A Review of the CD
"Pipe Street Dreams"
by James Gordon

"Pipe Street Dreams"
by James Gordon

Copyright 1999 - WR4008
Drog Recordings - Canada
Wind River Records - United States

Pipe Street Publishing
Box 714
Guelph ON Canada N1H 6L3
ph: (519)-837-3757

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 8/99
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Ex-Tamarack member James Gordon's maiden solo effort is a curious amalgamation--his smooth, easy-to-listen-to vocals are quite charming but the variety of subject matter he hoes throughout this release has some especially dark and weedy corners: emigrating with the prayer of a better life, bewilderment about time's passage, animals abused in out-of-character rituals solely for the amusement of humans, insomnia, environmental excesses producing both lost jobs and serious illness, the oxymoron of religious commercialism, both first and unrequited love, national identity, progress and profits at the expense of community, and the struggles of the performing life.

The effect is disarming as his beguiling music eases the listener into a tete-a-tete with rather sobering subject matter. His is not an in-your-face style and his subtlety provides an opportunity for enlightenment without being off-putting.

He opens with the wistful and gentle emigration tale "Robin Hood's Bay" and then slides into "That Old Cedar Strip," a tale of confusion about past memories and where time has gone. After reflecting on how life and family has overtaken youthful activities, Gordon sings:

"Jumbo's Last Ride" cutely attributes human qualities and actions ("telling old elephant jokes, smoking their elephant smokes") to two circus elephants, Jumbo and Tom Thumb. Ultimately, however, this is a sorrowful tale of the hardships animals endure for human entertainment. As Jumbo says to Tom Thumb: Jumbo ultimately finds his escape through a fatal act of heroism.

"Coke Oven Brook" is the most angry, emotional cut on the release. A slam at Sydney Steel for both abandoning a town deriving its livelihood from the mill and for leaving behind an environmental and public health disaster, Gordon pulls no punches here.

The melancholy "Far From Our Shieling," based on a poem by John Galt, depicts the umbilical connection to homeland felt by immigrants. Gordon sings:

"Lamas on the Road," with Gordon's tongue sharply in cheek, takes a clever poke at the unwieldy combination of spirituality and show business. He sings: "The Uneeda Rest" is a sweet tale about summer love and how strongly the young truly feel in matters of the heart. "Hamilton Beach" portrays the never-ending clash between what holds a community together and so-called progress.

"Too Canadian These Days" is a wry jab at the Canadian soul:

James, be careful about receiving any packages minus return addresses--someone just may take exception to your jabs. On second thought, no, Canadians are too nice.

He closes with "Isn't It Time To Go Home," a selection made more interesting by his recent decision to leave Tamarack and reduce his traveling schedule. He bitingly sings:

There are 13 offerings here and nary a weak cut among them. This may not qualify as a riveting release but it is a high-caliber work of art from a performer of substance. His musings will entertain, educate and cause reflection.

Besides penning each song, Gordon remarkably also performed all the guitar, mandola, banjo, tin whistle, recorder, trumpet, percussion, synthesizer, organ, bass, hammered dulcimer, accordion, piano and harmonica instrumentation.

Track List:

All songs written by James Gordon except "Far From Our Shieling," a poem by John Galt.

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