Saturday, July 27, 2013

Roger Hodgson Retrospective
The Voice of Supertramp
by Anthony Servante

The Driving Force behind Supertramp

Many bands break up. Some of my favorites have broken up over the years. And sometimes after the break-up some of the band members remain and keep the band name, even tour with the band name, though it is not the same band anymore. Consider the case of Barclay James Harvest. They were together over 30 years when the decision was made for the two main songwriters of the band to part company. But something strange happened: they both kept the band name and attached their own name to the band: John Lees’ Barclay James Harvest; Les Holroyd’s Barclay James Harvest. And neither band is Barclay James Harvest. Together Lees and Holroyd created the sound of the band; separately they merely resemble the BJH music.

Another Hodgson Hit.

Now consider the case of Supertramp. They broke up in 1983, but Rick Davies kept the band name, and Roger Hodgson went solo. It was apparent right off that Supertramp’s new sound was not the hit-making sound heard during the Hodgson years. And that’s ok. Rick Davies had a different vision for the band and was willing to give up the band’s popularity so that he could steer the group in a new direction. In concert he played the songs he had written for the band, plus new material in the Hodgson-less group. But the fans wanted to hear the hits, and that was not the direction Davies wanted to go. Eventually he succumbed to the demands of the fans and played the old hits—the Hodgson written songs. And that’s where Barclay James Harvest and Supertramp differ: The hits of BJH were a joint effort by the two main songwriters, while the hits of Supertramp were not collaborations—they were Roger Hodgson songs.

The Post Supertramp Hodgson

When Hodgson left, it was under the agreement that he would get back his own songs (the ones he wrote for Supertramp) and that Davies would keep the band name. Here Hodgson explains, “To tell you the truth…, I would never have handed over Supertramp, I am not that much of a fool, to just hand over something I had put 14 years of my life into to Rick for nothing. I really was the driving force in that band for 14 years. I remember very clearly the only thing I cared about when I gave Rick the name was that I would leave with my songs and my voice intact. That would be my security. For him, his security would be the name, obviously”.

Songwriter and Hit-maker.

In concert it is quite obvious that Davies is trying to capture the Hodgson sound, hiring singers that attempt without success to sing the range that Hodgson’s songs demand, the sound that he wrote for the range of his own voice. The Davies sound was not Supertramp, and the dwindling fans could be noted in the smaller and smaller venues that Davies was left with for lack of the Hodgson library to rely on. He even had a fake retirement tour that brought in the fans hoping for a Hodgson appearance, but it was all a ploy. I remember the fans booing when spokesman Doug announced that “ This was Supertramp’s last concert; and then added—this year!” We were tricked. Then they played some Hodgson songs to appease the fans.

Relaxed Before a Show.

Here is further clarification: “Hodgson’s concern is that Rick Davies has resurrected Supertramp and gone back on an agreement that he would not perform Roger’s songs in the set. However, the marketing for the Supertramp tour promotes a set list rich in Hodgson tunes. Supertramp performing Roger Hodgson songs without the Hodgson voice will clearly not be genuine to the fans. Roger Hodgson left Supertramp 27 years ago and as part of his departure, Rick Davies agreed that the continuation of Supertramp would become a vehicle for Rick’s songs and Roger would do his own songs in his solo shows.”

Let’s take a look at the list of Roger Hodgson songs and the Rick Davies songs. Let's see why Davies needs to rely on the Hodgson hits.

Here are the hits written by Roger Hodgson:

The Logical Song
Give a Little Bit
It’s Raining Again
Breakfast in America
Take the Long Way Home
Sister Moonshine
Land Ho
If Everyone was Listening
Hide in Your Shell
Easy Does It
The Meaning
Two of Us
A Soapbox Opera
Even in the Quietest Moments
Fool’s Overture
Child of Vision
Lord Is It Mine
Know Who You Are
Don’t Leave Me Now
C'est Le Bon

And songs written by Rick Davies:

Bloody Well Right
Crime of the Century
Goodbye Stranger
Summer Romance
Another Man’s Woman
Ain’t Nobody But Me
Poor Boy
Lover Boy
From Now On
Casual Conversations
Gone Hollywood
Just Another Nervous Wreck
Oh Darling
You Started Laughing
Put on Your Brown Shoes
My Kind of Lady
Waiting So Long

Although Davies had some popular Supertramp songs, there were no national hits, Top 40 favorites, radio station driven requests. Hodgson had the national and international favorites, the ones heard on radio stations all over the world. As you can see, these lists show two very different styles, two very different concert experiences. Davies needed the Hodgson hits to keep his own limited library alive in concert.

Which brings us to the Roger Hodgson live show.

Hodgson plays Hodgson, that is, he plays the songs he wrote, the songs that were written for the range of his own voice. Even with Supertramp, he wrote “Hodgson” songs, songs that he would sing in the studio and in concert. And that is what we get today when we attend a Roger Hodgson show: we get the best of Supertramp, the hits, the voice, the lyrics, the music. Plus we get the Hodgson solo music, which to this blogger, is still the Supertramp sound because Supertramp is Hodgson, and Hodgson Supertramp. 

The Modest Super-star.

