Mystery in music always sparks a deeper listen, and the unanswered questions surrounding this record have almost certainly added to it’s magic. A private pressing via the unknown R.A.W. label in 1983 seemingly disappeared forever, like many others, into a mountainous pile of forgotten vinyl heading for a thousand skips. Then, freakishly, 31 years later it shows up and becomes one of the most discussed vinyl rarities in existence. I’m hearing stories about original copies fetching $500-$600 on ebay. What we do know about Lewis -L’Amour is very little. Randall Wulff may have been his name, he may have been Canadian, and he may have been some kind of con-artist after it emerged that he gave a rogue $250 cheque to famed punk band photographer Ed Colver for the session which produced the eerie image for the album’s sleeve. Strange, considering he was staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel while in LA, drove a white Mercedes convertible sports car and dated a girl with model looks. Colver remembers going to find him at the Beverly Hills having seen him there two previous times while they got the photos ready “They told me at the front desk that he had gone to Vegas and then on to Hawaii without leaving forwarding info”. 31 years later, on reissuing the album, Light In The Attic covered the bill for Colver who called his experience “one of the worst in 35 years of shooting photographs”. Oddly, once again the studio chosen to record L’Amour was the low rent Music Lab in Silver Lake, basically the cheapest studio in town.
I Thought The World Of You begins with delicate piano and synthesiser strings before a spooky almost whispered vocal drifts in. It’s almost like an Arthur Russell and Nils Frahm collaboration. Beautiful stuff. Cool Night In Paris plays with a whimsical soft acoustic guitar and drifting, bending, sometimes discordant synths under the gentle Tom Waits croak rising up to that higher fragile tone of Lewis’s voice once more. My Whole Life has a bluesier road worn country tone not unlike the vibe on Springsteen’s Nebraska, with more acoustic and synth washes while the pretty, reflective instrumental Even Rainbows Turn Blue has the same blend of creaking guitar strings and atmospheric space in it’s marshmallow armoury. Like To See You Again returns to the Russell/Frahm fantasy combination with achingly gentle piano and dreamy string synthetics framing that ghostly vocal once more. Things Just Happen That Way hears our mysterious fellow turn up the vibrato giving the song a Bryan Ferryesque finish while Let’s Fall In Love Tonight feels like Gershwin on a western film theme with Lewis’s haunting vocal following the piano melody to great effect. Love Showered Me sounds so much like Arthur Russell singing I’m inventing theories that it was him. Such an emotional depth to such a gentle vocal style with the piano and synths reaching their creative zenith too on this track. We finish with the acoustic guitar led lullaby Romance For Two where our host once again uses a vibrato so soft it’s almost impossible to imagine.
L’Amour, despite it’s cheesy name and unimaginative song titles, is an album of emotional depth and law defying simplicity. It’s a timeless, forward thinking record given the year it was actually made.
In another twist to the tale, I learned that Light In The Attic had through their digging networks had recently discovered and are about to release the 1985 follow up to L’Amour. Once more found in impossibly scarce quantities, Romantic Times by the freshly monikered Lewis Baloue. The sleeve has that same ghostly face in a white suit next to the aforementioned white Mercedes with a private jet in the background. I’m about to listen to it . What a spooky story. Made all the more intriguing by our mysterious stranger Randy Wulff and his beguiling sound.