Todd Rundgren, Barb Jungr, Hal Ketchum & Mari Wilson : I Saw The Light

As we all know it’s a Wicked World.

As we all know it’s a Vale of Tears.

At the same time (we hold so many contradictory ideas at the same time) we all know it’s a Wonderful World.

We all know that on one bright day it is, indisputably, the best of all Possible Worlds.

Fiat Lux!

When you become aware of the light surrounding you no darkness can prevail.

Presence is more powerful than absence.

When you see the light of love in another’s eyes and can return that light the world is aflame anew.

Love divides the light from the darkness.

Eye-Kissing Light.

Heart- Sweetening Light.

Heathers and Jasmines surging on crests of Light.

You cherish colours on solitary hills that science cannot overtake.

And, you dance by the light of The Moon.

You dance by the light of The moon.

An exchange of light from the eyes lights the whole sky and never says – ‘you owe me’.

Then you gazed at me and the answer was plain to see because I saw the Light in your eyes.

In your eyes.

 

 

Aaah!

Todd Rundgren, now 70, was in the 1970s as his 1973 album justly proclaimed : A Wizard, a True Star.

Brimful of talent and absurdly proficient as a musician, singer and producer he issued gleaming pearl after pearl.

Sometimes it came so easily to him he thought can this really be any good?

As so often trust the tale not the teller!

I Saw The Light dances like dappled sunlight on the imagination.

Todd does all the singing and plays all the instruments.

The Guitar solo is so perfect you think even Becker and Fagen from Steely Dan would have said, ‘That’s it! – A keeper!’.

Burt Bacharach, Todd’s melodic guru, would surely have thought – this one’s good enough for Dionne (though Todd may have imagined Laura Nyro imbuing the song with her own special magic).

Though written in 15 minutes, ‘I Saw The Light’ has demonstrably had staying power both as a staple of Pop Radio and as a romantic standard calling out to be covered.

I Saw The Light called out to Barb Jungr – an artist who knows that songs are not dry texts but living, breathing things.

She’s alert, waiting for those special songs to come knock, knock, knocking.

And, when they do she’s ready.

Barb is a scholar of Song and Singing – she has written eloquently on these topics and has a Masters in Ethnomusicology.

A singer of enormous technical and emotional resource she lives with the song seeking out where the Song wants and needs to go to sound just right – irrespective of how anyone might have done it before.

This is an artist who finds truth and joy, passion and pain in Songs which she then delivers with theatrical elan.

There’s a wonderfully mature sensual sway to her version.

Surrender.

 

Hal Ketchum takes the Song Way out West for a Saturday Night Hoedown.

He brings some hardwood floor springiness to the party that I find entirely charming.

 

Mari Wilson , a favourite of mine since the early 1980s, follows in the distinguished tradition of Dusty Springfield as a British Singer who has the versatility to make songs come alive whether they are pop confections, simmering soul ballads or swinging Jazz.

She can sell a song with winning sincerity or arch a perfectly plucked ironic eyebrow to find the humour in a lyric.

This version has tremendous poise and no little emotion.

 

Love the Light.

Love the Light.

Fiat Lux.

This Post for The one who floods my eyes with Light every day – Happy Birthday!

Notes :

Barb Jungr has made 3 superb Albums featuring the Songs of the greatest songwriter of our times, Bob Dylan. I like to think I’m very well versed in The Master’s canon yet listening to Barb’s, ‘Every Grain of Sand’, ‘Man in the Long Black Coat’ and ‘Hard Rain’ have afforded me fascinating slant wise insights into classics.

’Just Like a Woman’ is a deeply considered and felt tribute to the work of the incomparable Nina Simone.

Mari Wilson : I particularly recommend, ‘Just What I Always Wanted’, ‘Dolled Up’ and ‘Pop  Dekuxe’.

Hal Ketchum : ‘Past the Point of Rescue’ is a near perfect collection.

Hats off to Emily Dickinson, Edward Lear, Hafez and Ravindranath Tagore for Poetic inspirations.

