JAIMIE VERNON: There Are No Words…But There Is Music

Promo Shot_Twilight Zone_thumbI’ve been wracking my brain for the last 48 hours wondering how I was going to make a suitable contribution to this blog without looking frivolous or uncaring about the reality of what happened in Boston this week. There are no words for the massive shock, sadness and anger that has engrossed us all; The killing of 20 children in Newtown left me feeling just as helpless and lost…as did 9/11 so long before it.

I don’t know that humans have developed a coping mechanism that allows us to naturally process tragedies on an apocalyptic scale. How do you survive and process a Tsunami? Earthquakes? Tornados? The people of pompeii.pgPompeii were the lucky ones – they died instantly; the people of the Nazi death camps, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Chernobyl and other unimaginable atrocities, not so much. And as empathetic beings we feel most outraged when confronted with the savagery of human error or human-on-human carnage. We cannot process this kind of trauma.

thesoulIt goes without saying that as a species we’ve been dealing with post-traumatic stress syndrome for 250,000 years. And it hasn’t gotten any easier despite the availability of meatball therapy, alcohol, and prescription drugs to numb our anguish, fear, and sorrow. What modern quackology has yet to do is find a repair kit for the soul. It is here that humans suffer the most – the guilt, the heartbreak, the promise of bright futures lost or unfulfilled. It’s where our brains push our emotional pain and locks it in a prison. The soul wasn’t meant to be tortured (despite what one’s religious convictions may believe). It was meant to love.

music_loveMany have attempted to quell the rift in the soul through spirituality and/or prayer. But I’ve always felt that prayers go unanswered – at least in this life. For me the soul can only rest and heal through the power of music. It is the great equalizer. It does not judge. It does not question. It merely is and can be whatever the listener chooses to take from it. It is its own reward. You can lean on it as much as you need to – and there’s no hangover or recrimination when you stop paying attention to it.

To that end I give you ten songs that have soothed my soul when I’m sad, contemplative, or need to find my own inner peace. Your mileage my vary but if you do nothing else during this trying period, at least pick some soothing songs, toss on the headphones and refill your heart, soul and mind. It does a body, and the world, a lot of good.

1) I’ve talked about Orson in my blog before. 5 musicians who were tired of the dirty L.A. music scene who fucked off and found fame in England while they were in their 20s. The singer, Jason Pebworth, can out-sing all the lauded white soul singers of the modern era – including Michael Bublé, Adam Levine and Rob Thomas. The arrangement and sheer dynamics on this track builds like the great gospel songs of any era. I discovered this tune during a very tumultuous time in my life – I actually cried the first time I listened to it because it spoke to that inner turmoil. And the healing began…  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtogS1pPd14

seal_klum2) When I’m my most contemplative I fall deep into SEAL’s 1994 album ‘Seal 2’ – the one with “Kiss From a Rose” on it. As much as the world grew sick of the song via its appearance in ‘Batman Forever’, it was the weakest link on an album that was stronger than that song had suggested. Seal’s an acquired taste but the lure for me has always been his ubiquitous lyrics and spiritual journey through his songs (that and the wicked ass production by Trevor Horn). It’s tough to pick one song. ‘Prayer For the Dying’ ranks as one of his best – and would be suitable for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. But, a stronger and more positive track is the gorgeous and uplifting “Don’t Cry”.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXsAtWbEoRU

macca3) You can piss on Paul McCartney all you want for his saccharine injected populist pop ditties, but even Sir Paul could zero in on the zeitgeist once in a while. McCartney’s ‘Venus & Mars’ album with Wings was more of the same scrambled musical pastiches in Macca’s meteoric trajectory to solo fame in 1975 (he’d hit his world dominating stride in 1976/1977 with the ‘Wings Over the World’ tour). But “Treat Her Gently/Lonely Old People” buried deep on Side 2 comes as an introspective surprise following the upbeat and global toe-tapper “Listen To What The Man Said”. The song wrestles the question of old age – and what happens to those who are left at the end of their days with no one but each other to talk to. Poignant. And so un-McCartney-like. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqjf4eHp_Zs

54404) 54.40 has gotten a bad rap over the years for being too grungy, too Neil Young-ish, too political, and responsible for writing “I Go Blind” and inflicting Hootie & The Blowfish on suburbanites everywhere. But when they write a hook it sticks to the roof of your brain. With a production overhaul and the addition of keyboards and less of those jangly, cascading guitars they came up with this groovy 1960’s Beatnick throwback called “Since When”. Shed your foibles and shake your Van Dyke, cool chick baby. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sH0FoTf8Qhs

