solo, with October Baby
click on image to visit artist's website
Enthusiasts of progressive rock's top female vocalists frequently cite recordings by Renaissance, Par Lindh Project (review), Iona (review) and Landmarq (review). The bands include the award winning vocal work of Annie Haslam, Magdalena Hagberg, Joanne Hogg and Tracy Hitchings. Rachel Jones (Karnataka), Lana Lane and Heather Findlay (Mostly Autumn) are among some of the most rapidly rising stars, as is Lisa Bouchelle. Our online feature reviews three albums including her stunning vocal work, three tracks from a live recording with Mastermind and incorporates the results of a recent interview with this multi-faceted and very attractive young woman. Also a songwriter, she is a classically trained vocalist from the Philadelphia area and currently leads the modern acoustic/electric band October Baby and has performed with the well-established progressive/metal group Mastermind.
Lisa Bouchelle was born in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, about 10 minutes from Trenton, NJ and about 35 minutes from Philadelphia. She told us, "I grew up in middle-class suburbia. My dad sang beautifully and my mother wrote poetry. Both of them did these things as a hobby. I still live in the area. I am the first professional musician in my family."
Lisa started performing at a very young age. She told us, "I started performing at the age of 4. I started performing professionally with a band at 14 years old. My first band in which my own compositions were performed as the majority of the material is October Baby. I formed that band along with my bass guitarist, Larry Eubank ("LarEu") in 1996."
Lisa's vocal style has a unique theatricality that we've heard in Tracy Hitchings' and Lana Lane's work. We asked her how she developed her vocal style and she responded, "I had 12 years of vocal training. I had a few years of guitar lessons. I learned from my mentors in bands I've played with and producers I've worked with in the studio." She continued, "I think that a lot of progressive music has intrinsically included a theatrical aspect. Take for instance Genesis, or Freddie Mercury of Queen. As far as pop music, it has been mentioned to me before that people find my delivery to be more theatrical than a lot of other music of that style. I have been singing all of my life and I think that my vocal style and personality are tied closely together. I'm emotional, passionate and a bit dramatic and I think all of those aspects come through in my performance. I like what I like, I just do what comes naturally without a lot of conscious thought about it actually."
"I have done so many different types of music through the years. I have interest in many different genres and aspects of the business. I cut my teeth on bluegrass and country music, believe it or not." She continued, "I moved on to performing top 40 pop in a band I formed called Wild Horse. I still go through phases where I like to dabble in the old classics like singing Gershwin with a piano player." She said, "I've done studio sessions with both rock and R&B artists. I think all of these elements have helped to shape my style."
Tales from the Pumpkin Patch. The debut album from October Baby, Tales from the Pumpkin Patch (Wet Duck (USA) WD0069, 1999), is a technically superb and well-produced ten-track recording. In addition to bass provided by LarEu, electric guitar is played by Rob Paterson and drums are played by John Lewandowski. Lineup changes since the album was pressed replaced Paterson with Tomas Fraticelli on lead guitar and backing vocals and Lewandoski with Joe Golding on drums and percussion. The album's producer was Ernie White.
The album's tracks vary from hard rocking numbers through torch songs and onto almost soft ballads. Lisa Bouchelle's well-trained theatrical style voice adapts to each style with lead vocals often soaring through a stunning range, demonstrating tremendous power, emotion and sensuality. "Commercial World" opens the album with thick rocking guitars and bass accompanied by crisp percussion. Lisa's powerful vocal work and guitar excursions demand full attention from new listeners. A torch ballad entitled "Plane Tickets Unlimited" immediately demonstrates a striking contrast and—while softer—is intensely performed. The crystalline quality of Lisa's voice shines through the instrumental arrangements while guitar riffs within the bridge demonstrate the solid rhythm section of the October Baby lineup. The album's tracks are written primarily by Lisa Bouchelle either on her own or with other band members. Only the eighth track is written by L. Eubank alone.
Lisa told us, "When I started to get serious about my writing and performing my original music, I basically let it take shape on its own. Of course I drew from all of my influences, my musical education, and my own spirit and emotion to help it take form—initially as pop music. It has an alternative edge at times, a bluesy edge at others. People sometimes comment on hearing everything from modern rock artists to classic torch singers' style shine through in my writing and performance." And commenting on other styles, she said, "I also sing with the Progressive/Metal band Mastermind and have done so on recording and live performance for about two years. This has greatly developed my vocal style and musicianship and has been a lot of fun. And since it is springtime, I will mention that I sing the National Anthem each year for various sports teams including my local team Trenton Thunder!"
