Jackie Leven
 
 
New studio album "OH WHAT A BLOW THAT PHANTOM DEALT ME!"
Sir Vincent Lone “Songs For Lonely Americans”
JACKIE LEVEN New studio album “Elegy For Johnny Cash”
JACKIE LEVEN “SHINING BROTHER SHINING SISTER”
 
 
 
 
JACKIE LEVEN
New studio album
"OH WHAT A BLOW THAT PHANTOM DEALT ME!"
With contributions from JOHNNY DOWD, LEON HUNT and D.J. UNFIT FOR WORK

Irish Release 16th February 2007 on Cooking Vinyl

From ancient psychedelic blues to post-modern Tex Mex, stopping off en route to allow America’s toughest singer, Johnny Dowd to narrate a horror story (‘The Skaters’) about a man killing a woman by a river, Jackie Leven’s new album, Oh What A Blow That Phantom Dealt Me! finds him moving deeper into mysterious emotional territory …

Kindred spirit Johnny Dowd, as well as narrating ‘The Skaters’, contributes counterpoint vocals on two other songs – ‘One Man One Guitar’ and ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’. The two men played a show together in March 2006 in the Austrian alpine town of Kufstein, and after a long evening partaking of Johnny’s bottle of home-made Czechoslovakian absinthe (“the real stuff”- Johnny) agreed to collaborate on disc.

Leon Hunt is one of the UK’s finest banjo players whose solo albums and work with the band Daily Planet have long been admired by Jackie. Says Jackie, “I asked Leon if he could provide texture and understatement, rather than just be flashy, and I love what he played – for instance, the pathos he provides on ‘Here Come The Urban Ravens’ is simply perfect.”

D.J. Unfit For Work provides a guest track at the end of the album, ‘Mellow My Madness’, on which Jackie plays no part. Real name Phil Murphy, singer songwriter D.J was previously known for his superb mid ‘80’s band The Regular Guys, and this track was written, sung, performed and recorded in his London flat. Both Jackie and D.J. have strong links with the London-based pressure group Mad Pride who, as well as releasing excellent records on their own label, exist primarily to promote civil liberties as they pertain to mental health service users. Says Jackie, “The album has a very dark end and D.J.’s beautiful song has a nobility and grace under pressure to which most songwriters can only aspire.”

The album was co-produced by Jackie and engineer David Wrench mainly at Bryn Derwen Studio in Snowdonia, Wales, UK, with additional recording at Leon Hunt’s studio in Bath, England, UK. However, the vocals on the slower songs are first takes which were sung by Jackie in The Ukrainian Cathedral Of The Holy Family In Exile in central London, UK.

The song ‘The Silver In Her Crucifix’ is a homage to Jackie’s all time favourite singer the late Judee Sill, and ‘Here Come The Urban Ravens’ is a homage to the late and much loved Kevin Coyne.

Last word from Jackie: “The bluesy elements (of the songs) are actually more acid than psychedelic, more content than style: although I haven’t taken acid for years I am occasionally overwhelmed by flashbacks – for instance, every time I look at a patterned carpet I see Mickey Mouse on horseback in the style of a medieval knight. On ‘The Long Hard Field’ I asked (engineer) David Wrench to construct a Tex Mex percussion track. When I came back and he played it to me I said ‘it’s not very Tex Mex is it?’”

“It’s post-modern Tex Mex” he replied.

Accompanying Notes for
“OH WHAT A BLOW THAT PHANTOM DEALT ME”

ONE MAN ONE GUITAR

‘There’s a woman on the snowline selling sex - she got a little tartan skirt and a bottle of Beck’s’

Driving on tour in early 2006, from Dresden to Vienna via Czechoslovakia, we came down a long mountain pass towards one of the most godforsaken towns I have ever seen – and I’ve been to Barry … As we descended via hairpin bends, I glanced to the right and saw a glamorous coloured woman standing in a clearing of pine trees, just where the snow ended, wearing a tartan skirt (MacDonald dress tartan) and holding a bottle of Beck’s beer.

‘Did you see that?’ I said to fellow traveller Michael Cosgrave – ‘why would that woman be standing there?’

‘Yes I saw her’ said Michael – ‘but look at this’…

Looking ahead I saw that the entire town seemed to be lining the street in billowing snow, clearly selling sex, and also that most of the buildings were brothels with names like ‘Hotel California – Best Massage’. Old men and women, people in wheelchairs, and very young teenagers, all peered into our tour bus, beckoning us to stop and go with them. It was one of the saddest and most disturbing places imaginable.

