Crawford Mack

Whew, let me catch my breath. Crawford Mack has released an album that isn’t just an ordinary recording. This album, Bread & Circuses takes my breath away, and I’m not even jumping up every 17.5 minutes to flip the record over, pick the needle up and find more on the other side.

The album opens with the powerhouse track, Life Changing Moment, which Crawford Mack tells us is about keeping one’s options open. This song builds tension effortlessly adding instruments as it goes along, and then closes with a joyous chuckle, which sounds appropriate after a song that made me smile.

Track two is a single previously reviewed on WeatheredMusic, Depends On Where You Stand, it has stood up well since its release.

A snapshot from Crawford Mack himself: 

A Love I Can’t Live Up To:

I put you on a pedestal so I could disappoint you.

A ‘how-not-to guide’ to happiness featuring realisations that came far too late.”

Four tracks in we come across the song “William” which has become my favourite from this album, Bread & Circuses. Again, I will let Crawford Mack speak for himself:

“When I was a very young (probably around 3 or 4 years old) boy in Aberdeen I had what I guess you’d class as an imaginary friend called William. My parents were fine with this until they became spooked by me describing him; I described someone in a First World War British army uniform in a level of detail that was hard to comprehend me being able to conjure up at that age. 

I was once playing an imaginary game by myself, well with William, at the end of my old street. We were tearing little leaves off of a hedge and throwing them up in the air shouting “We’re rich!”, suddenly started shouting at me to run up the street as fast as I could. Moments later, a car crashed into where I had just been standing. 

My short legs can’t run that far, 

Cos the car that crashed on Carden nearly took my breath. 

Oh William did you save someone’s son William? 

For the avoidance of doubt, I’m fully aware of how utterly mental this sounds. I’m not an especially superstitious person in general, but it’s always made me wonder what happened; whether or not I was saved by William, and if I was then where was he as I made a litany of mistakes throughout the rest of my life? What would my friend think of the world as it is today? Would he have perhaps thought it worth any sacrifices he may or may not have made? 

Are there neon signs where there were front lines? 

Imagine Maginot, where the flowers never grow at the best of times.

Did they put your name on the Menin Gate? 

Keeping company with the bloodline rushing through my veins.

Did you save someone’s son William?

During writing this track Jamie and I started to speak about hypothetical theories concerning whether the present could affect the past as well as vice-versa, and it dawned on me that if that were the case, maybe it was my responsibility to warn William of the dangers he was about to face and the ultimate futility of sending people to an early grave. Hence the shilling line alluding to the King’s shilling he may have received for his service: 

Sting a sting of roses

The guns are fully loaded

The bayonets and poppy-heads are screaming bloody Moses 

A military manoeuvre 

The morphine’s there to sooth you. 

I’d give you my last shilling cos the Crown will never rule you. 

The song derives its musical influences from three main inspirations: 

Nick Drake and John Martyn’s open guitar tunings.

Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley’s vocal stylings. 

NIN’s ability to make a rhythm section feel sinister and drive momentum whilst playing at slow tempos. As soon as that influence was described to Richard Rayner (drums) and Jack Tustin (Bass) I could just sit back and let them find their parts around the harmony and guitar lines Jamie, and I had written.”

Track five is a song called Turning which confused me; I’ll let Crawford Mack give his take on this track and then I will share my two bits worth.

“I sat in a songwriting lecture tensing each and every sinew of my body so as not to combust and rant the house down as a lecturer reflected that most people don’t even bother listening to lyrics anymore, so there isn’t the same pressure for them to be brilliant, just make it a short intro and get to the chorus quickly. 

I spent most of the remainder of that class considering the implications of committing our experiences, hopes and fears and those of the people we encounter to song, and subsequently to record. 

I remember thinking that the decline of music as a physical product has led to this being taken less seriously by artists and consumers alike. Then I started to think of all the work that goes into making that product possible; from the recording process, the cover art to whoever has mixed chlorine and ethylene to make polyvinyl. If you’re going to put out a legacy of work, then at least consider what else has gone into making it possible. 

I built a scenario in my head where somebody places a record written by an old lover of theirs and asked whether the experience would bring closure, longing or outright disdain. 

