“A part of me pre
A part of me post
A part of me present
One part of me ghost
A part of me wants to run.”
David Gray, “As The Crow Flies” (2014)
This is the story about pre me getting to know Mister G.:
It was sometime in the autumn of 1999, probably a rainy day, as autumn days tend to be. I was hanging around record stores with my friend and flat mate Martin, as so often in those days. In one of the more major-label stores in town, I literally (true story!) tripped over a massive Warner Bros. promotion stand advertising “White Ladder” (which is interesting, as the album was never really released with Warner Bros., but on David’s own label “IHT Records” under license to Warner Music UK Ltd., but probably IHT wouldn’t have had a stand in that record store, so there you go).
Anyway. I don’t know how or why, but somehow I felt, simply by looking at the cover, that I was standing in front of something different, something special, something that didn’t quite fit into this mainstream record store’s usual repertoire. I stepped a little closer, reached out for one of the CD’s that had fallen to the ground …
And then …
…All surrounding ambient sound faded. The atmosphere became eerie, lights dimmed. A distant voice whispered into my ear “This record will change your life!”. It was like I had jumped the tracks of time and space. Fog coming from where the record store’s loudspeakers were, a very mystical Galadriel moment …
And then …
Nothing. Little storyteller’s detour, freedom to exaggerate and put the subtext into perspective. 🙂 In real life, the store was boring and unmystically commercial, no ghosts of past-away singer-songwriter gods around directing me to my new love. I guess…
But I did indeed reach for one of the CD’s I had knocked down off of their pedestal, looked at the simple, yet somehow secretive cover, flipped sides, struck by the design’s focus on content, i.e. songs. Only 10, perfect amount. 8 always too close to an EP, suggesting a lack of material, 12 still ok, but already on the verge of being too much to grasp an album at first listening. Turning the CD back around, there was (and still is, I’ve never taken it off) this sticker with a review quote from “The Times”, saying: “It’s a record that makes your life feel better by its mere existence.” To date, this remains the best compliment for any artistic work that I’ve ever read. And a knock-down argument for me to buy the CD. Which I did.
Guess this is what you call love at first sight, like meeting a woman in a bar or the office, knowing: This is the one. The beginning.
What happened next: overzealous attempts to get to know this new lover better, discover his history like an archeologist, getting lost in endless hours of hot rotations. Putting flesh to the bones of my new passion at the end of a century, secretly hoping Mister G. would be mine, be mine, remain mine, that he wouldn’t sell, sell, sell (out).
White Ladders’ drum intro alone: a statement, a clear move from raw singer-songwriting (that we know from album 1-3) to courageous upbeat folk pop without the often attached cheesiness. Creating an immediate atmosphere of minor mood turning into major pleasure, a promise the album is able to keep right up to the last chord after 57:17 minutes (excluding UK bonus track “(I Can’t Get) Through to Myself” and US bonus track “Babylon II”).
If that doesn’t get to you, nothing will:
This is the official video incl. David’s congenial ex-drummer Craig McClune, always a sensationally entertaining counterpart to his boss whenever they performed together – and I must admit: I have been missing him ever since he split up with David in 2006!
It’s tough to even select favourite tunes from this perfect album, but if I had to (which I gladly don’t), I’d definitely go for:
I. “This Year’s Love” (in this amazing live version):
II. “Nightblindness”, e-very-specially in this just mind-blowing live version from the London Roundhouse, unfortunately only the audio on YouTube, so close your eyes and escape for 11:05 minutes, worth every second:
III. (of course!) “Sail Away”, a single that literally changed my life … the intro of this live version being my official “Honey Ringtone” ever since it was published on the “Draw the Line” Deluxe Edition:
END OF PART 2.
PART 3 will be exploring the power of a song with its own story to change mine at the probably most important crossroads of my life so far …