Half Hearted

Whether or not he fronts the ‘best heavy metal band‘, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull has proven repeatedly that his heart is in the write place. No; it’s not a typo, it’s just that some of us can put words to paper (or pixel) but very few can put their heart into those words.

Jethro Tull - AqualungMore famous for their enthusiastic rock tunes, it’s the seemingly endless stream of quieter works which keep me captivated after all these years. Very few of Anderson’s acoustic compositions receive the ubuquitous airplay of “Aqualung” or “Locomotive Breath” but it’s those songs which are a truer picture of the man. I had the opportunity see Ian in a very small private venue, and during the show he talked about how those tunes were written. I had asked him if, when recording “Wond’ring Aloud“, he was already planning “Wond’ring Again” from “Jethro Tull - Living in the PastLiving in the Past” as a sequel. His answer was, “An excellent question; one, in fact, which I have never been asked before. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the answer is.”

He did discuss the little acoustic works in general. Frequently arriving at the studio long before his bandmates, he would start by recording the vocals and acoustic guitar for a song he was writing, and then decide that it sounded fine just like that. Since their agreement stated that only those performers actually included in a recording got paid for it, he realized it was financially lucrative to record on his own if he got the chance. The rest of the band, of course, would have preferred to be involved (and to get paid) and when the rest of “Wond’ring Aloud” was finally recorded, it was as a group, not a solo.

Tull’s second album “Jethro Tull - Stand UpStand Up“, released in 1969, is a trove of lost gems. Besides such classics as “Bouree”, “New Day Yesterday”, and “Nothing Is Easy”, there are at least three heart-wrenching quiet numbers which deserve infinitely more attention than they’ve received. I’ll be addressing only one, with a promise to return to the others as soon as I can.

“Look Into The Sun” closes what used the be called the first side of the album. Although the electric guitar plays a role in the tune’s sound, it has a very strong acoustic feeling, and was engineering in a way that maintains it. Opening with both guitars, but leaning heavily on the acoustic, Ian’s voice provides the primary melody, making it seem vital to really listen to the words; words telling us that, no matter how much one person loves, it takes two people to be in love.

 I had waited for time to change her. The only change that came was over me.

And, later,

 It's not easy singing sad songs when you can sing the song to make me glad.

Like Jude Cole, Anderson has been happily married for a very long time, but his lyrics make it clear that he fully understands the anguish of love lost, or perhaps, love never found.

Comment: ‘Singles’ (Outside the Gates of Cerdes)

Rudy writes concerning my mention of Robin Trower:

“I thought I’d never meet another Robin Trower fan! I’ve got a half dozen of his (vinyl) albums. He’s one of many great Toronto acts I was exposed to on local radio, and if any of them made it to bigger fame, I didn’t really take note (no pun intended), I just kept listening.” — rudy

Fish Out of Water

DramaYes” has been around for over 30 years, releasing their eponymous first album in 1969. Of the five founding members, only two have remained with the band for their entire tenure: vocalist and lyricist Jon Anderson, (even Jon was missing once, supplanted by Trevor Horn of “The Buggles” on 1980’s release “Drama“), and bass player Chris Squire. But perhaps that’s because, without Squire, “Yes” literally wouldn’t be “Yes”, since he owns the name.

Squire is ocasionally listed as ‘lead’ bass player, as if there were more than one. Where most bassists are content to be part of the percussion section, thumping along with the drums, Squire, like Jack Bruce of “Cream” and Tony Levin of everywhere, plays leads, not just rhythym. “Yes” classics like “Roundabout” and “Starship Trooper” just wouldn’t have had the same presence without Squire’s unconventional style.

Squire’s musical training was classical, in a sense. As a boy, he joined the church choir in order to be with a friend who had joined. Almost as if foreordained by the gods of music, the new choirmaster from Cambridge was a perfect mentor for the young Squire; so talented that he ended up at Charles and Diana’s wedding. According to Squire, their church choir became the best in England, travelling from church to church giving concerts.

