Ian Charles - Minutes From Midnight
Issue #62 May '04
Every so often we receive a CD that perfectly illustrates what IndepenDisc is all about...
From out of left field comes an unassuming CD which, once placed in the disc player, refuses to leave, forcing us to tell people about how captivating it is, inspiring us to spread the word…
Minutes From Midnight is such a CD.
Ian Charles is a man preaching musical salvation. His use of poetry is like that of no others since the hey day of a young Bob Dylan. Throw in the feel of Woody Guthrie and the road weary traveler of Jack Kerouac and we have a mirror image of Neil Diamond’s Brother Love, except this Traveling Salvation Show is brought to the masses from a musical disciple on the run from every thing that could possibly haunt him.
has long been the metaphor for being as close to the end as possible…
Minutes From Midnight is Ian Charles’ song cycle of how and why he walked to the edge, yet instead of jumping he took a leap of faith: Faith in music, Faith in the power of healing that a song can deliver, and Faith in life that can be taken in and reflected on for the better due to the insight of musical purity. He has seen the promise land through music and has been inspired to share it with us through his experiences both in life and in song.
“For a long time I spent my time / Worrying about things that didn’t mean a thing,” he opens with. “Parallel” is sung using a vocal that automatically reveals a rough traveled life gathered together with a lot of too fast and too soon – the ancient tribal beats chase down a man running from himself. It Relates a ripped-from-the-bare-soul confession, which is anointed with the promise of “to spread the word I heard on a twelve inch wonder.” Yet as far as he runs and as much as he preaches the word, there is still the fact that “Far away in the back of my mind / the parallels that I can’t hide from / Save Me.” But it isn’t the parallels that will save him. He cries to be saved *from* them – “Took a breath and reached for my lord / and knew I had a long way to go.” What follows are 12 more songs that personify his lord, the music, and the long way it came about to Save Him. Yet, this isn’t a religious sermon; it is a spiritual one, delivered by a unique talent that has had the gods of music uplift him with an epiphany he must share.
New Traditional is the best way to describe the Acoustic Folk, Sonic Rock, Gospel Soul sound that meshes silky smooth vocals, that pronounce passion and bring to mind the elocution of Dan Fogelberg, Cat Stevens, Johnny Cash, James Taylor and Paul Simon, with musical compositions that paint landscapes so real, so familiar, that with the close of your eyes you are easily transported to the scene in which the song/story unfolds and takes place. Both lyrics and music capture together what each accomplishes separately, but when melded as one, bring a fulfilling sense of achievement. It is done through the amazing writing of Ian Charles (vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, spinet piano, Wurlitzer, Hammond B-3, drums, percussion, harmonica), the solid playing of Eric Michael Lichter (Hammond T-200, Korg, ARP string ensemble, Wurlitzer, bass, electric guitar, slide acoustic guitar, piano) and Dick Neal (Banjo, Dobro, electric guitar, mandolin), and with guest appearances by Peter Kazaleh (electric guitar), Mace Vitale (bass), and Jeremy Lichter (electric guitar). These guys produce a sound so full that you’ll spend many spins just discovering new “most favorite” musical highlights sprinkled throughout each and every song – A joy that true music fans never grow tired of.
Just about every song on this CD has something special to say, and something unique to add, and something that I’d just love to expound on… But, for the sake of space I’ll attempt to (briefly) highlight a few more (while commenting on others)…
“Paint You A Picture” is absolute poetry in a love song that contains two lines that touch my heart. “I wanna wait in line with you / I wanna sneak you into the show.” It’s so pure that when he alludes to how some sadness tore them apart and then as a preamble to a crying harmonica he confesses, “I wanna see you as I’m dying / I will love you forever,” you melt into the beauty of the song. It is also where we get the first Coda of many. It’s been a while since I can remember an artist using a coda to allow the song to reverberate through us after it has ended, but Ian Charles not only puts one in, he sprinkles many in throughout the CD, and all of them work with the material in a way that’s both moving and penetrating.
“Lonely Symphony” again brings a Bob Dylan sensibility into the poetic styling of the romantic snapshot of a man sitting on a balcony. He observes a weeping woman across the way talking to herself and wonders about her. As he does, he sings his thoughts aloud accompanied by a solemn electric piano, and a lone guitar plucking. He wonders why her suitors have been rejected and asks, “How did the boys that serenade you come to walk away / why did their songs fall flat?” As he sings this, she hears the words and realizes that he has made a correlation with her and her heartache, causing her to stop crying in order to listen to his serenade. It connects her to a point of spiritual bliss, and he recognizes this: “Can’t help but notice as I sing my lonely symphony / That your tears and your lone conversation have stopped.” With an off guard resounding note he stops, and the song stops, leaving us astounded.
While many others deserve ink, I’ll point out that “Charlie” is a perfect companion to James Velvet’s “John Alley,” having that distinct medieval sound that Traffic used so well on “John Barleycorn.” It’s no surprise that James’ long time collaborator, Dick Neal, weighs in heavy here with a picking mandolin that has all hell threatening to break loose at any minute. You can see and feel the sinisterness seething like a satanic version of Led Zeppelin’s “Bron-Yr-Aur.”
But it’s “I Saw
The Sun Go Down” that defines Ian
Charles. This protest song is as poetic a musical statement
as that of
“Blowin’ In The Wind.” Against a subdued
yet driving bass and drum rhythm, a
tambourine and mandolin lead a document of a day which outlines the
war and the devastation that the political agenda of current day
Instead of ending there, we get one more to close this music revival. “Call it A Song” is sung in a riveting sweet soul sound of a stunning Otis Redding vocal floating over a church organ. This gospel reading ties up the disc as presented in the opening: That faith in music can be the salvation that not only saves you, but makes your life pertinent. “So today the choirs of the valley / Are singing of salvation.” We can hear the choirs, we can hear the choirs of Ian Charles, we are saved by the music, and we are inspired to spread the word…
Charles - Minutes From Midnight
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