For a few people this record might be about Spirit – a multi-tracked a cappella, a hymn for the heartbroken, falsetto testifying, looking for love within. For most it`s Bittersweet that`s the big hitter. That`s the one the pop stars namecheck, the one that gets all the acclaim. The one where redemptive r & b overthrows its auteur`s demons and obsidian funk, graced by a bridge of gospel heights. For me, though, Lewis Taylor`s debut long-player – originally released on Island in 1996 – is all about Lucky. The click and the purr of close mic`d machines. Tom toms thumping like Johnny Favorite`s doomed, dark, voodoo heart. Guitar growling, guttural, a Funkadelic, Maggot-Brained, feedback squall. Lyrics concerning love, life, gone wrong. Listening to the lead, wah-wahed, riff, I’m back drawing on yet another laced spliff, watching its red embers, fascinated, as they burn toward my stained fingertips, unable to move. “I see trouble, all down the line.” Unable to move out of its way. Caught in the eye of an Eddie Hazel-esque hurricane. Unable to extinguish the anguish and palpable pain. “Will this last for long?” The song`s intro is so hypnotic, it transports me so vividly to a particular point in time, that it`s narcotic, a drug. I can shift that feeling now with a simple shrug, but then everyday was like wading through its treacle-thick fug. Its soft, low, psychedelic, screams set to the pop and tick of Shuggie Otis` beatbox. So fucked I didn’t know which way was up. Down, high, and strung-out. Aut Ah Mi Hed? You bet ya. In interviews Lewis himself talked of wilderness years lost, wasted, way more than stoned, in squats with nothing more than his guitar, playing live for the likes of Hawkwind. I hammered this at home, in my yard, in a mid-90s daze, living above an off-license on Upper Street. No longer looking for the balearic beat, but instead singing the blues. The song reaches for the light in its final third – finding salvation in a string arrangement to rival Marvin`s on Motown – but, desperate, narcissistic, and self-destructive, I still had some months, years, in the darkness to do.
I first heard Lewis Taylor on Gilles Peterson`s Sunday evening Kiss FM radio show.
Be With Records are reissuing the LP, taking pre-orders now for the the summer.