Classical training, an ear for complex harmonies and construction, and proximity to the divine, are all evident in Squire’s only real solo album, “Fish Out of WaterFish Out of Water.” Released in 1975, consisting of only five tracks, it is a master work that few rock albums can match. Squire is joined by fellow “Yes” alumni Bill Bruford and Patrick Moraz, along with Andrew Pryce Jackman, arranger for Barbra Streisand, Michael Crawford, and more, and Mel Collins, frequently seen with Dire Straits, Alan Parsons, King Crimson, Clannad, and a host of others.

While Squire’s voice works well in his harmonies with Anderson and Howe on “Yes” tunes, on “Fish Out of Water” we see the fruits of his choir training. There is a precision and control in his singing which isn’t obvious until you listen for it. Each of the songs on “Fish” has long complex lyrical sections which require exact timing and phrasing to work with the syncopations and rhythmic complexities of the music. Chris is dead on, every time. His singing has a subtlety which does’t force itself to the fore; it must be sought out and discovered.

Each song flows into the next, as in a classical composition. Well, except for the break between side one and side two, since it was originally released on vinyl. Second Winter(You see, kids, a long time ago, we didn’t have CDs, with all the music on one side. They made ‘records’ out of vinyl, and you had to stop halfway through the experience to turn it over and hear the other side. This resulted in anomalies like Johnny and Edgar Winter’s “Second Winter” having three sides. Honest it did.)

The songs:

  • “Hold Out Your Hand” – The opening notes of the album are the pipe organ of (I believe) St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The bass jumps in right away to establish dominance, driving both the melody and rhythym. Not quite a pop tune, this was still the obvious single, in my opinion. The pipe organ solo is a rare effect which lends an ethereal air seconded by the strings. It flows without pause into
  • “You By My Side” – A beautiful love song, both lyrically and musically. The simplest of the album’s tunes. If “Hold Out Your Hand” was the obvious single, this should have been the follow up.
     "Here am I dreaming  I stand by myself Look and it's easy to see, that, I'm not the only one reaching for a new kind of wealth Reaching with nothing to hide And you by my side"
  • “Silently Falling” – Flutes, oboes, strings; then a single flute, trickling down to a pool below, then lilting back up to Chris’s voice. An eleven minute long work, it gradually turns from classical to a very “Yes” sounding prog rock tune. After establishing the new ‘rock’ theme, everything begins to wind up to a frenzy of organ, piano, bass, and drums; faster and faster, until suddenly – silence. Now, piano and horns, softly supporting Squire’s quiet voice, leading us through a reprise of the opening theme and into a fusion of the two themes. “Falling” depends much on the piano for its feel. It doesn’t sound like a complex piece in spite of its length and the varying thematic segments. One of only two tracks to actually fade out at the end.
  • “Lucky Seven” – Side Two opens with a simple keyboard intro, then a syncopated dance between Squire’s bass and Bruford’s drums. Next, Mel’s sax introduces one of the two themes, and almost immediately Chris’s voice introduces the other. The complex rhythym continues throughout the song. The lead instrument is the bass; not the sax, and not the vocals. Snapping, popping, fluttering in a tremolo the likes of which few bassists could muster, it is powerful even in the segments where it falls silent. Subtle punctuation by a real string section adds a surreal feeling. Finally, near the end, we’re treated to a writhing sax solo by Collins. Oddly, this complex piece was the single chosen for glory and renown by the record label. This ain’t top 40 pop.
  • “Safe (Canon Song)” – On a stage set by the piano, flute and orchestra join Squire’s voice in a fifteen-minute long piece which is more classical than rock. The most difficult vocal lines of the album, the music and vocals don’t always seem to be going the same direction, but always end up at the same destination. Building, then easing, building again, then moving off in a new direction; it is a marvelous blending of chamber music and progressive rock. After all, didn’t prog rock always want to be chamber music when it grew up? In the end, it builds to a large climax of horns, piano, then the full orchestra to a grand finale. But not quite the finale; the final minute and a half of the album is extremely quiet and very unusual bass playing; it sounds as if it’s been filtered though a Leslie organ amp, the way Jimmy Vaughan does his steel guitar sometimes. Sliding, whispering, a tiny, one-instrument fanfare, and then, finally, silence.

