Wa-Wh

 

Sue Walker (UK): The Bard And I (Snellgrove SN 79, 1972?)
Folk
Only one copy is known of this album, which comes with a crude, hand-made black-and-white paste-on sleeve. Like the Austrian Bakadi LP, side one consists of musical settings of Shakespeare’s poetry, whilst side two is wholly self-penned; both have simple acoustic guitar backing, presumably played by Walker herself. She has a lovely, pure voice, making this a charming album, if inevitably one with limited variety. As a footnote, the label states that this was a ‘copy of customers [sic] tape’, so it’s entirely possible that only one copy was ever manufactured. GRADE: C+.

Ger. Walshe (Ireland): Song Collection (Fiona, CDR, 2000)
Singer/Songwriter/Folk/Rock
Walshe never wrote for Loudest Whisper, but her obscure solo album features eight of her own songs. There are no musician credits, but given that this was arranged and produced by Brian O’ Reilly and recorded at his Fiona Studios it’s a fair bet that Loudest Whisper provide the backing. With Walshe’s voice as magnificent as ever, it’s a lovely collection of songs that strongly resemble her former band. On the downside, one or two tracks sound like demos rather than the finished article, but for the most part this is a thoroughly charming set. GRADE: B–.
See also Loudest Whisper

Wanderfalk (West Germany): Wanderfalk (Autogram ALLP-250, with insert, 1978)
Folk/Rock
Sabine Cermann-Hahnewinkel (principal vocals, zither), Anita Sinha (flute, backing vocals)
I’d always imagined this German outfit to be mediaeval folk, but in fact they’re electric folk/rock. This is pleasant throughout, with some complexity on the twelve-minute ‘Schondilg’, but it also has a rather low-key, parochial feel, and they never threaten the supremacy of their countrymen Ougenweide. GRADE: C+.
Wanderfalk (West Germany): Wär Ich Ein Wilder Falke (Autogram ALLP-514, with insert, 1984)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Sabine Cermann-Hahnewinkel (principal vocals)
In most regards, their second and final album is a huge step forward, with strong material, good progressive breaks and an excellent balance of electric, folk and mediaeval instrumentation. In fact, it’s in every regard a Grade B record except for one thing: the drumming. Electric kits were fashionable in the eighties, but why anyone would have used one for an electric folk album is beyond me. Every beat is completely inappropriate for the rest of the music, and this could singlehandedly render the album unlistenable for many people. GRADE: C+.

Wapassou (France): Wapassou (Prodisc Strasbourg PS 37342, 1974)
Progressive
Karin Nickerl (lead vocals, guitar)
Unlike the more rock-oriented single than preceded it, the A-side of this long-running band’s debut album does not feature a rhythm section. The opening ‘Mélopée’ is a mournful classical-styled instrumental hinting at the direction they would pursue on their next few albums, whilst the eleven-minute ‘Rien’ alternates between an eerie piano ballad and some minimalist avant-gardism and ‘Musillusion’ returns to a more classical feel, with lots of violin, clarinet and choral vocals. Drums are added for the two cuts on the flip: ‘Châtiment’ has a rather filmic mood with sweeping violin and spoken vocals, whilst everything climaxes with the fourteen-minute ‘Trip’, which lives up to its name by being a rather psychedelic instrumental hinting at Catharsis as well as early Pink Floyd. Although a slightly tentative record that pulls in a number of different directions, this is a very original and striking set that demonstrates Wapassou to be a genuinely fresh and adventurous band. GRADE: B.
Wapassou (France): Messe En Ré Mineur (Crypto ZAC 6401, 1976)
Progressive
Eurydice (principal vocals), Karin Nickerl (guitar)
The first of Wapassou’s three large-scale concept albums, Messe En Ré Mineur sees the trio (a guitarist, a keyboardist and a violinist) supported only by a guest vocalist. Consisting of a single 39-minute track, this is unsurprisingly very spacy and minimalist, with a sombre yet trippy feel and lots of avant-garde moments (though it’s overall too sedate and melodic to be classed as avant-prog). Whilst the LP may be too unusual for many ears, it’s a hugely bold and original piece of work that surprises even today. GRADE: B.
Wapassou (France): Salammbô (Crypto ZAL 6437, with insert, 1977)
Progressive
Monique Fizelson (principal vocals), Karin Nickerl (guitar)
The opening section, with its eerie Latin intonation, brings Jacula to mind, but otherwise this is very similar to its predecessor. Again consisting of a single track, Salammbô is in parts the darkest thing the band ever recorded, with other sections featuring heavily fuzzed guitar, dreamy organ and soaring violin. GRADE: B.
Wapassou (France): Ludwig – Un Roi Pour L’Éternité (Crypto ZAL 6477, 1978)
Progressive
Véronique Nickerl (lead vocals), Karin Nickerl (guitar)
The third and final chapter of the Messe… trilogy follows a slightly different (and rather odd) format, with the 34-minute ‘Ludwig’ followed by ‘Le Lac De Starnberg 1886’ and ‘L’Adieu Au Roy’, which total three-and-a-half minutes. Whilst in their familiar style, the music is somewhat brighter than on the last couple of LPs, and overall this is rather less inventive, though still with a very distinctive style. The CD reissue includes a six-minute bonus track ‘Hymne Au Nouveau Romantisme’ in a much more commercial vein. GRADE: B–.
Wapassou (France): Genuine – Le Lac D’Argent (Sterne STE 26512, 1980)
Rock/Progressive
Christine Maillard (lead vocals), Karin Nickerl (guitar, bass)
Despite the title, this certainly isn’t a ‘genuine’ Wapassou album – it sounds nothing whatever like their earlier work. Expanding to a five-piece, the band offer catchy song-based rock with proggy edges and some elegant synthesiser and violin work; overall, it sounds like a more sensual French twist on Curved Air circa Airborne. The closing twelve-minute instrumental ‘Torquemada’ is by far the best thing on offer, but overall this isn’t a bad album, although they definitely shouldn’t have used syndrums on the first two tracks; this effect has dated worse than a pair of flared white trousers. For no obvious reason, the disc is credited as Genuine on the front cover and Le Lac D’Argent on the labels. GRADE: C+.
Wapassou (France): Le Lac D’Argent – Orchestra 2001 (Oméga Studio OM 67060, 1986)
Progressive
Sylvia B (principal vocals), Karin Nickerl (bass)
Their final album (which again has two titles) in some ways unifies different strands of their earlier work. Like its predecessor, the music is melodic and mainstream, with full band arrangements and short tracks; but like the Messe trilogy it’s strongly classically influenced, with mainly wordless vocals. Overall, it’s a pleasant enough end to their career, without being a particularly adventurous or memorable record. As a footnote, each of their six albums showcased a different female singer, representing a very odd modus operandi. GRADE: C+.

