She has been working in the music industry for over three decades, but is best known for her musical involvement with Steve Hackett. She is also responsible for the fact that the latter also dared to play the wonderful Shadow of the Hierophant live on stage. I am, of course, talking about singer/songwriter/guitarist Amanda Lehmann, who has just released her debut solo album, Innocence and Illusion; a little late, but better late than never. OK, she released an album in 1994 with Eddie Deegan as the duo Wazzoon entitled Through The Haze, but this is her first proper solo album. Innocence and Illusion, which contains nine tracks, consists of a fusion of prog, rock, ballads and elements of jazz-blues. Quite a wide variety of styles.
Thanks to the link with brother-in-law Steve Hackett, the help of renowned musicians such as Nick Magnus and Roger King on keyboards and guest appearances by Rob Townsend on sax and Steve Hackett himself on (solo) electric and acoustic guitars and harmonica could be called in. All lyrics and music are written by Amanda Lehmann herself, except for one song, the acoustic Where the Small Things Go, which she wrote with her famous brother-in-law.
It takes some getting used to Lehmann’s vocals. Her voice somewhat resembles Kate Bush, especially in the higher regions, but you get used to it quickly, the beautiful multi-layered vocals also appealling to the imagination. And I should definitely mention her guitar playing, always on characteristic red guitars. Whether it’s electric solos, melodic themes, heavy power chords or warm acoustic parts, she stands her ground firmly. Just listen to the dark The Watcher, with a strong blues riff at the core, a highlight of the album.
Although Lehmann herself also plays a considerable amount of keyboards and piano, she was originally classically trained as a pianist, it is mainly Nick Magnus who steals the show. Magnus was part of Steve Hackett’s original backing band in the late 1970s and early 1980s and played on a number of his albums. It is above all his inspired and virtuoso parts and orchestral arrangements that enchant the listener, like his impressive contributions to the instrumental part of Tinkerbell, his soaring synthesiser solo on opener Who Are the Heroes? plus a whole host of electronic rhythms and original Mellotron parts. Roger King adds a beautiful string arrangement to Memory Lane, Rob Townsend does what he does best on alto saxophone, the emotional ballad is inspired by Lehmann’s mother’s debilitating dementia.
With the same ease, King produces the sound of a bluesy jazz band on Only Happy When It Rains, Rob Townsend’s superb sax solo complementing the song. Amanda and Steve Hackett play a guitar duet on Forever Days with great solo work from Steve. That last one, an absolutely top-notch song, contains elements of both Hackett and Marillion. The elegant acoustic guitar playing on closing Where The Small Things Go is also by Steve Hackett, as is the bluesy harmonica on the aforementioned Only Happy When It Rains. Not bad if you can make use of the considerable qualities of such a legend on your debut. The jazzy ballad Childhood Delusions is dominated by strong piano playing and a great sax solo by Townsend. Finally, I think I can even hear a little bit of Pink Floyd’s High Hopes in We Are One. Excellent result for a firstborn.
Amanda Lehmann is ‘incredibly proud of this album’ and its wide variety of music, with the journey through life as the common thread. And rightly so, I think. Although the music is laced with Hackett-like elements, it remains mainly a solo album by the lady in question; she more than sufficiently leaves her personal mark. Compliments for the cover design too, by Des Walsh Illustrations, a bit in the vein of Roger Dean.
01. Who Are The Heroes? (6:58)
02. Tinkerbell (5:59)
03. Only Happy When It Rains (3:47)
04. The Watcher (7:20)
05. Memory Lane (4:52)
06. Forever Days (5:25)
07. We Are One (4:56)
08. Childhood Delusions (4:50)
09. Where The Small Things Go (1:42)
Total Time – 45:49
Amanda Lehmann – Vocals, Guitars (tracks 1-8) Keyboards, Piano (1,4,6,7 & 8)
Nick Magnus – Keyboards, Piano (tracks 1,2,4,6 & 8)
Roger King – Keyboards (tracks 3 & 5)
Steve Hackett – Guitars (tracks 6,9) Harmonica (3)
Rob Townsend – Alto Sax (tracks 3 & 5)
Paul Johnson – Backing Vocal (track 4)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 20th