CD REVIEW Doris Brendel (& Lee Dunham)

Band : Doris Brendel (& Lee Dunham)
Album title : Not Utopia
Label : Sky-Rocket Records
Distributor : Sky-Rocket Records
Release date : 01/07/2012
Release : CD

Ach...cursed be all the little and less little things that caused me to run up such a delay in getting this review done...for this is truly a must-have album for anyone out there into unique female vocals on a Progressive Rock/ Pop background!

My personal acquaintance with the delectable Doris came when her label Sky-Rocket sent us a copy of the 2010 album The Last Adventure for inclusion in a TSM/SLW Promotions special, which was posted somewhere around September, I guess (cannot check for certainty at the moment, one of the “less little things” mentioned in the opening sentence being that I am temporarily cut off from being able to consult Internet on the regular base as used to be), and as luck will have it, I gave a quite comprehensive history on the enchantress, which is still available for you lot to consult! I wish I could tell you that in between I enlarged my personal collection with several albums displaying Doris' incomparable husky voice, but between the job (cannot say “day” job, as I work as a guard, and put in quite a bit of night hours), my passion for reviewing new music, and my newer passion for amateur paleontology, I have not found the courage yet to find a replacement for my favourite Leuven record store...which closed over a year ago (creepy sometimes, how time fleets by one!).

Following the acclaimed The Last Adventure (I had the album in my year-lists myself), which was recorded “live” in the studio, Doris comes along with a studio project, recorded and produced by multi-instrumentalist Lee Durham (guitarist of Rock/ metal act Primary Slave). The result is yet another unique must-have album, combining elements of Pop (with some electronics involved), Rock and Prog (also with occasional electronics included), and some acoustic stuff to boot! Still, don't let that last bit frighten you, because as usual Doris' vocals dominate everything throughout! It's amazing what power hides behind that husky voice, even in the calmer songs. Lovers of Doris' heritage from her The Violet Hour days will be pleased to hear that there's still a couple of songs on the album which might just as well have been released in the early '90s, and for sure they will be able to appreciate the sometimes cynical-humoristic sad-happy lyrics, the socially-critical “E-bay” on top!

Once upon a time producer John Brand (see Stereophonics, Cult, Waterboys and more – see also the review of The Last Adventure for reference to Doris' career) was reported to say, “Brendel is and always has been a great singer and her vocals shine through. Her voice is so unique it's impossible to compare her successfully to any other.” I agree with that statement completely. In fact, if I haven't said it before, I now make the bold statement that this lady could sing a song in àny musical style, including a capella, and I would still love the outcome! Not that Dunham's contribution to the album (also includes some vocals) is anything to scoff about. Indeed, he made the ideal accompaniment to Doris' wonderful voice, and the fact that he's alternated the sound between Nu-Rock (opener “No Lonely Girl”), Electronics/ Rock/ Pop hybridisations (“Going Out” and the album's title song), the Progressive stylings of TVH (“Passionate Weekend”, “Conflicted”), acoustically recorded tracks (“Beyond Words” and “Kind To Be Cruel”) and ballads (“Thanks You”, for instance) and managed to give each song something which catches the listener's attention, in spite of Doris' vocal domination, makes him deserve a big thumbs-up for a job very well-done indeed!

If you had any doubts about my end conclusion, I'll simply add that Not Utopia was already added to my personal year-lists of 2011 two months ago...and the additional listening sessions I was able to give the album in between have only reconfirmed my initial judgement! Oh, check out (www.) dorisbrendel.com and (www.) myspace.com/dbdriving for audio & video material!

98/100

Tony.