Monday, April 3, 2017
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: MURRAY McLAUCHLAN - LOVE CAN'T TELL TIME
"I thought, okay, I've hit my dinger, I don't know if I've got another album in me," said McLauchlan of his 19th album, Love Can't Tell Time. "So along came this project, and I went, well I guess that wasn't the case. I'm totally overjoyed with it, I really really love it."
The album was more of an accident, and never a plan. He had several new songs he'd done for another project that hadn't worked out, but he had picked up a new guitar technique. He thought the songs sounded great with that playing style, so he decided to record them to try it out. Sitting with his friend, acoustic bass player Victor Bateman, McLauchlan laid down the songs in the simplest of ways.
"We just did what I really like to do, which is a kind of retro recording," he said. "Although I think it may be also the recording of the future. The idea was, let's make a recording here that just sounds like what people used to do in the 1940s or early 1950s, just set up with a great big old U-47 tube mic, I'm going to sit in front of it with my 1938 guitar, and I'm going to just sing the songs, I won't even put a microphone on the guitar because I believe the performance will kind of mix itself as we move in and out dynamically. And it did. Victor was certainly on mic, but everything leaked into everything else. So you can't really adjust anything while you're mixing, if you change the equalization on the voice you're going to do it on the guitar, so you can't. The result is, you get something very honest and very natural right off the floor."
It's not all about being retro though, it's also about sounding, to McLauchlan's ears, and plenty of others, better. "I'm a big fan of this idea of recording," he said. "You put people in a room that can play, and you record it. Somewhere along the line, I think the technology took over the music. I guess I'm sort of a bit of a bloody-minded person, as I tend to kind of go the opposite way from what is the current flavour of the month, and right now the current flavour of the month is electronically manufactured soundscapes with tones of auto-tuning on them."
The only parts that were added later were the glorious string arrangements on each track, done by Drew Jurecka. Each is elegant, and quite different from the next, working with the vocal rather than providing a lush background. Again, a modern use of a classic technique.
Old but new is theme throughout Love Can't Tell Time. Seven of the cuts are new McLauchlan pieces he either wrote or co-wrote, while three of the numbers are favourites of his from the 1940s and '50s. "They were songs that when I'm up at the cottage playing music for the loons, that I play for my own enjoyment, it's the kind of music that I play when I'm just relaxing by myself," he said. They are "Come Fly With Me," "Hey There," a Rosemary Clooney number from the movie Pyjama Game, and the Jerome Kern tune "Pick Yourself Up".
McLauchlan, a fan of the classics, has found himself moving toward that style of songwriting as well.
"The songs are deceptively simple when you look at them casually, but they are layered like an onion, and you don't really get the songs unless you've been around the block a little bit," he said of the '40s - '50s hits. "So that's what I was shooting for, in a co-write with my brother, who is the original Don Draper, there's a song called 'My Martini.' I actually went back to the well, to how Sammy Cahn wrote lyrics, because he was the master of ethnic inversion. The best example is, 'My kind of town, Chicago is.' It's like how an old Jewish guy would talk. So I did the same thing with 'My Martini,' when my brother wrote the lyric originally, it was 'Don't mess with my martini, I like it on the rocks.' So I went to the Sammy Cahn well, and went 'My martini, not a thing you should mess with.'"
Other songs are light-hearted as well, but not without a message. For the most part, they pass on a little wisdom from experience, such as "I'm Not Going To Waste A Minute Of My Life". McLauchlan has been out road-testing the material. "I just had an eight-concert run myself, and the whole second half of the show on stage is actually this record, these songs," he said. "You think off the top of your head it's a lot to ask people to accept a lot of new material they haven't necessarily heard before, but the really interesting thing is, they go nuts."
There are lots of opportunities for most of the country to go nuts for the Love Can't Tell Time album. He says he has 29 concerts on his books before the end of November, 19 with Lunch At Allen's in both the west and east, and a 10-concert tour in central Canada in November.