And if I ever grow up, I want to be Chris Squire. At the very least, I dream of one day creating a musical effort as intellectually stimulating and musically fulfilling as “Fish Out of Water.”

On and On About La Jolla

La Jolla is one of the most beautiful places on earth. A suburb of San Diego, California, it occupies a small coastal plain between a sharp knife of hills and the Pacific Ocean. It has a small town feel to it; only about a mile wide and a few miles long, you can drive through in minutes. But I could spend the rest of my life there and never miss the rest of the world. Some of the most breathtaking coastline in the world, stunning architecture, fabulous restaurants, a modicum of seclusion from the hustle of the ‘real’ city; it’s nearly perfect.

La Jolla was almost the subject of Stephen Bishop’s preciously non-tragic non-love song “On and On” as well.

The local ‘old rock’ station, KGB, used to do a benefit every year. Local bands would submit tapes of tunes and the 10 best would be compiled in that year’s ‘Home Grown’ album. They range from interesting to spectacular. Ron Satterfield, who later formed Checkfield, appeared often. (Ron’s ‘Light of the City’ from ‘Home Grown IV’ is one of my 10 favorite songs of all time; too bad it’s just not available anywhere but used vinyl.)

Bishop, born in San Diego in 1951, allegedly submitted his tune (with the opening line ‘Down in La Jolla’ instead of ‘Down in Jamaica’) on the wrong format tape, and was disqualified without even getting a listen. That’s okay; it probably deserved a wider audience than the Home Grown albums got.

La Jolla is also host to the annual Raymond Chandler writing contest. Hosted by the La Jolla Chamber of Commerce, submissions of short stories in Chandler’s style or in parody of his style are awarded small cash prizes.

I always wondered why all the submissions were parodies. I assumed it was because it was easier than writing a serious piece in Chandler’s style. When I tried to submit a vignette I wrote while I was an unemployed construcion worker, I found out otherwise: all submissions become the property of the La Jolla C of C. Why would I write something I really cared about and then give it away?

Still unpublished except on the web, my vignette, “Simplicity Itself” was written in about 10 minutes, and hasn’t change a word since the night I awoke from a sound sleep with it fully formed in my head. I recommend listening to Dire Strait‘s song “On Every Street” while reading it.

California Stars

I spent the evening on the back patio Sunday, looking at the stars (and a few planets.) Like rudy says, the grandeur of the universe sure puts our petty problems in perspective. It’s nice to live at the back side of town, near an estuary and the ocean, where the city lights don’t do as much damage to stargazing.

Mermaid AvenueAnother batch of California stars are addressed by Wilco and Billy Bragg on “Mermaid Avenue“, an album of previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie songs. Put to music by Bragg, Jeff Tweedy, and Jay Bennett in various combinations, the albums (volume II was released in 2000) are a combination of the folk songs we’d expect from Woody, and the folk/rock/punk we’d expect from Bragg and Wilco.

Mermaid Avenue“California Stars” has unusually sensitive lyrics compared to much of Guthrie’s catalog; beautifully poetic. The music, in this case by Bennett and Tweedy, is more traditional. Mostly acoustic, it also includes some slide work by bluesman Corey Harris which is reminiscent of Tweedy’s days as a nephew of Uncle Tupelo. Rolling Stone did a nice writeup of the first album when it was released, including some background information and comments from the band.

Let’s hope Nora Guthrie continues to find voices for her father’s unrecorded lyrics. Like a Beatles reunion or finding a lost Gilbert and Sullivan opera, resurrecting Woody’s words is a music lover’s dream come true.

