Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Thousand Different Ways: Different Voices & Impressions Part II

More members of The ConCLAYve chiming in to discuss their thoughts on A Thousand Different Ways and Clay Aiken.

If someone asked me to sit down and write a list of my least favorite songs - many on the A Thousand Different Ways track list would be on it. Truth is, when these songs were popular, I was listening to Danny O'Keefe, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton or Queen. So I wasn't very optimistic when I saw the songs Clay was covering. I mean, I didn't mind covers - but my list of songs I wanted him to cover was very very different.

I never expected to have an overwhelming love affair with this album. I had no expectations. When I heard the clips I wasn’t really sure if anything remarkable was being done with this album. I had long wished for Clay to do a song where there were instrumental breaks – where the “music” was an integral part of the song and where Clay’s voice was as powerful, as nuanced, as charged as his performance. How shocked I am that despite a list of songs I’d been dreading . . . I have been given what I wished for. My husband said, when he listened the first time, Clay’s not singing with the band – he’s playing with the band. Every time I listen – and believe me, I listen a lot – I realize how true that is.

So many people have spoken about individual tracks and have expressed my feelings – that it isn’t necessary for me to do that. What I can say is that from the moment I heard Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, I fell hard. The guitar tugs at my heart the way that Clay’s heartbreakingly truthful voice does. Here You Come Again is almost too intimate – and the smile I hear in Clay’s voice when he sings “looking better than a body has a right to” makes me think he’s singing directly to me (except for the body part *g*). And Broken Wings make me feel like I’m transported back to a Moody Blues concert – all marvelous vocals and an excitingly spiritual arrangement.

The bonus cut – If You Don’t Know Me By Now (available at Kmart only) gives me my wonderfully soulful Clay. I love this sound on him. When my husband listened to it he remarked that it made him think of Elvis and that southern gospel sound that used to be a big part of r&b. But by far, my two favorite songs are the one’s that Clay has co-written. Lonely No More has a more modern feel than many of the songs on ATD – and a great hook. It’s wonderful to sing aloud and I find the overlaying of vocals really exciting. The part where he sings “tonight” and there’s that little pause before the background voices jump in with Clay makes me smile every time – it’s just such a wonderfully unexpected moment. And Lover All Alone (available from iTunes only) is a deceptively simple song. The lyrics hold up when read as poetry and the arrangement and vocals are beautifully done. Such a special song deserves to be heard – so I decided to use it for a montage.

I'm amazed - but I think this CD will become one that I will pull out frequently - one that will comfort, inspire and surprise me for a very long time. Is it what I wanted for Clay's 2nd album? No. But hearing what he has done - it is more than I ever hoped for me.

A Thousand Different Emotions

It's been a whirlwind week in Clay Nation and before I finish packing for my 3000 mile trip to see Clay on Jimmy Kimmel Live, it seems like a good time to reflect. It's kind of fitting that Clay was on The View this week because our blog is a lot like that show with different women offering different views.

This first listen of this album requires headphones. Otherwise you miss the special things about it. The way he goes from falsetto to tenor to baritone in about 4 notes in his slow and sultry version of Dolly Parton's Here You Come Again. Or the way he uses his voice like a musical instrument, following the notes of the actual electric piano up down in an instrumental interlude during Every Time You Go Away. Perfect pitch and a really interesting segment in that song. It's funny, I always liked the perfectly imperfect Daryl Hall version and to a lesser extent the poppy Paul Young version. But this version tops them both.

A few times I tried to play “guess the cover” when the songs started and I could not. Clay and his producers really took great care to find fresh arrangements for the songs. The Celtic music for Bryan Adams' Everything I Do made me go from an ambivalent feeling toward that song to one where the music takes you to a different place in your mind. I guess it's Calgon on a CD.

It's hard to pick favorites because I keep changing my mind. Broken Wings combines an Evanescence feeling with poetry and an exciting build up, it's a great driving song and I hated the original. Clay takes the overwrought Celine Dion song Because You Loved Me and makes it a bopping, percussion driven song that I can't wait to hear in concert. He rocks it out on A Thousand Days, which we've already seen in concert. Clay co-wrote Lonely No More which has a very catchy hook, almost two hooks in fact. Another original song Everything I Have brought tears to my eyes the first few times I heard it as it connects with this mother of a teenage daughter while she and her father dance the sometimes difficult dance of growing up. Someday I will play that as they dance at her wedding.

My favorite by far is the song Clay wrote and that is only available on itunes as the bonus track called Lover All Alone. The sophisticated lyrics, the sadness and resigned aching in his voice and the incredibly wonderful arrangement have me loving this song more with each listen. The world should hear this song and know that Clay Aiken not only writes, he writes with emotion and sings his own words from the depths of his soul. There is one part where Clay is singing a rather low note and all of a sudden you realize that a cello has taken over the exact note and tone. A Masterpiece.

