A dazzling double album by one of our greatest mercurial talents. It’s almost too much to take in – 28 tracks, a veritable hurricane of ideas flooding at you from all directions amid a startling torrent of words, sounds and style gleaned from here, there and everywhere. All of which ultimately adds up to a highly individual talent and a richly entertaining album with a massive range of colours, most of them primary. There’s ranting politics, touching sentiment, humour, anger, love and hate and there’s blues, rock, rap, jazz, folk musical styles from various corners of the world. One minute he’s delivering a frenzied new take on Ewan Macoll’s Sweet Thames Flow Softly swapping buses for boats on London kisses; the next he’s taking on Macoll himself with a moving interpretation of the song Ewan wrote as his own epitaph, The Joy Of Living. Equally the kaleidoscope of music surrounding his passionate poetry is equally dizzying, yearning bottle neck guitar on You Were Everywhere, trombone on Cold War Of The Heart, full blooded harmonica at the intro to What Brings You Here Tonight, A beat primitively banged out on tap shoes throughout the album. Blues licks meeting African rhythms and turning both on their heads. McLeod has never stood still long enough to be discovered, literally or metaphorically.
A gloriously instinctive performer in a category of one, Rory follows his heart and his heart rarely lets him down as you discover while attempting to hang on to his coat tails through the maze of energy and burning whimsy he leaves in his tracks. On Stranger-God he raps non-stop for nine minutes an involved, bizarre tale of a strange Java legend about strangers, in that matey, knockabout voice of his, while he plucks banjo and didgeridoo rumbles behind him and it doesn’t seem strange at all.
On When Mum And Daddy Made Me he also turns in a slightly cheesy elegy to the miracle of childbirth with a disarming frankness that encompasses the very act of conception without a trace of self-consciousness, and then sings the praises of woodwork over wailing harmonica on Sandpaper Blues. He’s probably at his best, though, with his tail up, fury in his belly, targeting prejudice and narrowmindedness with his blistering invective. The hypocrisy of religious zealots from Paisley to the Ayatollah are hammered in God Loves Me (” He is our God but he can’t stand you “) and better still is What Would Jesus Do, an epic which seems to encompass every protest song ever written under one blazing roof.
Guests include Aimee Leonard, Conrad Ivitsky, Bob Morgan, B.J. Cole, Ian Lothian, Mary Macmaster and Phil Budden, but this is incontrovertibly McLeod’s hour. And it’s probably his finest.
Ex-Circus clown and fire-eater McLeod showcases his eccentric and singular talent on a typically eclectic double. McLeod’s Blitzkrieg of originality should have made him a national icon long ago. That he remains a mere cult hero in a specialist field has much to do with his own incessant lust for adventure, reflected in a blaze of contrasting musical and lyrical reference points which scarcely keep him in one place long enough to milk any glory.
Part Talking Blues, part world music visionary, he switches from unexpected sentiment (Unlearning Song) to rampaging political observation in a voice that makes Billy Bragg sound like a public School boy, while skipping lightly through a musical history of the world. The First CD is an especially moving Song Cycle, including telling contributions by ex-Anam singer Aimee Leonard, an inspired re-working of Ewan Macoll’s ‘Joy Of Living’ and one epic, mind-boggling socialist anthem ‘What would Jesus Do? Inspirational. (Colin Irwin)
“‘A beautiful mix of tender love songs, powerful political messages and everything in between.” (Byron Shire Echo, Byron Bay, 9 Jan 2001)
‘”This album is getting acclaim world wide and it’s easy to hear why. This man makes socio-political stance a joyous right instead of a tiresome ballad. A body of work that’s fresh and full of life, laughter and song.” (XPress, Perth, 11 Jan 2001)
“His songs evoke a life lived at the edge with great joy” (Northern Rivers Echo, Byron Bay, 11 Jan 2001)
“Unorthodox and brilliant” (Green Left, Weekly, Australia, 1 Feb 2001)
“Immerse yourself in the vibrant and emotive words and music of Rory McLeod and you will certainly feel most pleased to be alive!” (Beat Magazine, Melbourne, 7 Feb 2001)
“A treasure trove.” (Geelong Advertiser, Geelong, 18 Feb 2001)
“A panoramic collection of infectious songs and instrumentals that is fully of warmth, humour and insights… Affectionate songs about ‘ordinary’ people.” (Canberra Times, Canberra, 1 Mar 2001)