Wappa Gappa (Japan): Yamataikoku (Air From Mt Fuji AIR-5001, CD, 1996)
Progressive
Tamami Yamamoto (lead vocals)

Essentially, yet another identikit Japanese neoprogressive outfit with lots of symphonic keyboards and occasional hard rock guitar flourishes. As usual for this genre, it’s nice enough, with a few interesting arrangement and production touches. GRADE: C+.
Wappa Gappa (Japan): A Myth (Air From Mt Fuji AIR-9608, CD, 1998)
Progressive
Tamami Yamamoto (lead vocals)
With a slightly harder rocking edge, their second set often takes them close to the sound of Human Race Party-era Teru’s Symphonia. It’s quite a patchy record, but there are occasional moments of excellence, such as the majestic coda to the title track. GRADE: C+.
Wappa Gappa (Japan): Gappa (Muséa FGBG 4250.AR/Intermusic IM-002, CD, France, 2004)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive
Tamami Yamamoto (lead vocals)
Whilst broadly in the same style as their first two albums, this is much jazzier and far more intense, with some really incendiary instrumental passages. A few neoprog hangovers remain, particularly in the choice of keyboard sounds, but at its best this is is impressively powerful stuff. GRADE: B–.

Eleanor Wallace (USA): Songs Of The Middle Way (Meagher Recording Co EW-MRC, 1966)
Folk
Eleanor Wallace (principal vocals, guitar, lute)
This very rare private pressing is among the better mid-sixties coffeehouse folk releases, with a rather dark and mournful sound. Wallace’s own guitar and lute provide the only musical accompaniment, with the only other contributions unfortunately being from children with whom she duets on a couple of cuts. Those missteps aside, this is a lovely LP that should appeal to anyone enjoying Joan Baez, early Judy Collins et al. GRADE: C+.

Wasteland Coven (USA): Ruined (No label, CDR, 2020)
Metal
Susan Mitchel (lead vocals, bass)
This band’s debut EP (three songs totalling around 23 minutes) offers great doom metal. If you want more detail, I’ll note that they resemble Windhand more than Blood Ceremony, though they have their own style too, and I’ll add that is superbly recorded as well as composed and performed. But ‘great doom metal’ pretty much covers it. GRADE: B–.

Water For A Thirsty Land (UK/Switzerland): Water For A Thirsty Land (MRA Productions MRA ST P 101, with booklet, UK, 1974)
Folk/Rock
Sylvia Haller (joint lead vocals), Alison Hutchison (joint lead vocals), Elaine Maillefer (joint lead vocals), Vreni Gautschi (piano), Deborah Kupferschmidt (violin), Marie-Christine Bouchat (flute, recorder)
This Anglo-Swiss album may have been recorded in 1974, but its roots are firmly in the coffeehouse folk movement. The opening ‘The Ordinary Man’ is excruciatingly cheerful Christian folk fare, epitomising everything wrong with the genre; the album is never as bad again, but it’s not until side one’s haunting closer ‘Hello Light’ that they manage a good song. Surprisingly, side two is pretty solid, with several more pleasant acoustic folk numbers and an effective light garage rocker in ‘The Rat Race’. GRADE: C–.

Water Garden (Japan): Himiko – Prayer In The Land Of The Rising Sun (Muséa Parallèle MP3291, CD, 2014)

Rock/Progressive

Chifumi Abe (lead vocals), Koji Atou (guitar), Megumi Yamauchi (keyboards, backing vocals)

The big surprise is that this was recorded in 2014 – it sounds as though it could have come out on Made In Japan in the late eighties or early nineties. Musically it’s comparable to Pageant, Providence, Teru’s Symphonia and countless other Japanese acts from the period, offering competent but uninspiring neoprogressive fronted by an adequate but occasionally shaky vocalist. GRADE: C.

Waterfall (USA): Comin’ Down (No label USR 9533, 1976)
Singer/Songwriter/Folk
Debbie Paine (occasional vocals, guitar)
Recorded by four friends accompanying themselves on acoustic guitars, this rare album features all-original material with a wistful hippie mood. The vibe is charming and beatific throughout, and whilst slight, the LP is good enough that the lack of other instrumental accompaniment never becomes an issue. Just 100 copies were pressed, with a sheet featuring the credits pasted onto the outside of the shrinkwrap. GRADE: C+.

Patty Waters (USA): Sings (ESP 1025, 1965)
Jazz/Avant-Garde
Patty Waters (lead vocals, piano)
On side one Waters accompanies herself on piano on seven short ballads somewhat similar to Annette Peacock (whom Waters very likely influenced). Side two is given over to a single fourteen-minute cut, ‘Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair’, on which she is backed by free jazzers The Burton Greene Trio. This is the track for which the album is remembered, as Waters wails, shrieks and screams over a minimalist improvised setting. It’s a remarkable listening experience even today, and was hugely influential on a generation of avant-garde singers. GRADE: C+.
Patty Waters (USA): Patty Waters (ESP 1055, 1966)
Jazz/Avant-Garde
Patty Waters (lead vocals)
Also known as College Tour, Waters’s second album largely takes ‘Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair’ as its blueprint. On about two-thirds of the album, Waters moans, shrieks and howls over lazily plucked double bass and occasional cymbal interjections; the remainder is listless and somnolent versions of familiar songs. Despite her legendary status, this is a pretty one-dimensional LP that can only really be recommended to die-hard fans of avant-garde jazz. GRADE: D.

GT Waties (USA): Steal The Thunder (No label GW-5683, 1986)
Rock/Metal
Ella Mobilio (joint lead vocals), Barb Hartman (occasional vocals), Sharon Jones (occasional vocals)
GT Waties was a black multi-instrumentalist of some talent, and in particular a mean rock guitarist. On this six-track mini-album, he cuts loose in no uncertain fashion, with female guest singers fronting most of the cuts. Despite the one-man-band approach (the only thing he doesn’t play is the drums), this has a substantial and polished sound, with hints of AOR but harder and heavier than anything in the eighties mainstream. For anyone who likes stripped-down, unpretentious hard rock, this is quite a treat, and the album is now rare and expensive. GRADE: C+.

