This Headline Caught My Eye
Lisa Gerrard: The Mirror Pool (speaking of big voices)

Mary Fahl: The Other Side of Time

I've been casting a cold eye on my CD shelves with the intention or at least hope of getting rid of a few discs. There isn't enough room for all of them, and there are at least a dozen that just sort of sit around here and there. A certain number aren't even really mine, but were left behind by now-grown children who don't want them anymore. Should be easy to just toss those, right? By "toss" I mean give them to Goodwill, from where they will probably be really tossed but at less cost to my mildly neurotic conscience. And for other mildly neurotic reasons I can't even do that without being certain that I don't want them. That means, in cases where I've never heard them (too many) or maybe heard them once or twice years ago (many more) and never gave them a chance, that I have to give them a fair trial.

So: a week or two ago I pounced on this one. I don't remember buying it, but most likely I did so because it includes "Going Home," a song which I had found rather touching in the Civil War film Gods and Generals. But I'd never given it a serious listen. 

Well, now I have, and unfortunately for my shelf-clearing project I like the album too much to get rid of it. It's not really, speaking broadly, the kind of music I like--it's very slick, very lavishly produced, lavishly emotional, very big. The biggest thing about it is Mary Fahl's voice, which is huge. If you know Lisa Gerrard's voice, you might agree with me that Fahl's is in the same league.  

And yeah, it's a sort of mushy song and a mushy arrangement. I could do without the instrumental bridge, which pretty much screams  SOUNDTRACK! But I find it moving. 

Sometimes her voice threatens to run away with the material. I thought of a Honda Civic with a V8 engine (which, now that I think about it, is an argument in favor of the big production). It's not that she can't sing gently and with nuance, as parts of "Going Home" demonstrate. You just feel like she has so much power that she sometimes has to throttle it back, but doesn't really want to. She cuts loose more on the apparently Middle Eastern love song "Ben Aindi Habibi," the lyrics of which (printed in the CD booklet) are intensely passionate.

I found myself thinking that the guy to whom it's addressed might find himself thinking This woman may be too much for me. But he certainly ought to be flattered to be the object of such passion.

I don't like the whole album by any means. I'd say roughly half the songs aren't much to my taste as songs, never mind the performance. But the other half I like quite a lot. It compares favorably with dramatic female artists like Loreena McKennit and Enya. (But not Kate. Kate is too weird for that comparison.) It stays. 

I always like to see what AllMusic has to say, and in this case I think their review is quite unfair. The reviewer was a fan of October Project, a band in which Fahl was the main vocalist, and apparently doesn't like the direction she takes in this album. Well, okay, I can certainly relate to that. Some people never recovered from Dylan's embrace of rock-and-roll. And I'm pretty sure I will never again listen to Nashville Skyline. But it's unfair and unkind to say that Fahl did it for commercial reasons. I'd be willing to bet she poured her heart very genuinely into it.

I'm now curious about October Project. And even more curious about another Mary Fahl project: a cover of the entire Dark Side of the Moon.


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You are funny, Mac. I just moved and there is enough room for perhaps about 2/3 of my CDs to sit out on CD-type shelves with easy access to them. The others are in plastic bins in a closet, so a little less easy access. My problem, as I was saying to you the other day, is being something of a completist. I can't just have one Jethro Tull or Pink Floyd CD, but instead I have to have all of them. I may need to hear a deep track from Too Old to Rock n' Roll, Too Young to Die and perhaps the internet is down that day. LOL of all the unlikely circumstances that makes me laugh. And then of course people like you, and many others across the internet, are always making suggestions about other music that I might want to hear. There is just something about owning tangible items...I was explaining this to Margo the other day, and that some of the people I follow on YouTube even make videos discussing it!

The first October Project album is fantastic. The production is a bit overblown but the songs are all very good, and underneath the bombast there's a solid folk element (think Clannad). In comparison Fahl's solo record suffers, mainly because the songs aren't as good. A friend once said of the O.P. album that "every song goes just where you want it to go." He didn't mean this in the sense that they are predictable, but the opposite -- they take unexpected turns, but after you hear the turn you realize how "right" it was. I think you could say that one difference between the two albums is that on the O.P. record her voice is more apt to serve the material, while on the solo album it's the other way round.

