Amanda Lehmann 2021
Emerging from behind the mist of mystery, English mistress of art-rock dreamscape gets down to earth to rule the waves.
This album arrives as quite a surprise: Lady Amanda seems to have been around almost forever, the fixture on the English art-rock scene and a member of its inner circle as Steve Hackett‘s sister-in-law and creative associate, yet “Innocence And Illusion” is her first full-length solo offering. Intellectual and emotionally enchanting in equal measure and totally devoid of typical, or topical, prog pretense, Ms. Lehmann’s record appears to be the perfect reflection of her romantic personality – more so, there’s genuine femininity oozing out of the tracks as she’s not afraid of showing her real self instead of conform to her chosen genre’s inherent heroics and of venturing beyond stylistic constraints.
This is why this opus begins with the dramatic “Who Are The Heroes?” in which Amanda manages to drift from translucent vocal harmonies to heavy riffs, all sculpted by her nuanced guitar and Nick Magnus’ ivories, in order to marry reality to reverie and retrieve the reminiscences of what did happen and what could have been, and question the human nature of faith and fantasy. Yet if the tender tune of “Memory Lane” should tap into troubadours-patented balladry and get enhanced with a sax solo, the folk-informed acoustic strum and amorous abandon of “Tinkerbell” – a song about Lehmann’s alter-ego heroine – is getting packed into a musical box whence, once her ingénue-like voice vanishes into instrumental landscape, it will waltz out towards an orchestra-swept, symphonic space before folding back. However, the artiste dispenses wispiness wisely and sparsely, turning into a sultry chanteuse for “Only Happy When It Rains” that has the aforementioned Mr. H deliver tasty passages on blues harp, and “Childhood Delusions” that also reveals her enchanting vulnerability.
Floating on a six-string twang, “The Watcher” may feel seductive too, but this number’s subtle paranoia conceals a stormy panorama of a different passion – insistent and psyched-out, and while it’s Steve’s battle lines that embellish the belligerent “Forever Days” with aural assault, Amanda’s deliberately childish tones neuter the menace of “We are dynamite” and other hard-hitting statements. Thus, there’s a good reason for her to abstain from fleshing out “We Are One” to shape up an anthem and develop the pellucid piece as a follow-up to Joni Mitchell’s “We are stardust, we are golden” sort of idealism. So, when the brief finale of “Where The Small Things Go” lulls the listener to bliss, strange comfort is to descend upon them: a rare occurrence for such an unassumingly sophisticated work.
With this album’s melodies immediately notched into one’s mind and soul, imagining living without it is nigh on impossible.