Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Undiscovered Soul: Lewis Taylor

Lewis Taylor (vocals; multi-instrumentalist)

Englishman, Lewis Taylor is a multi-instrumentalist with one of most beauty and soulful voices on the scene. The unfortunate side to his story is that after being completely frustrated by the music industry for all the obvious reasons (conflicting artist demands, royalties, control over recording work, etc) he has since left the business. But his music lives on through all of us. And his music is still readily available and I hope everyone has a chance to check it out. Even if you don't like it, I think you will understand how special he is.

In short, for those who may not be familiar with him, let me provide a setting. Imagine the vocal rawness of the first two Prince albums, Marvin Gaye, Daryl Hall, D'angelo, and Maxwell (Embrya era) and you have a possible comparison to Lewis Taylor--rich, soulful voice with truly meaningful lyrics. His skill as musician is also in the realm of Prince, Todd Rundgren and Brian Wilson. Deighton composed and performed everything himself, especially on the latter albums. All this in today's environment doesn't spell success does it. I guess the crowning achievement of his influence at least on the European side of things was Robbie Williams covering one of Lewis' best songs "Lovelight" on Robbie's 2006 album Rudebox. It was a very respectful version worth listening to even if you hate Robbie Williams (which I do not).

Lewis Taylor had been on the scene in various incarnations during the 80's (prog-psychedelic rock bands) but his love of soul and desire to be a solo artist landed him with a major label deal in the mid-nineties. It was kind of the right time too (so you would think). This was a time when most of the public was focused on bands like Oasis in the rock world, Wynton Marsalis in jazz, Babyface on the R&B side. His self titled debut, Lewis Taylor and its predecessor, Lewis II (both on Island Records) were critically acclaimed for its blend of originality--a use of soul, funk, jazz rhythms and psychedelia. It was something that didn't reach the masses until really, Paul Weller (probably a fan of Lewis Taylor) perfected it on his fourth album, Heavy Soul. Lewis Taylor's first two albums feature some soulful beauties such as "Bittersweet," "Whoever," "Lucky," "My Aching Heart" and "Never Be My Woman". These and the rest of the albums would make most of the soul artists from nineties and the two thousands irrelevant.

Lewis would later be dropped from his major label but after some soul-searching he reemerged on his own label, Slow Reality, with even more fresh and inventive material. The next two records Stoned Pt. I and Stoned Pt. II, were fascinating combinations of love, loss, beauty, fun, longing. Wrapped in the usual over-centered psychedelia that he had come to be known for. I use the term psychedelia loosely because its more his voice than the instruments he uses that give the music a dream-like feel. Songs like "Positvely Beautiful," "Lovelight," "Send Me And Angel," "When Will I Ever Learn," and "Reconsider" all will make you think what would Marvin Gaye and Brian Wilson done if they were locked in a room together for a week. Both albums were released in the U.S. with slightly different track listings and in some cases different artwork. But at the end of the day its the music you should pay attention too. The music is superb and must be heard.

Lewis would make essentially two more records (sort of). They were both called The Lost Album (one in UK and one in the U.S.). Again the feature slightly similar track listing. The U.S. artwork is much better but again pay attention to the music. Some of the tracks were music he recorded before leaving Island Records so it gives you a good idea of where he was going musically before the Stoned releases.

This is really magical stuff and to be honest I haven't heard a musician this devastatingly rich and original on the soul scene since he decided to retire in 2006. I have been listening to Lewis Taylor since I first heard his debut at an HMV store in London and I felt compelled to share it with everyone. You won't find any of these records at the local record store but you should be able to find some of them online for download 
(Amazon UK and iTunes). Lewis Taylor--an undiscovered soul gem.


  1. If you got a chance to listen to his "B-Sides" you'd think he was WAY better than he already is. Makes you crave the music that's there and leaves you begging and crying for more. Unfortunately, it seems he doesn't care. Sigh.... But I love ALL the music I have of him...

  2. Great piece on the man I consider the my favorite musician of all time. And I agree with you about the B-sides Faith, awesome music as well. I am conflicted over how to feel about Lewis because I sort of understand his frustration with the business but with talent like that it's a shame to bottle it and keep all richness from us music lovers. There is a void in my music collection from all the beautiful music we'll probably never get to hear. And then the youtube video pull downs just make me angry at him. I mean, I never got to see him perform live after waiting for YEARS! And then to deprive us of at least youtube stuff seems just mean. Now I'm gonna go listen to "Bittersweet" HA!