Toasty Taranna #9: BMV #9: 3-For-$10 Bin #5: David Gray – White Ladder
I first heard David Gray on CMJ 015, from November 1994, an angry song called What Are You?, which I loved. That was from a record called Flesh, for which I paid a lot because at that time it was still on import here in North America.
Anyway, I recently reviewed a compilation of his called Lost Songs, and ’twas the venerable J. who said this album was the one he’d go for, given druthers. Myself, I’d owned it at some point but didn’t have it anymore, so I found a copy to fill out a 3-for-$10 at BMV.
Not gonna lie, I frickin’ burned out on Babylon. And hearing it here didn’t make me want to hear it any more either. Just tired of that damn song, it was (and still is) overplayed everywhere. And yeah, it’s the tune that brought him to everyone’s attention, not just those of us who remember Sell, Sell, Sell (and Flesh). Fair play to those who dig it, of course.
But this album had a total of 5 tracks become singles. With Babylon, there was also This Year’s Love, Please Forgive Me, Sail Away, and Say Hello Wave Goodbye (originally by Soft Cell, and Gray’s version also contains lines from Van Morrison’s Madame George and Into The Mystic). That’s essentially half the album. I get it, it was huge. And listening through, I liked most of it. He’s as tuneful as ever, his lyrics are still poetry, and I was interested to learn that it was self-financed and recorded in his apartment. Cool.
The original IHT Records version has a hidden track found by rewinding from the start of Please Forgive Me. My copy, re-released in the US on Dave Matthews’ label ATO has a bonus track called Babylon II, (which wasn’t different enough to make me like it more than the original) and it’s enhanced with a mini-documentary, biography and web links. The Japanese release got still other different stuff (hey Mike! I’ll bet it’s expensive!).
It’s David Gray. You like him or you don’t. The songs here are strong, there’s very, very good reason it sold so much everywhere. I found it listenable, overall, and will probably spin it again, and I could put some of these songs into the mix with the other stuff of his I have. But I’ll still likely skip Babylon.
Hit It Or Quit It? Hit.
Alright we’re back to covering the stuff I got in Taranna on Pride weekend. You’ll have noticed that I got sidetracked with all sorts of other awesomeness that resulted in 9 posts unrelated to this series… So it goes.
So to recap, we’re only two parts into the series, with Billie Joe + Norah’s Foreverly and The Very Best Of Dokken already done. On to today’s!
Pride Of Taranna Series Pt. 3: BMV #3 – David Gray – A Century Ends
I’m gonna sound all hipper-than-thou by saying this, but it is merely truth – I liked David Gray before he got huge (at least, huge here in North America, I dunno when he got big in UK). I loved Flesh, Sell Sell Sell and Lost Songs (which was later but collects other older stuff). But I haven’t gotten to his later stuff as much. I should try again! Anyway.
A Century Ends is actually his first album, from 1993. It only saw wider release after his fourth album (White Ladder, with that Babylon song on it) drew interest to his back catalogue.
This is 10 songs of early Gray awesomeness. It had three singles (Birds Without Wings, Shine, and Wisdom), but they’re all great. Here he sings more with the fire he had on Flesh, more strummy acoustic Dylan than pop radio troubadour. He’s got some great lines that just jump out at you, like beat poetry, like in Let The Truth Sting:
The hour is out of joint
Black sun has risen
And the river of words
Is flowing on through
The cages of tradition
And they’re handing out emptiness
We’ll take it ’cause it’s given
Free with this plastic innocence
And these standards of living
Questions lighted questions
Burnin’ holes into my head
Hanging like shadows o’er the sun
Staring out like the eyes of the dead
And sometimes my soul flickers
When the wind of change blows cold
Over the mire of repetition
Down the corridors of rigmarole
Anyway, I could go on, but suffice it to say that the whole record is brilliant, a solid listen top to bottom. I love that I have this here now, wish I had had it all along. There was nothing stopping me getting it, really… I have been remiss! Time to make up for lost time!
Hit It Or Quit It? Definite Hit.