quieter and more elegiac, though with a few more conventional rock elements as well. Like the final Art Bears album, both News From Babel LPs were pressed at 45rpm, but both have more conventional running times of around 35 minutes apiece. GRADE: B–.
News From Babel (USA/UK): Letters Home (Ré Ré 1..14, with booklet and obi, 1986)
Dagmar Krause (joint lead vocals), Sally Potter (joint lead vocals), Zeena Parkins (guitar, accordion, harp), Lindsay Cooper (keyboards, saxophone, bassoon)
Dagmar Krause had actually left the band by this point, but she returned to sing the closing two cuts; the remainder were fronted largely by Robert Wyatt, but also by Sally Potter and Phil Minton. They just don’t match up to Krause, whose unique style was integral to the Art Bears/News From Babel/mid-period Henry Cow vision. GRADE: C+.
See also City Preachers, Cosa Brava, Lindsay Cooper, Henry Cow, Dagmar Krause, Zeena Parkins, Slapp Happy, Tin Hat Trio
Joanna Newsom (USA): The Milk-Eyed Mender (Drag City DC263CD, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2004)
Joanna Newsom (lead vocals, keyboards, harp)
When Newsom started singing the first number like a constipated cartoon character, I assumed she was putting it on for effect. When she did the same on the second, I realised that that was how she actually sings. A pity, as the songs and the musical backing are rather winsome. GRADE: D.
Joanna Newsom (USA): Ys (Drag City DC303CD, CD, with slipcase, 2006)
Joanna Newsom (lead vocals, harp)
I still don’t like her voice, but it’s a lot less annoying here, partly because she shows more restraint, and partly because the arrangements (by Van Dyke Parks, no less) are a great deal more fulsome. But the music, although pleasing, is far from diverse, making the album way, way, way too long. GRADE: C+.
Joanna Newsom (USA): Have One On Me (Drag City DC390CD, triple CD, with minisleeves, booklet and box, 2010)
Joanna Newsom (lead vocals, piano, harp)
Making its predecessor look like an EP, this triple album runs for more than two hours. In fairness, it’s pretty good, with a reasonable level of variety and a much more normal style of singing. But charming as it is, few artists can pull off such a grandiose statement with aplomb, and Newsom isn’t one of them. GRADE: C+.
Nexus (Argentina): Detrás Del Umbral (Record Runner RR 0220, CD, 1999)
Mariela González (lead vocals)
Seemingly a concept album with a religious theme, Detrás Del Umbral offers richly symphonic and dramatic yet relaxed progressive with clearly identifiable South American elements, but thankfully without the metal edges typical of modern prog bands from the continent. It’s all a bit too understated to be truly memorable, but the LP is consistently accomplished and effective. GRADE: C+.
Nexus (Argentina): Live At Nearfest 2000 (Prog Media PMR xx33, CD, USA, 2002)
Mariela González (lead vocals)
I wondered how their material would work live out of its original context, and the answer is quite oddly. There’s nothing wrong with these performances, but the music sounds a bit choppy and inconsequential here, despite some fine performances. Mariela González went on to Atempo after this, whilst Nexus continued with an all-male line-up. GRADE: C+.
See also Atempo