Album Review: Amanda Lehmann — Innocence and Illusion

Progarchists will know Amanda Lehmann from her work with Steve Hackett. Perhaps they’ve even been lucky enough to see her onstage with Hackett, both side-by-side wailing away on their guitars.

Now she’s out with a solo album, and I know what you’re thinking: Is it any good? Or is she just one of those musicians who best functions doing side work in service of a more famous talent?

Let me answer that question right away. The album is excellent. It’s proof why prog lovers should be open to new musicians and new experiences and not just spend their time buying bloated box sets of the greatest artists of yesteryear.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with owning and collecting all of Steve Hackett, because he is amazing, and he’s total prog royalty. But we have to realize that there are so many other talented (but lesser-known) artists out there who also deserve our passionate support.

To his credit, Hackett obviously recognizes Lehmann’s talent. By happy circumstance, he surely knows her thanks to his wife. That’s great. Likewise, by happy circumstance, you know Hackett only thanks to your fan-marriage to Genesis. That’s exactly how we meet one other and discover new things.

Next question: should you buy this album? Yes, absolutely. It is worthy to be added to your prog collection. If you need a quick excuse, let me point out Hackett himself appears on track 6, “Forever Days”, and deploys a wicked guitar solo that alone is worth the price of admission.

So, if you need an appearance from prog royalty to justify the adoption of a physical CD into your collection, this is it. Thanks be to Hackett for dropping this solo onto Lehmann’s album and giving us all an excuse to get to know her better.

Hackett also co-wrote a nice little song with Lehmann that closes the album: track 9, “Where the Small Things Go”, which at 1:42 shows us that small little songs do indeed go well at the end of an album. It’s a nice finish, showcasing the artistic bond between the two artists with a gentle acoustic departure using classical guitar.

Lehmann wrote the rest of the album’s material herself and it’s all superb. The album kicks off with “Who Are the Heroes?” as we first get to hear her singing voice along with her guitar work. I was pleased to find myself making analogies to Kate Bush right away. Lehmann’s vocal phrasing and general sensibility (marking both her vocals and arrangements) call to mind Bush quite remarkably.

Lehmann’s voice is different in timbre, so don’t go listening and expect a soundalike. It sounds more like an alternative universe where Kate Bush smoked three packs a day. So, Lehmann is truly her own voice, but she’s still hugely talented like Bush and longtime fans of Bush will understand what I mean about their shared artistic sensibilities.

Further proof of my analogy is “Tinkerbell” (track 2, 4:52), which includes orchestral arrangements, and “Only Happy When It Rains” (track 3, 3:47), which has a swinging jazzy arrangement that would not be out of place on an early Kate Bush album. Here, the mischievous Hackett plays harmonica. And Rob Townsend plays sax; he also appears on “Memory Lane” (track 5, 4:49), a poignant personal reflection about dementia by Lehmann inspired by her mother.

“The Watcher” (track 4, 7:25) is an epic prog extravaganza that is well placed. After introducing her range of musical abilities on the first three tracks, Lehmann hits us with a prog experience that makes us happy we came on this journey. The title made me think of “Watcher of the Skies” immediately, but that obvious association aside, this track illustrates why I hope Lehmann keeps composing and putting out albums. She’s got what it takes and she makes great unknown music that stands well next to the best known of our favorites.

“Childhood Delusions” (track 8, 4:46) consolidates the Kate Bush comparison for me, with its jazzy whimsy. I can easily imagine Bush singing this song. Lehmann’s own unique voice is great on it too. Who knows, maybe they can do a duet of it sometime for charity. I’d totally pay to hear that. Kate Bush is one of my all time favorites, but I am most pleased to discover this album thanks to the nifty introduction that the generous Steve Hackett has arranged for us all.

The album credits don’t say who plays sax here, but maybe we should assume it’s Townsend a third time. The album credits also fail to tell us who the drummer on the album is, so I’m going to go right ahead start a rumor and say it’s Phil Collins, just to get more people out there buying this excellent album.

Nick Magnus and Roger King between the two of them offer impressive support, contributing keyboards and engineering and mixing on different tracks, thereby helping to keep everything throughout the album running smoothly at the highest levels of musical excellence.

“We Are One” (track 7, 4:56), which precedes “Childhood Delusions”, is also highly reminiscent for me of the sort of Kate Bush song I love, and it is another prog extravaganza standout (like “The Watcher”). If you haven’t already paused during this review to order a copy of this CD, let me just stop now so you can go do it. I hope you will enjoy this music as much as I do.

One thought on “Album Review: Amanda Lehmann — Innocence and Illusion

  1. Pingback: Album Review – @Echo_Us – The Windsong Spires – Progarchy

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