Criminally Overlooked Talent Sounds Fine on CD
Thomas A. Wallace | Arlington, VA USA | 01/04/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If Lesley Duncan is known at all, it is as a stalwart backing vocalist on innumerable British recording sessions in the sixties and seventies. She sings on multiple early Elton John albums, Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," the original "Jesus Christ Superstar" album, as well as records by Donovan, Kiki Dee, and others. Her biggest coup was becoming the first outside writer to have a song appear on an Elton John LP-Lesley plays the guitar and sings a duet with Elton on her gorgeous composition "Love Song" on the "Tumbleweed Connection" LP. That was my first introduction to Lesley, and it came in 1975, by which time her first two LPs were out of print. "Earth Mother" is her second album, originally released by CBS in the UK in 1972. I could've sworn it got a release on Columbia in the US as well, but haven't had that verified. I finally got my hands on a copy of the album in 1988 and paid a pretty penny for a noisy piece of vinyl. It's a revelation to hear this fine record in its pristine state.The album is filled with gorgeous melodies, intelligent lyrics, and widely varying tempos, from the upbeat "Times" and "Thunder" to the mellow "Love Will Never Lose You" and the harrowing "If It's All the Same to You." Lesley's mood is a little darker than that on her first album, "Sing Children Sing" (also available on CD from Edsel). "Fortieth Floor" is a kiss-off to a record executive, "Sorry Living" is a paradoxically bouncy paean to the blahs ("what is one more sorry moment when you've got the taste for sorry living?"), and the epic title cut is a lament about environmental destruction that builds from a quiet beginning to crashing explosions in about seven minutes. Being a fine backing singer, you can bet that all the background vocals are provided by Lesley (save for a little help by a group of guys called the "Fine Tooth Combs" on the final cut), and overdubbed Lesleys are amassed to gorgeous effect on the gospel-tinged number "God is Real." Throughout, excellent guitar work is provided by the legendary Chris Spedding, and producer-arranger-keyboardist-flutist Jimmy Horowitz's contributions are indispensable.Holding it all together are Lesley's tremendous lead vocals. Elton's "Love Song" is a fine intro to her talents, but hearing her by herself is a treat. Versatile would be a good word to describe her. She can range from clear, ringing, smooth highs, to a huskier tone (check out the "oh yeah"s on "Times"), from innocent ("Love Will Never Lose You") to passionate ("God is Real" and the title cut).This album is a fine introduction to this criminally overlooked talent. It is but a taste of what was to come, however: three years later she would release what is in my opinion her crowning achievement: the "Moon Bathing" LP. Here's hoping that one day we'll see that on CD as well."
Haunting, beautiful, powerful -- a real classic
DV Barrett | London UK | 02/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Earth Mother is British singer-songwriter Lesley Duncan's second album, but the first one I ever bought; on the strength of it I immediately bought her first, Sing Children Sing. Earth Mother is darker, more pain-filled than the earlier album. The first track, "Times", has the achingly honest lines "I worry if you get too near me, and I miss you so much when you're gone..." There's the calm acceptance of the end of a perfect relationship in "Queen to your King", wishing her former lover the best: "But you'll make out on your own." In "Old Friends" she sings "But where did all that magic go that kept us in our place / Now I couldn't help but show the sadness in my face / And I cried / Something's died." And there's the almost bitter resignation of "Sorry Living": "And what is one more sorry moment when you got the taste for sorry livin'." In a rare departure she sings someone else's song, the hauntingly sad "If It's All The Same To You" by Andy Bown of the Herd and Status Quo, who plays bass on this album. It's perfectly in the mood of the other songs.And yet this isn't an angst-ridden album; it's introspective, yes, but in their reflection on loss, the songs are about empowerment, of acknowledging your pain, of being strengthened by it so you can move on and live.The highlight of the album is the title track, "Earth Mother" which, dedicated to Friends of the Earth, must be one of the very first eco-conscious songs. "Oh mother please forgive us / We've taken all you had to give / Claimed it as our right to live / Never thinkin' you had that right too...", the almost plaintive confessional of the verses starkly contrasted by the driving power of the chorus, "But we daren't turn and say Stop / While we're watching the slow rot / Yet the life that we've all got / All depends on you / But we've taken the wrong track / And we've painted your face black / And it's so hard to turn back from it now." This is an anthem, whose words tell it all; it's a cry of self-accusation; it's a prayer for our planet.The other musicians on this stunning album include the legendary Chris Spedding on guitars, Barry de Souza on drums and percussion, and Lesley Duncan's producer and then-husband Jimmy Horowitz on organ, piano and flutes. As always, she was able to call on the best.First released in 1972, Earth Mother is as fresh and powerful today as it was then: startling but warm poetic lyrics sung in Lesley Duncan's beautiful mature voice, with superb arrangements and musicianship - an object lesson to some of today's female singer-songwriters. Apparently there are moves to have her three remaining albums released on CD soon. And dare we hope that with these rereleases, and with websites devoted to her in America, Italy and Japan, Lesley Duncan might start recording again?"