As the needle picks me up, once again you hear my voice.

I wonder if it sounds the same wandering through all that pain?

As the needle picks me up, I have left you with the choice, 

Left myself nowhere to hide, find me on the other side. 

So no, it’s not a song about drugs. I can’t stand needles.”

Crawford Mack sings: “As the needle picks me up“, an obvious allusion to a record player, and later on he says, “find me on the other side“, side B of a vinyl record, a physical medium. My favourite medium by the way. However, in the intro to the song, he laments the “decline of music as a physical product”. I would like him to sing that “once again you hear my voice” on a vinyl record. But I can’t; there is no option to purchase a physical copy, not even a CD or cassette. Alas, the only options are digital streaming or buying a digital copy.

1https://ingroov.es/bread-circuses?fbclid=IwAR0xzDiU_LWJtKFZOKtMQ-Xg8n0VcTE3V1EtLeA38H93VuVCNMsaHLFWwTA

Please Mr Mack, could you cut this to vinyl, please? I highly recommend my friend Todd at Moonshot Phonographs which is in the process of being rebranded as Flashback Records Inc., you can give him a call at Phone(587) 501-6461

I wonder if it sounds the same“? No, it doesn’t vinyl sounds different from digital.

I am “wandering through all that pain” of not having a physical copy.

I would love to be able to say that “As the needle picks me up, once again you hear my voice.” my ears pick up the dulcet sounds of your music and singing.

“I have left you with the choice,” I have left you with a choice, but I left myself nowhere to hide.

I hope the day will come when I can say that I found on the other side. For today I am content with listening to this glorious album on iTunes.

The rest of the album is just as good as the songs above; in other words, they are amazing.

Bread & Circuses:

I’ve had the idea of this song for years. It’s been through so many iterations I can barely keep track. Initially, it was a song begging for an end to the political establishment as was. What I wouldn’t give to bring back those halcyon days though, before Michael Gove uttered that “People are tired of hearing from experts” and our national media outlets gave fringe lunatics of the far-right a platform that brought them prestige and credence in the name of balance, before it was possible to micro-target voters with falsehoods before the truth had time realise, let alone get its pants on. 

Propping up a system feeding off the press, 

Everybody’s choking on the Eton mess. 

Using immigration, they focus on the skin

Diverting the attention to cover up their sins. 

I was turned onto the phrase ‘Bread & Circuses’ by reading writings from the Roman poet Juvenal, via Montaigne. The phrase refers to the increase of the grain supply and Gladiator matches to placate potential civil unrest or revolution. 

Sadly I feel that the political sphere has become its own theatre of late, let alone needing to create new distractions. We have a government seemingly unable to play by acceptable rules of engagement, and an opposition too insipid to do anything about it. It is maddening when you consider how much is on the line at this moment and time. My hope against hope is that the opposition and voters wishing to live in an inclusive, tolerant and compassionate country show some pragmatism, use their vote, and use it wisely. 

“Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions – everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: Bread & Circuses.” Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81

The Story Is No Longer Available: 

The initial inspiration for this track came from me reading a piece on the damage caused to world heritage sites and sites of historical significance during the Syrian Civil war such as Bosra, Palmyra, Krak de Chevaliers, the Al Madina-Souq and Great Mosque of Aleppo, Damascus. The tragic list goes on and on. 

As I went to bed that night a friend I haven’t seen in a while posted a ‘story’ to her Instagram and took it down immediately, all that was left was a slogan reading ‘This Story Is No Longer Available’. 

It got me thinking about those tragedies that befell enlightenment and history all evening, the next day I was on a walk with Jamie, and a long chat ultimately came to a sober realisation of the fact that everything we have experienced and built is coming under the threat of premature decay and destruction if we do not change our attitudes to the consumption of resources and seek to offset our impact on climate change as a matter of urgency. 

“We are the true disaster,

There is no sticking-plaster, 

Don’t need an explanation. 

More like a second chance. 

No time for Mother Nature,

She doesn’t want to hate you.

Our finger’s on the trigger. 

She had amazing stories.”

Grounded Butterfly

Gather me under your wings, and I’m onside.

How will the Butterfly sting if it cannot fly? 

