Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Doll By Doll - Gypsy Blood

Doll By Doll
Gypsy Blood


Released 1979 on Automatic
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 21/09/2000ce


Doll By Doll were a British group who were very big news in the U.K. music papers in 1979, some writers even suggested they would change the face of pop music and might even change the world. I remember a very strange interview with the group's lead singer/songwriter Jackie Leven in Melody Maker in 1979 where Jackie confessed his and the whole group's heavy LSD use, he even admitted that he heard voices and could communicate with the dead. So guess what? I ran right out and bought Doll By Doll's debut album "Remember" and I was very impressed, and while there were a couple of bum tracks the majority of the record showed immense promise.
I would have to wait until Doll By Doll's second album "Gypsy Blood"( also released in 1979 ) for that promise to be revealed fully. "Gypsy Blood" is a magnificent album that rates as one of my all time favorites. What do Doll By Doll sound like? let me see if I can compare them with somebody. How about traces of Traffic, John Cale, Moby Grape, Family, and Love. Sound good to you? You bet!!!! They are that good!!
Jackie Leven is a spectacular singer with a mind shattering control and range. Try to imagine Scott Walker crossed Tim Buckley. Doll By Doll as a musical unit are no slouches either they provide a fluid and colorful backing for Leven's superb songs.
The record opens with a couple of short ones in "Teenage Lightning" (issued as a 45) and the title track "Gypsy Blood" these are pleasant tasters for what's to come, Leven's voice reminds me of Moby Grape's Peter Lewis on these 2 numbers. "Strip Show" is a reflective ballad perfectly suited for Leven's rich voice. "The Human Face" is even better, this track is deadly and makes me think of George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" lp and certainly looks forward to The Teardrop Explodes-"Wilder" album. Side one closes with "Hey Sweetheart" another beautiful slow ballad kinda like something from Scott Walker's Scott 4 record.
Side two opens with a muscular psychedelic funk pounder called "Binary Friction" this song recalls the group's first album but by now the band is so much tighter. "Hell Games" is next and man is it great!!!, it also opens with one of my all time favorite lines where Leven sings " I lived for awhile in the shadow of Castle Frankenstein" Beautiful!!!, this should have been a number ONE single. "Forbidden Worlds" follows suit this track could also have been a massive hit should radio programmers had picked up on it, of course they didn't.
The record closes with 3 knockouts in a row "Highland Rain" is my favorite Doll By Doll song of all, this song contains all that's great about this group in 4 plus minutes, I wish I could describe it but I can't let's just say it's a mindfucker supreme. "Endgame" is a ghostly solo acoustic number by Leven that's a dead ringer for that great Teardrop Explodes B-Side "Use Me". The last track "When A Man Dies" is barely a minute long and is also a dark solo Leven piece that ends the album on a twisted disturbing note.
I really don't know what else to say about this album. I've been trying to turn people on to this record for over 20 years as I'm trying to do so again here. Doll By Doll did make some great records after "Gypsy Blood" before Jackie Leven was sidelined with a crippling heroin habit. The good news is Jackie has recovered and is now touring England so the story is far from over. If you're living in England please support the great man, he's too good to lose!!!!


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