I saw them live once, before Fahl left, and was astonished to see that she was a tiny little thing. We were all amazed that that voice came out of such a small package!

I've scaled my rock and pop CD collection down considerably, from about 600 down to maybe 250. My problem is with LP's. It's not that I buy too many, it's that they take up more space, and my space is limited. What I really need to do is to cull my library. I own more books than I could ever possibly read, and even though I've cut way back on book purchases, I still have far too many. I note that if I got rid of just one small bookshelf's worth, I'd have a place for all my LP's. I've slowly been selling off books here and there, but I think I have to start taking more drastic action.

It is surprising that Mary Fahl is "a tiny little thing." She sounds like she's about six feet. I wonder how tall Lisa Gerrard is.

She's pretty clearly not a great writer. She has one and sometimes two co-writers on almost every song on this album. There's only one credited to her alone, and several from other sources.

From 600 to 250?!? Surely most of those were things you really like, or you wouldn't have bought them in the first place. I really don't know how many cds I have. But I don't want any more. I'm pretty sure LPs topped a thousand with that hoard I acquired a few years ago. I do occasionally still succumb to that lure.

My wife and I together have been culling books for a while, but there are still too many that I have not read and am fairly unlikely to read. We're still unpacking them after the move and I'm not sure there's space for them. There wasn't in the old house--they were just crammed in on top of each other.

Stu, I've never had the completist bug. That would be a major problem. I hate to think how many Van Morrison albums you must have. :-) I never had much trouble dropping artists, even ones who had produced some of my favorite music in the whole wide world, like Astral Weeks, if (or usually when) the quality of their work declined. That was the case with pretty much all the '60s people.

But I can relate to the problem of the one track that you might want to hear. I think I have several cds that have escaped the giveaway because of that.

I definitely like having the tangible item, though that's stronger with lps than cds.

The answer is 43. Van Morrison CDs, that is. LOL


I think that most if not all of the songs of the first O.P. album were written by the founders, the keyboardist and co-vocalist.

I was pretty ruthless with my CD's. I took the stance that if I hadn't listened it in the past two or three years, and it wasn't a classic, out it went! I did listen to some of them to see if I wanted to keep them, but for the most part my tastes had changed since the 90's, so a lot of the stuff I bought in that decade I just wasn't in tune with anymore.

I definitely had a completist bug when I was younger, but I think it went away around the time I turned 40, i.e. the turn of the millenium or thereabouts.

Speaking of female vocalists, sometime last year I came across the Canadian band Living Hour and their self-titled first album from 2016. The whole thing sounds kind of like Mazzy Star but recorded with Slowdive sonics. I haven't really liked their subsequent stuff that much, but this album is great, especially the song "Seagull." I have no idea what the video means, but combined with the music, for some reason I find it strangely moving, somehow quite sad, without even knowing what a lot of the lyrics are. Musically I love the way the singer's voice sort of soars over the wall of sound below, unlike a lot of the whispery vocals usually encounted in shoegaze/dreampop.

Without having watched/heard that video: wasn't "Seagull" the name of a Slowdive song? Or was it Ride? Maybe someone honoring the founders?

Yep, a Ride song. Never thought of the potential connection there.

Speaking of which, check out this track from Japanese band Stomp Talk Modstone. Sounds a wee bit like a certain Slowdive song, no? My guess is that it's an homage, but it sounds like a cover.

There are several comments on the Stomp Talk video noting and/or complaining about the resemblance. But it's nice.

The Seagull video really is very sad, or at least it strikes you and me and at least one other person that way. His comment is "What is it about this video that strikes me as so sad???"

Yes, very sad. But it's interesting to me that the song itself isn't "sad," at least musically. In some ways it's rather anthemic. But in the video the music and the visuals work together to communicate sadness. I find the "how" of that to be an interesting question.

It's like Sigur Ros's "Glosoli." I remember my sister hearing the song and finding it sad, even "depressing." But you certainly don't get that sense when you combine the music with the video, which is exhilarating.

The first few times I heard Glosoli was by way of the video, so that's the impression I was left with.

Speaking of seagull, the most recent xkcd is a weird coincidence--something about Meryl Streep and a seagull.

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