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.

 

Van Morrison : My Lonely Sad Eyes (& The Immortal Jukebox Van Compendium!)

 

The 31st of August is always a Red Letter Day for The Immortal Jukebox because it’s the birthday of Van Morrison whose glorious recordings have been the keystone of my musical life for for nigh on 50 years.

Happy 73rd Van!

No one brings together all the traditions like Van.

In his songs, singing and performance you can feel he has viscerally understood and integrated into his art; The Blues, Soul, Rhythm and Blues, Folk, Country and Jazz – all delivered with blazing Celtic devotion.

Leadbelly is there.

Ray Charles is there.

Hank Williams is there.

Arthur Alexander and Sam Cooke are there.

Jimmy Witherspoon and Mose Allison are there.

Mahalia Jackson and Rosetta Tharpe are there.

The McPeakes and O’Carolan are there.

Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis are there.

Bob Dylan is always there.

In Van it all comes together – traditions respected and added to creating a revelatory synthesis.

In celebration today a rhapsodic gem from 1966 pointing the way to the earth shattering triumphs of his solo career.

I remember at college playing a Them compilation for a friend and saying .. well here’s he honouring Ray Charles, here John Lee Hooker, here Bo Diddley and here Bob Dylan and then My Lonely Sad Eyes came on and we both shouted in exultation – here it’s all of them and it’s pure George Ivan Morrison!

Fill me my cup!

Fill me my cup!

Sparkling Wine indeed!

When Van sings like this he joins the Immortals.

You can pick out almost any line, any phrase or word and be dumbstruck by his vocal brilliance.

There’s a thesis to be written on the way he way he sings the word, ‘Lonely’ alone or on the oceanic surge he gives to :

Throw me a kiss
Across a crowded room
Some sunny windswept afternoon
There’s none too soon for me to miss.

He’s singing the Song and the Song is singing Him.

Into the Mystic.

Into the Mystic.

There are more Posts about Van than any other artist here on The Jukebox so, in case you missed one or would like to be reminded of an old favourite here’s the Van Compendium for your delectation and delight!

Brown Eyed Girl’.

An introduction telling the tale of my headlong plunge into obsession following my first hearing of Van’s best known song.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-2L

Don’t Look Back’.

A meditation on Time featuring 2 astounding versions of John Lee Hooker’s tender Blues Ballad. One a reaching for the stars take of a teenager the second the work of a fully realised master musician.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-3k

Carrickfergus‘.

A meditation on family, friendship and loss. How the shadows lengthen! Sung with infinite tenderness and bardic authority.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-7J

In The Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll’.

A miraculous meditation on the persistence of memory, the power of the radio and the post war world as seen by a young Irish mystic.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-bi

Tupelo Honey’.

A rhapsodic meditation on the nurturing, redemptive power of Love. A Hallelujah!

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-fr

All in the Game‘.

A meditation on the carousel we all ride. It’s been sung by many singers but never like this!

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-jY

Domino’ .

A Founding Father joyously celebrated by a Master from the next generation.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-pH

Sometimes We Cry‘.

Bringing it all back home to singing on the street corner Days. The sweetness of Doo-Wop seasoned with wry maturity.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-sf

I Cover the Waterfront’.

Van and John Lee Hooker, Blues Brothers and Soul Friends, conjure up ancient tides.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-tq

Buona Sera Signorina‘.

Van puts his party hat on and romps through the Louis Prima classic.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-Xg

Hey Girl’.

Van takes a stroll along the strand and suspends Time.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-1cA

Gloria! Gloria!’

Once, Now and Ever.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-1dh

Coney Island 

A Pilgrim’s glimpses of Eternity in the everyday.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1OQ

Brand New Day

Born again each Day with The Dawn.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1kL

Happy Birthday Van!

Tom Waits : Kentucky Avenue

St Paul tells us when we are grown to adulthood that it’s time to put away childish things.

As a guide to moral conduct that may well be sage advice.

There are choices to be weighed in the balance.

There are responsibilties to be shouldered.

There are strengths and weaknesss to be acknowledged.

There are trials, torments and traumas to be survived.

Yes, you need to look at the spinning world with a cool appraising adult eye if you are to navigate it safely.

And yet … we all carry the child we once were within our skins and deep in our psyche.