A View of Jude Cole

A View from 3rd StreetJude Cole writes lyrics that satisfy me emotionally. While he claims to be just another happy guy, he has an intuitive grasp of misery. When you feel the need to get teary-eyed, Cole can do the trick as well as any.

His album “” is a great blend of solid rock tunes and heart-wrenching ballads. Backed by Jeff Porcaro and Leland Sklar (among others) Cole turns in an impressive performance as a guitarist as well as a lyricist and singer.

  • “Hallowed Ground” – In a snappy electric tune, we’re introduced right away to so many aspects of the performer – lyrics which actually qualify as poetry; vocals unpretentious but heartfelt; multiple layers of guitars, acoustic, electric, slide; all wrapped around the feeling that no matter how badly you want it, you can never go back.
  • “Baby, It’s Tonight” – One of only two of Cole’s songs I’ve ever heard on the radio, a stronger keyboard influence (provided by Dave Tyson, occasional Doobie Brother) implies a quieter tune, but the chorus dispels any illusions of a bland pop tune. Excellent engineering gives depth by overlaying vocals on echoed vocals and other subtle effects. The lyrics could easily be taken as a sexual advance, but the rest of the album, and in fact, Cole’s body of work, suggests something less physical, more emotional.
  • “House Full Of Reasons” – With a piano constantly struggling for attention, Jude sings about the torture of living somewhere he’s no longer loved. The lyrics paint a painful picture of the little things that seem so important when the big things go wrong.
  • “Get Me Through The Night” – We’re so conditioned to expect the lowest common denominator from modern musicians that it’s easy to dismiss a song with a title like this without realizing that, rather than a come-on in the local bar, it’s a prayer for strength. Initially strongly acoustic, the chorus is shouted over a handful of electric guitars. The tune finishes with a guitar solo, repeated chorus, and one final scream of agony.
  • “Time For Letting Go” – About how hard it is to accept an unpleasant reality. “It’s time for letting go, we can’t hide what we both know.” A simple straightforward tune, Jude’s singing (both lead and multitrack backing vocals) carry it without the need for fancy musicianship.
  • “Stranger To Myself” – A glimpse at a darker side of the man, ‘Stranger to Myself’ is about obsessive love (if it can be called that); an overwhelming need to possess someone regardless of the consequences. More edge than most of Cole’s songs, with an interesting guitar solo of lower notes instead of the usual high-pitched squeals we’ve come to expect from rock guitarists.
  • “This Time It’s Us” – An a capella intro softens this piece about realizing it can happen to us. Lyrical despair without respite; a warmup to “Compared to Nothing.”
  • “Heart Of Blues” – A blues-rock howler Stevie Ray or Eric could be proud of. Riveting acoustic guitar and a tapping foot are joined by Jude’s voice: “Well I’m tired of losing you; I’m so tired of losing you. The way you come and go, you must be wearing out your shoes!” Another acoustic guitar, snapping fingers, and more of the multilayered vocals we’ve begun to expect. The second verse adds drums and electric guitars, but it’s the slide guitar solo that makes the song truly memorable. Short and punchy, it starts with a few short sweeps up and down the neck of the guitar, a few runs sideways across it, some amazing vibrato and a final run all the way down to the bottom. Makes my hands sweat just to listen to it. Final verse, another solo, fade to black.
  • “Compared To Nothing” – This time, the piano establishes early dominance and never gives in. A slow sad ballad, Jude is at his most miserable, singing about how trivial all those big problems seem now, when they’re compared to what he’s got left – nothing. In spite of a tasty guitar solo, I still think of it as a piano song. “I want to wake up in the morning, above these lonely streets, and feel you lying next to me.” It’s a special skill to wring so much emotion out of such simple lyrics.
  • “Prove Me Wrong” – Another prayer, but a defiant one. Very unconventional drum rhythms drive the tune, making it seem harder than it really is. Excellent use of that multilayered vocal thing he does so well.