‘Do you want to stop?’ asked Thomas our tour manager. We didn’t.

I’VE BEEN EVERYWHERE

In 2006 me and Johnny Dowd played a show together in Kufstein, a beautiful town in the Austrian Alps. In the hotel bar afterwards we were carrying on drinking, having finished Johnny’s bottle of home made over-strength Czechoslovakian absinthe. A German businessman got talking to us, and hearing that I played in Germany a lot, asked me where I’d played. I named a few places, and the man started asking me about other places – ‘Have you been to Wuppertal?’ I’d say yes, and Johnny would drawl ‘he’s been EVERYWHERE!’

‘Have you been to Baden Baden?’ – ‘He’s been EVERYWHERE!’

This went on for a long time, until suddenly I heard myself breaking into song with the old American favourite ‘I’ve been everywhere man, breathed that mountain air man’ etc. A great recording idea was born…

THE SILVER IN HER CRUCIFIX

My homage to the late Judee Sill, written in cold harbour bars in the city of Portsmouth – just me and a few hung-over marines standing round a fruit machine.

HERE COME THE URBAN RAVENS

My homage to Kevin Coyne – I was asked to sing a Kevin Coyne song for a tribute album, but asked if I could write a song about Kevin instead. I then got stuck as to how to start until I read in the paper about how ravens, having become nearly extinct in the UK, were making a big comeback, and how these previously shy Moorland birds were now to be seen looking through people’s rubbish bins in many cities. My idea is that the spirit of Kevin Coyne has entered raven genetic stock and made this possible for them. You may think this a little unlikely, but the more you consider it…

THE SKATERS

This is a prose poem from the book ‘Still Another Pelican in the Breadbasket’ by the late Kenneth Patchen, a great American writer, and a huge influence upon me. (His masterpiece – ‘The Journal of Albion Moonlight’.) I hear it as a twisted confession to murder by a man who is slipping away from sanity even as he speaks. As far as I’m aware, Patchen never qualified this piece of writing, so this is only my dark take on it. When I sent it to Johnny, he wrote back – ‘it’s gonna be hard’. For me it’s just a stunning performance and one of the best things to ever come on to my records.

MELLOW MY MADNESS

I’ve developed a happy association with Mad Pride, a London based organisation which campaigns on behalf of people with mental health issues (Kevin Coyne is their kind of patron saint). Lots of the music coming out of this movement is brilliant, though off-kilter. My favourite artist in their stable is D.J. Unfit for Work, and this track, recorded by D.J. at home acts a suitable coda to the album, following, as it does The Skaters. The song says you can live successfully on the borderline in the face of deep loss as long as people still care about you unconditionally - so different from the stark fate of the man (and the woman, if she ever existed) in The Skaters.

 
 
 
 

Jackie Leven's alter ego SIR VINCENT LONE Releases "debut" Album "Songs For Lonely Americans"

Sir Vincent Lone
“Songs For Lonely Americans”
Released 11th September 2006
On Cooking Vinyl Records

A MESSAGE FROM JACKIE LEVEN:

Two years ago I noticed that I was writing a lot more songs that I was ever going to record and get released, especially in these times where you can only release one studio album every eighteen months. As I am a writer of genius, this began to worry me more and more. So I went to see my Cooking Vinyl boss, Martin Goldschmidt, to ask him if I could make more records. He said no. I said to him 'look, The Beatles once released four albums in one year, and nobody said to them, hey that's too many records in one year'.Martin said 'Jackie, this is not 1967 and you are not The Beatles'. We talked some more and we agreed that I could make records under a different name - that name is Sir Vincent Lone.

When I started choosing songs for my Vince record, I began to notice that Vince was not like Jackie - he was quite a different kind of guy, and, somehow, he had a lot more freedom than Jackie - freedom to record very simply at times, and freedom to talk about other kinds of things.

In one song, The War Crimes Of Ariel Sharon, Vince is thinking about something very small that might have happened in the childhood of Ariel Sharon - maybe he was sitting in a village square, and he could hear an old Palestinian woman weeping, and something in the sadness made his heart go hard forever. This is the way Vince thinks. Vince will be releasing more records as time goes by - his favourite song on this record is Moscow Train written on a train journey from Berlin to St Petersburg with Bob Dylan many years ago. Bob told Vince that there was one train in the world that he did not like and that was the underground train in Moscow. When Vince asked him why this was, Bob said 'the last time I was on the Moscow train, there was a woman with closed eyes, but she was watching me'. And this gave Vince his idea for the song....
But all Vince's songs have a story - I hope you like them!