October Baby can really rock as "Lifeline" clearly demonstrates. Here the rhythm section drives the song while Lisa's powerful lead vocals soar way above the instrumentals and can be compared favourably with Tracy Hitchings here. The chorus has a highly memorable melody while the bridge contains some fantastic instrumental excursions. Generally sung much slower and with a more sultry style, the bluesy "South Street" demonstrates Lisa's and the band's virtuosity. The harder metal edge of "Free Tonight" was reminscent of Lana Lane while lighter backing vocals and a melodic chorus are highly evocative and provide an excellent contrast adding interest to the track. Guitar solos within the instrumental bridge are highly notable.
We asked Lisa about artists that influence her when writing or performing her music and she told us, "I am inspired by music wherever I go and hear it. I feel as if I draw 'something' from all things—the radio (I'm a channel changer!)—and live performances I've seen. I draw inspiration from the rain falling down. I can mention specifically a short list of artists that come to mind when I consider those who have had an impact on my writing style, though I'm sure I'll accidentally leave some out: Barbara Streisand, Gwen Stephani, Donna Summer, Stevie Nicks, Waylon Jennings, Ella Fitzgerald (for vocal style and execution) Tomas Fraticelli of October Baby (for timing and groove), Bill Berends of Mastermind (for vocal melody and range decisions) and Elvis Costello, Debra Harry, Mick Jagger and King Crimson (for sheer bravery to let stream of consciousness dictate timing, delivery and arrangement)."
Lisa continued, "Perhaps the biggest influence on my current career has been my bass guitarist LarEu, who has been not only influential musically with his knowledge of composition and timing, but has also been a great mentor and supporter to me. He co-writes music with me for live performance and recording, and helps me to navigate through 'the business'. LarEu is also a terrific bass guitar stylist who could practically patent his unique style of playing, in my opinion. Therefore, individuality and creativity are also things I've drawn from him."
A certain favourite from the album is the stunning and softly sung ballad "I Get Along." Accompanied by the lightest instrumentals, Lisa's lead vocal is wrenched with emotion and sensuality. This theatrical-style vocally intense track would be right at home in a modern West End or Broadway musical production. In stark contrast, Lisa's theatrical vocal work within "The Detective" includes a stunning lead enhanced with frequent vocal style shifts and lots of backing vocals to add texture to the song. Guitar work is very agressive with lots of riffs joining the driving rhythm section. "Red Light Saturday Night" is a swinging, jazz and blues track with some stylistic similarities to "South Street" with a lush rhythm section and sultry vocal lead.
We asked Lisa to further elaborate on her influences. She told us, "It's interesting because sometimes the essence or spirit of a particular artist that has touched me through their music sticks with me more than the mere structure of the song, chord progression or tone of their voice." She continued, "Sometimes I write songs like "Plane Tickets Unlimited" and quiz my bass guitarist (who I often collaborate with) and ask "Which Streisand song influenced the beginning of 'Plane Tickets'?" He can't begin to guess, when to me it's so obvious—it is 'Woman in Love.'" She further elaborated, referring to some of her new material, "I think a song like 'At the Edge of Reality', which October Baby is recording now, reminds me at times like something Elvis Costello 'might' do, though it really doesn't sound like any particular thing he has done. 'Shifting Wind' is a dear song to me, and will be on the next October Baby album. That song has a bit of its roots in country music I performed years ago. I had hopes of delivering the song as smooth and comforting as I find some of the modern Don Henley writings, but with the clear sometimes-choked vocal style often exhibited in an emotional Waylon Jennings tear jerker."
We asked Lisa what she likes listening to and she responded, "I like the radio. I've also been listening a lot to the new Santana album and getting more into Ella Fitzgerald. I listen, though, like a sponge and find myself instinctively absorbing and computing stuff. I mean I think of it like a professional recording artist and don't just listen for the sheer pleasure of listening and relaxing all the time. When I want to just listen like a fan, I turn on Elvis Presley ('King Creole') and cook grits and dance around. I also like Lords of Acid—I can listen to them just to enjoy the techno music. Also I like to dig through my best friend's record album collection to find old psychedelic albums to chill out with."
The October Baby album's most unique track is "Wanna Be Your Dream Instead," a fast paced and comedic pop-country tune. Here Lisa's vocal style as well as the accompanying instrumental shift to a softer texture that swings more than it rocks. The album closes with a lovely ballad accompanied by both acoustic and electric guitar. Multi-tracked vocals add significant texture to the song and effectively highlight the melody in the chorus.