Davies has the name, but Roger Hodgson has the spirit of the hits and the hits themselves played by the hit-maker himself. And that is our reward, true fans of Supertramp and of Roger Hodgson. We get the total package. In Hodgson's words from my interview with him (check the archives here on my blog): "Some of the biggest hits I recorded with Supertramp were songs I’d written in my late teens before I even met Rick and formed the band with him. Songs such as Dreamer, It’s Raining Again, Breakfast in America, Two of Us, A Soapbox Opera and even the beginning of Fool’s Overture, were all written during that time period. These songs are my babies – pieces of my heart and I still love playing them in my concerts today."

The success of Supertramp rests on the hits of Roger Hodgson. Although Supertramp has become a different band musically without the talents of Hodgson, it is a band without hits, which may account for their relying on Hodgson’s hits when they play in concert. As a solo artist, Hodgson plays only the songs he has written, be they hits from Supertramp or solo works; he does not rely of any songs he has not written to draw an audience. With Hodgson, you get the best of Supertramp and his solo works (songs I believe maintain the musical style of Supertramp during its heyday--listen to songs as "Had a Dream (Sleeping with the Enemy)" or "Death and a Zoo") because his music is synonymous with Supertramp hits.

The Real Thing!

Now don't get me wrong. I like Rick Davies' Supertramp, and had he given the fans the chance to get used to the new sound, he might have developed a following; instead he tried to keep Hodgson's fans under the illusion that "he" [Davies] is Supertramp. He isn't. But he can keep the projector and the backdrop screen common to the Supertramp live concerts. He can play "Bloody Well Right"; it is, after all, his song. But we’ll keep the “Voice of Supertramp”. We'll keep Roger Hodgson. 

See Roger Hodgson on his worldwide Breakfast in America tour:

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Poetry Today: Trends and Traditions
Edited by Anthony Servante

Let’s discuss the premise before looking at the words. It is an axiom in academic writing that poetry must speak for itself. A writer cannot interpret meaning for the reader, giving insight to his own words as if they required his presence to clarify the work’s intents. The poem must stand up to the scrutiny of the reader alone. All poetry, artwork and links belong to the respective authors and are used here on a one-time basis only. Thank you. 

With this axiom in mind, we proceed to our poetry for today; we have works by Phibby Venable, Uvi Poznansky, Drew Arnott, Vincenzo Bilof, and a special appearance by my old friend Michael H. Hanson. 

Let’s begin with Phibby.

Phibby Venable

Venable's work has been published in 2River, Poetrybay, Southern Ocean Review, Sow's Ear, Voices, the Appalachian Journal & various other national & international mags.
Three chapbooks: What I Saw Beautiful, On White Top, and Indian Wind Song.
Two books, Blue Cold Morning & There Is A White Girl, 2009.
Phibby Venable lives in Abingdon, Virginia. Much of her work depicts the
Appalachian & Blue Ridge Mountains. She works in human & animal rescue.


The Water Lily Eyes
If I love them it is because of the cacti.
We are of that clan.
My mother, the spine, my siblings raw & prickly.
I am disguised as a water lily and float
in their grand oasis, not apart but sectioned
into whatever they think me to be.
Still imaginary in who I really am.
They are warriors and ragers that climb
taller toward the sun.
They eat themselves and each other and suck
flesh and water from their roots.
When they bloom I move closer and shift
my flowered pad into their line of vision.
I dream of touching them
in the spots that sprout nourishment,
but they are too angry in the heat.
Each believing the desert is a punishment.
Each believing the lily pad is an illusion
Having grown up determined
to cling to the mother spine,
they can see nothing
but the one sun.

To The Open Road
I kindle a song from the trespass of faces
that press against money and fall flat
that ride the roads with artful pieces
for words and the genius of open eyes
in a shut off world
This is to the new year and the poor bones
who falter, starve, in beautiful places
and long for grand highways , the ones that float
in blue ribbons past everyday pain
to watch the heartbeats of humanity
rise in a rejoicing of individual truths -
Let me twist a canvas into long roads
and add stops of fresh milk, watermelons,
a loaf browning in the distant sun
on the highway of gentle portraits
that do not push, nor shove
that whisper brilliant sentences or paint hues
to lava the eyes with bright scenes
to scent the wild fir with belief
and climb the sand dune road
straight to the beach, I wave
a new year to the machinery that made the roads
to the men who sweat, freeze, who hold signs
saying stop, slow, go! Go
to the gulls and pipers the flatbeds,
and the dignified Mercedes, go
all of us down this splendid twist of road
where America believes like an adolescent
stretching wide eyed toward a dreamer's goal,
still stubborn enough to be happy
still holding her hand drawn picture
of the open road.

The Water Lily Eyes works as personification. The narrator, "I", loves "them" (nature/flowers) because of the cacti (both plant and flower bearer); then the I becomes "we", joining nature and man in the same "clan". The personification is extended to include the "mother" as spine (note the play on words: spine for backbone of the family--a matriarchy--and the prickly needles of the cactus). The sun represents the goal of the plant that strives to reach the light above, as man reaches for heaven as "warrior" and "rager" (with an echo of Rage Against the Dying of the Light by Dylan Thomas). Unified as plant and person, we becomes "they" who  "eat themselves and each other and suck/flesh and water from their roots." The plants take on human emotion (anger, for instance) as the person takes on the form of a flower, now replacing each other's role in the cycle of nature: "Each believing the desert is a punishment./Each believing the lily pad is an illusion." The personified transformation is complete, but that which unifies them both is their common reliance on the "one" sun, life to both plant and person. It is a neatly sustained metaphor that avoids the trappings of anthropomorphism; it is subtle and gentle in its rage to live. 