So listen with the headphones first. Then get in your car and crank it.

He's Going to Be In Good Company
My music tastes are very different to most peoples. Growing up in England I was exposed to the Beatles, Stones, Animals etc. and music from all over the world, to this day I still prefer World music to any other. I have everything from Tuuvan Throat Singers, to a Turkish Singer called Tarkan, to Yousssou N’dor in my collection! I really have never related to a lot of American type music so when I saw the playlist of Clay’s new CD I was really wondering if I was going to like it at all. I hated Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again” and as I only like Celine Dion singing in French…well I’ll say no more!

Of course like a "true” Clay fan I went to one of the CD Release parties and bought ATDW at Midnight.

I had about a 30 minute drive home at about 2 in the morning. I don’t think that my first listening experience could have been any better. Driving alone on a back country road, in the dark, listening to his voice just wash over me was a delight to my senses.

I really was pleasantly surprised by “Here You Come Again”. I was fully prepared to fast forward through that song but I actually listened to it all the way through. Now I still don’t like the song itself but I think Clay does a masterful job on it. It is, to me, so different to Dolly’s that I actually am starting to like it! (OMG I can’t believe I actually typed that)

As for ”Because You loved Me” I am so glad that he did not over-sing it…this version is sublime despite what some reviewers say! To me it sounds nothng like Celine’s version for which I am very grateful.

I am not any kind of an expert on music but I do know what I like and I do like most everything on this CD. My least favourite? I don't think there is anything I really dislike. I think I will have to listen another few hundred times just to make sure!
Now my most favourite is really easy for me. It is Lover All Alone. I adore his singing on this one and the words are so poignant that it brought tears to my eyes. To know that Clay wrote part or all of it is indeed an added bonus. My only regret is that because it is an iTunes bonus not everyone will have the chance to hear it.

Now being a Clay fan I know I am biased but this CD will definitely be added to my all time favourite list which includes Placido Domingo, Queen, Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Harry Secombe, Nana Mouskouri and many others. (I told you I had eclectic tastes) Pretty good company don’t you think?

"Help me paint a picture of my life...." - Clay Aiken on Lonely No More

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I'd like to paint a very personal picture of how one man's incredible voice touched three generations of our family.

You see my mother-in-law Carol, neighbor, dear friend, and fellow artist is also an incredible woman living with alzheimers. She is an advanced state where she can no longer remember the right words or piece them together enough to verbalize her thoughts. I can still remember the days when she sang in a barbershop quartet and community choirs adding her rich crystal clear soprano vocals. I can also remember her effortless piano work while singing harmony with my husband. My youngest son is a musician and we credit his talented grandmother for helping develop his passion for music.

The other day when my in-laws were over for dinner, I recognized the signs that Carol was drifting away. My FIL, a respected researcher in developmental psychology had previously described the use of music therapy in alzheimer's patients and how the rise in certain brain chemicals affect the mental state. Knowing that listening to music in her own home helps to regulate her mood, reduce aggression and depression, I decided to put on A Thousand Different Ways.

My husband and FIL were busy chatting away as I watched my MIL stare blankly into her plate. My heart was crushed. Was it only a few years ago that she listened to the CD mix of Clay songs that brought her such joy? The volume was low but I turned it up before I started to clear the table. As Clay's crystal clear vocals hit the chorus of Without You, my mother in law, head still bent, started matching tones, quietly at first, and then with a continuing strength that startled me. After months of barely uttering words, Carol was singing.....not only singing but matching pitch. Every single time Clay sang the word "Liiiiiive" she was right there with him, a look that I can't describe in any other way than complete contentment and joy. Her eyes twinkled and she smiled and as if on cue we all enthusiastically applauded. The lump in my throat was getting out of control and glancing to my FIL for support I saw the tears in his eyes that mirrored my own. My husband was swallowing hard and my son's mouth was dropped open in disbelief. Clay's brilliant and crystal voice dug down deep and reached her on a level that blew us all away. Pink Armchair beautifully articulated how THAT VOICE gets into your psyche and stays there. There was no doubt in my mind that she was responding to THAT VOICE. A force of nature indeed.

In trying to list all the different ways Clay Aiken's voice has delighted and thrilled me on ATDW, all the reasons seem to fall away compared to those few moments in time. I know without a doubt that my son will retell this story years from now because it was just that powerful. I'm sure he'll always remember it as the day his grandmother sang again.
If you would like to read Part I of our Impressions - click here

And don't be shy about leaving comments . . . Use Your Voice.

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ivy said...