My partner and I were arguing in the build-up to making this record. She was away studying her masters, we were barely seeing each other, and a lack of communication combined with stress is just an absolute nightmare at times. I sat in Jamie’s front room, observing a butterfly with a clipped wing trying to fly and do what it is supposed to. I started to consider how frustrated it must feel, whether it would want to lash out at the world if it had a sting to do so whilst feeling so vulnerable and helpless? 

As I came to my conclusions on the matter I realised I was actually describing how I felt about my own life, particularly my journey through the music industry: Hurt, frustrated, and without everything in place to do what I feel I’m supposed to. It was desperate.

I couldn’t communicate with my partner for fear I would fall to pieces and break everything we had built together from lashing out with my ‘sting’, admitting that I was not comfortable in the slightest and I needed that to be ok. 

Whether the record works out or not, the cathartic experience of writing it has finally made me wrestle my demons whilst surrendering to them at the same time. Oriana came through for me with love and acceptance, and therefore the whole experience has been truly life-changing. 

Firing Squad: 

Promise me it doesn’t hurt Mr. Squadron Leader.

I’ve lived my life one bullet at a time.

I didn’t want to go to church where the firing squad sang requiems instead of a lullaby. 

You tried to test my faith, but all you did was take away my dignity.

Aimed between the eyes, blew away my childhood memories.

Every time you twist the knife, I’ll play on your mind.

Be careful with the power you have over others; sometimes, your own actions will haunt you more than they ever could. 

Travels

A diary of falling in and out of love with places and people following a split. However bizarre it may seem, I sincerely vouch for the veracity of every word. 

So there we have it, a rather long post but this is not an ordinary album in my humble opinion. Happy listening and play safe.

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Twenty Nineteen In My Rearview Mirror

Music Book That I Enjoyed In 2019

 Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life by Steve Almond

Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life

New Release That I Enjoyed In 2019

 Schlagenheim by Black Midi. I realize that this album may not be for everyone but it was good for me and to me. The video is a runner up for my favourite of the year:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rc3LSW_XTwI

They are fresh, different and incredibly good musicians that I want to see live, perhaps on my next trip to the U.K.

Black Midi

Most Listened to New Release Of 2019

 III by The Lumineers, this album grabbed my ears and I didn’t want to stop listening. I think it may be because of the content of the songs, they are built around the stories of people struggling with addiction, which creates struggles with relationships, and struggles with life in general. I could relate to what I was hearing and that encouraged me to hear it again, and again. In fact, I am going to listen to it again right now.

III Lumineers

Most Listened to Album

 The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 by Bob Dylan, for some reason 2019 was the year of Bob Dylan. Perhaps I was trying to erase the memory of his live concert at Calgary in 2017 which left a dirty taste in my mouth. Anyhow, I listened to this CD set over and over and over. For a Dylan fan, it is a very well done time capsule of his early years as a recording artist, we find him trying out some folk standards alongside some new material. It may not be the best recording if you are a new fan of Dylan, but for a long time fan such as myself, this was a very rewarding listen.

Witmark Demos

Most Listened To Artist With A New Release In 2019

 Tool. Their album of the year, Inoculum, was a close second to III by the Lumineers, but Tool was the most listened to artist because after multiple listens to Inoculum I would then listen to their back catalogue and then I would return to Inoculum which meant that as, an artist, Tool achieved the most listens by any single artist of 2019.

Tool Inoculum

Best Album Artwork/Packaging

Tool, Fear Inoculum. A double winner and justifiably so, the music and package worked together and were so well crafted that it would be a sin to not mention is.

Most Listened To Artist Of Any Year

 Bob Dylan, it was a runaway this year, I listened to him twice as many times as the second-place artist.

Most Listened To Band Of Any Year

 King Crimson, they edged out Pink Floyd this year even allowing for the viewing of Roger Waters: Us + Them (Film Screening) @ Cineplex South Edmonton October 2, 2019. I only listened to two King Crimson albums twice, the other dozen listens were of a dozen different recordings by the band, yeah, I do like them a bit. I was also influenced by seeing them live again this year.

Most Listened To Format

 I would have bet that I listened to more streaming music including Apple music but to my surprise, I listened to more music on CDs than any other format. Apple Music came in second and LPs were third.

