ALAN HEWITT – REVEIW OF AMANDA LEHMANN'S SOLO ALBUM: INNOCENCE and ILLUSION
Amanda Lehmann's name will be familiar to most of you from her work on Steve Hackett’s albums. Here we have Amanda stepping into the light with her own debut album - Innocence And Illusion, a marvellous collection of songs that reflect both the real and the imagined.
Opening with Who Are The Heroes? This is a truly multifaceted piece, and don't be fooled by the sweet choral refrain, the searing guitar work and biting lyrics soon display an altogether harder side to Amanda's work than we might have expected. The song, if I am reading it correctly, is a deeply cynical look at the way in which people who are genuinely unsung heroes are cynically manipulated for short-term political gain. The killer line is: "No boasting display or bravado/They don't need accolades..." a brilliant evocation of the world we allow ourselves to live in today.
From the real to the "Illusion" of the album's title. Tinkerbell; a fairy or a dreamer of beautiful, if sometimes sinister dreams, which one is which? Make believe meets reality indeed...despite its deceptively delicate fairground melody, there is something inherently disturbing about this song. The candyfloss mask of beauty hides a far darker face from the Ghost Train, I think.
Amanda has always managed to wear a variety of "faces" through her vocalisations and on this album we get to hear several more of them, and one which intrigues me is the shuffling, blues tinged Only Happy When It Rains, in which Amanda find her best soulful voice. If apathy had a vocal dictionary description, this would be it - a perfect evocation of a world and people who have given up on themselves and each other.
In similar vein is The Watcher, a slow Dire Straits sounding guitar refrain does nothing to hide the suppressed anger of the "Watcher" an image of frustrations which need to have the "lid" kept on them. A quite frightening portrayal of the dark place we can all find ourselves in when the Black Dog of depression comes calling. Repression of the soul - this is the bleak heart of the album.
Memory Lane is a track I have found it very difficult to put my thoughts into words as the subject matter is personal to me. Amanda and her sister, Jo lost their mother Ann a few years ago to that most pernicious of conditions, Dementia as I did with my late father. Putting the feelings that both sufferer and carer feel as the former disappears before the latter's eyes with nothing you can do about it, is far from easy but Amanda has managed to do exactly that within this song, especially the line... "In the land of the lost/Are you walking down Memory Lane?" I am not ashamed to say that this song makes me cry every time I hear it. They are tears of sadness tinged with the happiness of memories I can no longer share anymore. Simply wonderful, enough said!
The mood lightens considerably with the rocking Forever Days, those immortal days of youth when the world was our plaything and anything was possible - our innocence believed the illusion that they could last forever - if only?!
We Are One originally appeared on the charitable project : Harmony For Elephants and so it is great to hear it at last. A suitably dramatic and descriptive musical picture of our elephantine companions.
The album is brought to a suitably thought provoking close by the pairing of Childhood Delusions and Where The Small Things Go. Childhood that goes by in the blink of an eye is superbly depicted on both these tracks - wide eyed innocence that we would all be better off if we could find a way to retain, is here in all its shining glory. If only the man in the moon still followed us home eh? Where the Small Things Go is a joy, and if I may say so, far too short - like childhood I guess but while we have it, let's enjoy it!
We have waited a long time for this album, but it isn't as if Amanda hasn't been busy with other things including raising her own family, so we shall forgive her the delay because the wait has definitely proven to be worth it, this one is a classic, pure and simple.
Innocence and Illusion is available to order from Amanda's WEBSTORE