To the Open Road celebrates the Beatnik philosophy of seeking one's self in journey, as represented by the "road" (do I need to name-drop Kerouac?!). The money grubbers "fall flat" as the open highway becomes a canvas to paint a trip with the "genius of open eyes", as observation of life is travelling and appreciating one's surroundings. The canvas adds images of "milk" and "watermelons" and converts nouns to verbs to paint an abstract concept: "that whisper brilliant sentences or paint hues/to lava the eyes with bright scenes/to scent the wild fir with belief." The journey is inside the head; the traveler as painter, and the road his masterpiece. American (more personification) "believes" in this masterpiece, for America is the ultimate critic, its roads the "stubborn" invitation of "her" highways. The narrator seeks an America that encourages the self-discovery of those who travel with her. Very transcendental. Very Beat. 

Let's turn now to Uvi Poznansky.

Uvi Poznansky

Uvi Poznansky is a California-based author, poet and artist.
She earned her B. A. in Architecture and Town Planning from the Technion in Haifa, Israel. During her studies and in the years immediately following her graduation, she practiced with an innovative Architectural firm, taking a major part in the large-scale project, 'Home for the Soldier'; a controversial design that sparked fierce public She won great acclaim for her novel, Apart From Love, published February 2012 and for her poetry book, Home (in tribute to her father, the poet and writer Zeev Kachel) published September 2012.debate.

Late Lover
By Uvi P
A diamond short, a decade late
I come to stand outside your gate
Unlock and open, let me in
Forgive me, love; what is my sin?
I fled from you across the land
But now I ask you for your hand
A decade late, a diamond short
I can't imagine why you snort
My limbs are frail, my breath is cold
I must admit I may look old
I fall, I kneel, why—I implore
You are the woman I adore
I feel so weak, I feel so brittle
Don't touch! I may be impotent a little
You loved me once—or so I thought
Stop! Take your fingers off my throat—

Painting by Uvi P accompanying 
the Late Lover poem.

These are Uvi P's words regarding the painting and poem. 
"I painted Late Lover from the point of view of the girl he had left behind. She and you, the observer, are one. He is yearning to come back home. A blue cape is flung around his shoulders, which allows the eye to stay with him, rather than drift off to the background, seen in the spaces between his flimsy ribs. More importantly, you can see the withered flowers he lays at your feet, and the ring being cast off your finger, straight onto his head. The words 'A diamond short, a decade late' are carved into the door frame, perhaps with your fingernails, scratching letter after letter over the long-drawn-out years of waiting for him...

Having painted him all day, the voice of Late Lover came to me at night. The next morning I wrote his poem down in a single breath, and never made any corrections, never replaced a word or adjusted the rhythm--because it came to me completely ready".

I inserted Uvi's words about her poem and painting for the express purpose of validating the premise behind critical reviews, that the poem or painting or novel or art piece must stand on its own, without explanation, history, or inspiration. The "objective correlative" of art must come from the work, not the artist; when it comes only from the work, we, as critics, can capture the "subjective correlative", that is, the perspective of the aesthete, the common point of view as universalized by critique. This is in no way a criticism of these words; I chose to read them after reading the poem and seeing the painting, for that's the structure of the webpage where they are posted. It is, in a sense, an unforeseen influence. I bring this up here because the next two poems also carry the burden of an influence, in that I have heard the lyrics in song long before I have appreciated them as poetry. That said, here is my POV on the poem, Late Lover, hopefully, without too much outside influence (and I did choose this poem because it was the best of the lot and the one I wanted to share with my readers, and because I love that painting).

There is an old story that goes something like this: He married her for her cute little laugh; many years later, he strangled her to death for her cute little laugh. Late Lover addresses the sentiment of this story in poetic terms. It rhymes, giving it a jovial sense, foreshadowing the shocking ending ("Take your fingers off my throat--"), and carries a brisk tone that reflects passing time passing much too quickly. "Late" in this sense refers to getting old, but also to making bad choices, as in too late to change one's mind. Thus we have the contradictions of the situation: "I fled from you across the land/But now I ask you for your hand". The oxymoron ("impotent a little") is Uvi P at her wittiest as we saw earlier with the line repeated twice in inverted form: "A decade late, a diamond short" and "A diamond short, a decade late". This is unfulfilled love, but love on a grand scale, worthy of poetry, even if it is on the sardonic side. "You loved me once" confirms this love, but then it is retracted, "or so I thought". All is not as it seems. Jovial on the outside, sinister on the inside, Late Lover is more about the dark side of love, where the cute little laugh that once brought a smile now brings tightening fingers around the throat. A very clever conceit. 

Drew Arnott is up next.

Drew yesterday.

Drew Arnott today.

Co-founder of the Progressive New Wave band Strange Advance, Drew Arnott manned the keyboards and wrote songs for the group. I have plucked the lyrics from two of his songs as a sampling of how poetry can be found in music.

To the poems.

