Singer / songwriter / guitarist Amanda Lehmann steps into the spotlight with her first solo album.
Release Date: 20th August 2021
Format: CD /digital
OK, I’ll hold up my hand and confess of being guilty of associating Amanda Lehmann with her excursions in the Steve Hackett band. She has a musical career that’s spanned three decades, yet having said that, she won’t complain that the exposure with the Hackett gang has done any harm. In fact Steve has been most magnanimous in his praise of Innocence And Illusion, calling it an album “set to take the year’s music honours by storm.” Perhaps we should get Steve on board with our team of writers…
The promise of a fusion of prog, rock, ballads and jazz blues hints at a wide spectrum of musical showcases and as Hackett has also said, she’s been fortunate to have the input of several gifted pals (himself included) to help inflate her sails. Included on the album are musical contributions from Hackett, Roger King, Rob Townsend and former Hackett band keyboard player, Nick Magnus who also acts as engineer and reading through the credits, the main support. However, a quick glance at the credits for each track and you’ll appreciate that Amanda is very much the creator of her own destiny; she’s the dominant musical presence, having written both words and music that travel from and through childhood worlds into starker realities and while she’s pictured brandishing an electric guitar, the acoustic moods she create are particularly significant.
There’s no denying the aural images that must have seeped into her soul impacted over the last decade of the stints with the Hackett band. From the ethnic swirls of the opening few moments to the widescreen cinematic sweeps and the nursery rhyme lullabies, the album ebbs and flows with a clutch of memorable moments.
From a gentle acoustic introduction, Tinkerbell develops into a series of carousel and grand orchestral sweeps (credit to Mr Magnus) and a vocal that recalls the elegance of Kate Bush. Even on a first play though this emerges as one track that we’re going to return to pretty quickly.
For not the first time, the unexpected arrives in the form of the swing of jazz-blues and a totally different vocal style that emerges on Only Happy When It Rains. With Hackett on his beloved harmonica and the Townsend sax, it sounds like great fun was had. Much more serious, ominous and threatening even, is the atmosphere on The Watcher. From moody and brooding to lush and dreamy where the guitar is embellished and swept along by Roger King’s string arrangements, and then to a distinctly ‘rock’ outing where the challenge of duetting with Steve Hackett is met with a dramatic mid-song clash.
The album title comes to the fore in Childhood Delusions – perhaps the key track of the album – where the cool lounge arrangement belies the strength of the sentiment. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Rob Townsend provides the lazy late nite brass part; that’s the Magnus magic at work again.
The closing vignette of the duet with Steve Hackett on his instantly recognisable warm nylon guitar makes Where The Small Things Go glow with a warm epilogue feel. It seals the deal as a reminder of the variety that comes with the central theme of the ups and downs of life’s journey. One she describes as “what is, what was and what could be,” as a deep dive into the lyrics reveals the hopes, the dreams and the fears. Very much like himself, we can only add a “here here” to the Hackett description of Amanda Lehmann as a musical chameleon.
Here’s the video for The Watcher: