View Full Version : Ready For The Flood review

01-21-2009, 02:39 PM
This fella posted this on amazon, a U.K. fan who bought the CD when it was released there. Lovely words...

"Perception is always coloured by memory - some memories are vast imagined towns and cities through which you drive to reach your destination - some are open fields, cloudless skylines and straight roads. You see, you can't listen in isolation to songs written through shared experience and expect there to be no hitchhikers from past travels. They catch lifts along your way, sometimes with further miles to travel, sometimes dropped off just blocks away from home, sometimes without a word - sometimes grateful for the ride.

To these ears the union of Gary Louris and Mark Olson will always be the warm flush from a fireside, warding off the hardest of frosts, advent wine passed from friend to friend and melody heard above the hushed hum of winter twilight. What I hear and feel when I hear them again, years later, is sketched from when I first got caught in Hollywood. In my memory, on my journey, through those passages with eyes closed, I still see a lakes winter walk along a deserted highway - trees bowing in respect of their burden - passing into forests modelled in ice then to return home past an errant piece of furniture misplaced on the roadside. A walk past the white wood, proud of it's history, held hostage by promises past and present. The light trapped by reflections carried in a Minnesotan arctic afternoon.

I created this map of moments as a way of painting myself into the picture - of wanting to be a bit part in these songs, the extra seen briefly - voiceless but present. I've said this before - That record affected me - narratives with intent embraced in harmony and written by novelists - this was like discovering your first great book by a secret author that no one else had yet read. Like every story of distinction your experience is within, it's internalised and the relationship you have with the record becomes real - becomes whole. If you strip away the commodification of popular music you are left with nothing but raw emotion - you either connect or you move on to the next thing - I didn't just connect - I got hooked.

So, many years on I too am Ready for the Flood. While it's evident that the passage of time affects us all in equal measure and these songwriters draw from their experiences, it would be easy but ultimately intrusive to attempt to read meanings which do not exist from these lyrics, to quote interviews and piece together and interpret whether any of these incidents have their roots in reality. While we know one left the Jayhawks, one carried on the Jayhawks and during this time they lived lives and made music - and then thankfully they began to make music together again and this is the result. But the thematic foundations which flow through these songs are also a product of time - they ready themselves with the impenetrable equations of loss, mortality, duty, love and friendship. In all of this Ready for the Flood is an accidental study in redemption which makes it so compelling and rewarding to the listener.

And it is an impressive achievement on so many levels. Sonically it's cared for by Chris Robinson who has applied a delicate touch to these songs - I say cared for because he's simply applied the odd brush stroke here and there adding texture - It's not coloured in any sense. If you can picture the central protagonists recording together in isolation Robinson has wrapped a blanket around them and these songs to protect them. It's a production which never glosses or hides from the truth - there are hesitations in lyrics, sounds of valves warming, chairs moving, leather rubbing, frets buzzing, intakes of breath - all of this adds to the organic whole. You can picture them playing in front of you as you listen - Gary Louris always one side, mark Olson always t'other. Where the fingers pick the songs their styles are almost identical - Mark's take is slightly more staccato - but he provides this solid structure for the songs to rest and Gary's fluid tunes to flow. On songs where extra instrumentation is applied it's done so without interfering with the principles, an extra guitar is tracked centre, a bass in the deep background, drums caressed, keyboards for substance, backing vocals hushed and distant- all with the greatest of respect for what's being witnessed. It all feels very analogue - I'm reminded of World Party's landmark Goodbye Jumbo in the way these instruments are allowed to breathe.

On Kick the Wood, I'm enthralled by the bass line - the song would almost stall if it weren't for the bass prodding, adding momentum - intelligent, melodic, tightly tied to the melody but resonant. Chamberlain, SD brings a different challenge and I'm taken back to the Dead's Trucking - there's an electric far out on the left driving the riff straight through the heart of the song and its balance is the mouth harp running wild stage right - Chris Robinson take a well deserved bow - and all the while during the repetitions of "Chamberlain wants you" in the silence, there's the hum of the amplifier. On Black Eyes there's a fret buzz on Gary's guitar (I'd guess D String) but these things never detract. I'm also left staggered by how they've stolen the Procol Harem organ and bought it back to life kicking and screaming from the 60's. As listener's we're normally served blandness - the mix and digital mastery drowning the humanity of the song - here we have liberation. It won't be to everyone's taste - but bobbins to them I say. If I had this on vinyl I would be in heaven about now.

