Doris Brendel & Lee Dunham – Eclectica

Doris Brendel & Lee Dunham – Eclectica

The follow-up to 2015’s Upside Down World, Eclectica features a similar pattern of songs with musical interludes. Whereas for the last album these extra pieces were all individual, this time the interludes are both separate pieces and reprises of parts of the songs on the album. It still works, but not as well as on Upside Down World.

Doris is one of the best bluesy female singers around and on the aptly named Eclectica she showcases her immense range. Talented is a good word. I love the B-Movie cover look; part Sci-Fi, part Salvador Dali with a begowned Doris taking in the many musical genres available to her.

This is going to be a reflective review; they often take time, and when you receive an album that is both thoughtful and electric it requires that due consideration is given. I hope I shall do this justice.

Starting with the end rather than the beginning, the last track, One World, is white reggae. This can be risky and whilst a lot of fun is often had by the artist, it can be lost in translation. This is not one of those occasions and comes across as an upbeat and fun conclusion to a very good album. But the rest? The rhythmic The One is a great opener that sets the bar high, Doris with a vocal reminiscent of Sam Brown, with whom I believe she has worked. ‘Reminiscent of’ but not the same, I hasten to add. I love the sound of this, it contrasts well with next track Love App, a slice of Wishbone Ash with a more guttural vocal, think Suzi Quattro’s Devil Gate Drive. Now that would be a cover! The “Ashness” is enhanced by the guesting of Andy Powell, so I suppose the influence should come as no surprise.

I Rather Wear Black is a riff heavy piece that holds up well, a lot closer to the live performance than you often find on an album. A mixture of metallic and acoustic, it works well for me and prone that I am to not having favourites, this and the aforementioned Love App are probably mine from Eclectica. The piano solo reprise is a nice touch too. This is the first of the long pieces, but it doesn’t suffer from being too long. Yes, I like it.

Now don’t get me wrong, everything is good here, some of it exceptional, but the memory cells do not leap up and say “Yeah”. I really enjoy it then halfway through Retribution I find myself thinking, “how did it go again?” Music, however, is a reflection of mood, and on some occasions as a track it will engage. The listener’s ear is indeed fickle. For example, last evening I chose just to listen, no analysis, loud and proud, and I enjoyed the album from end to end. With the best albums, there is a sense of flow, everything falls into place, and had I not heard Upside Down World I suspect that the flow on Eclectica would feel more so.

Taken individually there are great songs here, but collectively on this occasion I do not feel the love, but Doris has a great voice that should compare as equal to Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt and Thea Gilmore; great company and deserved. Lee Dunham in his turn is an exceptionally good guitarist, all of this reflected in the quality of the pieces revealed here. It is a very good album, but yes I know that I could be more enthusiastic. There are great tunes, good lyrics, so much to recommend it, but unlike Upside Down World it does not flow to my ears. It is a very good introductory showcase of an outstanding talent, and on that basis, I would say buy. If I want an album to revisit in its entirety then I have to say that Upside Down World works better. Does this means I have lost the love for the music of Doris and Lee? Absolutely not! Buy this, it’s a great introduction, but it is an itch, scratch and you will find the rewards – and hopefully not just Death & Taxes.

01. The One (4:24)
02. Love App (4:32)
03. I Rather Wear Black (6:53)
04. Crying Shame (3:26)
05. Retribution (5:52)
06. Animal (4:52)
07. Losing It (8:34)
08. Death & Taxes (5:05)
09. Balloon (4:03)
10. One World (4:00)

Total Time – 51:43

Doris Brendel – Vocals, Flute, Flagolet
Lee Dunham – Guitars, Bass, Percussion
~ With:
Pete Davies – Keyboards
Lincoln Spalding – Bass
Steve Clark – Drums
Sam White – Drums
Emma Dunham – Cello,
Emma Robinson & Millie Robinson – Violins
[If I’ve missed anyone, sorry, the names were hard to read for sad old eyes on the art work.]

Record Label: Sky-Rocket Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 1st May 2017

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