Meade, Laura - The Most Dangerous Woman In America,
Laura is of course best-known for being one of the singers in the wonderful progressive rock band Izz, and this album was written by Laura (vocals, keyboards) with her husband and fellow bandmate John Galgano (bass, additional keyboards, electric guitars). It was then recorded with the additional help of Brian Coralian (electronic drums, percussion) and Tom Galgano (keyboards, who also produced and engineered it). In others words it included four of the six Izz members who produced their incredible 2019 album, ‘Don’t Panic’. So, if it was written by two members of Izz, and recorded by four members of the band, why not release it as an Izz album? Because it isn’t, pure and simple.
I have always found it strange when members of a band record an album and then don’t release it as being by that band, and Jethro Tull’s ‘A’ is famously known as being planned as an Anderson solo album, but he was convinced to change it to a Tull release and overnight got rid of half of the group. Here though, it makes perfect sense. It reminds me somewhat of the Ozric Tentacles and Eat Static scenario, where Merv Pepler and Joie Hinton decided to record under a different name as the music they were performing was quite different to their main outfit, and that is definitely the case here. Whereas Izz are renowned for their progressiveness and multi-layers this is in many ways far simpler, with more space within the music, a move far more into dance and pop than prog, far fewer layers and a much stronger concentration on Laura’s voice.
The first time I played this album I felt incredibly conflicted. This is a concept album, and I have seen that mentioned as a possible concern in a few reviews but that never worried me. What did, was that at times this was quite a long way removed from what I would normally listen to for pleasure, with less rock and more synthetic/electronic percussion/beats than I enjoy. But, and this is a massive “but”, always at the fore are the wonderfully luxurious and incredible vocals from Laura. I think I was at university when I decided I was not going to listen to only a small subsection of music and even though I wore a denim or leather jacket I wasn’t just going to reside within rock and would remove myself from any expected conventions, which meant I went out and bought the first four Wham! singles on 12”.
Even though I was not always sure of the underlying accompaniment, her vocals are velvet and full of emotion and passion, and this is what kept bringing me back to the album time and again. Sure, there are times it sounds a little like Kraftwerk, and for the most part the drumming is not to my taste, but as a whole this works incredibly well. It is often based around piano and vocals and is a remarkable piece of work, with elements which will surely appeal to anyone who enjoys wonderful music. She is one of those singers who never strains, has wonderful range, and commands the audience with seemingly little effort. The more I played this the more I realised there are elements which could have come from modern theatre, others which are really more progressive when examined, while they are often wrapped in a pop sensibility and even touching into dance and modern production. However, what it does mean is that the warmth and strength of her vocals are often at contrast with the piano or percussion while the bass is often very much in the background even though there are some delicious lines within it. This contrast highlights the differences between the different elements and becomes something which has huge dynamics as it pulls the music in different directions.
This album rapidly went from one over which I was quite confused and turned into something I love deeply, and while I am desperately holding out for the new IZZ release, I find myself also hoping that there is another from Laura in this vein in the not too distant future.