Bobbie Watson (UK): Off The Leafy Pathway (Reverb Worship RW 136, CDR, 2010)
Trip-Hop/Psychedelic/Progressive
Bobbie Watson (principal vocals)
Aside from a live Comus track (‘The Herald’, recorded at the Melloboat Festival in 2008), Watson’s solo album bears little resemblance to the parent band. The remainder is in a modern trip-hop vein, with pop, psychedelic and progressive edges, with the instrumentation based around keyboards, programmed drums and samples. The songs are nicely put together, but this isn’t one of my favourite genres, and I would certainly have preferred an album with real band backing. Only 50 copies were issued, with handwritten labels and a booklet but no inlay card, sleeve or jewel box. GRADE: C+.
See also Comus

We Are Kin (UK): Pandora (Bad Elephant Music BEM010, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2015)

Rock/Progressive

Hannah Cotterill (joint lead vocals), Lauren Smith (occasional vocals)

This is song-based progressive of a modern kind – their style seems to fall midway between Magenta, Frequency Drift and Big Big Train, with the only discernible seventies influence being a few hints of Pink Floyd circa The Wall. The music ebbs and flows effectively enough, with a pleasantly spacy mood, but there’s one significant problem – it’s all so utterly dreary. GRADE: C.

We Are Kin (UK): And I Know (Bad Elephant Music BEM027, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2016)

Emma Brewin-Caddy (principal vocals)

A big step up from their dull debut, this is a much more interesting and distinguished album, mixing stately ballads with hard rock guitars to excellent effect. New singer Emma Brewin-Caddy is a major plus too, bringing a jazzy touch to proceedings, and overall And I Knowsuggests that We Are Kin have the potential to produce a great LP if they hone their hooks and dynamics. The first 50 copies came with a bonus CDR Live At The Castle. GRADE: C+.

We Are Kin (UK): Bruised Sky (Bad Elephant Music BEM072, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2019)
Progressive
Emma Brewin-Caddy (principal vocals)
The band’s decision to drop guitars entirely moves their music much closer to the ambient, electronic direction of groups like Frequency Drift. In fact, this has much stronger pop and trip-hop elements, with the whole thing – echoey, spare and sparse – not really falling into any musical category. The good news is that it’s nowhere near as dull as their debut. The bad news is that it’s nowhere near as good as their second, and ultimately this is all atmosphere and not much substance. GRADE: C+.

We Five (USA): You Were On My Mind (A&M LP-111 / SP-4111, 1965)
Folk/Pop
Beverly Bivens (principal vocals)
The LP covers a lot of ground, from rather middle-of-the-road covers of ‘My Favourite Things’ and ‘Tonight’ to the slightly eerie folk/rock of ‘Love Me Not Tomorrow’ (which recalls Jefferson Airplane on their first album). Overall this is a pleasant listen, but only the latter track really stands out – they would have managed a far superior album had they pursued a particular style instead of attempting to embrace every variation of mid-sixties folk and pop. GRADE: C.
We Five (USA): Make Someone Happy (A&M LP-138 / SP-4138, 1967)
Folk/Pop
Beverly Bivens (principal vocals)
They still can’t decide whether they want to be a contemporary folk/rock outfit (‘Let’s Get Together’, ‘High Flying Bird’) or a close-harmony vocal group (‘Somewhere’, ‘First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’), but this is again a solid, if inconsistent, set. GRADE: C.
We Five (USA): The Return Of We Five (A&M SP-4168, 1969)
Folk/Pop
Debbie Burgan (joint lead vocals)
As the title suggests, this is a reunion with a slightly different line-up. It’s also different musically, being as close to MOR as to folk/rock. Alongside a few self-penned numbers, there are covers of Hoagy Carmichael, Rodgers & Hart and Bricusse & Newley songs. The closing ‘Lazy Bones’ has a slight psychedelic folk feel, with sitar and tablas. GRADE: C–.
We Five (USA): Catch The Wind (Vault 316, 1970)
Folk/Pop
Their final album takes them back to their folk/rock roots, with covers of Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, Donovan, John Stewart and the Beatles, plus a couple of token originals. It’s pleasant and mellow, but also over-arranged and ultimately rather nondescript. GRADE: C.

We The People (USA): We The People (International Recording Co. 9931, 1976)
Lounge/Country
Penny Burns (joint lead vocals), Diane Langmeyer (joint lead vocals, autoharp)
From the band name, I assumed this was Christian music, but the autographed photo included with my copy makes it clear that We The People are a lounge outfit. For the most part, their covers are country-influenced and fairly unremarkable, but there are three obvious highpoints: a lovely cover of ‘Streets Of London’ that tips the balance towards folk, an excellent version of ‘See See Rider’ that recalls both the Grateful Dead and early Jefferson Airplane, and the atmospheric Faraway Folk-like ‘Nova Scotia Farewell’. GRADE: C.

WE-Trion (Sweden): Du Är Mig En Källa Till Glädje (Free Lance FLPS 731, 1971?)
Folk
Birgitta Eklind, Annwor Wernerson, Ingbeth Wernerson
This is a lovely album of Christian folk from three young girls, who appear to be in their mid-to-late teens from the cover. Aside from one traditional number, everything is penned by Birgitta Eklind and the girls’ gentle, pure vocals are backed only by acoustic guitar. The overall effect falls somewhere between Spinning Jenny and a school project album, and whilst a little variety in the mood and arrangements would have lifted the disc somewhat, it’s undeniably charming and beautiful. GRADE: C+.

Chantal Weber (France): Chantal Weber (No label KO/830106, with insert, 1983)
Singer/Songwriter
Chantal Weber (lead vocals, guitar)
Like the Dell Dudenhoeffer album from Australia, this sounds like the work of a singer/songwriter but contains nothing penned by the artist – the lyrics were by one Olivier Noguet and the music by Nataesh Koham. Unlike the Dell Dudenhoeffer LP, the backing is quite varied, from light jazzy band arrangements to fretless bass, spacy electric piano and chamber orchestra. Synthesiser adds a mildly psychedelic edge here and there, most notably on the excellent ‘Malvide’, and I can hear faint influences from both Françoise Hardy and Joni Mitchell (the weirder, spacier end of her repertoire circa Hejira or Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter). The release was limited to 226 copies, each individually numbered on the insert and label, housed in a handsome silkscreened sleeve. GRADE: C+.