Falling HomeI Don't Know Why I Act This WayCole recently released a fifth album, “Falling Home” and achieved a bit of commercial success with “Speed of Life” from his fourth album “I Don’t Know Why I Act This Way” which we’ll spend some time with one day.

Singles

Trivia question: the drummer on Steve Miller’s “My Dark Hour” is listed in the credits as ‘Paul Ramon'; what’s his real name?

Hover here for one hint

Another hint

Answer


Some random thoughts regarding the tunes I listened to on my way to work today:

  • Hush” – Deep Purple – Jon Lord once said, “I think my organ playing has something to do with the sound of the band.” In stand-up comedy, we call this ‘humor by understatement.’ While many of the band members were extremely talented it is Lord’s performances on a Hammond B3 organ which typify this band’s sound for me.
  • Quinn the Eskimo” – Manfred Mann – No, not the wimpy studio version (and please, for your own sake, avoid Dylan’s original; a classic example of bad arranging.) Side two (did I say that? well, on vinyl, it was side two!) has three tracks, two of them live, which show what a powerful rock band this was. The closing track is a huge keyboard extravaganza. After the opening verses, the pace becomes frenetic as drums, guitar and keyboards all try to out-intense each other. Chris Slade should have stayed with the band. His drumming is almost machine-like in its precision, but there’s too much feeling to ever mistake it for anything electronic.
  • “I Still Miss Someone” – Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, and the Foggy Mountain Boys – Lester Flatt was a great singer. No, his voice isn’t polished and refined, he doesn’t reach up to those impressive high notes; instead, he made simple tunes about human emotions sound genuine. When Lester was happy, you were happy; when he sang a sad song, you cried. While Earl’s banjo was the flashy partner, Lester’s voice is what I miss.
  • Commercial music?
    • “Rock and Roll” – Led Zeppelin – I was mystified by the brouhaha over the band allowing Cadillac to use this song in their commercials. Let me see; huge commercial conglomerate wants to pay aging rock stars an annuity every time one of their commercials runs. Am I missing the moral dilemma? I’ve been muting commercials since the advent of the remote control, but I listen to this one. Loud.
    • “Lust for Life” – Iggy Pop – Sorry; can’t even remember the product or service. Maybe Royal Carribean cruises? Had you told me 25 years ago that this pounding irresponsible tune by a guy considered a freak (even in an era of freaks) would be played on commercial television to augment the selling abilities of the medium, I would have laughed. But then, I still do, every single time I hear this song.
       "I've been hurting since I bought the gimmick About something called love; Yeah, something called love. Well, that's like hypnotizing chickens."
  • “(Outside the Gates of) Cerdes” – Procol Harum – Robin Trower occasionally got ahold of Keith Reid’s lyrics before Gary Brooker got to them. While Brooker tended toward the beautifully orchestrated pieces, Trower is a bluesman. “Cerdes” opens with a bass line I just can’t resist, and includes some fine guitar work by Trower. As usual, Reid’s lyrics hover somewhere between confusing and bizzare.

Constructing a Tangent to a Bubble

Not feeling any music today. Instead, I’ll ramble about one of the most influential books in my life and see if anything musical comes from it.

My father’s stories were one of the highlights of my youth. His adventures growing up in a quiet Wisconsin valley (he and his brothers built a working glider, in which the youngest of them made a successful flight from the highest hill around – only to fly through the living room of a small travel trailer parked at the bottom); his life in the Air Force, where he recalled the terror of flying below the clouds in the Bering Strait, then climbing up to land on pack ice to rescue someone; even the more pedestrian work in the local creamery; his whole life was the stuff of his stories. I truly believe he found everything fascinating.

Looking back, a really smart kid would have jumped at such a father’s suggestion that the best adventure book ever written was “The Royal Road to RomanceThe Royal Road to Romance” by one Richard Halliburton. My brother and I weren’t to be fooled, though. We sure weren’t reading any book with the word ‘romance’ in the title! In his usual laissez faire fashion, he let the matter rest until one of us discovered on our own that, back in the 20s when the book was written, ‘romance’ meant adventure! That sold us.