Worlds Away
By Drew Arnott

Worlds away with memories
Of killing time and dreams
Think of me, it was so cold we burned
And as they leave, they cross my mind

No time, I think it's over
This life inside I steal as mine
Look in your eyes, you're worlds away
And life is locked inside you

Then, you sleep and city walls
They dissolve to dreams
Children cry, they're losing everything

From heart to heart
The beat slow fades
The sun explodes the night time
For all we know
There's nothing changed

Look in your eyes you're worlds away
Where art is love is science
A million miles, a thousand minds
Now worlds away

Oh no, don't say goodbye
When you can love only one thing
And they want you to know
It's you, it's you
Worlds away
Don't say goodbye.

All lyrics are subject to US Copyright Laws and are property of their respective authors, artists and labels. All song lyrics provided strictly for educational purposes

We Run
by Drew Arnott
You're on your own and meet a friend
Who doesn't kill but wounds for life
The sun blinds you through the trees
While watching clues fall from the skies
And she smiles
At the point of the knife
You never see anyone
How the strong will survive
At the end of their gun
We Run
Frozen smiles for men returned
They never even left this place
She kissed me softly on the cheek
And a shadow cut across her face
At the point of the knife
You never see anyone
How the strong will survive
At the end of their gun
We Run
I walked for miles and miles to the sea
(We burned the fire from the sun)
I know you never tried to deceive
(Who can touch us when We Run)
At the point of the knife
You never see anyone
How the strong will survive
At the end of their gun.

All lyrics are subject to US Copyright Laws and are property of their respective authors, artists and labels. All song lyrics provided strictly for educational purposes.

As I mentioned in my note for Late Lover, my opinion of the above poems by Drew Arnott are influenced by my love of the music, its ethereal space opera sound. But as with the former poem, I must consider these poems not as songs but as stand-alone poems as if I had never heard the music. I must play the neutral critic if I am to give my reader a look into the words themselves without my turning into a raging fan-boy. So here goes.

Worlds Away tells a story of love's last gasps, just as Late Lover depicts love turning sour, nay, turning to murder. The narrator observes his girlfriend; she is lost in reverie, "worlds away" in her memory, even as she sleeps with him. She is there and not there. He feels his dreams of being with her slipping away. Her icy demeanor is so "cold, we burned". Her eyes do not see him there; there is sadness in his words as he describes her: "Look in your eyes, you're worlds away/And life is locked inside you". But he has some hope that all remains the same between them, but the rising sun says otherwise: "The sun explodes the night time/For all we know/There's nothing changed". There is no denying that indeed things have changed. She's gone, even though she is with him; her leaving is but a formality. His pleas fall on deaf ears: "Oh no, don't say goodbye/When you can love only one thing/And they want you to know/It's you, it's you/Worlds away/Don't say goodbye". This poem imbues love with its alienating effect when it falls short of being fulfilled. Both parties must love equally; here it is a one-sided relationship, one last night before the break-up. It captures the loneliness inherent in such relationships, and makes the narrator's pathetic pleas for her not to say good-bye all the more tragic. 

We Run describes a more sinister type of love: the self-destructive type when one chooses a partner who is bad for you. In metaphor, the bad girl of the poem bears a knife that serves not to kill but to wound. She hurts men; she breaks their heart. The narrator sees the girl he loves; he is blind to the "knife", to her destructive side: "And she smiles/At the point of the knife/You never see anyone". He only sees what he feels: her kisses, caresses, and affection. "She kissed me softly on the cheek/And a shadow cut across her face". The dualism of the girl is seen here in light and shadow on her face (think Colonel Kurtz in the shadows in Apocalypse Now). But still he loves her. Here the metaphor of running is explained and the title of the poem becomes clear. To run is to advance the relationship quickly, as if doing so will leave the bad girl behind and the good loving, kissing girl will keep up with him. With these words, we now understand his denial: "I know you never tried to deceive/(Who can touch us when We Run?)". She never deceived him; he deceived himself. How many of us have run into a bad relationship by running away from it? We all run.

Let's turn to Vincenzo Bilof now.

Vincenzo Bilof

From Detroit, Michigan, Vincenzo Bilof is the recipient of SNM Horror Magazine's Literary Achievement award in 2011. A member of the Horror Writers Association, Vincenzo is the author of the zombie novels "Nightmare of the Dead" and "Necropolis Now;" both are available from Severed Press. His recent book, which happens to include aliens, "Gravity Comics Massacre," is available from Bizarro Pulp Press.
When he's not chasing his kids around the house or watching bad horror films, he reads and reviews horror fiction, though his tastes are more literary. He likes to think Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and Charles Baudelaire would be proud of his work. His current writing projects include the new serial, "Japanese Werewolf Apocalypse;" and "The Horror Show," a horror story written as a series of poems that will be available by James Ward Kirk Press in the summer of 2013. You can check out his blog here:

Coming soon.