There is a knowing, an untutored first poetic knowing, known and retained by that child, we would all do well to tap into throughout all our adult days.

You should never be so old not to want to fly away on a magpie’s wings and hop that freight train in the hall all the way down to New Orleans in the fall.

All the way to New Orleans in the fall.

 

 

Tom Waits tells crazy stories blazing with drunken truths.

Tom Waits tells crazy stories blazing with sober, artful lies.

Tom Waits tells crazy stories that make perfect sense to the labouring adult crying out for rest and the blithe bubble blowing child within you.

Tom Waits tells the best damn stories you ever heard and Kentucky Avenue is one of his very best.

The song is brilliantly composed and sung in the continuous present we live in during our childhood days.

The characters who populate the story are ordinary figures and at the same time shadow thrown giants looming on the young mind’s eye.

Eddie Grace’s old Buick is rusting on his drive and Eddie don’t drive no more but Wow! you know those holes in the side … they’re bullet holes! (From the time when Eddie ran with the mob – how do ya think he got that limp?).

Mrs Storm looks at at the world from behind fly blown curtains and she don’t talk to no one not even the mail man since that son of hers went missing in the war.

He used to keep that lawn of hers so perfect it was greener and truer than Augusta.

Sshhh …  don’t put a toe on that lawn – she will stab you with a steak knife if you do!

When you are a child you haven’t exhausted your capacity for pleasure and your sense of wonder is acute.

Man, half a  pack of Lucky Strikes and a packet of macadamia nuts is more treasure than Long John Silver ever dreamed of.

When you’re a child you don’t have to be told you’ll live forever you just know – let’s go ever to Bobby Goodmanson’s and jump off the roof!

And .. oh oh .. the secrets. The secrets.

Hilda plays strip poker when her mama’s across the street and (he told me and he don’t ever lie) Joey Navinsky says she put her tongue in his mouth.

And … oh oh … when you got just one friend, a blood brother … you own the world. The world them others don’t even see … seems like they walking around stone blind.

Let me tie you up with kite string, I’ll show you the scabs on my knee!

Fabled adventures are born every new Dawn – watch  out for the broken glass, put your shoes and socks on,and come along with me

Let’s follow that fire truck, I think your house is burning down!

Let’s  go down to the hobo jungle and kill some rattlesnakes with a trowel (It ain’t dangerous at all ..).

And, oh oh … when you’re having adventures you don’t calculate repercussions – don’t you just love the sound of breaking glass?

We’ll break all the windows in the old Anderson place!

We’ll steal a bunch of boysenberrys and smear ’em on your face .. how great we’ll look!

And, ah ah .. when you give and get presents as a child they are like no presents you’ll ever get again:

‘I’ll get a dollar from my mama’s purse, buy that skull and crossbones ring
and you can wear it round your neck on an old piece of string.’

The things we did and the things we nearly, nearly did!

Remember that time we spit on Ronnie Arnold and flipped him the bird or the day we would have slashed the tires on the school bus if the janitor hadn’t woken up!

That’s the kind of thing you do when you’re Blood Brothers (funny how you’re much closer to your Blood Brother than the brothers in your house – you don’t share your dreams and secrets with them!)

I’ll take a rusty nail, scratch your initials in my arm and show you how to sneak up on the roof of the drugstore.

And … oh oh .. when you see with the eyes of a child you see with a clarity .. a vision it’s so easy to lose as your eyes grow accustomed to the adult world:

I’ll take the spokes from your wheelchair, and a magpie’s wings
And I’ll tie ’em to your shoulders and your feet
I’ll steal a hacksaw from my dad, cut the braces off your legs
And we’ll bury them tonight out in the cornfield

Just put a church key in your pocket
We’ll hop that freight train in the hall
We’ll slide all the way down the drain
To New Orleans in the fall

 

 

Thank you Tom for reminding me of how a Magpie’s wings can take you places a 747 never could.

And for letting me keep looking out for that freight train in the Hall.

Let you into a secret … one day I’m gonna ride it all the way down to New Orleans.

Planning to do it in the fall.

In the fall.

Remembering Aretha Franklin : R – E – S – P – E – C – T!

 

Before night comes each of us must work, in our few days, the work we were uniquely created to accomplish.