In the late 20s, young Richard Halliburton fled his boring classes at Princeton to go out into the world in search of adventure. Just as a warm-up exercise, he and a friend, with no climbing experience whatsoever, climbed the Matterhorn.

During his trek around the globe, Halliburton spent the night on the grounds of the Taj Mahal (a capital offense for a Christian in those days) during which he swam in one of the sacred lily pools (a capital offense for anyone.) Years later, when someone challenged the authenticity of his published account of the incident, he returned with photographic equipment and repeated the offense in front of his camera.

Unable to resist the possibility of seeing the stars from the top of Gibraltar, he stayed inside the grounds of the British fortress overnight after spending the day taking pictures of the highly secure establishment. He was robbed by pirates on a ferry from Macao and thought it “a jolly adventure”; he was the first foreigner to ever climb Fujiyama in the winter. He climbed the Himalayas to the province of Ladakh in Kashmir, just because he couldn’t believe the reports of the practice of polyandry – the shortage of women in the village of Lamayuru had led to the practice of a woman marrying, not one man, but a man and all his brothers.

Halliburton was likely certifiably insane. Who else would climb Olympus and spend the night on the top in a thunderstorm? Who else would jump into a 70-foot deep well in Mexico, just to relive the experience of ancient human sacrifice? Who but a crazy man would buy an airplane, hire a pilot, and set out across the desert to Timbuktu without any real hope of getting there?

Whatever his mental state, Halliburton fit more life into his few short years than most of us could fit into a hundred years. At the age of 39, while attempting to sail a Chinese junk from Hong Kong to San Francisco, Halliburton disappeared during a storm.

Are 40 years of Halliburton’s lifestyle worth as much as 80 years gathering dust? I’ve already outlived Richard by 10%. It must be time for something.

One song I distinctly remembering listening to while reading “The Royal Road” as a teen was “South Side of the Sky” from the Yes album “Fragile by YesFragile.” While so many of their longer tunes are more akin to orchestral works than hard-edged rock, two-thirds of “South Side of the Sky” couldn’t be classified as anything but rock. Hard driving, blues-based; making excellent use of Chris Squire’s heavy bass, Bill Bruford’s sharp drumming style, and Steve Howe’s guitar. The middle third, though, is a very pensive piano piece, which eventually grows to include muliple layers of vocals, and finally the whole band, in a melody and rhythm completely different from, but complimentary to, the primary tune.

The lyrics, about walking into a blizzard in the mountains, and accepting the inevitablility of death, when combined with the almost peculiar middle bars, have given rise to an idea for a science fiction movie in my head. If anyone’s got Harrison Ford’s number, I’d be glad to discuss it.

Paris or Alaska?

Jimmy Buffett's 'Boats Beaches Bars & Ballads'Jimmy Buffett‘s music was one of the links between my father and I. At least, I’ve always felt that way, until I remember that my father probably only heard one of Jimmy’s tunes his entire life. Funny how your memory adjusts to your beliefs.

My father, like the singer of “A Pirate Looks at 40″ really was a pirate two hundred years too late. He never quite adapted to a normal 9-5 workaday world. Before my parents married, he’d been in the Air Force, stationed in Alaska. He made no secret of his dream to go back to one particular valley, build a cabin, and live out his days in peace.

But like the singer of “He Went to Paris”, and in fact, like so many of us, he put his dreams on hold. Just until the kids were older. Just until the kids were grown. Just until mom was ready. Ten years, then twenty, finally, thirty years went by, the dream unfulfilled; and then, it was too late.

Although I identify strongly with the hopeless romantic in some of Jimmy’s tunes (“Come Monday”, “Stars Fell on Alabama”) and with the delirium of a beautiful daughter (“Little Miss Magic”) I’ve never quite achieved pirate status. But like my father, I’ve put off too many dreams for far too long.

So now the question is, where first – Paris or Alaska?