Casual Ruinations
"Tell those damn liars who have declared that aint aint a word and neither does it require
Listen to this, I mean, wait, I know it sounds redundant but there…
okay, your lips are either snarling or smiling,
so should I laugh or cry?
Sure, it matters.
As I was saying.
The word is rather rebellious because the language-owners have ignored
that the word has a common usage and common understanding.
Fits the lexicon and it's there for you to deny."
(Maybe I should say
call it a curse word for the unwashed, they can have it
like the blood on this counter mirrored in yellow light,
like mustard and ketchup could never stain oblivious.)
"Eggs and ham would be nice, Lorraine."
I hide from emerald eyes,
pretend to watch the dusty men
the toothless men
rape cell phones with fingers
souls sucked into screens.
"Commit yourself to 
 a code you’re afraid
to violate." A plate shatters and eyes stick to fragments from
vein-laden skulls.
In my nightmares I have seen the dead flesh of heroes melted hot
over a rusty grille.
"Sizzle baby sizzle."
This counter finger-painted in shades of blood or memory.
My nightmares lived so much reality.
Everything I see reminds me of something horrible I’ve seen before
like I’ve lived another life or my memory is damaged. Am I speaking to you now?
               "Could be damaged."
               What sane man would choose the life of a drifter
               haunted by dreams, "could get cash from doctors
               Volunteer lab rat maybe there’s a cure"
               Laugh that up, no cure for the difference;
               you are what you eat; you’re a man now stand up.
               Could be damaged
"Don’t recall ever having job skills,
go to school young man you’re smart,
the jobs will just come to you, it’s true,
could be damaged."
Messages in code printed upon a napkin.
"Do you save your poems to a computer?"
she asked, or asks.
I can't remember waking up to one or another.
"Is this a part of your process?"

The Questions a Madwoman Might Ask
The doctor will help save the world by curing madness. "Cure madness to cure evil." Cold rooms and light upon spectacles to render eyes invisible. A charitable woman. The entropy of poverty. Policemen nodding their heads at the chalk outlines of children. Light peering through the holes in windows where bullets have flown. "I can cure evil by falling in love."
The doctor nodded his head and nearly grinned. A slumbering poet who murdered his family holds the enzymes in his brain that can save the poor before they're forced to fight another war; there will be life after death. "I need you."
Don't render unto me the nightmares of a martyr. The thieves and idolaters peer at me over their soup bowls and consume my flesh without my name. The poet doesn't know his own soul. "It's not about the money."
It's not about the money. Let me show you pictures of his wife and child. The salesman attempts to play the harp with broken fingers. "I want to see the dead."
Maggots writhe upon vomit-encrusted blankets and you speak of madness and its cure. Salvation comes in many colors, a rainbow of amber, red, white, and glass. Mouths drowning in the rainbow, livers reliant upon pain and sorrow to feed the disease. And you call it madness. "He loved them dearly."
Narcoleptic afflictions reflected in misplaced organs. Edgar Allan Poe was buried alive. We believe in archetypes, the designs of exposed ribcages and eyelids forever closed. A woman and a child not bound would have screamed for ages. Life betrays love and love betrays the sanctuary of Mondays and Tuesdays. I'm familiar with his swirling eyes and I have swallowed the oasis. A thousand messiahs would be proud of me. The doctor has given him money to live and I am the catharsis, the expendable victim of philanthropy soaked in greed.
I am like an addict staring over the edge of a cliff where everything I need has fallen over that edge and into a clouded valley
there is something
I think something.

A uniquely sustained piece of conceptual writing that has been tried before but not with the success Vincenzo Bilof achieves here. In A World of Words by Rafael Lopez, the author creates another planet with life and culture; we see this culture through the poetry of this world, written by the poets of this planet. Even now Rafael seeks to extend the world in his writing, rather than the poetry that we see the world with. James Joyce similarly created (rather re-created) an old world from literature, that of Ulysses, and gave us a surreal experience in this newly formed world. But Joyce is some heavy reading and one must flow with the stream of consciousness writing to appreciate the prose. So has Vincenzo brought us The Horror Show. It is a novel. It is an anthology of poetry. It is prose. It is stream of consciousness nightmare. I selected two "works" from the book; a poem and a structured piece of writing that is something between a series of paragraphs degenerating into prose, then what appears to be a stanza. Keep in mind that although there are chapters in this book, they are not conventional. We saw this concept carried out seamlessly in William Cook's Moment of Freedom, but without the structure of a novel; his was poetry. Bilof's pretends to be a story in poem form, a poem in story form, and something in between. Let's look at our selections from the book more closely.

Casual Ruminations is a poem that brings attention to language. It is as if we stopped hearing words and only heard sounds. Something is being said, but the idiom is lost. Right off we are told "that ain't ain't a word and neither does it require/Apostrophe". This is a self-referential maze of words, not unlike saying "I am saying nothing"; the meaning implies that you mean nothing by what you say but need to say "nothing" the word to make this point. Straight out, we are placed on notice that such mazes await. We proceed with caution and fascination. The narrator completes his thought by pointing out that the maze we are in is a maze: "The word is rather rebellious because the language-owners have ignored/that the word has a common usage and common understanding./Fits the lexicon and it's there for you to deny." "Deny" and "ignored" alongside "common usage and understanding" creates a conflicting parallel. We accept that we need language to deny language; we communicate our lack of communication with words that we can ignore. Then we slip into a collage of grotesque images painted beautifully with our words of denial. Then the direct question arises: ""Do you save your poems to a computer?"/she asked, or asks." "Asked/asks": a conflict of tenses. We are in another maze, but the question remains: Is this poem something you wrote and saved on your computer? The answer is yes, for the question itself is the poem. By referencing one's self, the line between word and meaning becomes blurred, but Bilof pulls it together by clarifying the line then blurring it again. We are reading about reading as he writes about writing, and the mazes are captivating and intriguing without losing the reader. However, one must be willing to slip into the "ruminations"; it is well worth the experience getting lost in the work.