Lisa has a wonderful voice, full of power, with an extensive range and a unique theatricality perfectly suited for the types of music she does. She told us, "Right now, as far as recorded music, the October Baby debut album Tales from the Pumpkin Patch and the latest Mastermind album Angels of the Apocalypse are the only recorded work on which I can be found." We were told that two earlier O-Baby EP cassette tapes are now out of print.
Lisa continued, "October Baby is working on an album right now that features an acoustic sound. We had a lot of ideas for an acoustic album and kicked around the notion for a while during which time we have been playing a lot of 'unplugged' shows with good response." Lisa told us that the album would be released in the summer of 2000.
She continued, "Mastermind is due to release a live album soon on which I sing a few songs. Although I enjoy other projects here and there, I intend to concentrate most of my creative energy mainly on these two facets of my music for now. Discussions have recently been initiated that will hopefully lead to my singing on a song that will appear on a record on the Magna Carta label this year." Interestingly another Musical Discoveries favourite, Michelle Young, is performing on the Magna Carta project Leonardo which will be released later this year as well.
Angels of the Apocalpyse. The latest album from Mastermind (InsideOut America (USA) IOMACD 2010, 1999) is the first to feature Lisa Bouchelle (and female vocals). The sound can be favourably compared to Lana Lane's latest albums, especially in the instrumental arrangements and percussion. The American version of the album contains two bonus tracks—a stunning cover of ELP's "The Endless Enigma" and a new Mastermind track entitled "Only In My Dreams."
Mastermind is a metal-oriented progressive rock band and as one would suspect, hard-edged riffs within the instrumental bridges comprise a significant portion of the album's 70+ minute running time. Lisa Bouchelle's well-trained and theatrical voice perfectly suits the music. With a stated role as the band's mezzo-soprano vocalist, parts span a vast range and are delivered with an intensity and power balanced to that of the Mastermind instrumental section. Angels of the Apocalypse is a concept ablum; the music and lyrics are written by Bill Barends (guitars, midi-guitar, bass and vocal). Other musicians include Rich Berends (drums, timpani and percussion) and Jens Johansson (keyboards). Guest performances on the album are provided by Bob Eckman (5-string bass), Hollis Brown (electric violin) and John Paoline (voice of the beast).
Lisa reflected on Mastermind's influence on her own sound, "During the time I recorded the song 'Lifeline' for Tales from the Pumpkin Patch, I had begun recording with Mastermind. I had been listening to a lot of the band Stratovarius which I believe influenced my vocals on those recordings to some degree. That powerful vocal style can make me feel like I'm flying when I'm singing."
The power of Mastermind's music and Lisa's vocals are uniquely suited for each other, much like Tracy Hitchings parts are well-suited to Clive Nolan and Oliver Wakeman's Jabberwocky (review) and the two Strangers On A Train albums (review); and how Michelle Young's are to the forthcoming Magna Carta concept album Leonardo. Lisa's vocals are mixed way up on "The End Of The World" and "Perchance To Dream" soaring well above the thick guitar and keyboard arrangements.
Although "2000 Years" has equally hard passages, a melodic chorus sung richly in a lower register continues to show Lisa's stylistic virtuosity in a progressive rock setting. Mastermind's instrumental prowess is significant but actually does not outweigh Lisa's vocal parts, even in the symphonic metal piece "This Lover's Heart." "The Queen Of Sheba" has a powerful lead vocal section, again sung in a lower register, offset by guitar and keyboard instrumental riffs. Reminscent of Lana Lane's most recent recordings in some ways, it is a lovely track with stunning, technically superb, soaring vocal work.
Harpsichord keyboard effects and acoustic guitars contribute significant texture to the pure instrumental "With Dignity And Grace." The track is significantly driven by the percussion. The symphonic instrumentals within "A Million Miles Away" when coupled with Lisa's stunning lead vocal part were most reminscent of Rocket Scientists' tracks "Avalon" and "Stardust." The track approaches a torch style ballad with the extensive soaring lead and harmonious backing vocal parts.
Lisa further reflected on performing other artists' work, "Another aspect of musical influence involves interpretation by the artist when performing compositions of other writers. When I perform a song live recorded by Stevie Nicks, for instance, I may perform the song in my own style while keeping what I believe to be the essence of the composition intact. This also happens, in a way, when performing some of the new Mastermind songs, for instance 'A Million Miles Away,' where I think of Jack Bruce from Cream who I believe has had influence on the writing of Bill Berends who composes all of the Mastermind music."
