Since the release of his debut solo album, Mark One, some four decades ago Mark Le Gallez has had quite a musical career – from touring California with mod power pop band The Risk, to dalliances with psychedelic indie around Europe with The Sacred Hearts, kicking up a garage rock storm closer to home and in the UK with Thee Jenerators and inventing his own alter-ego with the steampunk-folk antics of The Crowman (not to mention The Redbones, mod psyche supergroup Speakeasy, skiffle country with The John Wesley Stone and more), now he’s back with what I believe is his second solo billed album appropriately titled, Mark Two.
A look at the tracklist of the startlingly green vinyl seems to show Le Gallez in reflective form, made up as it is of song titles spanning his aforementioned musical life and I wondered if this was actually some kind of glorified best of compilation type effort.
As soon as it started playing though it was clear this was not the case as, instead, what we are treated to is a re-recording of ten of his songs all with a lo-fi, through a time machine from late 1960s, kind of quality.
Across the record Le Gallez provides the vocals and wrote the songs while producer and engineer James Le Huray played all the instruments.
Traffic Jam, originally recorded for Mark One, gets things going and sets the scene with retro toned organs, fuzzed up guitars and Mark’s trademark vocal attack and brings this song, that on the original was a hampered by production style that was very much ‘of the time’, back to life in fine form.
After that we jump back and forth through the main man’s back catalogue as The Crowman’s Ghosts gets suitably atmospheric while The Redbones’ cut Elvis feels like something of a revived lost gem.
Lucifer Lady, previously recorded under The Crowman guise, marries Screaming Lord Sutch vibes with the feel of The Cramps and is something of roaring, raging psychobilly inspired masterpiece before another Crowman cut rounds off side one of the vinyl with a tribute to The Byrds’ lead songwriting with God Bless You, Gene Clark.
The second half gets going with a Risk track, Only Cry The Lonely, reimagined here with a reflective and somewhat melancholic edge but still powered by that retro garage sound of the rest of the record.
The set’s most left-field moment comes next with You Captured My Heart, originally a John Wesley Stone country ballad, and that country sound remains here but fed through a fuzzy psyche filter that gives it a whole new, but still suitable energy.
Much as it was when performed by Thee Jenerators, Sold My Soul is a righteous riot of a song that is one of a few highlights before You Say takes us back into slightly more considered territory.
The record is then rounded off by Mystery Train, a Crowman cut originally but that could just as easily come from Thee Jenerators and that energy is present here as Le Gallez pays tribute to many musical inspirations and forebears, including a verse reserved for those lost from the Guernsey scene in recent years (to which, sadly a few more names could now be added and fit well alongside those already mentioned).
This could easily become a bit too melancholic but again is a powerful, fuzz driven celebration that closes the album on a high.
Throughout Le Gallez sounds as good as he ever has with his more mature vocal tone heard live captured well, while Le Huray delivers fantastically on the instrumental side – he’s always been famed for his multi-instrumental capabilities but this really shows them off in force.
Mark Two then is a terrific look back at a truly extraordinary musical life but also feels like a revitalisation of it and I sincerely hope this marks the start of new chapter and there’s still more to come from Mark Le Gallez who has had a bigger influence on music both close to home in Guernsey and much further afield than I think many would ever realise (after all not many from our little island can count Jack White as a fan…).