JACKIE LEVEN
July 2006

 
 
 
 
JACKIE LEVEN
New studio album “Elegy For Johnny Cash” (Cooking Vinyl)
Irish Release 9th September 2005
 
Recorded in BEIRUT, LEBANON, mixed in BETHESDA, WALES
with musicians and singers from - LEBANON, GREECE, U.S.A.,NORTHERN IRELAND, IRELAND, ENGLAND, WALES, SCOTLAND.

“Elegy For Johnny Cash” is a different kind of studio album from Jackie Leven, containing elements of Americana, Hip-Hop, and a picking of bright shiny objects from many other musical genres, all wrapped up in great and unique style by the master musician that is Jackie Leven.

The title track, “Elegy For Johnny Cash” comes from Jackie's appreciation of the beautiful last records of Johnny Cash, as recorded by Rick Rubin. Says Jackie, 'I admired the artist Johnny Cash but did not particularly engage with him until I heard these fantastic recordings on which he is able to take any song and sing it with such beauty and courage that it breaks your heart. My song, “Elegy”, which I sing as if I was Johnny Cash, imagines his last singing performance as he passes from this world to the next, and he gives us one last picture of his life'.

On the album, this song is followed by a bravura performance from Robert Fisher of Willard Grant Conspiracy who also takes on the persona of Johnny Cash to sing a song of Jackie's - The Law Of Tide.

Although the album contains bass, synthesizers, percussion, viola and accordian played by the Lebanese and Greek musicians, the record is NOT a 'world' album. These musicians mainly play in western stylings, although nobody in the West could possibly play the viola solos of Greek musician Mixalis Kataxanis which appear on “Elegy For Johnny Cash” and “No Honour In This Love”.

Why Beirut? Late last year, after the funeral of his mother, Jackie was asked by long-time family friends to sing at a world gathering of Roma singers at a concert exclusively for Roma people, to the south east of Beirut. A Romany himself, Jackie was honoured to be asked, and went there to sing in December. Jackie's engineer, David Wrench suggested that, as Jackie would be in Lebanon anyway, why not record there with some of the musicians he would be meeting? Jackie had already decided to work with two of his long-standing Greek musician friends, and so the project came into being.

Other highlights on an outstanding record include the hip-hop track “All The Rage” which includes some serious rapping by Jackie's old friend, black Ulsterman Martin Okasili.

The album was produced by Jackie and engineer David Wrench. David currently has his own well received album on release from Storm records, “The Atomic World Of Tomorrow”.

The cover for “Elegy” is a painting by Munster-based German artist and friend of Jackie's, Mirjam Ruckert.

SOME NOTES ON THE SONGS (from Jackie)

MUSEUM OF CHILDHOOD: Sugar Ray Leonard (USA) and Roberto Duran (Mexico) were two of the outstanding boxers of their time (1970s/1980s). They fought each other twice for the world title at their weight. In the first fight Sugar Ray Leonard, a cultured, positively academic boxer was stung by taunts that he hid behind technique and no real 'heart'. He abandoned his superior technique and attempted to match Roberto Duran's street fighting style. He lost narrowly to Duran but gained universal respect for his undoubted courage.

In the second fight, Leonard returned to his true style, and in the first few rounds it became clear he was the likely winner. Duran, the epitome of a never-say-die warrior amazed the watching world by stopping fighting in the middle of a round and simply turning to walk to his corner. It took Leonard a long moment to understand that Duran had abandoned the fight. As Leonard then celebrated, Duran sat in his corner and smiled quietly at him, and I will never forget the match commentator on TV saying - 'and Roberto Duran looks like a man who just wants to go home.'

ELEGY FOR JOHNNY CASH -
Elegiac more than a true elegy, i wanted to write one last song for Johnny Cash to sing and for the song to speak of the whole of his life. This sprang from my complete respect for the last recordings he made with Rick Rubin. There was a beautiful moment in recording when Mixalis Kataxanis, the Greek 'Rembetiko' style viola player felt he could not play on the song as its genre was so far removed from his playing experience, and further, he did not understand who Johnny Cash was. I showed him the towering video of Johnny Cash singing 'HURT'. At the end, he just nodded and returned to the studio to play...

THE LAW OF TIDE - I saw this song as an emotional partner to ELEGY. I sang a snatch of it during a soundcheck to Robert Fisher 'in the style of Johnny Cash' and he agreed to sing the whole song on the album - a scary performance.