"The Beast Of Babylon" returns to the hard-edged Mastermind style, dominated by guitar riffs, heavy percussion and generally thick instrumentation although symphonic, orchestral-sounding keyboards add depth to the sound. Lisa's vocal part is subordinate to the instrumentals here. Mastermind's cover of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "The Endless Enigma" (Parts 1 and 2, from Trilogy), arranged by Bill Berends, is in a word—stunning!
A long standing favourite of many progressive listeners, the transformation of the song for a female vocalist has been done with incredible care and has produced an incredible result that must be heard to be adequately appreciated. Instrumental parts have been carefully and accurately covered while adjusting them to Mastermind's unique instrumental style. Lisa's vocals are the high spot of the song, spanning quite a bit of her vocal range, and complete the transformation of the 12+ minute masterpiece. Harmony backing vocals by Mastermind band members are also superb. The album closes with a sensuous vocal performance and heavy Mastermind instrumental arrangement on "Only In My Dreams." Written by Bill Berends, the track has orchestral elements and the driving percussion reminiscent of Lana Lane/Rocket Scientists tracks, but there are similarities to other more accessible artists' work as well.
Lisa's entire career revolves around her music. She told us "Besides writing and performing music, I also work on other aspects of the business, especially with regard to October Baby. I am the manager and promoter for the band. I organize special projects such as the current concert series: 'Girls To The Fourth Power (G4)' which is a concept I've created as a vehicle to showcase female musical artists and their bands that are currently making an impact on the shape of the indie music scene. Promotional work for the band is like another full time job for me. I enjoy it very much, but imagine there may come a time where I will need to turn aspects of that work over to someone else, because of the time and energy it involves, but for now I enjoy working closely with these facets of the business with regard to my band."
When one listens to Lisa's recordings, it's clear that she must put on an incredible live performance. We asked about her own impressions of the on-stage show and she told us, "I give my 'all' in my live performances, I really do. It's always come naturally to me and I feel home on the stage." She continued, "Live performance is so much different from the process of delivering performance through recorded music. Live performance is the time that I, as an artist, can be interactive with my audience. I give to them and draw from them and give back again through the music I'm performing. I just think that live performance has been my favourite aspect of being a singer for as long as I can remember." The photos on the October Baby website are indicative of her interest in the presentation. "I enjoy the costumes and stuff too. With October Baby, I often do three costume changes in one show according to the many moods and facets the music and band take the show through. We're not always in a venue with a high budget light show, so this is my way of creating a visual to enhance the mood."
Enthusiasts regularly stay behind after a live performance to meet Lisa and the band providing her with their reaction to the show. She told us, "The feedback I get indicates that the interactive aspect is felt by them as well. People comment on enjoying the theatrical aspects of the show such as the costuming. They say that the music often comes alive with energy and they sometimes note that we perform a certain song differently than on the album. We do improvise at times when playing live. I also hear that my voice is big for my size! I feel close to the audience when I talk with them individually after a performance-like we shared something together through the music."
Prog Fusion Metal Leather & Sweat. Mastermind's 80-minute, 10-track recording (Stellarvox (USA) SV 2001-2, 2000), compiled from a half dozen recordings of the 1999 five-piece lineup, including the mixing desk at NEARfest 1999, balances the band's different instrumental styles with tracks featuring Lisa Bouchelle's vocal work. Instrumentals are largely dominated by Bill Berends' dynamic guitar work. As one of the first performances made with our featured vocalist, Mickey Simmonds also guests on keyboards rounding out the group's overall sound. Tracks are taken from the the band's then newly released Excelsior album as well as Angels of the Apocalypse which was still in the midst of production when this live album was recorded. A twelve-page booklet with over 75 action-packed photographs accompanies the technically superb production quality of the compact disc.
Lisa helps out on guitar and provides harmony vocal layers in the symphonic and slow moving "Tokyo Rain," complimenting the guitar- and keyboard-driven melodies. A lively keyboard excursion adds to the dynamic performance of the track. The live performance of "The End of the World," a dynamic and epic-length track that was ultimately recorded on the band's latest album, is faithfully captured with Lisa's sensual and theatrical-style vocal work effectively balancing Mastermind's otherwise heavy instrumental arrangements. Rich Berends' drums—especially the double bass—and Bill Berends' guitar work are highly notable driving rhythm and melody respectively. We especially appreciated the clear and up-front vocal mix on the live recording and enjoyed the live instrumental excursions. The instrumental "Decide For Yourself" features a range of stunning guitar and keyboard work and is is particularly enjoyable despite the lack of vocal work.
