O’Keefe is truly eclectic.
Clearly he is a singular talent. When I listen to his albums for the first time I’m not sure what I’m going to get. Even when his albums have a similar sound, which occurs when albums follow each other, he still manages to throw in things which takes the music off on a different path.
That’s not to suggest he is too eclectic for his own good or worse still, he is swapping sounds to meet the times.
He isn’t and he doesn’t.
O’Keefe’s music is just not straight enough to be accepted as perfect commercial material. His substantive sound is singer songwriter with country thrown in to the mix, but he likes to throw all sorts of other things into the mix. On this album though he has incorporated some straight old school jazz, adult MOR (music not lyrics) and even some world and new age in with his usual sound.
This is American music.
And, this is
This is not unusual though it’s not commonplace. Tom Waits did (does) the same (though he adds elements of European music to his sound – though admittedly those European sounds were also part of the American musical tradition, both commercial and avant guard, having been brought over by waves of migrants).
O’Keefe’s music actually sounds like Tom Waits, though O’Keefe may have what the average punter would describe as a “better” voice, though his voice is not as expressive, perhaps.
Interestingly, Waits was exploring these same diverse sounds around the same time and lyrically there is some crossover between Waits and O’Keefe … O’Keefe perhaps is a little more big picture though he has his fair share of narratives focussing on individuals whereas Waits song are largely character driven.
The similarities don’t end there though. O’Keefe’s guitar at times sounds very much like what Marc Ribot was doing for Waits in the 1980s.
The only sound that Waits hasn’t included in his music is country. O’Keefe’s native Pacific
Lyrically, environmental concerns are everywhere on this album, and that was not unusual for singer songwriters at the time. O’Keefe’s lyrics are thoughtful and rarely preachy. His most direct songs though deal with human relationships.
This album is produced by O’Keefe and Jay Lewis (who also plays some guitar). Lewis was
Jay Donnellan and he was guitarist in Arthur Lee’s Love 1968—70.
Look at my other comments on O’Keefe albums for background on him.
Tracks (best in italics)
- The Global Blues – an excellent song – slightly jazzy with tempo shifts and a slight unpredictable edge to it. Very nice indeed. Actually, a great track and not dissimilar to what Tom Waits was doing a couple of years later.
Snow cranes flew across the sky
In this dream I had with you
Where you were Bette Davis
And I was just untrue
"You know I couldn’t kill for love"
She said, "Darling, you’ve never tried
You’re still the man with the heart of glass
Grinding up inside
Then I heard the sound of wolves and whales
You could almost see the hues
Of multi-colored longing
When they sang the global blues
- Livin’ in the Modern Age – an old ragtime type song about livin’ in the modern age! Excellent. The horns are arranged by Jerry Yester, folkie and late member of the Lovin Spoonful. Drums are by Jim Keltner and piano by Larry Muhoberac, both who worked with Elvis, the former in sessions and the latter as part of his touring band.
- Falsetto Goodbye – straight 70s MOR but with an other worldly dreamlike quality which in it’s own way is as laid back at Michael Nesmith’s “
- The Street – a slight calypso/reggae feel before the song turns into a song of the “street”.
- On the Wheel of Song – weird. Straight MOR but twisted..
- The Jimmy Hoffa Mem. BLDG. Blues – A humorous song on the “missing” Union leader, again done as a trad jazz tune.
- (Keep Your) Back to the Wall – MOR pop soul with a catchy hook.
- Square Sun – world music. Some nice guitar work not unlike Mark Ribot and there is even a Japanese instrument called a shakahachi – whatever that is – apparently it’s a flute of some kind. The shakahachi in played by Kazu Matsui.
- Save the Whales – the album has a Japanese title for this song. It is world music with whale sounds …. it is also highly emotive. I assumed that this song is aimed at the despicable acts of the Japanese whalers at the time (of course it still applies now and it should go further and hold responsible the Japanese public who support the same either naively or not – they have the internet don’t they?)
- Atlas – a “heavy” rock song …. Though done in O’Keefe’s style … weird. Great guitar again, slightly Ribot-esque
Diverse, eclectic and ultimately endearing. Lie back and soak it up ….. major acts on major labels don’t take chances like this, anymore.
This is excellent.
…. I’m keeping it.
Nothing no where.
The Global Blues
On the Wheel of Song
a great long interview:
- With Bob Dylan, O’Keefe co-wrote the environmental movement anthem "Well Well Well"
- Danny O’Keefe speaking about this album: “Yeah. Roger Calloway plays on it. I mean, there are some really interesting things on it. It was a lesson, in a sense, that in those days — I mean, we had a budget of $125,000. I’d give a digit — not a finger, but a digit for a budget of $125,000 in this music business, the state of it is today. If we had stopped at $75,000, we had some rawness in it that was very attractive, kind of those board mixes, the first stuff that comes off and you go, "Mmmm, we got some muscle in that." But then part of the problem of having enough paint and canvas is that you just keep throwing paint there. You know that movie of Picasso, where it’s in two halves. And in the first half he’s using emotions behind a screen, and he’s just sitting there in his shorts and just painting with these ink — emotion. But then the second half of it he’s actually doing the painting. And it goes in stages. And in that painting there are at least five exquisite Picassos, right? Just gorgeous. And in the end, he finishes it, and it looks just like a Picasso. But he says, "I put too much paint on it. I ruined it." I’m not saying that I had a Picasso, I’m not trying to imply that. But I put too much paint on it”. http://www.puremusic.com/90dok5.html
This entry is for Brendon Annesley who passed recently and who I never knew. He was the muscian and editor of "The Negative Guest List" a local Brisbane punk zine. He probably wouldnt even like Danny O’Keefe but he liked Townes Van Zandt so who knows and in his own way his mag was as individual as O’Keefe’s music.