Posts Tagged ‘Am I Forgiven?’

(As noted in my first Essentials entry, this is an occasional series in which I spotlight albums that, in my estimation, everyone should experience at least once.)

Last night, I listened anew to one of my all-time favorite albums – the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was just released with a “3-D mono” mix orchestrated by the son of the late George Martin, Giles Martin. I first heard it in…late 1978, I imagine, though I can’t say for sure, and have returned to it hundreds, if not thousands, of times through the decades.

But is it, as the marketing campaign for this reissue claims, the greatest album of all time? According to numerous critic polls, the answer is yes – but some say no. Pet Sounds has edged it a time or two, I believe, as has – if my memory is correct – the Beatles’ own Revolver. It’s what happens when you solicit opinions from dozens or hundreds of people, as few of us are totally in sync on any matter, let alone music. And, too, there’s this: I honestly don’t know where it falls in the pantheon of my top picks. Aside from the not-so-arduous process I employ for my annual Album of the Year exercise, I’ve never contemplated all that long on where an album (or single, for that matter) falls in the scheme of things. Is it better than What’s Going On? Pet Sounds? Abbey Road? Dusty in Memphis, Late for the Sky or Born to Run? Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere? Bridge Over Troubled Water? Blue? Seasons of My Soul? How can one judge such things?

And even with the jeweled trophies I dole out to the winner and runners-up at my year-end Album of the Year fete, which is now in its 39th year (!), the reality – as I explain in the intro to my running tally – is that the honorees are as much a reflection of my mindset as anything. Which, really, is what makes a great album great: It speaks to and for us in ways that, often, we aren’t aware we want or need.

Such is the case with Seasons of My Soul, the 2010 debut album from British singer-songwriter and pop chanteuse Rumer, which would easily rank among my Top 10 Albums of All Time – if I had such a list, that is. It’s my most played album of the past seven years, easy; and likely one of my most played albums, ever. As I wrote in my first blog post (which first appeared on the Hatboro-Horsham Patch in February 2012), it’s “an atmospheric song cycle that’s teeming with soulful, knowing lyrics and melodies that wrap themselves around the heart, to say nothing of Rumer’s emotive, pitch-perfect vocals. It echoes the classic pop of Burt Bacharach and the Carpenters, yet moves past those inspirations by tackling themes not always associated with pop music. ‘On My Way Home,’ for example, is about the grieving process, and several other songs echo loss of one sort or another. ‘Come to Me High,’ on the other hand, is a lush, romantic ode, as is ‘Slow.’ The intoxicating ‘Take Me As I Am’ is about pushing people away when you need them the most. Add in … ‘Aretha’ and such songs as ‘Thankful’ and ‘Blackbird’ and, to my mind, the album is a must for everyone’s collection.”

Here she is in 2011 performing “On My Way Home” in Philadelphia:

I’ve written about the album here, as well, and elsewhere on this blog. To my ears, it’s a timeless song cycle that captures the nuances of life and love in a way that’s both personal and universal. It’s my definition of “essential,” in other words.

Here’s a YouTube playlist I created of the album as nature intended, aka in the order of the original British release. It features several of the original videos plus official and unofficial uploads of individual tracks:

The songs:

  1. Am I Forgiven?
  2. Come to Me High
  3. Slow
  4. Take Me As I Am
  5. Aretha
  6. Saving Grace
  7. Thankful
  8. Healer
  9. Blackbird
  10. On My Way Home
  11. Goodbye Girl

(Warner Bros. saw fit to re-arrange the order of the tracks for its download-only version when they released it in the U.S. in 2012. The songs remain brilliant, of course, but the album’s ebb-and-flow is dammed, at times.)

Rumer closes the show with "Thankful."

Rumer closes the show with “Thankful.”

I wake up early, yet generally don’t leave for work as soon as I should or could. There are occasional days when I’m out the door by 7am, true, but more often I dawdle around online while downing my coffee and holding Tyler, the Cat, on my lap.

By 7:45am, though, I’m almost always on the road and, on good days, make it to the office by 8:30am. On a bad day? Make it closer to 9am. The ride home is usually a little better, especially if I leave closer to 6:30pm than 6. Some nights, though, the commute is interminable – the other day it took 45 minutes to move two miles. The one saving grace? My Pono Player plugs into my car stereo via the aux jack. So whether I’m cruising or crawling, the music flows and, traffic be damned, I enjoy myself – well, as much as can be expected. I’d rather be listening at home.

Some days I click “shuffle” and enjoy the radio-like experience of not knowing which songs will float forth from the speakers. But, as often as not, I’m obsessing over one artist or album. This past week has been like that, as I’ve listened almost exclusively to Rumer, who we saw at the World Cafe Live on Tuesday, April 7th.

I’ve written before about how her music conjures the era when adult pop, soft rock and bell-bottom jeans were in fashion – or, at least, were an acknowledged fashion. Her voice is honey for the ears; and her songs balm for the soul. They mean something.

The night started, however, as many such forays do, with a stop-and-start ride into the city that took much longer than planned, primarily due to rush hour and a spritzing rain, which generally ensures that everyone, everywhere, goes slow. So we arrived 30 minutes late for our 6:30 reservation – eating upstairs this night, not downstairs, due to our front-row seats. (If our seats had been at a table downstairs, we could’ve eaten there.) Yet, there was an upside to the delay: the soundcheck of the Dove & the Wolf, who were performing upstairs later that night.

Never heard them before, but plan to again. In any event, we made it downstairs and to our seats just as the opening act, John Brandoli, began his solo set. He would’ve come across better with a band, I think, but did a fine job on his own. His cover of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman” was especially nice.

Rumer didn’t disappoint when she and her band hit the stage. She started with “Intro (Return of Blackbird),” the snippet that leads off her 2014 Into Colour album, but instead of expanding into the uptempo “Dangerous,” she sidestepped into “Am I Forgiven” from her 2010 debut, Seasons of My Soul – one of my Top 10 Albums of All Time, I hasten to add. It’s an amazing set.

I could, and likely should, write an in-depth review of everything that followed. But, really, me saying “It was great” after each song would get old. So, instead, I’ll post this, a picture of the night’s set-list…

IMG_4202

except, it’s not quite accurate. She substituted the pleading “Take Me as I Am” for the aching “On My Way Home.”

Another highlight: “I Can’t Go for That,” the Hall & Oates classic she sang with Daryl Hall on Live From Daryl’s House a few years back.

“Better Place,” a celebration of everyday people, was even sweeter and more transcendent than on album. I think of it as It’s a Wonderful Life set to song: “You make the world a better place,” she sings – and it’s true. Most of us do, but never realize it.

Her songs are imbued with kindness and a universal love even when, as she often does, she tackles atypical themes in her lyrics – depression, acceptance, fitting in, death and letting go. Her spirit is immense in song, just as it has been in the fleeting moments I’ve talked with her offstage. It would be easy, and must be tempting, to avoid fawning fans such as myself, yet after each of the three shows we’ve seen she’s stuck around, greeting people, signing CDs and set lists, posing for pictures, asking and answering questions, and always, always smiling.

The only downside to the night: our seats. Front row, center, is theoretically perfect, but the reality is that the monitors block part of one’s view; and the overhead lights (as seen in my videos) come close to causing blindness.

(And many thanks to my wife Diane for the perfect shot that tops this post.)