Pop Albums: Lewis Taylor Lewis Taylor CID 8049

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The Independent Culture
Undoubtedly the most accomplished debut offering of the year, Lewis Taylor introduces, at the uncommonly ripe age of 30, a major talent who is prepared to ignore the dictates of fashion in favour of his own direction.

Neither Britpopper nor junglist, crusty nor raver, Barnet-born Taylor gives immediate signals of his ambition by opening this album with the most convincing Marvin Gaye pastiche since Marvin's dad brought his son's career to a premature conclusion. Using a sample of "Magnetic Fields" by that earlier British genius Joe Meek, "Lucky" whips together descending arabesques of bass, a shimmering suspension of strings and plenty of falsetto whoops into a song whose gossamer lightness belies its multi-faceted complexity in exactly the manner of Marvin's classics from the Seventies.

It is a breathtaking piece of work, unaccountably overlooked as a single, but it doesn't come close to summarising Taylor's talents. The next track, "Bittersweet", is even more sophisticated in its construction - a kora- style guitar figure is overlaid with a fuzz-guitar scribble, and Taylor harmonises with himself, layer upon layer, until it sounds like the Beach Boys in unusually soulful mood.

Later, on "Damn", he works the soul harmonies like Zappa, as if Frank had taken over Norman Whitfield's job as producer for the Temptations. And not for a moment does any of it sound like an academic exercise, even when his guitar summons light, understated echoes of Carlos Santana and Jerry Garcia on "How"; it is simply the work of someone with eager ears who has found myriad different musical means of releasing emotions.

We've had our share of overblown home-grown soul "geniuses" before - remember Omar? - but Lewis Taylor, on this showing, is head and shoulders above them all. Given the current priorities of British pop, he could easily slip between the cracks over here, but he should worry - this time next year, he will be a household name across America. Catch him quick, before he conquers continents.