EDITOR’S NOTE: As album releases slow down in December, we like to catch our breath and write about albums that came out earlier in the year that we didn’t get a chance to review. L.A. Yesterday was released in July.
In recent years, there’s been a surge in acts looking to evoke the sound and style of the Laurel Canyon folk-and-rock scene of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Lee Gallagher is one of the latest to draw inspiration from that era and incorporate it into his own work with backing band The Hallelujah.
Gallagher released L.A. Yesterday, his second full-length album, in July. The mix of spacey blues-rock and those Laurel Canyon influences, combined with Gallagher’s incredible voice, put the LP in constant rotation on this reviewer’s turntable all summer.
On his eponymous 2015 debut, Gallagher presented himself as an intriguing talent, with a voice that comes across as a hybrid of Humble Pie-era Steve Marriott and Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction and an eclectic musical style that was still a work-in-progress. With L.A. Yesterday he makes significant strides as a songwriter and offers up 10 sturdy songs that call back to familiar sounds and feel fresh, rather than referential.
Gallagher shows a knack composing for lush, midtempo tracks that provide a nice backdrop for his voice. On songs like “Goodnight Sweet Maria” and “Lullaby for the Acid Queen,” his vocals float over gorgeous melodies provided by pianist/Hammond organ player Kirby Hammel to create a dramatic, dynamic sound.
“California Divide” is a crunchy rocker that allows Gallagher to switch from crooner to belter. Guitarist Jason Soda offers up some tasty lead work and Gallagher’s aforementioned echoes of Steve Marriott really shine through. “Astral Plane Views” travels on similar blues-rock terrain, but its melody is jammier and offers up the potential to be a live showstopper.
While Gallagher’s first album kind of struggled to find a consistent tone, there’s a warmth and balance throughout L.A. Yesterday that makes for an enjoyable listen start to finish. From countryish fare to classic rock sounds and jam rock inclinations, Gallagher and The Hallelujah hit all the notes and hit them with no diminution in competency or quality.
They have a promising future ahead and it’ll be a lot of fun to see where they go next.