Webcore (UK): Webcore (A Real Kavoom FREUD 16/ARK 27, 1987)
Rock/Psychedelic/Progressive
Karen Kay (occasional vocals), Jacqueline Hanna (occasional vocals)
This festival band managed an unusual set, combining slightly jazzy, new wave-ish songs with lots of studio effects and electronics to create some almost avant-garde moments. In some ways they remind me of both Gong and String Driven Thing, but their influences are far more wide-ranging, with the record constantly going in different directions. That said, the singing is less than brilliant and the songwriting and playing are rather amateurish, so this is an interesting curio rather than a classic of eighties underground rock. However, side two’s Arabic-flavoured opener ‘Teiwaz’ is quite impressive, and clearly demonstrates the band at its best. They had previously issued three cassettes with an all-male line-up. GRADE: C+.
Webcore (UK): Webcore Webcore (A Real Kavoom FREUD 22/ARK 22, UK, 1988)
Rock/Psychedelic/Progressive
Karen Kay (occasional vocals), Karen Worth (guitar)
With a slightly different and somewhat slicker style this time round, the album sometimes sounds like a new wave twist on Catherine Ribeiro & Alpes, though mainly with male vocals. It’s not the most varied or adventurous LP in the world, but there are some pretty good moves here and a few enjoyably trippy moments. GRADE: C+.

Elyse Weinberg (USA): Elyse (Tetragrammaton T-117, 1969)
Singer/Songwriter/Folk/Rock
Elyse Weinberg (lead vocals, guitar)
A good singer/songwriter affair, ranging from bluesy hippie-rock to folkier pieces, often with a psychedelic edge. Weinberg’s fractured voice is something of an acquired taste (not to the same extent as, say, Joanna Newsom’s, though I could imagine some people rejecting this purely for the singing), but the songs and arrangements are uniformly pleasing. Whilst all the other material is self-penned, it’s her sitar-laden cover of Bert Jansch’s ‘Deed I Do’ that’s the album’s most celebrated cut. GRADE: C+.
Elyse Weinberg (USA): Elyse Weinberg (Trident Studios, unreleased acetate, UK, 1970?)
Singer/Songwriter/Folk/Rock
Like her first, this has full electric band backing with a nice jangly psychedelic pop feeling; seven songs are new whilst three are remakes of numbers from Elyse. This time round, her singing is considerably more mellifluous than on her debut, often reminding me of (seventies and later) Marianne Faithfull, making for a very enjoyable set. Only one copy appears to be known of the acetate, made in the UK; the labels note ‘copies [sic] of USA acetates’ so it seems likely that an American original exists. In any case, her name is misspelled on the labels as ‘Alyse Weinberg’. It’s also not clear whether this precedes or follows Grease Paint Smile, another unreleased album recorded around the same time, which got one step further by reaching test pressing stage. In 2008 she returned to recording with her fourth album, In My Own Sweet Time. GRADE: C+.

Weirz (USA): The Weirz (Bonsall W2-2622, 1975)
Rock/Lounge
Maria Weir (joint lead vocals, bass), Estelle Weir (joint lead vocals, keyboards), Joan Weir (joint lead vocals, percussion), Theresa Weir (joint lead vocals, saxophone), Cathy Weir (joint lead vocals, trumpet), Pixie Weir (joint led vocals, trombone, flute)
This mostly female band’s debut album is a pleasant lounge set, with all-original material spanning the gamut from hard rock to funky prog to fifties and sixties nostalgia. The cheese factor may be a little high for some ears, and anybody disliking horns is not going to enjoy this, but overall this is a good example of its genre. GRADE: C+.
Weirz (USA): The Weirz (Prelude-West JBX 272, 1979)
Rock/Progressive
Maria Weir (joint lead vocals, bass), Theresa Weir (joint lead vocals, saxophone), Cathy Weir (joint lead vocals, trumpet), Pixie Weir (joint lead vocals, trombone, flute), Estelle Weir (keyboards), Joan Weir (percussion)
The band’s much more sought-after second and final album tones down the lounge elements considerably and prioritises guitars over horns, offering an enjoyable mixture of hard rock, AOR and powerpop. On the closing ten-minute ‘Journey’, they move into jazzy progressive rock realms to create by far the best music of their career. GRADE: C+.

Welfare State & Lol Coxhill (UK): Welfare State And Lox Coxhill (Caroline C1514, with poster, 1975)
Jazz/Folk/Avant-Garde
Jane Durrant (saxophone, pipes, effects), Liz Lockhart (flute, pipes, effects), Cathy KIddle (clarinet, pipes)
According to the sleeve notes, ‘Welfare State create and animate massive outdoor events with elemental sculptures, focused theatre pieces, celebrations, dances, processions and surreal sideshows.’ Their first album is a peculiar mixture of brass band music, folky themes, mediaeval-esque textures recalling both Shirley & Dolly Collins and ‘The Wicker Man’, poetry recitations, taiko-style drumming and pure avant-gardism. It’s fascinating and constantly surprising, not to mention historically important as an early example of RIO, but with 26 tracks performed by 16 musicians in different combinations it’s also unfocused and rather disjointed. GRADE: B–.
Welfare State (UK/Holland): Welfare State Songs (Look LKLP 6347, with insert, UK, 1978)
Folk/Progressive
Liese Eyckmans (joint lead vocals, percussion, euphonium), Sue Fox (joint lead vocals, saxophone), Maggy Howarth (joint lead vocals, percussion), Sandra Hill (harp)
As the title suggests, their second album compiles songs rather than instrumental segments from their multimedia shows. The result is a frequently bizarre mix of ethnic folk styles from around the world, with particular emphasis on Caribbean music and Brechtian elements. In many ways, it represents a folkier sidestep from Slapp Happy, with strong hints of Sylvia Moore and lots of dark humour. GRADE: C+.