At its core are two guitars and two voices seemingly hewn from the same womb they are so well matched - this univoice as it's known by both aficionados and the board mum is as much a blessing as it can be a curse. Although it was their signature sound in the Jayhawks there are moments that need the duality, others that don't and some where both voices are so intermingled you can't translate. But Mark Olson's voice has become more strident over the years and this makes itself evident when he turns up the volume and breaks the unity illusion. These are isolated and also necessary reminders of difference - like punctuations or random threads in the tale. It's on the gentler numbers when the voice is more relaxed and at a lower register, when it's almost more confident, that it really clicks - take Saturday Morning on Sunday Street. There's a frailty in his voice as if he's acting these words - feeling them through this narrative of loss. And the combination of their voices is highlighted by the strings playing off each other - the guitars are playing an intricate game of call and response. If you follow the patterns you hear each top note of the run from one guitar repeated immediately by the other - although similar finger patterns are being drawn, they're perceptibly both following in and out of the same point in time - sort of like a Saturday morning on a Sunday Street.

Musically then, Ready for the Flood must be applauded. What surprises me most is how thematically striking this album is and why this makes it not a good record, but a great record. If you ignore when these songs were written (some new, some old) and see them for what they are, with a heavy dose of irony there are striking similarities in mood and tone with the first post-Olson Jayhawks album, the magnificent Sound of Lies. At the heart of both of these albums is a discourse with fidelity in all its many guises. On the one hand I'm so glad they're playing music together again - on the other I wish they'd never stopped - and there's a comparable sense of joy and reminiscence in these songs.
Ultimately, memories plays tricks on you as you get older - you take fact for fiction and the other way around - These songs are both American pastoral and present - enjoy them and spread the word. "

girl incognito1
01-21-2009, 02:43 PM
Thanks for the find Joe!!! And Kim is mentioned again for the Univoice moniker!!! :cool: :D ;)

01-22-2009, 07:53 AM
Wasn't that written by Dave, of these 'ere boards? I recall seeing that before I think.

01-22-2009, 03:56 PM
Wasn't that written by Dave, of these 'ere boards? I recall seeing that before I think.
I figured as much, with the nod to the boardmomma and all that. Nice relaxing prose, that.

David Farrel
01-23-2009, 03:24 PM
tis I indeed - I don't like my name so I use others - going through life being named after a famous singer is great - but it's like - dude - that's name already taken!

01-23-2009, 03:38 PM
going through life being named after a famous singer is great - but it's like - dude - that's name already taken!

Who is called David Farrel? Apart from you like..

01-23-2009, 04:10 PM
Who is called David Farrel? Apart from you like..
He was the 8th Beatle. Or the 12th Rolling Stone. Can't recall which. :p

David Farrel
01-23-2009, 06:04 PM
other way around - my parents named me Andy Williams - a name I dislike rather a lot - I have numerous other names which I used when I was in a succession of poor bands and writing - but i'm getting to old for all that!

01-23-2009, 06:24 PM
Wasn't that written by Dave, of these 'ere boards? I recall seeing that before I think.

I recognized it right off. It is a BEAUTIFULLY written review. Hopefully, it will be read and appreciated by many more than the few sacred souls who frequent this board. :)

01-24-2009, 11:55 AM
So we have an Andy Williams and an Andie McDowell here? It's getting like hanging out at Spago!

01-24-2009, 03:22 PM
So we have an Andy Williams and an Andie McDowell here? It's getting like hanging out at Spago!Don't forget the big band sounds of Glenn Miller.:cool:

01-28-2009, 06:16 PM
Dave/Andy (Where will it lead us from here?)
Mate that is indeed an awesome review, beautifully written. Have you put that up on any of the E bay review sites or any others, it really should be read by as many people as can be.

02-05-2009, 01:56 PM
Saw Gary and Mark in Toronto last night at the Mod Club ... excellent show ... just the two of them with Gary playing harmonica on a couple of songs. Lots of songs from the new one but they also played Blue, Sister Cry, Two Hearts, Two Angels, Settled Down Like Rain and Martin's Song (probably a couple of more oldies too). Word is they will be on Letterman tonight ... Thurs. 5 Feb). Looking forward to hearing the new record in a day or two when it arrives from Kansas.....