Friday, January 8, 2016

THE CONFESSIONS YOU SHOULD HAVE MADE



photography by Ted Burke
 Singer Shirley Ellis wanted us all to get down to the nitty gritty in her 1963 hit tune of the same name,”Nitty Gritty” . It was a bold dare to cast on the radio listeners of the time, but the song was all groove, rhythm and genuinely seductive soul music. “Get right down to the real nitty gritty” was the refrain she kept singing, her graceful ground level vocal reinforced by a chorus that repeated her dictum, get down to the real nitty gritty. The band was typical of so many of the music ensembles that graced hit 45’s at the time, percolating and expanding the groove artfully. Get rid of what’s troubling was the message, if any at all. Don’t just forget your troubles, as Petula Clark urged in her tune “Downtown”, Ellis extolled the  need to expel them altogether. Dance them out of your system and leave on the dance floor.I loved the tune , the groove, the sensuous honesty of Ellis’s voice, but I was twelve at the time, just becoming aware of music, politics, the importance of love ; my consciousness was an alloy made up of assertions culled from weekly infusions of Time Magazine. I had precious little experience, and not much nitty gritty to get down to.  We did age, of course, the pace of history gave us war, riots, battles for civil rights, first jobs, first time sex, giddy successes and world crushing defeats . I might say that many of us took our initial  real world excursions , personally and constructed layered and well reasoned arguments for a world view that both explained why the world was the way it was and which gave us additional excuse to fail. In my case, it was so I could write more poems about being depressed about my state of the world.  We created our own feedback chamber.  Something had to be done. Time to clean house.

We can say that Chuck Perrin, a San Diego based  singer/songwriter, poet and music entrepreneur, has had enough of keeping his demons entertained as he embarks with his new album, The Yearn.  As with what John Lennon did with his  1971 “primal scream” album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band,  an incendiary disc where Lennon named the people, places and things that he felt contributed greatly to his worst , self-destructing traits . The disc was hard to listen too, as Lennon’s expression was convincingly emotional and condemnation of the calcified BS that filled his head is lacerating, but it was a break through. Perrin’s The Yearn follows in that tradition, a genre of self-revelation that remains uncommon in our current pop music climate.  Perrin , in the previous nine albums he’s recorded, is a songwriter and vocalist who has pursued and mastered the delicate art of entwining the gracefully melodic , the crooning and swooning aspect of lyric romanticism and the blunt, more ecstatic, raging element of the rant that cannot be contained by chords or harmony. 

 His previous albums like Beat.itude (1995) and Down 2 Bone (2009) reveals a man in touch with his responses who finds melody and the graceful sway of words a way to make sense  of contradictions that life presents , and allows him to study the contradictions in his own responses to the results and consequences of his adventures. The Yearn takes a more severe tact, one that, like Lennon’s, is to get to the nitty gritty of things, the core of what is truly important and what it is we remain alive for.  The songs on The Yearn are starker than what I remember from Perrin’s previous work,  basic  structures that are superbly contextualized by a cracker jack group of musicians .  Perrin has had enough of the universe of personalities and media that have distracted him .  He has in his lyrics the presence of another person, a lover, a friend, someone significant , an intimate and a confidant who he addresses directly, person to person. There’s no hint  of showboating or playing to what an audience expects. The songs structures are moody, impressionistic, fundamental constructs that are highlighted and given many-hued texture r by high caliber musicians . When matters threaten to become sing-songy, there is a sweetly blistering guitar solo from Larry Mitchell, ; when Perrin drops moves away from the microphone, the redouble Arthur Fishers and provides a series of fleet, clear,  crystalline flute improvisations. Song to song, the gathered musicians (including such stalwarts as Burt Turetzky, Bob Magnusson among the esteemed crew) make the simple structures into lively bits of jazz improvisation, beautifully honed impressionism, seductively rich tone poems. This is the remarkable aspect of what Chuck Perrin has accomplished, which is to create a disc that combines brutal self-assessment and the wild plunge to seek what is real and genuine regarding love at the purest level with a musical tableau that is open-ended, an improvisatory groove and tonal preferences that more than suggest that this is a life that is still evolving, progressing toward truth. The musicians create a sound that reflect the hard turns of Perrin’s journey, but there remains the sense that all this inventory is something we can walk through, free and hopeful for a fuller life ahead.

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