Seeing myself in much of what everyone wrote, I greatly enjoyed this blog. While I expected to like this CD, I didn't care for the song list and was a little worried before I heard ATDW. Maybe it's that I'm not a fan of most music and barely remembered the titles of the cover songs. The ones I remembered, I recalled with disdain only because I didn't like the songs not because of the genre of music or any other supposedly "cool" attribute. Well I ended up loving the CD and like every song. What surprises me is that Clay is not only bringing me back to music but I'm listening to older rock, R&B and jazz with an appreciation that I did not have before. There is a richness/greatness in the older works not present in much of the manufactured sounds of today. This CD is wonderful and I'm looking forward to more from Mr Clay Aiken.

Hobbier said...

I loved all of your impressions of ATDW. Each of them spoke to me but I do have to say, I'm sitting here weeping from Beauzzartz's description of the day Grandmother sang again. My FIL has alzheimers so I no the desease & how it affects everyone. What a gift Clay's voice is & gave to your family. I know you will treasure the memory & I hope that Clay's voice can continue to reach your MIL.

The montage is absolutely wonderful. Thank you for sharing it.

Pink Armchair said...

I'm very proud to be a part of this blog -- so many intelligent and insightful comments here, from so many diverse perspectives. I'm grateful to this special man for bringing us together. And Beauzzartz, that story about your mother-in-law responding in spite of her Alzheimers made me cry. If music can tame the savage beast, it can also reach us in ways and to a degree that nothing else on earth can. If this CD has accomplished nothing else, this alone would be enough.

The ConCLAYve-Nan said...

isn't is amazing how Clay has touched our lives and the lives of those we love. Thank you to CB, Merrie and Beauzzartz for sharing such special moments with me. And Ivy - isn't is interesting how Clay has brought you back to music with a new appreciation. I know when MrNan picked up his guitar after many many years, it was Clay who inspired him to do that.

Michi said...

I have to echo Pink Armchair and Shadylil and say I have been honored to be a part of this blog.

Thanks to everyone for sharing their impressions. We are so different from each other yet the love of a great voice has brought us together. I think that is pretty amazing.

Clay always wants to thank his fans. I always want to thank him and thank you never seems enough.

Beauzzartz the story about your mother-in-law touched me deeply.

Nanjeanne, your montage is gorgeous and is only matched by the beauty of the song that Clay has given us. May this forum be a way that more people get a chance to listen to it because it deserves to be heard.

Shadylil said...

This was such a nice thing to do, Nan, et al. What wonderful descriptions of each of our reactions to ATDW.

Beauz....someday I'll tell you about my father (who has alzheimers) and 'The Blood Will Never Lose it's Power'

CB said...

Beauzz, I need to give you a hug next time I see you.

stargazer said...

I had to backtrack and read part I. I love everyone's comments about ATDW and thank you, thank you, thank you for the montage. I bought the d/l from itunes but I love that you've made the song available for everyone to hear.

aclaymom said...

When speaking about Clay's voice reaching your MIL, I was reminded of how much my own mother loved him. At 88 she was the only one in her nursing home with a Clay Corner. Her bulletin board was covered not with pictures of her grand/great-grandchildren, but with pictures of Clay. If he was going to be on TV, I had to be sure to be there to set up her TV, as she could no longer remember how to select channels or what the various networks were. But she wanted her Clay fix. It is truly amazing the things he has done that he doesn't even know about!
Thanks for sharing. Aclaymom

Vox Vixen said...

I totally agree. ATDW is so much better than I imagined. I was quite scared when I saw the tracklist. I love it. I think it will be one of those CD's I never get tired of.

What a beautiful story from Beauzzartz about her MIL.


Anonymous said...

The story about your Mother-in-law touched me very much. I love the new Cd and somewhere deep in her heart your loved one was touched by Clay'a voice. Jackie

Carolina Clay said...

Thnx to all in the ConCLAYve for sharing your impressions and touching experiences with ATDW.

Clay's vocals and interpretations make the songs new -- those that legitimately are and those he has reinvented. It is truly a beautiufl album.

Love your blog -- with special thnx to Nan for dropping by mine!


beauzzartz said...

Thank you for giving the Conclayve community this opportunity to share our personal reflections. I appreciate all those who have shared their own situations with aging parents. As you know, I can chat a blue streak about scenic design and plants, but not so easily about personal experiences. The virtual table of the Conclayve is a safe haven, and I am honored to be included with such beautiful insightful women. I have been touched by each and every entry.

Nan, your montage combined with Clay's vocals is precious art for the soul. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

God, you're good! Makes me almost wanna trash my own blog!! But I won't because our very differences are what make this wonderful Clay Nation so unique and special. Thank you for being a guiding light for all of us!