Saturday, May 19, 2007


Doll By Doll

I couldn't believe my eyes when I flicked my way through the pages of the May issues of the music press upon seeing Doll By Doll albums being reviewed. Was this some kind of sick joke? A quick visit to everyone's best friend, Amazon, revealed that indeed these lost masterpieces had indeed finally found their way onto the CD format some 20 plus years after Dire Straits democratised the the medium with their 'Brothers In Arms' album. Unbelievable is probably the best word as the bands four albums 'Remember' (1977), 'Gypsy Blood' (1979), 'Doll By Doll' (1981) and 'Grand Passion' (1982) had fallen victim to legal problems over rights as the label that unleashed the original vinyl, Magnet, had long since disappeared, this situation is particularly difficult to understand when considering the career band leader Jackie Leven went on to carve for himself. Anyway as they say happiness is only a click away and I wasted no time in ordering the first two which I have been rediscovering over the last two weeks. The strangest thing is that I never actually owned either of these albums, though I've been looking out for them for many years. 'Remember' was released in 1977 at the height of punk and could not have been more out of step with the year zero approach that was being preached by both bands and the music press, despite this they managed to gather some friendly press for their heartfelt songs maybe abetted by the some what sloppy production of the album that gives it an almost organic feel. In 1977 I had a part time job in a record shop while I was pursuing my studies, the shop was part of a local chain and John, the manager, and myself had a free reign over the music we played as long as we were sensible and did not frighten off the paying customers. As such I got to discover a lot of music that I would not have done otherwise as UK radio was in a poor state at the time and my finances were very limited. One of the bands that became a shop favorite in '77/'78 was Doll By Doll with 'Remember' that found a place in John's hippy summer of love sensibilities as it did with those of the young gun who was fervently following the new crop punk and post punk bands. I don't think we ever got to sell a single copy of the album though we loved it to death wearing out it's grooves with it's numerous visits to the shop's turntable. I think listening back to day that what pleased us so much was the obvious soul and feeling in Leven's versatile and characteristic voice. I would suggest that Doll By Doll are the missing link between Van Morison and Dexys Midnight Runners, just listen to 'Changes' from this album with it's almost doo wop opening before embracing a kind of Caledonian soul complete with falsetto vocals as it works itself up to a strong emotive peak reminiscent of Al Green. The follow up 'Gypsy Blood' took up from where it's predecessor had left off and refined the ideas into shorter songs that are easier to consume, the production is a lot cleared and the sound is big as can be heard on the epic and atmospheric 'Highland Rains'. I have genuinely had a problem in choosing a track a piece from these albums, such is the quality and variety on display. If you like your pop with balls, your rock with feeling and your soul inspired do your self a big favour and check out these two albums before they disappear again. Those of you that are unfamiliar with Jackie Leven's hefty volume of solo work should be ashamed of yourselves.

Just got my CD copy of 'Remember' - still have my vinyl of this and Gypsy Blood. Great to see them talked about again. REcall seeing them a few times in the late 70s - live they were staggering, electric, brilliant.
Nicepost, but Remember was actually released in 1979.
came across remember in 1980 and from that point on bought every album
Remember and Gypsy Blood tie for best album ever. Doll by Doll and Grand Passion are not far off that mark.
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