Album Review l Human Heart – Lionel Lodge
Album | Human Heart
Artist | Lionel Lodge
Label | Immune Recordings
Released May 18th
Lionel Lodge is something of an travelling troubadour. He was born in Scotland, grew up in Canada, roamed around Europe (settling for a while in England), and now lives in Vienna, Austria. He has been writing songs since boyhood. In fact he remembers that at the age of 4 he was re-wrote the words to ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’ by the Rolling Stones for his Mother to use as a wake-up call for him and his brothers. That may sound a bit unusual, but then his father was the legendary Radio Caroline DJ Tom Lodge. He grew up breathing in music like oxygen.
He’s been performing, both in bands and as a solo artist, since the early 1980’s. ‘Human Heart’ is his 12th album, and the 2nd with the ensemble of musicians he has put together in Vienna – Peter Beinhofer on accordion/backing vocals; Franz Haselsteiner on piano/keyboards; Stephan Steiner on violin; Alex Gantz on electric guitar; Joe Schirl on bass; and Daniel Klemmer on drums/percussion. Collectively they are The Schragged Out Band (no, me neither) but his website helpfully offers this definition:- Schragged (Sh/ray/ged): In some ways bent or twisted, not square, somewhat skewed or irregular.
The album features special guests Nadja Milfait (cello), Jeffy Bialkowsky (electric guitar), Stephan Tumler (organ) and Rebecca MacDuff Cafa, N!ddl, Steve Gander and Loka on backing vocals. All 13 of the songs were written by Lionel Lodge, and he produced it himself too.
A soaring rock infused track opens the album. ‘All She Wants’ hurtles along with an urgency like a speeding car on a dark country road desperate to reach its destination. ‘I’m A Balloon’ has tinges of country and folk and an altogether more wistful air – “I’ve got no conception of direction so I can never be off course”- and provides a melting pot for the talented instrumentalists. ‘Almost In The Clear’ allows Peter Beinhofer on accordion to provide a counterpoint to Lionel’s gritty vocals.
The title track ‘Human Heart’ is a glorious slice of Americana elevated by a wonderful arrangement and sweetly subtle backing vocals that combine to evoke the sense of longing for one’s roots, which as a perpetual traveler Lionel clearly knows a thing or two about. ‘Auto Pilot’ is a short number with a jaunty melody but thought provoking lyrics that ponder about life in the rat race. ‘Pauper Or A King’ is fast paced Country Rock ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Meat Loaf album, while ‘Drink It Up’ brings us back to Folk territory with a metaphor on taking opportunities.
‘You and I’ is an upbeat love song laced with Latin rhythms; ‘Running Through My Heart’ is almost Zydeco; the Blues-Rock influenced ‘Crazy World’ is augmented with a scorching guitar and pounding drum beat, while ‘Does It All Make Sense’ is a thoughtful muse on the human condition. Reggae vibes blended with accordion give a reflection about the material world – ‘Satisfied’ – a unique sound that makes it one of the stand-out tracks on the album. ‘Rise Up’ ends this musical orbit around the Human Heart with a simple, optimistic and powerful statement about our time on this mortal coil that deftly concludes an excellent album.
This is an exceptional collection of songs, blending musical influences in a fusion that defies categorisation -or maybe creates a new one of its own – ‘Schragg’?
Here’s one label I will put on it though:- Superb.