Wendy & Bonnie (USA): Genesis (Skye SK 1006D, 1969)
Pop/Rock
Wendy Flower (joint lead vocals), Bonnie Flower (joint lead vocals, guitar)
Cut by two talented teenage sisters, this is a beautiful album of gentle hippie pop/rock with jazz and folk undertones. The best two tracks probably come at the end: the haunting, trippy ‘Children Laughing’ and the heavier ‘The Winter Is Cold’, with its assertive fuzz guitar solo. For lush yet naïve late sixties sounds, this is pretty much top of the pile, and unsurprisingly it’s long been sought after by collectors.

GRADE: B–.

Werwolf (West Germany): Creation (No label F 667.943, 1984)
Progressive
Gitta Löwenstein (principal vocals)
The lyrics may be unfortunate – this Christian album, produced by Eden’s Dirk Schmalenbach, appears to have a concept about visiting ‘the land of flying pigs’ – but musically it’s mostly excellent. Gitta Löwenstein’s voice sometimes recalls Beate Krause of Carol Of Harvest, and there are occasional musical similarities too, but for better or worse this is much more rock-oriented and a great deal livelier. Whilst there are a few neoprogressive edges, the tracks are mostly complex and inventive, with some excellent melodies, hooks and riffs, and a high standard is maintained on all the songs and instrumentals. GRADE: B–.
See also Jacamis

Mae West (USA): Great Balls Of Fire (MGM SE-4869, 1972)
Rock/‘Incredibly Strange Music’
Mae West (lead vocals)

West’s ‘rock’ album, cut when she was almost 80, has long been a popular item among ‘incredibly strange music’ collectors. As the title suggests, it’s strongly influenced by late fifties music, although it has more of a mid-sixties garage pop feel, with West delivering her vocals in an arch but effective semi-spoken manner. For most readers, the highpoint will be her loungy, deadpan rendition of ‘Light My Fire’. GRADE: C.

Mike Westbrook’s Metropolis (UK): Mike Westbrook’s Metropolis (RCA Neon NE 10, 1972)
Jazz
Norma Winstone (lead vocals)
This excellent album of jazz improvisations covers a wide range of moods and styles without ever falling into any of the clichés that bedevil the genre. It also features a superb line-up including many of the best British jazz musicians of the late sixties and early seventies (Kenny Wheeler, Ray Warleigh, Alan Skidmore, John Taylor, Gary Boyle and Norma Winstone among others). GRADE: B–.
See also Azimuth, Michael Garrick Sextet With Norma Winstone, Norma Winstone

Nancy Westbrook (USA): Nancy Westbrook (No label NW-69, one-sided test pressing, 1984?)
Pop/Rock
Housed in a die-cut yellow sleeve to match the labels, this isn’t singer/songwriter fare as I expected, but mainstream eighties pop/rock with highly professional arrangements and lots of keyboards and drum machines. Whilst this isn’t my kind of music, it’s perfectly well done, and she could easily have scored hit singles with some of this material. GRADE: C–.

Westminster Medical School (UK): Galahad Or A Hard Day’s Knight (‘Decca’ CPL 2400, 1964)
Pop/Jazz/MOR/Comedy
Pam Gowing (occasional vocals), Naomi Byles (occasional vocals), Julia Mandeville (backing vocals), Jane Shaylor (backing vocals), Fanny Arrow (backing vocals), Elizabeth Price (backing vocals), Elizabeth Small (backing vocals), Pat Montague (backing vocals)
This was the soundtrack to an original pantomime performed at Westminster Medical School; although it uses the Decca logo on the back cover, I’m assuming this was part of the humour and that it was a private pressing (the label looks nothing that a sixties Decca label, for a start). Musically the disc parodies the popular music styles of the day and everything is surprisingly well done, though I can’t imagine anyone who didn’t attend the performance wanting to play it a second time. That said, one mediaeval-tinged folk number, ‘Oh, What Can Ail Thee Knight?’ is quite good and could be used to hype the album. It seems that they staged a pantomime every Christmas and released a good number of them as LPs, with a couple of different albums from the fifties regularly being offered for sale. GRADE: C–.

Westwind (UK): Love Is… (Penny Farthing PELS 505, 1970)
Folk/Pop
Sarah Dyson
Not unlike Tudor Lodge without the orchestrations and baroque edge, this middle-of-the-road folk/pop album offers songs about happy goblins from Mars and other such frippery. It’s quite a sweet period piece, but why it sells for three figures is very definitely beyond me.

GRADE: C.

Wethersfield High School (USA): Concert 1 (Century DK2525, 1969)
Folk
Su Kilmer (joint lead vocals, guitar, recorder), Nancy Anderson (occasional vocals), Miriam Josephson (occasional vocals), Phyllis Manousos (occasional vocals), Roseann Sapia (occasional vocals), Elaine Grossomanides (occasional vocals), Judy Ham (occasional vocals), Marilyn Mandy (occasional vocals), Sandy Gallucci (occasional vocals), Peggy Palmer (guitar), Andie Sehl (guitar)
This rare high school concert document unsurprisingly features acoustic folk, with a number of different performers appearing both together and separately. All the material is covers, with the most interesting cuts being versions of three Jefferson Airplane songs: ‘Today’, ‘Lather’ (both eerily performed by Su Kilmer) and ‘Comin’ Back To Me’. This isn’t at all a varied album, and it can be both amateurish and precious too, but for the most part it’s charmingly naïve and (when in the right frame of mind) pretty enjoyable. GRADE: C.

Whale (USA): All Keyed Up! (Phaze Boost Recordings W-500, 1980?)
Rock
Terri Norton (principal vocals, percussion)
The opening ‘Disco Fred’ is ostensibly a throwaway dance/pop song, but has a mood of wistful loss and one of the most haunting hooklines imaginable; it’s an instant classic. The album never comes close to equalling it, but this is an enjoyable record throughout, alternating barroom hard rock with loungier pop and nostalgic material; overall, it’s hard to see what sort of audience this was aimed at, although they were presumably a cabaret act. The band was the brainchild of one Fred Bye, who writes, produces and engineers everything, plays guitar throughout, occasionally sings and handles all the instrumentation on about half the cuts. Other reviewers have classified this alongside Jade Stone & Luv and linked it with the ‘incredibly strange music’ movement; the oddest thing about it is the recording, which isn't mono but is barely recognisable as stereo either. Overall, this is a catchy, diverse, curious little record. GRADE: C+.