The Questions a Madwoman Might Ask is as close to a regular chapter as this novel gets. The reader may feel safe reading the paragraphs hoping that the writer has come to his senses. But it is a ruse. The stream of consciousness writing starts slowly and builds momentum till the paragraphs began to shape themselves into stanzas, and we're back in the maze of language discussing language, in the conceptual story-line that challenges the readers' expectations. Almost as if addressing the reader, Bilof's narrator pulls him into the narrative with subtlety and the cunning of language: "A slumbering poet who murdered his family holds the enzymes in his brain that can save the poor before they're forced to fight another war; there will be life after death. "I need you." The "you" catches one off guard; we go from third person, to plural pronoun (they), to it (life after death), when we are slammed by "I need YOU" (my caps). The reader is pulled in different directions through various points of view, thanks to Bilof's use of language to mount his surreal story. We move from poem to prose narrative, and without warning, we move back again to where we started. The final words "There is something/I think something" deliberately undermine the paragraph structure we felt safe in earlier, only to find ourselves with the "is/think" conundrum: Is this real or the narrator's thoughts? Don't expect easy answers. This is a must read for fans of conceptual writing. At once nightmarish and playful, it will creep you out when you feel most safe, and you can't say that for many books today, horror or otherwise. . 

Michael H. Hanson wrote a tribute to Richard Matheson, who passed away recently. F. Paul Wilson said it best: There is no writer today that does not stand on Matheson's shoulders. It will be many more generations before his influence on good story-telling fades even just a bit. Here is Mike’s poem to Richard Matheson.

Richard Matheson

You Are Legend
by Michael H. Hanson
Your duel has ended, and you won,
distributor of great stories
you travel now where all dreams come
where ghosts and strange wing-walkers flee.
Far beyond twenty thousand feet
you stalk the skies on this dark night
your co-pilot a Zuni doll
friendly invader this last flight.
Our world is shrinking now you’re gone
little kids lost that’s how we feel,
your words echo and stir in time
with the enduring punch of steel.
The box is closed, terrors mildew,
the master of our world is mute.
(Richard Matheson, 1926-2013)

Thank you, poets, for your contribution this month. As usual, we have a diverse selection representing the wide range of wordsmiths today. The Servante of Darkness invites your poetry submissions each month. Till next we meet, keep the typewriter warm. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pauline Alexander Interview: Echoes of Grace

by Anthony Servante

Pauline Alexander

Pauline Alexander's pure and angelic vocals take centre stage with Edwin Gallacher's complex finger picking style of guitar. Their stripped back acoustic sets are a seamless mix of folk and easy listening complemented by their interpretation of song and original material. Vocally Pauline is very easy on the ear and has been said to have echoes of Sandy Denny, Eva Cassidy or Karen Carpenter.

An emerging Scottish Singer from Glasgow. Her debut album 'Thoughts For The Masses' was an Iain Anderson 'Album of the week' on BBC Radio Scotland and has also been widely played on multiple radio stations including BBC Radio Wales, Ulster and Shropshire. This year saw Pauline's 'Dear Sister' Music Video make its TV debut on The Phil Mack Country Show on Showcase TV. 2013 has been busier than ever adding Glasgow St Patricks, Third Degree Burns, Tryst Festival, Innerleithen Music Festival and Folkstock to her festival billings.

Pauline acknowledges that her career is "lovingly promoted by my other half Stephen Thomson. He does his day job and comes home and spends time promoting me. That's devotion and belief in me!" 

'...her voice is quite de luxe! Never miss an opportunity of hearing her!' (Iain Anderson BBC Radio Scotland) '.

..Her live performance was simply stunning and was without doubt THE voice of this year's festival ' Jon Hollingworth- Arran Events


To buy

We welcome to the Servante of Darkness Blog, Pauline Alexander. I first heard her magnificent voice in a Facebook group named Trad! Traditional British & Celtic Music. She sang "Fields of Gold" by Sting with a mellifluous vocal style more akin to the English Renaissance than today's Techno Age. This was a voice I wanted my readers to hear and a person I wanted to know. So, I introduced myself to Ms. Alexander and arranged this interview. Now I'd like to introduce her to you, my readers. And after the words, please listen to the top ten songs hand-picked by Pauline herself. Let's begin.

The Interview:

Anthony: When and how did your singing career begin?
Pauline: It was an interest in acting at school that set me up for my involvement with music later on. I was quiet at school and found that I became interested in performing in the school shows. I think I may have surprised one or two people, I liked that! I became the lead singer in 'Dave' a Rock band formed at school too. Later after working for a few years, mainly in youth work and community drama jobs, I replied to an ad on a UK website in 2005 to work with a songwriter in Bristol, England (Jonathan Rowland). From there spawned a few demos and I also joined a function band (Washington Street) which started me off performing most weekends, and when the band split I continued to work on a solo basis and gather original material. My local Glasgow station 'Celtic Music Radio' had a presenter by the name of Andrew Quinn, who found my demos on myspace and encouraged me to send them in to his show; from there other presenters heard my music, and I had my first live radio interview in 2009. It has snowballed from there. Encouraging words go a very long way.

