|Independent artist release
The Bard - In A Golden Dawn
Order Number SWCD2008
Retail Price from indie-cds.com site A$5.00:
Not being able to play this CD straight away, I contented myself to read the cover notes of “In a Golden Dawn”, the 2008 release from "The Bard". The twelve-page booklet handily contains the lyrics, which make interesting reading. Immediately apparent is what they reveal of the life and views of this performer, and without even hearing the songs, I sensed his intensity and passion, and frustration with certain aspects of his life. When I reached the last page and its dedication to “the many separated fathers who have had injustices inflicted upon them”, the reasons (at least some of them) emerge. I get the sense that this CD is not unlike a personal diary, and in this case, one covering a specific period of this performer’s life.
“To the Wind” is the track that encapsulates his dedicatory statement; it is a bitter and pointed attack on the legal framework dealing with child custody, in which we see “courts deciding, over-riding, barristers in cloaks be hiding, vampirical disguises, law of nature over-ruled”. The knife-edged lyrics leave no ambiguity about The Bard’s views of the legal system. Similarly, he is not shy about airing his views on contemporary society, and in particular its shallow consumerism; he casts savage barbs at the supermarkets, nuclear power and politics (amongst other things) in “Superficial heroes”. However, this track itself skirts perilously close to reflecting the ethos of commercial current affairs programs and their “trashy news”!
Many of the tracks are introspectively retrospective, dwelling on past events in the context of current emotions. Often this is with a sense of loss and regret (“All alone, friendships washed away” in “Just a thought away”, and “I don’t want to be with you, but I wish I’d never met you” in “If only”). At other times with a sense of withdrawal (“Better if I sit around and wait”, and “and if you ever want to come my way, I will be home” in “Not much left”), coupled occasionally at times with a desire to be rescued from this state (“Waiting for the Sun to see it rise” and “I need you, to change my mind” in “Change my Mind”). Even the title track, “Golden Dawn”, the most optimistic with its “time to fly, it’s time to try”, is tinged with desolation: “Beware her wicked ways will drag you to the ground”.
Musically, the CD is a sonic smorgasbord. One-man-band Whitehead shows considerable musical ability and inventiveness in his arrangements and instrumentation. This is an eclectic collection, and Whitehead tackles many styles with flair and imagination. The dynamic vitality and varied sonic landscape in every track is impressive. There is the spacious swampy feel of “Gotta get out”, the musical hints of Midnight Oil in “Superficial Heroes”, and the Pink Floyd like harmonies in “Be me”, all contributing to the great variety on this CD.
The Bard combines live instruments with MIDI arrangements, and for the most part, does this well. However, there are times when doing everything yourself reveals its disadvantages. At times, the artificiality of the MIDI sounds disturbs the otherwise credible fabric of the track. For example, the piano part in “Be me” is way too mechanical and repetitively unexpressive. This may have been intended, but for me, getting hold of a pianist to play this part would have been much more satisfying. Similarly, the dramatic orchestral finish of “Golden Dawn” is overblown, contrived and the midi strings and voices do it no justice.
However, this CD has been generally well recorded and mixed. The Bard sings with confidence and competence, and is supported nicely by Aanya (sister) and Gabrielle (wife) on “To the wind”. Overall, this is a CD worth listening to.
review by Mike Raine, 2008