4 T5) Of the most reviled AOR acts of the 1970s none have been more maligned than Foreigner. But before shooting to massive over-exposed success with the ‘4’ album (“I’ve Been Waiting For a Girl Like You”, “Urgent”, etc.) they took a slow jog on Rock Radio with their debut (“Cold As Ice” and “Feels Like The First Time”) followed by two recognized but completely ignored follow-up albums – ‘Double Vision’ and ‘Head Games’. Not their finest hours. Still, there was a gem or two on ‘Double Vision’…but you had to wade past the squelching of “Hot Blooded” and the title track to get to the only song on the record not overwrought with Lou Gramm’s stadium vocalizations. It’s a ballad that teeters on being treacle-y and amateurish sung by guitarist Mick Jones called “I Have Waited So Long”. It takes me back to an age of innocence – naïve and less cynical. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSXdZS8WodM

AlanParsonsProject-I-Robot6) The Alan Parsons Project is the little brother of the ubiquitous Pink Floyd. Parsons produced Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and co-engineered The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’. Fancying himself a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he finally took the leap as an artist with the help of co-writer Eric Woolfson in 1976 with a concept album about Edgar Alan Poe called ‘Tales of Mystery and Imagination’.  This was followed by what is considered, arguably, his greatest album ‘I Robot’. The album was an homage to the Isaac Asimov book of the same title (Asimov was not thrilled about being associated with such an album and denied Parsons permission to quote him in the lyrics). Still, the battle between man and robot is played out with this dreamy, human-like lullaby – ‘Day After Day (The Show Must Go On)” – sung by guest vocalist Jack Harris. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eV46nsp67Rs

StyleCouncil7) Speaking of white soul singers…Paul Weller made a left turn after the dissolution of his late ‘70s Mod/Punk act The Jam by eating Motown/Philly/Stax for breakfast in his follow-up act The Style Council. Their 1984 debut, ‘Café Bleu’, stands as a solid piece of post-Hall & Oates blue-eyed soul. Wellers’ “You’re The Best Thing” beat Lenny Kravitz’s “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over” to the Smokey Robinson inspirational well by seven years. http://youtu.be/0HMAVU1k7kg

Fastball8) Fastball rose to instant fame in 1998 with the million selling and double Grammy Award nominated album ‘All The Pain Money Can Buy’ on the back of their Top40 singles “The Way”, “Fire Escape” and “Out of My Head”. The album, their sophomore effort, stands as their crowning achievement (though the subsequent releases have been consistently strong as well) and is solid from beginning to end. Upon first listen the closing track, “Sweetwater, Texas”, seemed a downer and out of place on an album full of nitro-driven power pop tracks. But, listening to it on its own, the tune elicits the sense of solitude from the area of America where Fastball calls home (Sweetwater is four hours north-west of their hometown of Austin, Texas). Would love to visit this place one day and see if it’s as non-descript as it sounds. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wz2rpUXNTOQ

Goddo9) My old pal Greg Godovitz has spent the better part of 40 years upholding his crown as the biggest little cock-rocker in Canada with the untouchable power trio Goddo. But occasionally, very very occasionally, he lets his melodic Beatlesque influence slip out and onto a Goddo record. The band’s  seminal 1977 masterpiece is the album ‘Who Cares (If It’s Lonely At the Top…It’s Lonely At the Bottom Too!)’ and on it is the heartfelt, plaintive piano confessional “Once Again”. I was torn between this and the similar feel of Supertramp’s ‘Downstream’ for my ninth pick but I chose the Goddo track simply for the tasty and classy sax solo provided by my future lawyer Paul Irvine. [yep, the same guy that played on Segarini’s track “Livin’ In the Movies”] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7San6DK4WQ

MikePreviti10) Had Jon Bon Jovi learned to use his voice for good and not evil he could have been as good as Mike Previti. I discovered Mike in Boston, Massachusetts (he lives in Nelson, MA) at the 2005 International Pop Overthrow Festival and so I thought it appropriate to close this blog with Mike’s intimate acoustic ballad “Seven”.  Dedicated to those who were affected by the bombings this week. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaaFGjyMsv0


Explosion Send your CDs to: Jaimie Vernon, 180 Station Street, Suite 53, Ajax, ON L1S 1R9 CANADA


Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS_ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com or http://www.bullseyecanada.com

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