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At the end of the 1970s,
the Doll By Doll were one of the first British bands to challenge the
While Remember (Automatic, 1979) was still a formative work, reminiscent
of Graham Parker's pub-rock and Nick Lowe's power-pop
(Butcher Boy, Palace Of Love), but
Gypsy Blood (Automatic, 1979) shone with grandiose and crystalline
guitar arrangements (Human Face, Teenage Lightning).
It became evident that the band was merely a vehicle for leader Jackie Leven.
a Scottish soul singer with a mission.
Alas, Doll By Doll (MCA, 1981) was a disappointment and
Grand Passion (MCA, 1982) was, de facto, only a mediocre duet between
Leven and Helen Turner.
Leven had to retire from the scenes due to heroin addiction.
Leven staged a surprise come-back in the 1990s with
The Mystery Of Love Is Greater Than The Mystery Of Death (Cooking Vinyl, 1994), that was a revelation: his dark and melodramatic register delivers
parables of loss and desperation in a manner reminiscent of
Jeffrey Lee Pierce, albeit in a unique
"celtic soul" style (Call Mother A Lonely Field).
Forbidden Songs Of The Dying West (Cooking Vinyl, 1995), that employed
even a sixty-voice choir, continued with more gothic tales
(Young Male Suicide Blessed By Invidible Woman).
THe two volumes of Argyll Cycle (Cooking Vinyl, 1996) collect songs
composed between 1985 and 1990 while he was recovering from his drug addiction.
Fairy Tales For Hard Men (Cooking Vinyl, 1997) is his most "Scottish"
album, very much steeped into the misty landscape and the ancient traditions
of Scotland (Boy Trapped In A Man).
Night Lilies (Cooking Vinyl, 1998 - Thirsty Ear, 1999) is his most
eclectic work yet, with even touches of blues and jazz.
Defending Ancient Springs (Cooking Vinyl, 2000), that sets to music
poems of great writers of the century, is another ambitious work that spans
different styles (Paris Blues).