Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Jackie Leven Mystery

The only mystery to me is why isn't Jackie Leven more popular! In the 1970s he was in a punk band named Doll by Doll who few people reading this will probably have heard of. They never had a hit record and their last recordings were in 1982 when Leven was forced to ‘retire’ from the music scene because he apparently had major problems with heroin addiction. That’s what it says on many web sites but the truth is somewhat more complicated as during the making of his first post D by D album in 1984 he was attacked and strangled which left him unable to speak for two years; his problems with heroin developed during this dark period. Jackie cured himself of his addiction through a mixture of acupuncture and psychic healing which in turn led to him co-founding CORE trust which encourages a holistic approach to the problems of Heroin.

In 1994 Jackie appeared back on the scene with the superbly titled, 'The Mystery Of Love Is Greater Than The Mystery of Death'. It’s full of brooding melodramatic songs that perfectly suit his voice, which sometimes reminds me of Scott Walker. The album is full of melodic songs with fantastic lyrics and some great playing too. Mike Scott from the Waterboys appears on the album, as does Robert Bly, the poet and writer.

In the opening song, ‘Clay Jug’ Jackie uses lyrics from the poetry of Hindu writer, Kabir that have been translated by Bly - the effect is hypnotic. Celtic rock (whatever that is!) at its best. It’s actually a sound that for me says down rather than up, hints of the pipes and the fiddle, but all the while it’s a big sound, bigger than the sum of its parts.

Inside this clay jug
There are canyons and pine mountains
And the maker of canyons and pine mountains
All seven oceans are inside
And hundreds and millions of stars

Other standouts are ‘Snow in Central Park’, 'Gylen Gylen' and ‘Looking For Love’ (a great pop/rock record) as well as a really interesting cover of ‘I Say A Little Prayer’. It’s one of those albums that I’m really happy to listen to from start to finish, even the weaker tracks have their place and are still strong enough to avoid me reaching for the skip button.

Jackie is from Fife and like his friend Ian Rankin he manages to bring to his music something of the ‘Kingdom’ to his work. It’s great music to read Ian’s Rebus novels to and the two of them collaborated on an album a few years back. I’ve never heard it but I bet it’s interesting….

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