Anthony: What training did you receive to capture your unique sound?
Pauline: I completed a performing arts course at a nearby college. It's here I realized quickly, that it was actually singing not acting that I was most passionate about. In all honesty though, I think the best training anyone can have for shaping their 'sound' is by listening and appreciating music. As a teenager I could literally lose hours locked away listening to music. Singing along to it, trying to master the harmonies that I was hearing. I was sociable, I enjoyed going out but I also really valued my own time with music and I feel that this is the true way in which your own sound can be developed. When performing live, I normally perform as part of a two piece and the guitarists I have worked with have brought about their own sound and influences. This, of course, adds another dimension to the overall sound from a live point of view. I'm now working with a guy called Edwin Gallacher and he is influenced greatly by Tommy Emmanuel and Simon and Garfunkel

Anthony: How do you select the music you interpret?
Pauline: Very good question :) I feel it's almost instinctive. I think I'm naturally drawn to music that moves me and where I think or hope I would be able to bring something of myself to it. The melody and mood of the song are always very important to me. The challenge of taking a known song and perhaps stripping it back to a completely raw state is something I really like. It depends on the individual taste, whether it works or not I guess. I always wanted to do 'Brothers in Arms' by Dire Straits. I always had a good feeling about that song and we now do it as part of our set. I think it works :-)

Anthony: Which other music genres, and which artists/bands interest you?
Pauline: I could probably talk about this subject all night.

Most of my musical influences most definitely come from an era when I wasn't born. I grew up listening to my mum and dad's music: Beatles, Beach Boys, ELO, Gerry Rafferty. I'm also very drawn to pure,crystal clear voices. The kind of voices that make you sit up and take notice. I'm a huge fan of Karen Carpenter, Judith Durham and Joan Baez - Melodic, tuneful and distinctive. I also like Sam Cooke and Matt Monro. I think all of these singers have a sound which creates a certain emotional ambiance for their music. More recently I have been taken (like so many others) by the talent of Eva Cassidy. Where a great actor will bring a script alive, the perfect blend of voice and song will do the same. I'm a big believer that a good song is a good song regardless of genre. I'm also blown away by bands like Metallica.

Anthony: Can you tell us about Thoughts for the Masses?
Pauline: 'Thoughts For The Masses' is my debut album and came about after a three year period of working on material with Jonathan Rowland. It is a mixture of my own work and the work of other writers Ron Lindsay and Clark Sorley. The songs are a collection of thoughts and reflections, lyrically the songs tackle issues such as mental illness and domestic abuse. A video for one of the songs on the album can be viewed on youtube. (Dear Sister). I'm delighted by the positive response the album has had and the airplay it has received from UK and abroad. The album was featured as an 'Album of the Week' on BBC Radio Scotland and I'm honestly very proud of that.

Anthony: I'm cursed in that the music I love, as yours, is not played very much in the USA. Do you have any plans to reach out to the US fans and maybe tour here?
Pauline: Aww that's very nice of you to say. I would love very much to come to the US one day. I could get excited thinking about that. I've never even been to the US on holiday! There are a few stations in the US that have featured my music. Scrub Radio, UIC Radio, WRUR 88.5 and Gashouse Radio. There have also been some very kind folks from the US that have heard my music on Radio here and been in touch to tell me so!. 'Celtic Music Radio' seems to have reached out to all over the world. I hope that one day, I will get to the US to play. Even just once. I'd better start saving my pennies :-)

Anthony: Can you tell us about your current tour?
Pauline: Most of the gigs and shows are taking place throughout Scotland. Various festivals and folk clubs, that we have never played before, so we are really looking forward to the months ahead. This year will also see our first performance in England when we head to Hertfordshire in September for 'Folkstock' . 
NOTE: For more gigs, click here.

Anthony: Dede Williams of Trad! Traditional British & Celtic Music introduced me to your music. How traditional do you consider your sound? To me, it has a timeless quality.
Pauline: I'm very thankful to Dede Williams :) I don't feel that my own music has a particularly traditional sound or feel to it. That said, there are many traditional songs that certainly influence and inspire me however and have become part of the live set. I try not to limit myself to genre, I think you have to be true to who you are and first and foremost. I think that strong melodies and lyrics will always be timeless and will reach out to people. Rather than trying to be 'current', I think it's better to do what feels right.

Anthony: Are you working on any new music that fans can look forward to?
Pauline: Yes I am . Working on new material for my second album as we speak and have been trying to write over the last couple of months. I'm also involved in a new musical venture. 'The Grand Gestures'

The Grand Gestures is an electronica project involving a variety of artists from the Scottish music scene collaborating with Grand Gestures founder Jan Burnett. The music is written around loops, vintage synths, home-grown noises and live drums. Every artist writes their own concept and lyric. I was selected as a participant for album number two with the only remit being to steer towards the 'dark and poignant'. I was quite inspired by the Nick Cave/Kylie Minogue 'Murder ballad' idea for this project....I've tried to dredge up some pretty dark stuff. 'The Grand Gestures Second' album is due for release in October time. Which will include my own collaboration track 'A Whisper of Sayonara'. The link is up for a short time, a few days to listen

Anthony: I'd like to request a top ten list of your songs and any other music that has influenced your music. And could you tell us a bit about each song, why you selected it?