Rudie Whaling (USA): Vaudeville Rock Revue (Paramount PAS 6068, 1973)
Rock/Soul
The album is aptly titled, as several tracks do indeed blend rock and vaudeville (principally old-time jazz) to rather dubious effect. However, the better half of this offers rather good soul and blues-tinged rock, not unlike seventies Elkie Brooks. The LP is also interesting inasmuch as Whaling produced and arranged everything and wrote or co-wrote most of the material, making this one of relatively few early seventies albums that was almost completely masterminded by a woman. GRADE : C+.

What A Beautiful Pinball (West Germany): White Bird (ZYX 20001, 1978)
Pop/Lounge
Robyn Lynn (occasional vocals)
This bizarrely named German band’s sole album comes in a sleeve pastiching It’s A Beautiful Day’s debut, and opens with a competent cover of their ‘White Bird’. The remainder is a mixture of soft pop and Americanised country/rock, with everything except the two closing numbers being a cover version. It’s nicely done, but it’s amazing that a band like this could score a major label deal in the post-punk era. The band had an all-male line-up at this point, though female singer Robyn Lynn (credited as ‘Linda’ in another It’s A Beautiful Day reference) duets on ‘White Bird’ and ‘The Letter’; she subsequently joined the band as a full-time member. GRADE: C+.

Whipping Post (Switzerland): After And Really ‘Live’ (Musk-Projekt MP 7777/2-3, double, with insert, 1978)
Blues/Rock
Astrid Cotti (occasional vocals, keyboards)
This solid blues/rock set takes in covers of material by the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, Chicken Shack, John Mayall, JJ Cale and the Allman Brothers, as well as a couple of token originals. One of the latter (‘When The Curfew Blows’) is probably the best thing on offer, along with a lengthy cover of ‘Season Of The Witch’; both add some progressive influences to the band’s sound. The word ‘Live’ in the title has inverted commas due to three of the four sides being recorded without overdubs in the studio rather than in front of an audience. GRADE: C+.

Sharon Whitbread & Fred (UK): Variety Is The Spice Of Life (RA RALP 6011st, 1972)
Folk/Rock
Sharon Whitbread (lead vocals)
Sharon Whitbread and Fred Hext (real name Tony Hart) were 15 and 17 respectively when they recorded this deeply obscure album. It comes housed in a brilliant period laminated sleeve, depicting Sharon in a multicoloured kaftan and Fred dressed up like the last of the great white hunters. I expected it to be traditional folk, but it’s nothing of the kind – instead, it’s a mixture of folk/rock, pop/rock and acid-folk, with two really world class tracks. Some may find Sharon’s voice hard to get used to, however – she sounds similar to Buffy Sainte-Marie, with so much vibrato that the effect almost sounds electronically produced. Labelmates Faraway Folk provide backing vocals on one track.

GRADE: C+.

White Cloud (USA): White Cloud (Good Medicine GM-LP-3500, 1972)
Country/Rock
Joanne Vent (joint lead vocals, tambourine)
Lively country/rock with mostly self-penned material, exuding a backwoods hippie vibe and featuring some good guitar work. Whilst the music is enjoyable enough, the most striking feature is the packaging: an absolutely gorgeous gatefold sleeve with a mock-snakeskin texture and a wraparound band akin to a horizontal obi. GRADE: C+.
See also Joanne Vent

White Elephant (USA): White Elephant (Just Sunshine JSS-3000, double, 1972)
Jazz/Funk/Rock
Sue Manchester (joint lead vocals), Ann E Sutton (joint lead vocals)
Housed in a striking embossed grey-and-white book sleeve, this double LP offers some lively and energetic jazz/funk grooves. With soul, rock and gospel elements thrown into the mix, it gives little hint of the anodyne genre that jazz/funk would later become, and contains some outstanding passages. That said, the songs are generally not as good as the chops, and some of the horn parts are rather hackneyed – and be warned, there are plenty of horns. The band was led by prolific jazz musician Michael Mainieri, and included top players such as Warren Bernhardt, Michael and Randy Brecker, Ronny Cuber, Steve Gadd, Tony Levin, Hugh McCracken and David Spinozza. GRADE: C+.

White Harvest (USA): White Harvest (Rite Record Productions 36528, with insert, 1976)
Rock
Bobbie Campbell (occasional vocals, keyboards)
Packaged in a rather minimalist white sleeve, this is a fine album of melodic guitar-based Christian rock. This isn’t progressive, psychedelic or hard rock, but it has slight nods in all those directions and some excellent guitar playing throughout (especially on the heavier ‘I Can’t Understand’). At times, this bears a resemblance to the superb US Apple Corps albums; unlike those LPs, this is an extremely rare and expensive disc. GRADE: C+.

White Noise (UK/USA): An Electric Storm (Island ILPS 9099, 1969)
Electronic/Avant-Garde
Annie Bird (joint lead vocals), Val Shaw (joint lead vocals), Delia Derbyshire (electronics)
This fascinating album, recorded as a collaboration between American composer David Vorhaus and BBC Radiophonic Workshop members Delia Darbyshire and Brian Hodgson, is very much a game of two halves. The first side consists of quirky electronic rock, not unlike that of their Stateside counterparts United States Of America, whilst the second is far more avant-garde, with just two long tracks. The LP is probably best remembered for the howling cacophony of ‘Black Mass: An Electric Storm In Hell’, though this was actually an afterthought, recorded in a single night to complete the album after Island threatened to sue for non-delivery of the master tapes. Fifty years on, the disc still sounds pioneering, and was enormously influential at the time. GRADE: B.

White Noise (USA): Different (White Noise WN-1001, with inner, 1981)
Metal
Susan Cain Vickers (joint lead vocals, guitar, harmonica)
Like the unrelated White Noise above, this obscure private pressing is also a game of two halves: the numbers fronted by bassist Carl Montney are dumb rock with lyrics about bedding groupies, riding Harley-Davidsons and being out on tour, but those fronted by Susan Vickers are altogether darker and more eerie. The twin highpoints are the sinister ‘Obsession’, with its slower tempo, and the lengthy suite ‘Dancing Bear/Bring Me Giants’ which demonstrates that the band had some progressive ambitions. GRADE: C+.

