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Death or Glory?
Naked from the cover to the content, it's a great gift to be able to place an entire being of purpose into the melting pot of poetry and music, and to come out with songs of such strong identity - imbued with mood, style, pace and effects, which compliment and enhance the lyrical intent. This is, however, a tough ride in places. Renowned for being uncompromising in his work, Roy releases a deluge of emotions, at times uncomfortably personal, but always in honest communication with the listener; as well as sending a heart-felt message to his lost love.
Death or Glory feels like the knee-jerk backlash, screaming acoustic metalesque stylings, contrasting polarised emotions, from bitterness to regret, from anger to desperation, before the dust has had time to settle - its giddying delivery echoed in Man Kind. Waiting for Godot - the play itself is in two acts ... nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes ... Vladimir and Estragon recycle a daily pointlessness of living purgatory, anticipating the arrival of Godot (who never turns up). Perhaps Part Zed represents the end of an alphabet of repeated acts, as the last chance for Godot's appearance slips by; a metaphor for the front door that will never open to readmit the partner of a relinquished relationship. The Plough underlines the sense of being adrift. Constant reruns of the movies of mistakes projected onto the memory's unrelenting rack. Disoriented by confusion and suddenly rising tides of painful recollection. The anguish, fatigue and despair of Next To Me and One More Tomorrow, conjure desolation. Love entangles emotions, until you become a part of one another, but as - over the years - barbed wire can be absorbed into the bark of an expanding tree ... pulling it out will leave a gaping wound, open to the elements. Summer Day closes the final chapter with fondness, facing the sudden winter of an ephemeral dream; of this group of songs, I find it the most heartbreaking and we were moved to tears when Sue and I saw Roy perform it live.
The War Came Home Tonight - tin soldiers, their lives suspended on delicate threads by the sinister puppeteers of politics and religion, celebrated in the global amphitheatre by the media vultures. Set to a rhythm that conjures up war fever, it reminds me of the end of 'Dr. Strangelove' as Slim Pickens (sat astride an A-bomb, hurtling down towards its target) waves his cowboy hat in the air yelling, "YeeeeeHaaaaa!" It leads into Duty as the other side of the coin of conscious suicide - a falling sperm count, over the peak life expectancy and Gaia sickened by the evil metastases of our own violation. Originally titled 'Fuck-Off-Blues,' Fourth World continues the theme in arse-kicking fashion, with the rawest of screams. Cardboard City, with Nick's excellent 'Boxcar' slide blues is a corker at the live shows, holding up a mirror to a public blindfolded by conceit, aiming to jolt them out of complacency by a hard look at the 'Big Issue.'
The Tallest Tree and Miles Remains are joyous tributes to their subjects' lives and purpose. All too often it's the infamous who leave their indelible stains in the history book. Eco-warriors like Chico Mendes deserve more than dim recollection ... firecrackers and carnival, nice one Roy. There's an oriental tradition in which chrysanthemum flowers are floated downstream to the departed and Miles achieves this in the flow of Roy's arrangement and the rich heart of Nick's contribution. An anthem to swim in and a breathing space to reflect on 'Mr Cool.' At its end Roy clips a string, just beyond the nut, and the candle's flame flickers out; a puff of smoke dissipating the life force of one of his greatest heroes.
I first saw Roy perform Evening Star at the Woolwich Tramshed and loved it at once. A wedding present for sons and daughters flying the coop, eager for each other and the world beyond, and a unification of friends.
So, for Roger's engineering ... a baptism of fire
For Nick (whose playing sounds like he's visited the 'Crossroads') with Roy's vibe spun integrally into his DNA, anxiety for his father in his heart, and his most dazzling work to date ... a triumph.
Both, in their own ways, forming a badly needed life raft for Roy, during the fragile aftermath.
For Roy, who took on a leviathan of an album and walked the thin line between vulnerability and disaster with his soul laid bare ... a courageous catharsis and a remarkably powerful record.
Dave Burnham 1993