Music Video Of 2019 That I Liked

 I don’t watch a lot of music videos but here is one that I did watch, multiple times, and I enjoyed it every time I watched it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNKD6TstzUk

Music Video From Any Year That I Still Like

 Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel, this is still an amazing video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJWJE0x7T4Q

Pleasant Surprise Of The Year

 Close Talker presents Immersion: (3d-360 Headphone Concert) @ Art Gallery of Alberta on August 6, 2019. This is brand new tech and I was grateful to be one of the first to hear it. I walked in there not knowing what to expect and walked out in awe. This is another one that I can not put into words, you have to hear it live to appreciate it.

Event Of The Year

 Moonshot Phonographs Grand Unveiling Party @ Moonshot Phonographs April 13, 2019, check them out: https://moonshotphonographs.com/

I am so happy that my good friend, Todd, got the vinyl printing press up and running.

Moonshot_Est._2017

Concert Of The Year

 A tie for this category which is no surprise because I walkout at the end of just about every concert saying it was the best. Many of the shows I saw this year were the best, unfortunately, many of them were only the best for a day. There were two however that kept their glow:

King Crimson @ Royal Albert Hall in London England on June 20, 2019, this one was a Christmas present and I loved every minute of the show in a venue that was actually on my bucket list of places to take in a concert. So many wonderful acts have graced the stage and now I can say that I was there. This was my second time to see King Crimson live, the first was in Calgary at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in 2015 and both shows were mind-blowing good. They remain a favourite of mine after many, many years of listening.

Review: King Crimson at the Royal Albert Hall | Times2 ... 

Godspeed You! Black Emperor w/Kevin Doria @ Starlite Room August 27, 2019, was the other show that topped this category. They are an amazing collective of amazing musicians that held me spellbound from the moment they graced the stage till the moment they walked off. This wasn’t just a music concert, it was an event. The lighting was provided by four projectors at the back of the house, we were right beside them, that a very talented gentleman used to such good effect that he should by all rights be listed as a member of the band. I can’t describe it in mere words, you had to be there, if they come back to Edmonton grab some tickets, I will be there for sure.

In Summary

 Twenty Nineteen was a good year for music. It started slowly with only a handful of live shows here and there and not many new releases that hooked their riffs into me, but the pace gradually crept up through the summer and it ended up being another good year for music in my sphere of listening. There were numerous live shows and way too many albums that deserve to be on year-end lists, but I don’t want to bore you to tears by listing them all here. You can check out our live show compendium at WeatheredMusic.ca and if you want to know everything that I have listened to this year send me an email and I can send the list with all the albums, 567 so far but I have 10 more days to go as I write this. Bon voyage, I am off to see 20-20.

 

25 or 19 to 4

25 years on

Twenty-five years ago, 1994, Woodstock 94 celebrated the 25th anniversary of Woodstock, Justin Bieber was born, Nirvana played their final concert, Pink Floyd embark on the Division Bell which would be their last world tour, Johnny Cash released The American recordings and Captain Tractor release Land, their first album.

To commemorate 25 years of recordings Captain Tractor have treated us a gorgeous double album containing a sampling of songs that represent the non-stop party that they are. From Pitcairn Island to someplace East of Eden, Captain Tractor Bought The Farm North of the Yellowhead and managed to score a Hat Trick while negotiating a Celebrity Traffic Jam. 9 albums and countless happy fans later they are 25 Years On.

If you like Captain Tractor you will fall head over heels for this retrospective that covers material from the last 25 years into one impressively packaged two record pressing. Completely re-mastered with four new tracks recorded in February 2018 with Nik Kozub at The Audio Department in Edmonton, two unreleased tracks from the vaults, and seventeen past tracks spanning our first album Land, to 2015’s Live at the Roxy

This limited edition pressing in gray splattered vinyl comes in a spiffy double sleeve and sounds amazing, I score it a home run and we are all winners for listening to good music.

