A forty-year absence from the recording scene finds troubadour Bob Lind in almost unimaginably terrific songwriting and vocal form. His new album Finding You Again is a triumph of the highest order from beginning to end. Immaculately and movingly produced by Jamie Hoover of the Spongetones, these songs are not merely written or performed; they are, each of them, crafted as carefully and as artfully as Lind’s equally brilliant work from the ’60s and ’70s. His voice and his musicianship are compelling. We’ll go out on a limb and state that we haven’t a clue whether work as fine as this will find an audience in present-day iTunes land, but one thing is for certain: these songs will last. The album brings to mind Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem ‘Music: The Breathing of Statues’ in which the immortal German poet wrote:
Feelings for whom? Transformation
of feelings to what? Into audible landscape,
Strange land: Music. Space grown from our hearts,
Ours most intimate,
stepping beyond us,
Bob Lind’s most famous song is, of course, “Elusive Butterfly”, and over the years Lind must have felt imprisoned by the success of this tune. It was not even his best song, but it captured the imagination of millions of ’60s hippies, collegians, protesters and dreamers who were entranced by the beauty of his poetry and the hook-laden production. He made a few records after that, none of them particularly successful, and gained a reputation as a difficult man to work with. Alcohol, ego and the independent streak that often accompanies rare talent were factors in his absence from the record charts, but Lind continued to write, perform and perfect his craft. He has amassed a catalogue of over 300 songs, and has been covered by more than 200 artists including Aretha Franklin, Hoyt Axton, Marianne Faithfull and Eric Clapton.
He has become well-known for delivering particularly affecting stage performances, because despite his characteristic wise-ass attitude (in some respects), you could always count on Lind to write and sing from a unique place: the union of his heart and mind. Others who went there crashed and burned: John Lennon, Tim Hardin, Phil Ochs are examples of artists who could have done so much more had they not met untimely ends. Bob Lind has been blessed with survival, and as it turns out, the blossoming of his considerable talents. Had Tom Paxton (“Changes’) progressed in his artistry, he might have produced something as fine as Finding You Again. Had John Lennon lived, he might have written something as elegant and as moving as “Someone To Adore” or as balls-to-the-walls as “The Gravity of The World”.
Now I don’t know who or what influences Lind these days, but I’d be very surprised if he didn’t dedicate himself (at some point in his life) to the reading of such poets as Lorca, Bertolt Brecht, and the great Russian lyric poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. The images in Lind’s writing, the specificity of his approach, and his commitment to looking towards the sublime are strongly reminiscent of the great lyric poets of the 20th century. I’ll quote from one of the highlights of the record, the truly beautiful ballad entitled “Someone To Adore”:
The song that swells in every beating heart
The theme that throbs in every classic work of art
The drive that draws a man to churches and to whores
Someone to adore”
And the closing track, entitled “Perspective” offers up some wonderful, thoughtful and piercing images, unmatched in the writing of virtually any contemporary songwriter you care to name:
What if you leave me
The faithful moon will keep on rising
Stars will shimmer birds will fly
The nights will fall, and years will slide
So, the question remains, why release a record now, after 40 years. Bob Lind expressed his convictions and decision succintly when he said recently:
To me, music is simple. You get in a room, or on a stage, or outdoors in the sunshine, and you play a part of your life into the life of someone else (or several someone elses). That’s it. It’s direct, it’s immediate and it’s not caged up in time. You say what you have to say and it’s fucking over. It connects or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, life goes on. If it does, something true and meaningful has happened.
My songs are never finished. I sing them as they occur to me in the moment. They change a little every time I play them. Recording “pins” songs like entomologists on moths and spiders into bug collections. The shells are preserved but the life is over.”
Things changed when he started working with Jamie Hoover, who proved to be both a talented and sympathetic producer. Before Lind knew what was happening, they’d agreed to work on a new recording together. Lind’s suspicions and past experience of the record industry disappeared entirely in his excitement of working with Hoover. Says Lind, “his love for my music not only brought out the best in his production artistry; it also gave him the downright divine tolerance to put up with my raging temper and often tactless criticism – I’m maniacally defensive of my songs and don’t frame my objections kindly… His mantra was ‘I want you to be happy’. He constantly sought to bring my ideas to life in his unique and creative way.”
Key tracks on the record: “How Dare You Love Me”, “Maybe It’s The Rain”, “Someone To Adore”, and well, pretty much the entire album. It’s a brilliant piece of work, with adult perspectives, witty lyrics, some inspired singing, and above all, the evidence of songcraft that stands far and above almost anything else being released today. And despite what Bob says about the recording process, this record is that good. Really that good.
My own personal favourite of all 2012 albums to date. Highly recommended.