White On Black (UK): White On Black (Saydisc SDL 251, with inserts, 1974)
Folk
Sue Franklin (joint lead vocals, guitar, cello, recorder), Suzi Lawrence (joint lead vocals, guitar, flute)
With pleasant covers of everything from ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ to ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ and ‘Scarborough Fair’ to ‘Norwegian Wood’, this is a lovely, understated contemporary folk album. In addition to the expected acoustic guitars and basses, flute, recorder and cello add some rich instrumental colouring, though without any original material much of the LP feels rather generic. GRADE: C+.

White Rose (UK): It’s Been A Long Time (Look LKLP 6021, 1975)
Folk/MOR
Alison Forsyth, Catherine Simmons
This curious private pressing mixes vocal MOR and some lovely baroque folk. The material ranges from the Beatles to Judy Collins, Cole Porter and Rodgers & Hart, but this was par for the course for the band: according to the sleevenotes, their live performances could take in ‘Bach or Bacharach, Garfunkel or Gershwin’. GRADE: C.

White Skull (Italy): I Won’t Burn Alone (Underground Symphony US CD-004, CD, 1995)
Metal
Federica De Boni (lead vocals)
This symphonic metal set isn’t the most ambitious album in the world, but it’s very good for what it is – catchy, punchy and powerful, with some excellent riffing. GRADE: C+.

White Willow (Norway): Ignis Fatuus (The Laser’s Edge LE 1021, CD, USA, 1995)

Progressive
Sara Trondal (joint lead vocals), Tirill Mohn (guitar, violin)
Widely acclaimed at the time, this is an impressive album of dark progressive rock with strong folk edges. Mournful, introspective and very, very Scandinavian, it really takes flight on the longer tracks, with some exquisite moments, though it would probably have worked better as a continuous suite rather than a collection of individual songs and instrumentals. Not everything is brilliant – the mediaeval-esque ‘Song’, sung in the falsetto style of a troubadour, is kitsch rather than authentic – but overall this is a quietly remarkable debut. The LP was later reissued with completely different artwork (Termo TERMOCD012, double CD, with gatefold minisleeve and artwork, Norway, 2013) with an excellent second disc of demos, outtakes and live recordings. GRADE: B–.
White Willow (Norway): Ex Tenebris (The Laser’s Edge LE 1029, CD, USA, 1998)
Progressive
Sylvia Erichsen (joint lead vocals), Asa Eklund (occasional vocals)
This isn’t dissimilar to their first album, but it is even folkier and more wintry, with an extremely melancholy mood. Superbly atmospheric, this is frequently a stunning album, with numerous moments of chilly beauty. GRADE: B–.
White Willow (Norway): Sacrament (The Laser’s Edge LE 1034, CD, USA, 2000)
Progressive
Sylvia Erichsen (principal vocals)
Whilst more progressive and decidedly more dynamic than its predecessor, this is perhaps a touch less atmospheric. In some ways, their music remains more admirable than engaging, but this is an excellent album by any definition. GRADE: B–.
White Willow (Norway): Storm Season (The Laser’s Edge LE 1038, CD, with obi, USA, 2004)
Progressive
Sylvia Erichsen (principal vocals), Marthe Berger Walthinsen (bass, tambourine)
The obi claims that ‘White Willow broaden their classic progressive sound with heavier guitars, thick layers of analogue keyboards and more intense rhythm section’, but whilst this does have a few prog-metal touches here and there, it’s mostly business as usual. GRADE: B–.
White Willow (Norway): Signal To Noise (The Laser’s Edge LE1046, CD, USA, 2006)
Progressive
Trude Eitang (lead vocals), Marthe Berger Walthinsen (bass, cymbal)
With six songs and three instrumentals, this marks a shift towards shorter, heavier tracks with a slight alternative rock flavour (mirroring the transition undertaken by Anekdoten). The result is another fine and atmospheric album – in many ways, one of their best. GRADE: B–.
White Willow (Norway): Terminal Twilight (The Laser’s Edge LE1060, CD, with digipak, 2011)
Progressive
Sylvia Erichsen (principal vocals), Ellen Andrea Wang (bass)
With Sylvia Erichsen returning and a new female bassist (Ellen Andrea Wang of SynKoke) joining, this has a slightly more modernistic feel in parts, including some electronics. With plenty of dynamism and complexity, plus many of the old White Willow trademarks, it’s probably their finest piece of work. GRADE: B.

White Willow (Norway): Future Hopes (The Laser’s Edge LE1078, CD, USA, 2017)
Progressive
Venke Knutson (lead vocals), Ellen Andrea Wang (bass)
I’m not convinced by the girlish tones of new vocalist Venke Knutson or the impressionistic production style favoured here (or indeed whether a Roger Dean cover is appropriate for the band’s chilly Scandinavian minimalism). Similarly, the two short, folky tracks that open the album don’t really go anywhere, but subsequently this is more sure-footed, though it’s probably their patchiest release to date. GRADE: B–.​
See also Amherst, Dag Arnesen Trio, Cybele, Pixel, Tirill, SynKoke

White Wine (Australia): Overflow (Festival FL-33,576 / SFL-933,576, 1969)
Pop
Angela Jones, Leonie Goodwin
This is a rather good late sixties pop album with easy listening tinges in a similar style to Aussie contemporaries like the Executives. Despite being released on a major label, the album was clearly sponsored by a wine brand called Sparkling Starwine: their product is all over the front cover and the liner notes are nothing more than an extended advertisement, describing the wine as perfect for ‘gay swinging parties’.

GRADE: C+.

Ruth White (USA): 7 Trumps From The Tarot Cards And Pinions (Limelight LS-86058, 1968)
Avant-Garde
This album of avant-garde electronic music has little in the way of recognisable melodies, but it’s not completely atonal either. The disc consists of two suites – one about the tarot deck and the other the soundtrack to a modern ballet about flight – with a rather hypnotic feel. There are no rock instruments or elements at all, and many listeners will dismiss this as aimless noodling, but it’s interesting and inventive for its era. GRADE: B–.
Ruth White (USA): Flowers Of Evil (Limelight LS-86066, 1969)
Avant-Garde
White’s second album is similar to her first, except that she reads her own translations of Baudelaire’s poetry, in an electronically treated robot-like voice. It’s another intriguing and original piece of work, but the vocals make it faintly ridiculous at the same time. GRADE: C+.
Ruth White (USA): Short Circuits (Angel S-36042, 1970)
Avant-Garde
Ruth White (synthesiser, electronics)
On her third LP, White does a Walter Carlos and performs a number of well-known classical themes on the Moog synthesiser. Not surprisingly, this is the most melodic and musical of her early LPs, though the weirdness level is still quite high. GRADE: C+.

