Defending Ancient Springs

Defending Ancient Springs

by Jackie Leven
     
 

Jackie Leven's production and songwriting ambitions have been on a tear since the release of The Mystery of Love Is Greater Than the Mystery of Death, and have grown wilder with every release. Poetic experimentalism, sonic trickery, and musical juxtapositions that would never pan out inSee more details below

Overview

Jackie Leven's production and songwriting ambitions have been on a tear since the release of The Mystery of Love Is Greater Than the Mystery of Death, and have grown wilder with every release. Poetic experimentalism, sonic trickery, and musical juxtapositions that would never pan out in anybody else's work seem to flow like whiskey down a drunk's throat in his. On Defending Ancient Springs, he's taken his greatest chance. Formerly it was him covering "I Say a Little Prayer," a song firmly identified with two female singers (Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin), and even then he placed it at the end of the album. But here, he has taken an American classic and attempted a straight reading of it with the most unlikely of partners. The song is the Righteous Brothers' classic "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," which was also done justice by Hall and Oates (who were also from Philly). But Leven decides to cover it as his opening track with a slightly different arrangement, using a few Celtic folk instruments in the mix and singing it in duet with none other than Pere Ubu's David Thomas. And that they try it straight is the wildest thing -- is a work of genius or a sincere miss? After this rather strange beginning -- even for Leven, who once opened an album with a track called "Young Male Suicide Blessed by Invisible Woman" -- the album picks up where Night Lilies left off. Defending Ancient Springs seems plow the earth of memory more deeply, turning it into a ravine in places, or perhaps a grave. On the song "Single Father," Leven reiterates the experience of becoming a father at 15, the harshness of the times, and the heartbreak of losing his son to Social Services (boy and father turned out all right and apparently bear each other no grudges). Leven's Celtic blues open themselves wide on "Paris Blues," with Thomas guesting again. Sound effects sear themselves onto the lyrics in these songs, which stretch the large production values -- even by Leven's standards -- to the limit. The industrial sounds of train yards and foundries open the title track, and a strange opera song used on Fairytales for Hardmen, which gives way to some distorted electric guitar, deep bottom bass, and thunderous tom toms. The guitar crunch combined with the well-placed angling of a mandolin in the background anchor "Defending Ancient Springs" well to be the solid rock anthem it is. While sadness, grief, and pain are part and parcel of every record by Leven, so is the willingness to be forthright and the belief in love as its own reward. This is held true in the gorgeous "I Saw My Love Walk Into the Clouds," where Leven's protagonist challenges the listener to enrich his life: "Tell me about it/How you lost your heart/I want to hear you shout it/How it is you lost your dear heart." On the very next track the album moves from a curious investigation into memory and the various ways the human heart survives its trials to an avant pop/soul tune called "Hand Is Pale With Holy Kisses," a poem by Marina Tsvetayeva; it's a prayer that informs the rest of Leven's Defending Ancient Springs and pulls its varying themes, messages, and music styles together. Admittedly, this is Leven's most difficult album. Its power is spread out over the course of the record, portioned rather than put in your face, and its curious production and song selection make it difficult at first to hear the big picture. But it comes, and when it does, you will wonder how you ever missed it in the first place. Another winner.

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Product Details

Release Date:
03/24/2009
Label:
Imports
UPC:
0711297159127
catalogNumber:
849123
Rank:
215520

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Jackie Leven   Primary Artist,Guitar,Percussion,Vocals,Rendering
Peter Hammill   Guitar,Harmonium,Keyboards
David Thomas   Accordion,Vocals
Chris Cutler   Electric Drums
Graham Preskett   Mandolin,Violin
Henry Priestman   Hammond Organ
John Read   Bass Guitar
Andy Diagram   Trumpet
Bob Holman   Narrator
Deborah Greenwood   Vocals
Joe Shaw   Guitar,Electric Guitar
Steve Jackson   Percussion,Drums
Jack Kidney   Harp,Tenor Saxophone
Keith Moline   MIDI Guitar

Technical Credits

David Thomas   Composer,Producer
Barry Mann   Composer
Phil Spector   Composer
Robert Bly   Poetry Translation
Jay Burnett   Mastering
Jackie Leven   Composer,Producer,Author
Cynthia Weil   Composer
Jonathan Burnside   Author
Kabir   Author
Antonio Machado   Poetry
David Wrench   Engineer
Dids   drum programming
Rumi   Author

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