Named after the twin-towered St. Lukas Church in Munich, the Lukas Tower Band have been around in various forms for over a quarter of a century but have remained somewhat low key, so much so that they received a newcomer of the year award back in 2000 after they had existed for some 15 years! The website gives no information as to how many albums they have recorded in that time and just mentions the current one and one called After Long Years. The band seems to have gone through numerous changes over the years but the current line-up comprises Wolfgang Fastenmeier (guitars, percussion), Gerhard Heinisch (bass), Angela Maier (vocals), Fredy Orendt (keyboards, accordion, flute), Silvia Szekely (violin), Thomas Willecke (drums, percussion) and Ursula Wilpert (low and high whistles), with Jochen Scheffter providing strings on one track.
The music is quite a strange, and unique, blend of folk and progressive rock. Oddly enough, considering the band is German, the lyrics to the songs are adapted from the works of English poets: Lords Tennyson and Byron, Thomas Moore, William Blake and Charles Causley. Sung in English, without any trace of an accent, Maier is not the most dynamic of vocalists but her performances do suit the songs very well, giving each piece more of a feel of a story telling. The two medleys Medley (!) and The Bastide Set are lively pieces containing a mixture of traditional and original reels that make great use of the whistles and violin. As such they could easily be mistaken for Fairport Convention, even down to the humorous titles – My Lady Nottingham’s Puff indeed! As a big fan of the Fairport’s I couldn’t help but fall in love with these pieces!
Elsewhere, the more progressive elements shine through, with hints of Jethro Tull and Camel being detected throughout; the beginning of Strange Ways even having similarities to the early albums of the great Hoelderlin. Throughout the album electric guitars and keyboards are intermingled with acoustic guitars and plenty of flute, generating atmosphere, more Latimer than Anderson. Most of the original material is written by Fastenmeier although keyboard player Orendt wrote the music for Lunatic Boy, which, unsurprisingly, is the most keyboard heavy of the tracks, and the pair co-wrote the very strong opening track Sisters. Rajah has a very eastern feel to it with lyrics that sound as if they are Arabic. An involved piece that changes frequently and has plenty of percussive elements as well as a fine section with electric guitar and violin echoing each other to generate a very interesting song. Violin also dominates the opening of Dawn, which is joined first by an acoustic (playing a riff adapted from Jethro Tull) and then electric guitar. All too soon it is over, a strange way to end an album!
On the whole this album was very much a surprise as in many ways it sounds so English. It may be too folky for hard core prog fans, yet too rocky for folk purists. But if one is not adverse to a bit of both merged together and performed diligently and with a sense of playfulness, then Albedo is well worth checking out.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10