Not heard of Johnny Labelle? If you are not following the Greek music scene, that should not come as a big surprise. But should you get to know him?
Based on his second album XVIII, you certainly should have, we all should. Very often, it could be a curse for an artist that doesn’t originate from the so-called ‘music centers’ like the U.S or UK, the wider audience misses out on something exceptional.
On the evidence of his latest album, Johnny Labelle is certainly something exceptional. First of all, Labelle has a voice that is a cross between the late great Scott Walker and Nick Cave. But more than that, his music is actually some sort of a cross between these two, with his lyrics having that dystopian touch too. You can add to the picture the likes of late Lee Hazelwood at his moodiest and mood purveyors like Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood.
Labelle’s music fits like a glove with both his voice and lyrics, dark and brooding, with excellent embellishments like the reeds on the opening track “The Dolphins” or keyboards/electronics on “AK”.
The only place where Labelle hints at his Greek heritage is “In The Sun,” which is like Demis Roussos in a dark mood, and it sounds great, like practically everything on this album.