Jeffrey Gaines

Jeffrey Gaines

Chrysalis Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Alicia St. Rose


On rare occasions I've come across a songwriter who goes beyond the basic elements of the craft. Instead of melody and rhyme powering their words, they choose to bare their soul and let that energy envelope the fruits of their labor. The song is simply a vehicle for raw emotions often hidden, fears often unspoken. There is no separation between the song and the artist. What you hear is who you get. Jeffrey Gaines is such an artist.

Possessing an achingly soulful voice, Gaines uses it to great effect to share his moments of weakness, his anxieties and inevitable contentions with loss. Listening to his debut album Jeffrey Gaines is akin to an intimate encounter of the soul. You are the ear to his confessions, his foibles. Gaines has revealed his vulnerabilities so that you can look a little deeper into you own.

The album opens up with "Hero In Me", a beautiful, eloquently rendered song in which Gaines realizes the stagnation that can smother one's life. But recognizing this he has hope that he can overcome it: "Here in my security/I've simply let myself go/I've developed a co-dependency/And as I grow older/So many places that I've never been/Time's tapping my shoulder/I hope it's never too late to begin". And then there's "Scares Me More", which vividly expresses the fear of living with the consequences of one's actions or the fear of never deciding at all: "I could hit or I could miss, but just to sit around like this/Scares me more than anything in the world".my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

While these songs wrestle with the inner demons of indecision and inertness, others tackle the feelings of regret. In the very personal and autobiographical song "Didn't Want To Be Daddy" Gaines sings about his aborted child. He is older and wiser looking back at a time when he was a rash young man who "didn't want to be/The one, with all the responsibility/The one, with children at my feet/The one, with the happy family/'Cause I didn't want to be daddy". It's not a plea for forgiveness nor a reflection on guilt but simply an admission of human failure. The quiet and poignant "Sorry The Very Next Day" details the relationship with his alcoholic father. It's a moving ballad in which we can feel compassion for them both as victims in the maelstrom of substance abuse.

Gaines has his reflections on society: the stifling of creativity in the educational system in the Bowiesque "Headmasters Of Mine" and the senselessness of murder in "Why" where he sings, "How could you think it over/And still follow through/Is there no one in this world who loves you". In "Choices" he takes a stance on abortion singing from the point of view of a woman, "Please understand that it's/My life, my mind and my body/And leave my choices alone".

Jeffrey Gaines is a brilliant collection songs adorned in subtle and beautifully wrought arrangements. Each song stands alone embodying its own particular mood and punctuated at the end with a single guitar chord or sung word (the only song allowed to fade out is the last cut). This is very effective. The songs take on the aspect of short scenes in this drama of being human.

In the first cut on this album Gaines sings, "There's got to be some hero in me". It takes courage to reveal the short comings which most keep hidden. It takes an inordinate amount of courage face down the vulnerability that would result from such and act. So with that said, there is probably enough hero in Jeffrey Gaines to spare.

Rating: A

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© 2000 Alicia St. Rose and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Chrysalis Records, and is used for informational purposes only.