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Lou Rhodes: Theyesandeye *

Album Reviews:

Mojo (Publisher) (p.92) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "While Rhodes's voice remains recognisably smoky and cracked, the album takes the artist to new territory."

Album Notes

On her three previous solo records, Lou Rhodes steeped herself in sparse, mostly acoustic arrangements that reflected the influence of the Brit folk scene of the late '60s. Theyesandeye was produced by Simon Byrt. These ten originals (and an innovative cover) bridge folk sounds from her native England and the Laurel Canyon singer/songwriter era and her work with Andy Barlow in Lamb. Her producer's well-documented analog reverb-and-psychedelia fetishism proves a real plus here. He imbues Rhodes' lithe, economical melodies with an expansive sense of space and dimension and canny yet simple orchestrations. He frames these guitar-based tunes in cellos, harps, hand percussion, pianos, analog synths, and earthy drums. His warm approach to capturing the physicality of the recording studio presents her thin reedy voice in settings that offer balance and sometimes something approaching an airy grandeur.

Opener "All the Birds" juxtaposes her vocal with fingerpicked acoustic guitars, a wordless backing chorus, two-note bassline, and organic percussion. In "Sea Organ," strummed guitars, sweeping harp, shakers, and layered backing vocals blissfully engage her singing as it celebrates nature worship. A piano and rolling military snare introduce "Them," with Rhodes' voice way out front. Strings and backing vocals add heft to a melody that owes a reverent nod to Judee Sill. The lone cover is the xx's "Angels." The original, though lovely, is spare, seemingly leaving scant room for reimagination. But by simply joining a skeletal fingerpicked acoustic guitar to cavernous reverb, an ethereal harp, gently sweeping strings, and synth, the tenderness and depth of the protagonist's romantic commitment are reaffirmed with emotional weight and spiritual heft. "Circle Song" is more directly psychedelic. Byrt's reverb boxes are put to excellent use added to his keyboards, electric guitars, snare, and a behind-the-beat staggered backing vocal chorus. Rhodes comes close to swooping in her ghostly delivery. "Full Moon" joins acoustic folk-blues to a chorale. The singing could easily accompany a Sunday cathedral ritual.

Theyesandeye isn't perfect, however. Despite its musical attractiveness, Rhodes needs an editor. In her obvious wish to evoke the sounds and spirits of Laurel Canyon she seems to have forgotten that the period's best songs contained lyrics as impeccably crafted as their melodies. The obvious post-hippie vibe in her tomes may be sincere, but lines like "...one color is good, the other is bad..." and "...brothers and sisters of the sun..." are just hackneyed -- and there are more than a few just like them. That aside, the way she's moved forward on this date, wedding her musical identities, makes for a striking if uneven listen and bodes well for future recordings. ~ Thom Jurek



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