Part 8 of a series that will run every Friday throughout 2012 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays

My post high school days were days filled with confusion about what to do when I grow up (still have that angst at times to be honest). I settled on attending an associates program at a local technical college along with a friend who was about 10 years older than me. The program was tailored towards business, but the real highlight for me was hanging out with my friend since we took all the same classes (in those kind of schools, the classes were vaguely similar to high school). The future was pretty much the furthest thing from my mind during those classes (a pity, really. I STILL want to be an astronaut when I grow up)

On one of our many adventures during those years, she raved and raved about a local Philadelphia artist, Jeffrey Gaines. She was basically in love with him, and her devotion to him was admirable (if not just a little alarming). She went on and on about his cover of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” and how brilliant he was in concert. She came into class one day really excited because “Jeffrey” (she only called him Jeffrey) was playing at the TLA on South Street that Friday. Of course I wanted to go, and so a whole group of us went to the Jeffrey Gaines show that weekend. I was absolutely spellbound – blown away – amazed (and whatever other words you care to throw out there). The performance was nothing short of revelatory – revealing an artist in touch with his audience on a level I had not yet seen. I immediately demanded to borrow his CDs (he had two out at the time, his self titled and Somewhat Slightly Dazed). I liked them both, but his first CD had this magical quality that was simultaneously uplifting and harrowing. (truth be told, there is something to love about everything Jeffrey Gaines has released).

Za Tunes

“Hero in Me” starts off the album with dark acoustic guitar with Jeffrey Gaines singing in his soulful style “He’s lived as / long as he possibly can / Given the circumstance / ‘Cause he’s protected himself from the world / He never gave it a chance / And he says: Here in my security / I’ve put a limit on my self potential and my possibility”. Well timed violins enhance the mood and then the full band kicks in. The music builds towards the rousing chorus “And I sleep
And I dream of the person I might have been / Then I’m free again / And I speak / Like someone who’s been to the highest peaks / And back again / And I swear / That my grass is greener than anyones / ‘Til I believe again / Then I wake / And the dream fades away and I face the day / And I realize / There’s got to be some hero in me”

“Scares Me More” has a nice little beat to it, a pop kind of song. Jeffrey under sings the beginning leading up to the chorus “I could fly or I could fall, but to never have tried at all / Scares me more than anything in the world” where he really belts it out. Classic.

“Didn’t Wannna Be Daddy” – sometimes I hear a song and it feels painfully personal – almost like reading someone’s forbidden diary. This song is certainly one of those songs. It’s a mid tempo folk ballad with emotional vocals. The topic is somewhat self-explanatory from the song’s title. Key lyrics “I only know that I didn’t want to be / The one, working to provide / The one, with nothing left to hide / The one, feeling so satisfied / ‘Cause I didn’t wanna be daddy”

“Love Disappears” – The song starts off with acoustic strumming and piano before Jeffrey opens with some of the most heartbreaking lyrics I’ve ever heard, sung with emotional restraint “I was gathering all the things I had to tell you / And found that there were more things I had to hide / Like lovers and tears, doubts and fears inside me”. The full band kicks in to provide a mid temp backing. Perfect song.

“Fear” picks up the pace slightly, bass featured in the mix a little more prominently. Jeffrey’s vocals offer a bit of mystery to the song as he sings “Fear, let’s talk about fear / Like the kind you hold inside you / When you act as if you just don’t hear / Pain, I never saw so much pain”

“A Dark Love Song” starts off with gentle acoustic guitar with very emotional and soulful singing over top of it. Little bit of piano comes into the background about a minute into the song. It all leads up to the haunting chorus which has the strange feeling of making you feel uplifting while singing along to very dark lyrics ” She’s got bruises but she’ll wear them for love / He’s got a new disease but he’ll bear it for love / Don’t know what cupid was thinking of / So many of us just slaves for love / fools for love”

“Why” is a track that I consider a deep album cut. Features a skittering drum beat and more electric guitar flourishes throughout the song than elsewhere on the album.

“No, I Don’t Think So” another song that starts with acoustic guitar and it almost seems like Jeffrey Gaines is holding back in his singing a bit (the Simon & Garfunkel effect?). It leads up to the stunning chorus (and the highlight of the record, on a record full of highlights) “No, no / No, no, no I don’t think so / People only dwell on the pain / No, no, no I don’t think so / Don’t think I’ll see you again”. When you listen to this song I’ll think you’ll agree with me that it is a damn shame that Jeffrey Gaines is not a household name. His singing and guitar playing are simply perfect.

“Choices” – another deep album cut, features somewhat of a happy vibe. The singing is soulful. Absolutely essential to the flow of the album.

“What It Is” – Starts off with dreamy vocals, a repeating guitar refrain. Backing gospel singers. It all leads up to a very happy chorus “What it is / that keeps me lovin you forever / Can’t seem to get you off my mind”. Really warm guitar solo about 2 1/2 minutes into the song. Really nice vibe to this tune.

“Sorry the Very Next Day” – starts off with echo-ish acoustic guitar before Jeffrey comes in with a whispered vocal. As the words flow out of Jeffrey he gets louder and louder as the hurt and anger pour out “I couldn’t understand when I was small  / ‘Cause you were strong and standing six-feet tall  / Why your legs would crumble under you
And you’d fall / And I never could figure it out  / When you’d come home you’d scream and shout  / I’d just turn my head and run  / Come back when you were done  / Cry myself to sleep cursing your name  / And you were sorry when the next day came”

“Headmasters of Mine” – what a strong cut to end the album. Absolutely stunning singing from Jeffrey Gaines, with a very strong melody. In places the vocals are double tracked, which gives the song a unique sound as it builds towards the sing-a-long chorus “All for the love of an innocent mind / They were the blind leading the blind / All for the love of molding young minds / They were too kind headmasters of mine”

This is an absolutely stunning album, and if you don’t own anything by Jeffrey Gaines, I’d start with this one. Honestly, all of his records offer something unique and special, and I’d recommend that  you buy each and every one of them. I’ve seen him live over a dozen times in both solo acoustic and full band mode and have loved him each and every time. In fact – when people ask me what I miss most about Philadelphia I usually answer with “I miss seeing Jeffrey Gaines live a few times a year”. I wish he toured on the west coast!

Please visit me again next week as I discuss The Cure – Pornography 

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One response »

  1. Jadon says:

    I will always have a soft spot for Black rock musicians. No matter their race, a lot of people think rock music isn’t a “Black” genre… it isn’t something people of color should be playing or listening too. But that’s not true, especially considering rock music had it’s roots in Black music in the first place! There should be more artists and bands of color (or mixed race bands) that are openly accepted and well-known. Yeah, there’s Lenny Kravitz, Hootie and The Blowfish or Seal, but there’s more that most people haven’t heard about. I wish people of my background and most people in general would be more open minded. I shouldn’t have to get weird looks for listening to my favorite band, no matter the genre. Thanks for writing this!

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