Surely, that’s exactly what the late Aretha Franklin did in singing with such splendour and grace from earliest childhood until the last year of her life.

Enormous gifts were bestowed on Aretha.

The triumph of her life was in her acceptance, nurture and stewardship of those gifts.

In so doing she became the greatest female singer in popular music since the Second World War.

Her profound legacy can be found in scores of breathtaking performances and in the inspiration she gave to fellow musicians and singers as well all of us privileged to hear her in our lifetimes.

When Aretha sang she summoned up her whole humanity to insist upon, to imperiously demand our attention!

 

 

R – E – S – P – E – C – T!

R for Roots :

Aretha’s roots lay in Church.

Her Father, the Reverend C. L. Franklin was a celebrated Baptist preacher – immensely influential in the community through his recordings, radio and touring appearances. New Bethel Church in Detroit was visited by all the great and good of the Gospel world.

Chuch and Choirs and Quartets.

In Church wide eyed young Aretha took into her deepest being the rhythms and dynamics of her Father’s Sermons, the soaring exultation of the choirs.

Aretha conquered far flung worlds in her career but she never strayed in her heart far from that Church in Detroit.

From her Father and the Gospel tradition she knew that singing was Important.

An important aspect of sacred drama.

Important to her, important to a whole community – the heart of Life.

Throughout her life when Aretha sat down at her beloved piano or took centre stage her very presence and every note she sang, every breath she took had the force of a sworn Vocation.

She knew from the Bible and increasingly from her own personal life that this world could be a vale of tears, a place of sore trial and torment.

But, she knew there was a further shore.

She knew that in turmoil she could turn to song to guide her there.

She believed that though you might be abandoned by all who you relied on there was yet a hand that would reach out for yours and gently lead you Home.

 

E for Ecstacy :

Rapture. Euphoria. Exultation!

Listening to Aretha on record or in person gave you the opportunity to stand outside yourself transcending the cares of your everyday shackles.

Filled with the spirit Aretha pierced the veil.

Filled with the spirit Aretha gave us glimpses of no time, glimpses of Eternity.

Filled with the spirit Aretha lifted herself and her audience into other worlds.

Filled with the spirit Aretha called out to us to respond with all our hearts.

FIlled with the spirit Aretha made us reciprocate her urgency to be understood, to be respected, to be heard.

Filled with the spirit when she sang Aretha was always reaching, reaching, reaching.

S for Soul :

If you gotta ask you don’t know what it is.

Aretha not only had Soul in her recordings and performances she came to define its essence.

She sang as a woman in full.

A woman who was unaffaid to expose her vulnerability.

A Woman Of Heart and Soul.

A Woman of blood and bone and guts and unabashed carnality.

A Woman who could shout and scald, scream or tenderly whisper.

A Woman who could thrillingly fuse the sacred and the secular to examine and embody our deepest emotions.

 

P for : Politics

Like Bob Dylan says we live in a Political World.

Aretha grew up knowing Martin Luther King.

Her Father ordained Jesse Jackson.

Aretha was an inspiration to all the struggles for Civil Rights.

Civil Rights and Respect for African Americans.

Civil Rights and Respect for Women.

Civil Rights and Respect for The Poor.

With Aretha’s Voice At your back and in your heart no barrier could seem insurmountable.

E for : Eternity

The greatest artists stop time when they sing.

Most music, most art is ephemeral.

It is given to very few to add to the cairn Human Beings have added to the treasures of Eternity.

Aretha has beyond all question added significantly to that cairn.

C for : Choir and Community

When Aretha sang she was always singing to a surrounding community.

A community including fellow singers and musicians and fellow pilgrims.

Even alone at the piano there was a senses that she was singing to Another.

In her singing offering up gifts.

In her singing offering pleas for redemption.

In her singing offering cries of supplication.

In her singing offering heartfelt sorrow.

In her singing shouting to be heard – to be heard and answered.

T for : Thankfulness

Aretha was fully aware of the plenitude of her gifts and was properly grateful for them.

Looking back at her wondrous career we should be properly grateful too.

Now that she has crossed over we are all immensely in her debt.

Take her hand Precious Lord.

Take her hand Precious Lord gently in your own.

Lead her Home.

Lead her Home.