Whiteflag Project (Palestine/Israel): Talk (Jazzis 2002, CD, Israel, 2009)
Rock/Pop/Progressive/World Music
Gani Tamir (joint lead vocals), Katya Cooper (percussion)
Recorded by Israeli and Palestinian musicians attempting to promote unity between their countries, this is a mixed bag of influences. Melodic pop/rock rubs shoulders with Arabic elements whilst touches of rap, reggae, jazz and folk are weaved in; the whole thing could probably just about be classified as prog despite the absence of any extended tracks. Overall, it’s listenable enough, although the backstory tends to overshadow the actual music. GRADE: C+.

Jaki Whitren (UK): Raw But Tender (Epic EPC 65645, with inner, 1973)
Singer/Songwriter
Jaki Whitren (lead vocals, guitar, banjo)
The album is aptly titled, as Whitren offers a procession of gentle but rootsy songs drawing on country blues. She has a fine, versatile voice, sometimes recalling Joan Armatrading (notably on ‘Oh, Little Boy’) and there’s a stellar cast of backing musicians including Pat Donaldson, Gerry Conway, Albert Lee, Lindsay Cooper, Henry Bartlett, Gordon Huntley and Frank Ricotti. On the downside, there’s nothing truly distinctive here, so it’s not difficult to see why she didn’t break through into the big time. In any case, the best song is also the most heavily arranged: the propulsive ‘But Which Way Do I Go?’, with its inventive use of electric piano. She went on to cut two further albums that I haven’t heard: 1983’s International Times (Living LR1, 1983) and Isis Unveiled (No label, CD, 2007). One ‘Jacki [sic] Whitren’ was credited as a vocalist on Minimum Vital’s La Source; I’m going to assume that this was the same person, although the connection is far from obvious. GRADE: C+.
See also Minimum Vital

Whitsuntide Easter (Holland): Next Time You Play A Wrong Note… Make It A Short One (Pilgrim/Grapevine 109, UK, 1977)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Nanneke Coumou (joint lead vocals, percussion)
This impressive Dutch band issued by far the most expensive and sought-after album on an otherwise fairly undistinguished British Christian label. The mainly instrumental opener ‘New Earth’ is absolutely outstanding, with some superb flute soloing and deft tempo changes, but the remaining numbers are more song-based (though still with a lot of proggy elements). This album is often compared to Carol Of Harvest, but the vibe is completely different, largely because Whitsuntide Easter used no keyboards and had a very guitar-dominated sound. GRADE: B–.

Who Needs Friends? (UK): Who Needs Friends? (Windrush SRTX 82 CUS 1256, 1982)
Pop/Rock
Julie Egles (occasional vocals), Kim Tonks (occasional vocals), Nikki Williams (occasional vocals)
This school project album is a pleasant example of the genre, with melodic light pop/rock backing, some fifties and show tune edges, and a few folkier moments. Some of the vocals are a touch flat and hesitant, but that simply adds to the charm of this sort of thing. GRADE: C+.

Whyte Horses (UK): Pop Or Not (No label WHLP001, some with CDR, 2015)
Psychedelic
Julie Margat
Albums refracting late sixties psychedelia – think third album Velvet Underground, French popsike and the frothiest end of Os Mutantes – through a modern indie-pop prism aren’t exactly uncommon, but this one is uncommonly good. Occasionally hinting towards Stereolab, the music here is genuinely blissful, effectively tripped-out and – best of all – utterly lacking in smugness and artifice. The same cannot be said of the bonus mix CDR that came with the first 100 copies of the 300 pressed: filled with snippets of seventies kids’ TV shows, obscure lounge music, East European psychedelia and the likes, it’s more archly hipsterish than a twentysomething with a David Bellamy beard sipping a skinny latte in an artisan coffee bar in Islington. GRADE: B–.

Whyzdom (France): From The Brink Of Infinity (Ascendance ASC23012CD, CD, UK, 2009)
Metal
Telya Mélane (principal vocals)
Vynce Leff’s new band steps forward from his previous project Sensitive To Light, offering epic symphonic metal with a typically European feel. Whilst not exceptional or original, this is nice stuff: richly melodic and dynamic, whilst neither too ostentatious nor too overblown. GRADE: C+.
Whyzdom (France): Blind? (Scarlet SC 226-0, CD, with digipak and booklet, Italy, 2012)
Metal
Elvyne Lorient (lead vocals)
In many ways, this is a far more impressive album, combining a dynamic rock base with epic choirs and orchestrations to resemble a cross between Nightwish and Therion. The big difference, of course, is that Nightwish and Therion were pioneers whereas Whyzdom have little distinctive style – and good as the material here is, they also don’t have the songwriting skills that set Nightwish and Therion apart. GRADE: C+.

Whyzdom (France): Symphony For A Hopeless God (Scarlet SC 275-0, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2015)
Metal
Marie Rouyer (lead vocals)
A symphony indeed, as this continues the epic Nightwish-meets-Therion style of its predecessor. It’s another solid album, with some suitably hefty riffing, but again it all feels rather generic. Oddly, they appear to keep changing their vocalist with each album, in the manner of their seventies countrymen Wapassou. GRADE: C+.

Whyzdom (France): As Time Turns To Dust (Scarlet SC 338-0, CD, with digipak and booklet, Italy, 2018)
Metal/Progressive
Marie Rouyer (lead vocals)
Once again, this is a very well-executed pastiche of late nineties Nightwish or Therion. Once again, the songwriting is of a high standard without equalling that of their inspirations. Once again, I enjoyed the LP but am left with little or nothing to say about it. GRADE: C+.

Whyzdom (France): Alive (No label SM-DVD-01, DVD, with booklet, 2016)

Metal/Progressive

Marie Rouyer (principal vocals)

I was fairly lukewarm about their studio albums, which essentially offered rather pompous pastiches of Therion and Nightwish, without either band’s knack for great hooks. My opinion hasn’t changed, but there’s no argument that they’re an exciting band live or that this is an excellently filmed DVD. GRADE: B–.