John Martyn : May You Never

It’s a New World.

A New World.

Now, there’s a baby in the house.

The air is suffused with Love and Wonder and a daily sense that Miracles are all around us.

The Decibel Level sways between the extremes.

In the intermittent pools of perfect Peace there is time for reflection.

You find that your first and second thoughts are no longer about yourself but about the one dreaming those unknown snuffling dreams in the Crib.

You find a certain sense of repose overtakes you.

And, in that blessed state, out of the mysterious mental ether, the melodies and the words flow.

Melodies and words from a man, John Martyn, a musician and miracle worker, who lived ten large and generous lives in his bare three score years :

And may you never lay your head down
Without a hand to hold
May you never make your bed out in the cold

Embed from Getty Images

Oh, please won’t you, please won’t you

Bear it in mind – Love is a lesson to learn in our time.

The version below, one of the most perfect recordings ever made, comes from John’s Immortal Album, ‘Solid Air’.

The story goes that John, knowing that this was a Song of Songs, felt every take wasn’t just right.

Producer John Wood, a key figure in so many great records, about to master the album, put his foot down – ‘.. For Christ’s sake, John, just go back in the studio and play it again and record it!’

And, so is History made.

May You Never takes up its place as A50 on The Immortal Jukebox.

 

John Martyn said there was a place between words and music and right there was where his voice lived and breathed.

As for his guitar on this song all I can say is that the mixture of attack and restraint, of power and tenderness has rarely if ever been matched.

Sometimes all the planets and stars are in perfect alignment and the music of the spheres comes through loud and clear.

Loud and clear.

May You Never is a Song I loved with a passion from the first time I heard it over 40 years ago and it has yielded vein after vein of treasure as I have listened to it many hundreds of times as the decades flowed by.

John Martyn, especially in the 1970s, was a sorcerer in live performance.

His Guitar playing achieves a level of duende that goes far beyond technical brilliance – it’s a revelation of the Soul.

Combined with his, ‘Come closer, I’m letting you in to a great secret’ vocals he set up an immensely attractive gravitational force that drew you in and captured your heart and soul.

 

 

There can be no denying that John Martyn through his immense appetite for Alcohol and other substances made mighty efforts to sabotage his enormous talents.

Yet, gifts such as he was given, though shadowed are rarely wholly extinguished.

Here’s a performance from his later years showing that the magic could still light up fellow musician and an audience.

In particular I want to draw your attention to the Bass playing of Danny Thompson who was virtually a brother to John Martyn.

When they had a night out on the town, trailing havoc in their wake, it was as if John Wayne and Victor McLaglen had been reincarnated as Master Musicians!

The lines about never losing your temper in a bar room fight were born of deep experience!

But, in the studio or on stage their soul friendship produced  music making of the very highest order.

Kathy Mattea and Dobro King Jerry Douglas add diamond decoration.

No wonder he liked that one.

Take it to Church John!

Take it to Church.

 

 

All that’s left to say is that I wish my granddaughter and all of you a warm hand to hold and   may we all bear in mind that Love is the lesson to learn in our time.

In Memory of John Martyn 1948 to 2009.

Notes:

I am going to write many more Posts on John Martyn.

For now I would urge you to purchase, ‘Solid Air’ as a matter of urgency

Into The Mystic : Michael Hartnett, The Gloaming – A Necklace of Wrens

 

Loyal readers of The Jukebox will know that as St Patrick’s Day approaches each March, honouring my heritage, I tip my hat to Irish Writers, Painters and Poets especially dear to my heart.

I had thought to include the Poet Michael Hartnett and Master Musicians The Gloaming in my St Patrick’s Parade 2019.

But, last week, I found the line, ‘Their talons left on me scars not healed yet.’ echoing through my night and daytime dreaming mind.

Scanning the Poetry section of my bookshelves I lighted upon Michael Hartnett’s Collected Poems and soon found his revelatory, ‘A Necklace of Wrens’ in both the English and Irish Language versions.

