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The Mystery Behind Lewis Taylor’s “Lost” Album

Lewis Taylor

In 1996, Lewis Taylor was heralded as the next big new major British artist, getting praise from giants like Elton John and David Bowie. By the time he released The Lost Album in 2006, he was on the verge of a major breakthrough. Then he disappeared. But it’s an interesting story as to how he “almost” got there.

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Born Andrew Taylor in London 1966, the multi-instrumentalist musician got his first professional gig at the age of 20 as a touring guitarist with the reformed, blues-rock Edgar Broughton Band in the ‘70s. Simultaneously, he released two experimental indie rock albums under the moniker Sheriff Jack — Laugh Yourself Awake and What Lovely Melodies, both on Midnight Music, a label which also represented Robin Hitchcock. But by the end of the ‘80s, Taylor was taking a break to figure out his next move.

Remerging (and rebranded) as “Lewis Taylor” in the ‘90s, the artist got his demos heard by the bigwigs at Island Records then was immediately signed. Thinking they had the next Al Green on their hands, Island promoted his stylish self-titled debut without fully understanding that Taylor had the eclecticism of Shuggie Otis and the temperament of D’Angelo. Even as Elton and Bowie trumpeted his unique talent, the publicity did not translate to sales or airplay.

Taylor’s reaction was to ricochet in a different direction — this time diving headlong into an angry psychedelic soul. Co-written and co-produced with his partner Sabina Smyth, the new tracks were rejected by Island (more on this shortly) so Taylor regrouped again and put out a sophomore LP: the groovy soul-folk Lewis II. Not only did a U.S. release not happen but Island dropped him soon thereafter.

As the 2000s progressed, Lewis toured England thereby building up a fan base big enough to justify his forming his own label, Slow Reality which released his own “limited edition” recordings at gigs: Stoned – Part I (2002) andStone Part II with the former featuring the track “Send Me an Angel” (from his aborted post-debut sessions) and the first recorded version of “Lovelight,” which Robbie Williams went on to cover on 2006’s Mark Ronson-produced Rudebox. (The latter version was a Top 10 hit in the UK.)

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By 2003, Taylor and Smyth decided to revisit those scrapped late ‘90s tracks, re-record them, and re-arrange them. His self-released, “new” Lost Album dropped in late 2004. When US indie label Hacktone Records heard it, they signed  Lewis then formulated a plan to relaunch his career stateside. But that never happened. Before we examine what happened, I need to talk about the sheer perfection of The Lost Album. (For those in the know, I’ll be referring to the Hacktone release rather than the Slow Reality one as the American release gets the track listings right.)

The LP title is a double entendre referring as it does to the album finally being rediscovered as well as the lyrical content which reflects a confused, disoriented, and insecure state of mind. For me, The Lost Album is almost willfully hidden and creates an out-of-body experience akin to being lost in a given moment.

There’s a depth and splendor that gets richer with repeated plays, especially on a track like “Listen Here.” Opening with a beautiful harpsichord lick that constantly changes time for the first 50 seconds, Lewis’ voice slides in singing, “Show me a fool who believes it. Is it a fantasy? Is it real?” then as the song struts its Rundgren-esque groove, you become immediately lost in this new world. “Hide Your Heart Away” and “The Leader of the Band” — led by guitar and piano respectively — are cut from the same power-pop cloth, but where “Hide…” revels in its heartache, “Leader…” flushes with a newly discovered love. Additionally, a new version of “Send Me An Angel” is turned into a Texas swing a la k.d. lang.

Ultimately, the lynchpin of this album is “Let’s Hope Nobody Finds Us,” a tune which finds Lewis using Brian Wilson as his guidepost to summon the conflicted state of feelings that come with being isolated in a friendly crowd. And it’s not the only bit of angst on the album either.

Personally, I want to cry whenever I hear Lewis wring the desperation and loneliness out of a lyric like “You got to understand nobody knows where I’ve been, not even me” on “Please Help Me If You Can” even as I’m paradoxically uplifted by how the overall song makes me feel.

Had Hacktone listened deeper to this album, they might have realized that Lewis was writing a goodbye letter. After playing a sold-out show in New York City (and on the eve of the US release of The Lost Album), Lewis got on a plane, canceled the rest of his tour, and quit the music business. That was twelve years ago. Many rumors have floated out there about what he’s doing now. (My favorite is that he’s currently a plumber.) And no one really knows what truly happened, but if he never records again, that’s okay. He went out at the apex of his career and why begrudge a man for creating a neo-soul masterpiece. Seek out The Lost Album yourself and be thankful.

Erik Mattox

Photo Credit: Lewis TAYLOR / UNITED KINGDOM – JANUARY 01: 100 CLUB Photo of Lewis TAYLOR (Photo by Roberta Parkin./Redferns)

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Erik Mattox is one of the founders of 103.3 Asheville FM, a low-power FM radio station in Asheville, NC. Since its inception in 2009, Erik has hosted "The UnCola" every Tuesday playing "Forgotten Pop from the Last 50 Years" and "The WestCoast Breeze" every Thursday since 2015. He is writing his first book called "How The West Was Smooth: The History Of West Coast Music" and lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with his wife, Lisa and two children, Lucy and Theo.

3 comments on “The Mystery Behind Lewis Taylor’s “Lost” Album

  1. Tony Lechercher

    I wouldn’t say no one knows what happened. He broke his silence and gave an interview in 2016. Here’s link:-

    http://souljones.com/exclusive-features/2016/6/14/questions-answers-lewis-taylor

  2. David Gorman

    To correct a few key facts, it wasn’t The Lost Album that first inspired HackTone to sign Lewis Taylor, it was Stoned, and the plan to launch his career in the US was actually going quite strongly before he abandoned the effort: “Stoned Pt. 1” was getting incredible response from KCRW (#1 for three weeks), WFMU, and several other influential stations as well as incredible coverage in the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, USA Today, and other mainstream publications (The Village Voice called it the album of the year). The NYC concert wasn’t held on the eve of The Lost Album’s release, but about a year prior, when Taylor was in the city to perform on Conan and do some in-studio sets for WFMU, XM, and others. While it was always part of the plan to release The Lost Album down the road, that didn’t happen until long after Taylor backed out of the spotlight and made clear he would no longer perform.

    The other thing that seemed odd was calling The Lost Album a “neo-soul masterpiece.” It’s a brilliant record, but Stoned was the neo-soul record, The Lost Album was his rebellion against that style in favor of indulging his more prog-oriented leanings (also strange to think of Lewis II as a “soul-folk” album given its dark, dense, production and seeming lack of any acoustic instruments).

  3. This assumes he’s telling the whole story. He’s not (and fair enough) and whilst this is a well written article in the many ways, a number of facts are wrong and some of the propositions are wide of the mark. ‘Lost’, good as it maybe, is not necessarily his strongest work work…geezer was an 18 carat genius, whatever, one of a kind.

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