ALL THE RAGE - Another song of mine about the fading men of the heavy industrial age - Ian Rankin and me were talking to some of these old guys in a bar in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland earlier this year. The song is set in the bars of Kirkcaldy and i knew that Martin Okasili would bring the right blend of bite and suppressed venom to the rap sections.

VIBRATION WHITE FINGER - A form of industrial injury sustained through vibrational repetition, which kills your hands.

KING OF THE BARLEY - The 'king of the barley' is a kind of Scots loner man who you see in city bars in England, especially in London. He stands alone, drinking whisky and talks to no-one, staring straight ahead. If you attempt to talk to him, especially if you try to 'bond' with him as a fellow Scot, he will give you 'five seconds to fuck off - one...'. Other, more sociable Scots guys laugh discreetly at such a man, and say to each other - 'he's the king of the barley'.

THE SINGERS AND PLAYERS
LEBANON

Mohammed Laroud - bass guitar / Reza Almieri - percussion and drum/percussion programming / Sami Shakinsta - synthesizers
GREECE
Spiridon Anemogiannis – accordion / Mixalis Kataxanis - viola
USA
Robert Fisher - vocals tracks 4 and 12
SCOTLAND
Jackie Leven - vocals, acoustic and electric guitars
NORTHERN IRELAND
Martin Okasili - vocals tracks 5 and 10
IRELAND
Kevin Foster - additional bass guitar
WALES
David Wrench - additional keyboards
ENGLAND
Michael Cosgrave - piano, additional keyboards, trumpets, melodica, acoustic guitar on track 6 / Deborah Greenwood - woman vocals / Michael Weston King - acoustic guitar and harmony vocal on track 11 / Alan Cook - pedal steel guitar
 
 
 
 
 

JACKIE LEVEN “SHINING BROTHER SHINING SISTER”

Cooking Vinyl - Irish Released 7th February 2003

FIRST NEW STUDIO ALBUM SINCE 2001'S 'CREATURES OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS'

On “Shining Brother Shining Sister”, the known and loved values of Jackie Leven's very best previous work have deepened further, but undertones of rockabilly, jazz, hip hop and waltz help make these recordings perhaps his strongest work for Cooking Vinyl to date.

A new kind of energy and strength of arrangement suffuse all eleven tracks - from the short horror story narrated by American singer David Thomas, via other poetic spoken-word contributions from Ron Sexsmith and American poet Robert Bly, an album of immense artistic confidence shows a unique writer at the height of his creative power.

The album, an analog recording, was recorded at Bryn Derwen studios in Snowdonia, Wales, but rehearsal and pre-programming took place at Palm Cottage Studio, Napa, California, USA, in June, 2002. Jackie, bass player Kevin Foster, singer Deborah Greenwood, and multi-instrumentalist Michael Cosgrave played a charity concert with Lyle Lovett for the world's premier charity wine auction (which raised $6M per day for 3 days), The Napa Valley Wine Auction, and they were joined afterwards by drummer Steve Jackson who had just finished recording for Daniel Lanois.

Jackie - 'We were unexpectedly together in an oasis of calm and freedom from obligation, with a cellar full of America's greatest wines at our disposal, so we raged through the song arrangements without the usual introspection and fretting (no pun intended) that normally attends such analysis. Then we were obliged to party hard at a different vineyard every night - the things I do for my art...'

The record is full of unusual elements, like a Jackie-commissioned trumpet elegy which precedes the track “Savannah Waltz” (see album notes). This track, called “Dust Elegy” was written and played on trumpets by Geoffrey Burgon, who won a BAFTA award in 2001 for his score of the film Longitude. (Geoffrey also wrote the music for the last Forsythe Saga, Brideshead Revisited, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy etc). Jackie and Geoffrey have known each other since the 70's, when they were both members of a hard-drinking circle in Little Venice, London, which included David Gilmour, Glen Matlock and Tubular Bells producer, Tom Newman.

The songs on “Shining Brother Shining Sister” speak clearly and well for themselves, and in a time of rumours of war, Jackie has chosen two quotes from the poetry of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda to express the record's internal working:

'There's no forgetting, there's no Winter
That will wipe your name, shining brother,
from the lips of the people'

'Tyranny cuts off the singer's head,
but the voice from the bottom of the well
returns to the secret streams of the earth,
and rises out of nowhere
through the mouths of the people'

 
 
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