If you’re looking for a good introduction to Jimmy Buffett, the anthology ‘Boats Beaches Bars & Ballads‘ provides a pretty good overview of the man’s work. If you’d like to try a smaller bite first, the album that hits all the right spots with me is ‘Jimmy Buffet's 'A1A'A1A.’ “A Pirate Looks at 40″, “Life is Just a Tire Swing” (with that title, how can it miss?), “Tin Cup Chalice”, about actually fulfilling some dreams, and John Sebastian’s moving ode to lost time, “Stories We Could Tell.” More than any other song, it makes me regret the times not spent together.

 "Oh, the stories we could tell  And before we have to say that last farewell I wish that we could sit upon a bed in some hotel  And listen to the stories we could tell"

32 Down

I‘m a die-hard fan of the TV series “Due South” starring Paul Gross. Most fans of the show are aware that Gross is also an accomplished musician, even providing some of the music which always played such an important role in every episode. It was, for instance, the first place I heard Sarah McLachlan‘s “Possession“, long before I heard it on the radio.

For the three of you who’ve never seen it, the series is about a Canadian Mountie, Benton Fraser, who first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of his father, and for reasons that don’t need exploring at this juncture, remained, attached as liaison with the Canadian Consulate.

The episode “Mountie on the Bounty” featured a tune (written by Gross and Jay Semko, peformed by Gross and frequent musical partner David Keeley) called “Due South Soundtrack Volume IIRobert MacKenzie.” A heavily Celtic influenced blues-rock ballad, it tells the fictitious story of the wreck of the “Robert MacKenzie“, a coal freighter lost in Lake Superior. (The real Robert MacKenzie was an iron barque built in Glasgow in 1860 and sunk off Jutland in 1903.)

First, the pipes; bagpipes, and rolling drums, fading. Abruptly, a chorus of sailors shouts “32 down on the Robert MacKenzie!” and we’re off. Pounding drums, crunching electric guitars and bass, then Paul’s voice begins the story. Every pause is punctuated by the bagpipes and a tin whistle which never really goes away. It’s hard not to sing along with the simple infectious chorus:

 "Steel boats, iron men 32 down on the Robert MacKenzie"

Gross’s voice has an interesting bluesy sound which reminds me of my father’s singing; or perhaps, reminds me of Gordon Lightfoot’s earliest work. Unlike many blues rock tunes, the lyrics are clearly understandable as long as one has a map depicting places like Keweenaw Point and Bit Griese Bay. After a nicely handled false ending, replete with the clash of steel being crushed in the waves, we’re treated to a rousing finale worthy of such a momentous event.

It has been said that Gross originally wanted to use Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” for the episode, but for reasons that don’t need exploring at this juncture, decided not to go through the effort necessary to get permission and wrote “Robert MacKenzie” instead. Not bad for a last minute subsitute. Don’t tell Gord I like Paul’s tune better, although Lightfoot’s tune tells a true story rather than being a work of fiction.

On the “Due South” soundtrack volume II (there is also, not surprisingly, a Due South Soundtrack Volume Ivolume I; both are filled with excellent music, unknown tracks by big names, others by people less famous) this track concludes with a bit of dialog not uncommon in this quirky series:

(It helps to picture Gross, tall and ramrod straight in his bright red Mountie uniform.)

Old woman’s voice: “So what’s your story? You work in a circus?”

Fraser: “Uh, no ma’am. Royal Candian Mounted Police. I first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of my father, and for reasons that don’t need exploring at this juncture, I’ve remained, attached as liaison with the Canadian Consulate.”

Old woman: (in a very matter-of-fact, this-happens-every-day tone of voice): “Don’t take anything.”

Fraser: (in the same tone): “Understood.”

Gross recently wrote, directed, and starred in what is called ‘an outrageously Canadian romantic comedy’ called “Men With Brooms.” I won’t even bother to explain; I’ll just hope it’s released eventually somewhere closer than Toronto. It looks like a good time.