For our final New Year's Eve party in our old apartment, we invited a great many people --- people we knew and loved, people we kinda knew and might love if we knew them better, people we superficially knew and wanted to meet. Garland Jeffreys was in category three. Imagine our surprise when he and his wife Claire showed up. A wavelet of recognition in the room, followed by pleasure that they were so "regular."
Midnight arrived. My wife was elsewhere. Which is how it came to pass that my first kiss of 2013 was with Garland Jeffreys. (Who's a better kisser? I don't kiss and tell.)
"Truth Serum" is the second Garland Jeffreys kiss to land here this year.
And this one is even more unexpected. After a 13-year hiatus, Jeffreys released The King of In Between in 2011. It was relevant in every possible way, and it was great music. It had the mix of genres -- Bob Marley called him the only American who could really sing reggae -- that are his trademark. It had a strong, populist point-of-view. And it had what so much music lacks: melodies you hum on the street, rhythms that get you moving.
Now, just two years later, comes another CD, "Truth Serum." Again, the trademark mix of genres, the strong point-of-view ("I'm secretly longing for brotherhood, harmony, justice, and discouraged by how rarely that happens in the world"), the memorable music.
Like "Any Rain."
Did I say that Garland Jeffreys is now 70 years old? And that he recorded each of these songs in a single take? He says he's on "the 90 year plan." If dancing on the tables at 70, crowd-funding your CD and getting stage time with Bruce Springsteen are evidence, there's reason to think he just might.
In the Age of Branding, we have been trained to want our artists to be one-trick ponies. Garland Jeffreys, the last Renaissance Man, spits in the eye of that notion. He's even willing to look back, draw from the past, re-animate the classics.
Listen to a song from the new CD, Collide the Generations, written about his teenage daughter. (Right. 70 years old. Teenage daughter.)
Now listen to "Gimme Some Lovin'" -- from 1966. The band was the Spencer Davis Group. The singer: 18-year-old Stevie Winwood.
Same beat. More to the point, the same excitement.
When he was 70, Picasso was worried about his testosterone and Matisse was reaching for his scissors so he could make cut-outs. Garland Jeffreys, at 70, is off on a world tour. And "Wild in the Streets" -- recorded in 1973 -- still sounds fresh. Hail, hail.
[cross-posted from HeadButler.com]
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