Thursday, 28 February 2013

Albums for Life: 44: Jane Siberry: When I Was a Boy

Singer, songwriter, poet, trollop.

Thus does Jane Siberry introduce herself on her own website.
Followed by:

All animals, birds, fish, insects, reptiles and our other brothers and sisters live full, expanded lives in this universe. No cages, no pens, no messing with their diets, genes, hormones. No beaks are cut off. No young leaves its mother until the mother decides. Flocks of parrots fly from tree to tree, busy, living large. In return for us removing our arrogance from their flow, they are teaching us more and more. Allowing us to see their 'real' intelligence. Magic leans closer.

You know that you're dealing with a well intentioned bag of frogs.
I have seen her live a couple of times and she certainly puts the 'd' into 'ditsy'...
She also invests her songs with more heart and beauty than almost any other female song writer that I know. Her early albums were a mixed bag; wrapped in naff DX7 keyboard sounds, flanged guitars and clunky electronic drums; though the songs were often beautiful the spell was always broken.
The previous album to 'When I Was a Boy' was  'Bound by the Beauty', it was just great and had fabulous compositions such as 'The Valley', 'The Life is the Red Wagon' and 'Hockey'. However there was still something not quite there for me with the production. 'The Valley' is widely recognised by many as Siberry's finest song, and yet I still prefer fellow Canadian K.D. Lang's version.
She nailed it; Siberry didn't quite.

On 1993's 'When I Was a Boy' the stars alined for Jane. Production values became more ambient with Brian Eno and Michael Brook shaking their magic sticks to great effect. K. D. Lang makes a telling appearance on 'Calling All Angels', a song that has been used in a couple of soundtracks and to devastating effect in the brilliantly dark TV series Six Feet Under, where members of the cast sang the song at a wake. And death does seem to be a prevalent theme here, 'The Vigil' seems to be paean to a dying mother, 'The Gospel According to Darkness' and 'An Angel Stepped Down' all seem spiritually rooted. The beauty of 'Love is Everything' is almost overwhelming.
Here it is, taken from the album then followed by a stunning live version.
That's then followed by 'Calling All Angels' and the undeniably holy profundities of 'The Valley', as performed/owned by K. D.  Listen and you will surely walk in good company...


  1. Another one where I know the name more than the music. I did hear some of the early tracks youo mentioned and wondered what all the fuss was about (at the time her lps seemed to get the 4/5star Q treatment), but this seems much more up my street. On a sep note when I saw the previous post appear in the side bar of my blog out of the corner of my eye for one moment I though you had Cant Slow down on your top 125!

    1. You should see the size of his hobnob!!!!!

  2. "You're dealing with a well intentioned bag of frogs..." I'm tempted to use that friggin' LOL acronym!!!
    Yes, Jane is a cuckoo. It's taken me awhile to come around to "getting" her music, and still working at it. Some pretty stuff on this album. 'Love Is Everything' a gem for sure. I'm kinda partial to "The Walking", but to my surprise I also like her covers album "Hush" and even her Christmas/gospel album "Hymns Of Earth (Shushan)."
    You're certainly filling your Canadian artist quota with your list!

  3. I have Hush TT and like it; there is always something 'pretty' on every album.
    Looking at recent videos it seems that the girl has let herself go a bit; maybe it's that tough Canadian climate; I suspect too much saccharine...

  4. She has been around forever but I've never listened much. I'm currently really enjoying her latest album Meshach Dreams Back. Theatrical, spoken word, slightly bonkers, echoes of cabaret... perhaps even prog?
    I've bought a few from her website to listen to at leisure - she has all her work up on pay what you like / pay if you like basis. It has encouraged me to buy!

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