As the poem tells us Hartnett accepted a Mystic invitation into the Poet’s life

Initiation would bring both wound and blessing and gathering understanding that the craft demanded lifelong fidelity.

A necklet of feathers is yet a collar.

It is the Poet who, through the craft, makes us see the wet meadow, the otherness of the realighting birds and the sharpness of their talons.

Michael Hartnett had the precious gift of revealing to us the sharp wonder of the world all around us.

Now, let’s hear him read the Poem and tell the story of its genesis including his poignant relationship with his Grandmother.

 

 

A Necklace of Wrens
For Mícheál Ó Ciarmhaic, file

When I was very young
I found a nest
Its chirping young
were fully fledged.

They rose and re-alighted
around my neck,
Made in the wet meadow
a feather necklet.

To them I was not human
but a stone or tree:
I felt a sharp wonder
they could not feel.

That was when the craft came
which demands respect.
Their talons left on me
scars not healed yet.

Michael was a Poet in both Irish and English.

It seems to me that this Poem, deeply etches itself into the imagination with the simplicity and unsounded depths of an ancient fable.

This surely takes it’s inspiration from the Irish Bardic tradition.

There is a haunting yet spare music in his reading of the Poem in it’s native Irish form that will not leave you.

An Muince Dreoilíní
Do Mhícheál Ó Ciarmhaic, file

I mo bhuachaill óg, fadó fadó,
d’aimsíos nead.
Bhí na gearrcaigh clúmhtha, fásta,
is iad ag scread.

D’éirigh siad – is thuirling
arís ar m’ucht
Ormsa bhí muince clúimh
sa mhóinéar fliuch.

Níor dhuine mé ach géag crainn
nó carn cloch
ach bhí iontas crua nár bhraith said
ag bualadh faoi m’ucht.

B’in an lá ar thuirling ceird
a éilíonn ómós:
is d’fhág a n-ingne forba orm
nár leigheasadh fós.

The Irish musicians of The Gloaming also specialise in bringing us home to our sense of wonder.

Martin Hayes from County Clare plays the Fiddle, Dennis Cahill Chicago born with Kerry lineage plays the Guitar, Iarla O Lionáird from West Cork provides the Vocals, Dubliner Caoimhin O Raghallaigh plays the Fiddle and Thomas Bartlett from Vermont plays the Piano.

Together they open up the music of the heart’s core.

Sometimes, in the darkest hours of the night when dawn is not yet even promised I like to climb to the top of the ridge and shed the distractions of the electronic buzz and the timetable of planned activities.

At first it is hard to simply stand still and still the whirling mind.

Persevere and breathe.

Persevere and breathe.

At first the senses search for what’s not there – the bright light, the sounds of cars and conversation before adjusting to what is there – the hoot owl singing, the glimmer of the constellations, the beating of your own heart.

And then, only then, a vacancy waiting to be filled, can you hear the music of the night.

That’s what the music of The Gloaming sounds like to me.

 

 

Notes :

Michael Hartnett’s Collected Poems published by Gallery is one of the greatest achievements of modern Irish literature.

The Gloaming have released three CDs, ‘The Gloaming’, ‘Gloaming 2’ and ‘Live at the NCH (National Concert Hall’. I can not recommend them highly enough.

Bob Dylan : Forever Young

 

Some events have such emotional and spiritual weight that bare words seem inadequate to capture their importance.

Your beautiful daughter shining like the Midnight Moon gives birth to a beautiful daughter more radiant and warming than the Midsummer Sun.

So, though as Jukebox readers will know I’m rarely stumped for le mot juste, I stuttered and stuttered trying to think of words that could in any way sum up the depths of my feelings.

Luckily, I then remembered that Bob Dylan had tenderly expressed all that I could ever want to say in his great benediction song to a newborn, ‘Forever Young’.

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you

May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young

May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the light surrounding you

May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young

May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift

May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young

May you stay forever young.

 

For Heather from Grandad.

May you stay Forever Young.