Lucy Pearl.jpeg

19 years ago Lucy Pearl released their self-titled album to rave reviews. Lucy Pearl was a supergroup that released just this one album, so for those of us who have been crate-digging trying to find a nice clean pressing, your wait is over. Freshly pressed in jet black vinyl this repressing will be sure to please fans of R&B, soul, hip-hop (Snoop Dogg collaborated) and neo-soul. It is impossible to refrain from getting into the groove and grooving to the tunes on these records.

So there we have it 4 records between these to recordings that cover 25 years of Captain Tractor and 19 years of Lucy Pearl. That completes the 25 or 19 to 4, happy listening everyone.

Norman’s Summer Music

 I finished reading David Bowie’s biography by Marc Spitz. It was a good read with plenty of references to songs that I liked listening to while reading the book, which is tricky because I only read the book in my car and I don’t distract and drive. Anyhoo, that’s another story for another day, let’s just say for now that I listened to Bowie over the last couple of months which brings us to the topic of this posting. Namely, what have I been listening to lately?

summer-songs-gathering-beauty

 Bowie, mostly his early to mid-career tunes. Space Oddity from his eponymous second album is still a great listen. Aladdin Sane is such a nice play on words, and The Jean Genie is as catchy today as it was in 1973, which is saying a lot because 1973 was the year I became a Drooling Fanatic (page 7 of Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life by Steve Almond).

 I think I started into Bowie in July, just back from a jaunt to London where I scored Alladin Sane on vinyl.

 These lads are insane. black midi, with their album Schlagenheim. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rc3LSW_XTwI

   I also scored Sons of Kemet, Your Queen Is A Reptile. Fresh sounds from the London jazz scene, thanks to Rough Trade Records.

 What else have I been listening to? Lots of New Wave (ish) music. Nick Lowe, Soft Cell, The Psychedelic Furs, That Petrol Emotion, etc. The mid to late eighties new wave scene has been on my playlists since, well, the mid to late eighties.

 Another band that never leaves my playlists are The Pink Floyd. I saw David Gilmore Live at Pompei on the big screen and then Roger Waters Us and Them on tour, on the big screen again, and in between those two stellar movies I read Nick Mason’s book, Inside Out. Which was as good as the movies, just a slower format.

 Another perennial favourite of mine is King Crimson, who I was very fortunate to see live at The Royal Albert Hall in London. And of course, I came home with hard copies of their music so I can keep listening to them.

 The Barr Brothers, saw them live and bought their CD’s and would pay to see them again.

 Flash And The Pan, a group from Australia that I keep playing at least once a year. The song Hey St. Peter is a favourite of mine.

 Talking Heads, Tom Waits, Joy Division, Tonio K., Van Morrison, Decemberists, Lifesavers, Michael Knott, The Swirling Eddies, Frank Zappa, … and the list goes on. A good chunk of this music dates me but I am comfortable with that.

 We Are The City, I liked them live. Spiritualized, And Nothing Hurt, a great piece of music. Nuella Charles, some very good homegrown talent on our homegrown vinyl plant, https://moonshotphonographs.com/.

 Low Roar, one of the best live shows I have ever seen and a darn good recording to boot. 

 Syd Arthur, tough to find hard copies of anything they have recorded but I managed to score Apricity on CD this summer.

 Godspeed You! Black Emperor, an amazing show, simply amazing. Their records are good but live… I don’t have enough superlatives.

 Russian Circles, a really good show that satisfied my heavy metal craving for that month. Best crowd award goes to the metalheads that were there that night.

 The Needs, some good Scandinavian power pop. Völuspa, aka Kirsten Knick delivers some Scandinavian synth-driven pop music.

 Rhye. I don’t know where to start. The spelling, yes that is spelled correctly, Rhye. The show, it was mesmerizing. I love it when all the ingredients come together and make the two hours fly by so fast it seems like the show just started, please don’t stop now!

 Cody Jinks. His new album, After The Fire, got me hooked on him and I went on a binge listening to his back catalogue. I am hooked on him now and I hope he tours up here in the great white north much like another country rebel, Sturgill Simpson, who also dropped another great album.

 Last but not least, The Lumineers, III. This album struck a chord with me due to its subject matter of addiction and messy lives.

So, that’s my summer and early fall listening, a new blog will be coming out early next week. Snapshot reviews. Until then, happy listening my friends.