The symphonic texture of the progressive rocker "A Million Miles Away" is perfectly balanced by Lisa's evocative delivery of the soaring lead vocal track. Bill Berends' guitar and complimentary harmony vocals and Mickey Simmonds' orchestral-style keys contribute to the rich sound of the track. Lisa's vocal energy and range are clearly illustrated in their arrangement; Berends' lively guitar drives the instrumental bridge. The epic progressive tracks "When the Walls Fell" and "Jubilee" explore a vast range of Mastermind's instrumental sounds and demonstrate the band members' individual and collective virtuosity. The band's live album is a true testament to their talent and sound, and, with three stunning tracks featuring Lisa Bouchelle performing live with them, must be heard to be adequately appreciated.
We asked Lisa about the web's influence on her own career and the promotion of her music. She replied, "We bought a computer a little over a year ago. I knew it was time for us to do this to help with our goals. We have met so many contacts through e-mail and through the net. I've done interviews with reporters and now have begun to meet people through the wonderful concept of 'the e-zine' such as Musical Discoveries." She continued, "The net allows our website and music clips to be accessed by music fans all over, and also puts people who are interested on collaborating with me on projects like G4 in touch with me easily. The page is also a way for interested people in the industry to review our on-line bio. We send announcements for the band via email too."
At The Edge Of Reality. Lisa Bouchelle and October Baby released an album (Wet Duck Records (USA) WD0138, 2001) of ten primarily acoustic pieces in the spring of 2001. Primarily written by Lisa Bouchelle but with the collaboration of LarEu (L Eubank) and Tomas Fraticelli, the album is lushly produced with brilliant guitars shimmering alongside the stunning vocals. The sound Lisa sought was realised by producer Dan Smith; we were stricken by the production quality of the album from first listen. If it wasn't clear before why Lisa Bouchelle is one of Musical Discoveries' featured artists, this album will certainly set the record straight!
Lisa provides vocals and percussion on "The Detective" while the guitar part is played by guest Walt Sjursen. LarEu plays bass guitar, Joe Golding--drums and percussion--and Tomas Fraticelli plays 12-string and synth guitars, does backing vocals on "Fly Away" and bass guitar on "Tell Me Why." Additional musicians include Dan Smith (keyboards), Jason Fraticelli (cuatro), Walt Sjursen (guitars) and Mastermind's Bill Berends (keyboard).
At The Edge Of Reality is first and foremost a female vocals album and it is dominated by soaring acoustic backed ballads. The album opens with the upbeat "In The End," with its lush acoustic guitar part and lushly produced vocal lines. It continues with the evocative "Plane Tickets Unlimited" and the gentler "Nikki." "The Detective" blends a jazzy style with blues. Lisa's vocal gymnastics add a lovely texture to the guitar-based accompaniment. Keyboards and guitars underscore Lisa's evocatively sensual lead vocal in "Icy Chains." Lisa's vocal performance of "Red Light Saturday Night" is extremely dramatic and must be fantastic to see performed on stage.
Lisa's vocal work soars gently over the light guitar, bass and percussion accompaniment in the lovely and epic length ballad "The Shifting Wind." In contrast to the more starkly arranged verses, the choruses fully illustrate the power and range of Lisa's voice. Although the lead is clearly discernable, multi-tracked vocals add texture and ambiance to "Fly Away, a highly accessible soft rock tune with rich orchestration, certain to please a broad range of audiences.
"I Miss" is a heartfelt, evocative and sensually sung ballad. A stunning photo of a pouting Lisa in the booklet above the lyrics adds to the mood of the track. As the album draws to a close, stunning lead vocals are contrasted by an array of backing vocals in the upbeat folk rock track "At The Edge Of Reality." The album concludes with the lushly performed acoustic ballad "Tell Me Why." A stunning album in every respect, this acoustic collection by Lisa Bouchelle and October Baby is a must listen!
Lisa Bouchelle's stunning vocal work can now be heard on four albums with vastly contrasting styles. Introductions to Lisa's work can be found from links within the October Baby and Mastermind websites. You can hear soundbites, read further reviews and order the October Baby album from amazon.com here and the new Mastermind album Angels Of The Apocalypse here. Obtain Lisa's latest album At The Edge Of Reality from her website. Lisa Bouchelle is a rapidly rising vocal star in alternative and progressive music and must be heard to be adequately appreciated. Her albums are certainly worth a cross-country journey and are a must listen!
Return to website contents