Thursday, December 4, 2014

SPAZ reviews LEWIS BALOUE's Romantic Times!



Back in May 2014, I reviewed an album called L’Amour by a mysterious artist by the name of Lewis. This rare privately pressed album was originally released in 1983 and became a cult classic over the years.  Reissued by the great Light In The Attic Records, L’Amour was such a haunting listen that I chose to avoid writing a normal review and I inserted the album into a ghost story instead.  (Read it HERE). Whether I got my point across is up to the reader, but my intention was to imply that the album was a harrowing, yet beautiful album by a man who was either trying to seduce the listener or confess his deepest, darkest love secrets.  Either way, the album was a deep and personal expression of love (or lack thereof… I still can’t figure it out). Add in the fact that the artist was actually a real mystery and not something made up by the label made it that much more intriguing.

Shortly after the release of the L’Amour album, a second album by the artist - this time recorded under the name Lewis Baloue - was discovered. Dating from 1985, the album was entitled Romantic Times and almost literally picked up where L’Amour left off.  Once Light In The Attic prepped the album for release, the mystery of the artist was solved and he was found living in Canada under his real name Randall Wulff. While this story may seem like a great marketing strategy, I have no doubt that the whole scenario is true. But let’s set that all aside and talk about the recently reissued Romantic Times album…

If you thought L’Amour was haunting, then you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!  Like his debut, Lewis’ vocals are so fragile, the words are difficult to decipher, but the pain in his voice tells the listener that maybe Lewis’ love life is not as rosy as the suave playboy on the album cover would lead you to believe.  If L’Amour was the sound of a heart breaking, Romantic Times is the sound of an emotional breakdown.  The music is still eerie and haunting while the vibrato in Lewis’ voice sounds like it’s about to leap out of his throat and smack him in the face. The gentle melodies are quite lovely, although it seems as if Lewis has reached his breaking point and is feeling a little disgruntled with the way love has turned out. Or is he blissfully in love and lost in the passion? Imagine a despondent and lovelorn - and slightly tipsy - man breaking into a mall late at night and heading straight to the piano and keyboard store, sitting at one of those cheesy organs, hitting the rhythm button and then singing his self-penned songs of love and loss with tears streaming down his cheeks.  Yes, Romantic Times indeed.

If you think that sounds like a bad time, you’d be sorely mistaken.  There’s an honesty here that can’t be denied and it is heartbreaking to say the least.  Is it sung by a man so infatuated by love that he can’t control his emotions or is it from the perspective of a man who has lost the one woman he cherished the most and is consumed by anguish? That’s for you to decide.

I just hope Light In The Attic finds more music by Lewis/Randall and unleashes it upon our senses.  Will we be able to handle it?  We’ll just have to wait and see… 

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