1. Those Were the Days -Mary Hopkin 

I used to hear this song being played at home as a child and I always thought it was a very unusual sounding pop song. I was too young so I really didn't know why. I later learned about the Russian origins of the song. I now realize that I always loved the pure sound of the vocals and the distinctive melody. Very haunting and nostalgic. It was a very different kind of pop music to my childhood 80's favourites of the time,but I really appreciated it . It was one of the first songs from a time when I wasn't born,that I remember feeling really meant something to me.

2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps - George Harrison.

I'm a huge Beatles fan; everyone that knows me, knows this! I've always admired this song. However, when I heard this completely stripped back version of just George , I was stopped in my tracks. For me, this version brings out the emotion of the song a lot more. Sometimes less is more. It's a simple, beautiful and well-written song.

3. House of the Rising Sun - Joan Baez. 

Joan Baez is completely inspiring, not just musically but as a person of principles. If I could take a time machine back to listen to her performing in the old coffee houses I would. Perhaps I should call on the Doc and Marty for the DeLorean? :) The first version of this song I heard was by The Animals which is a great version. Once I heard this pre Animals version from 1960, I was captivated. The power of voice with guitar only can be amazing, and Joan Baez proves this with this track.

4. Crescent Noon -The Carpenters.

I'm a massive fan of The Carpenters music and sound. Karen Carpenters fine voice for me is the best and she is without doubt my favourite female singer. Karen had a 'wise beyond her years' sound to her voice, very haunting, soothing and the most amazing tone. My biggest influence vocally, without a doubt. This beautiful song 'Crescent Noon' is from the 'Close to You' Album from 1970. It's maybe not recognized as one of their biggest hits but for me,it highlights in full their talents. Richard carpenters production and arrangements can't be overlooked either.

5. The Witches Promise- Jethro Tull 

I think Jethro Tull are an outstanding band . An incredibly exciting sound and fusion of genres. Including prog rock, folk rock,amongst others. I find this particular track very mellow and it's nice to lie back and listen to. Ian Andersons flute and vocals are a great combination

6. Dumb - Nirvana (Unplugged in New York)

Nirvana- Unplugged in New York is one of my favourite albums to listen to. Ever. I enjoy the dark, angst-y and sometimes aggressive sounds of Nirvana. I don't think this track was ever released as a single from the album 'In Utero', but it stood out for me with this live album. Kurt Kobain was complex, and a very compelling performer/songwriter.

7. If I were a Carpenter - The Four Tops

The Motown era was way before my time, but I was brought up listening to my mum and dad playing such artists as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson. It was catchy feel good soul/pop/R&B music. It was music that made me feel glad to be listening to music. Levi Stubbs of 'The Four Tops' was an outstanding singer and I love the power and energy in this version of 'If I were a Carpenter'.

8. Tennessee Waltz - Eva Cassidy 

I'm very taken with this beautiful version by Eva Cassidy. She had a rare ability to put her own stamp on any song with such individual presentation. A brilliant singer and arranger. It's justice that word spread about her talent, and I especially admire her for choosing material that was close to her heart, rather than attempting to 'fit in'. A lady with a special voice and a guitar that needed no gimmicks. I'm a huge fan

9. Where Lucifer Lingers - written by Ron Lindsay, Performed by Pauline Alexander. 

This is the opening track to my debut album 'Thoughts For the Masses'. I was completely honoured when Ron Lindsay asked me to sing his song. The song is about experiencing and reflecting on the the hell of mental illness. The song has had a very positive reaction and I'm proud to have been part of it.

10. Dear Sister -Written and performed by Pauline Alexander, melody by Jonathan Rowland. 

This is the first song I've written and had recorded, and it will always be special to me for that reason. This is also a track from my album 'Thoughts For the Masses'. A video has also been created for this song which can be viewed on youtube. The song is from the point of view of watching someone close to us in a negative relationship, perhaps knowing that it's not doing them any good but are ultimately powerless to help.

Anthony: An amazing list of songs, many of my favorites among them. Thank you for sharing.
Pauline: Can I just say....10 songs was not enough!! Just sending a couple more songs.

11. Broken Youth - Written and performed by Pauline Alexander, Melody by Jonathan Rowland.

This is another song from my album 'Thoughts For The Masses'. This song is about the anger,violence which is apparent within some young people today, for a variety of reasons I guess. It's not particularly cheerful but then life is not all plain sailing! The song can be heard at Spotify.

12. 'Skipping Barefoot Through the Heather' Also known as (Skippin Barfit Through the Heather)

This is a Scottish traditional song, which I came across a few years ago. My mum had a record called ' Glasgow Street Songs'. I decided that I was going to sing this song for a TV audition for a Scottish music special. I enjoy performing this song as part of my live sets. A video clip of me singing this track can be found on youtube.

13. Gerry Rafferty- Shipyard Town. 

Gerry Rafferty is one of the finest singer/songwriters ever to come from Scotland. He'll mostly be known for his huge hit 'Baker Street' which is a brilliant track . 'Shipyard Town', however, is one of my favourite tracks. Very poignant, reflective and a great melody

Anthony: May I add: 

14. Fields of Gold by StingRendition by Pauline Alexander

Anthony: Ladies and gentlemen, Pauline Alexander. Thank you again for visiting with us today.
Pauline: Thank you very much for having me :-)