Sleeve Notes for Life's Eyes by George Papavgeris
George continues to chronicle his generations passage through life, at work, at home, at war and in nature, through relationships, memories and aspirations. Augmented sparsely but tellingly by Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer (in the guise of Georges itinerant Los Marbles)
George Papavgeris:Vocals, 12-string & 6-string guitars, djembe, shaky egg
Vicki Swan:Vocals, double bass, flute, Scottish smallpipes
Jonny Dyer:Vocals, guitar, accordion, keyboards
In many ways, this album is a simply a natural extension of what has gone before; George continues to chronicle his generations passage through life, at work, at home, at war and in nature, through relationships, memories and aspirations. The loss of both parents and some friends since the last album is also reflected here. And the powers of observation, the emotional honesty and the humanistic integrity are all there. What is different in Lifes Eyes is that there is a quiet confidence appearing in his writing, which is audible in the subtlety of the tunes, no longer aiming to surprise with elaborate arrangements but just as memorable. And the Greek influence is a little more overt now, too. Yet all songs are characteristically George in that they still afford the same deception of instant recognition, as if you have always known them. Its just that the support wheels are now off and the songs are free to make their own confident way in the world, unusual rhythms and all.
And the same confidence is evident also in Georges singing the best he has ever been. Regrets is probably the finest example of his mature and seasoned delivery. Augmented sparsely but tellingly by Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer (in the guise of Georges itinerant Los Marbles) both in voice and on an assortment of guitars, bass, flute, small-pipes, whistle, keyboards and accordion settings (yes, Musette too!), the songs shine like so many precious stones. Or like windows lit on a dark night, each affording another view into the lives around us.
1 Another Day
A sarcastic take on how easy it is to get wrapped up in the importance of what we each do, and lose the bigger picture while hiding behind the defensive wall of “I’ve done my best”. Another title might have been “The Washing of the Hands”… The closing verse can be seen either as the counterpoint of the earlier ones, or as a re-enforcer of the very same argument. I owe Clive James for plagiarising blatantly one of his lines from the “Hypertension Kid” into my “explosives dump with Semtex for a lid”…
This is a love song, if you want it to be. I know it will sound like it. But for me, it is the frustration of being unable to talk to Baba once he slipped into the final coma. So, love, yes; just not the kind you might have thought at first.
It’s true: I was dreaming of those beautiful birds for days after I left Australia the last time. The pair visiting my son’s garden had become close friends by then. They became a symbol of my times there, and I can’t wait to see them again. But note that I make no reference to their song - there is good reason for that!
4 Toni with an "i"
It struck me that one must feel really desperately unhappy to put oneself through the mental, emotional and physical anguish involved in a sex change. This is beyond the wish for cosmetic improvement, and goes much deeper, involving a strength of feeling many of us will never experience. Yet all they seek is what most of us take for granted: a normal life. Toni of the song is of course ficticious, but in my mind she is a tall blonde bus driver to be found supping of an evening at the Royal Oak…
5 Rush Hour
Sitting at a café pavement table outside 39 Victoria Street in London, the ears assaulted by all sorts of noise and shouts, the eyes couldn’t help noticing the irony of the closed worlds of the passers-by; each with his/her problems, parallel lives that never touch each other and are barely touched by the news of the world at large.
I have the Katsimiha songwriting brothers to thank for the idea for this song. I can only speak for myself, of course, but – don’t we all owe at least one of these?
(an emigrant’s) Rebetiko It’s all Gabriel Doyle’s fault: when he compared my music to “Thames meets the Med” he triggered a train of thought… My whole life is like that really, with a sprinkling of eucalyptus leaves as well, always doomed to miss people and places wherever I may be. I was most impressed with how well Vicki handled its confusing mix of 4/4, 9/8 and 10/8 rhythms. Respeck!
8 Upwind of me
Tongue-in-cheek frustration at the political pussyfooting around global warming and the partisan attitudes towards first its existence, then its causes, and finally the possible remedies. My first song with a four-letter word too, though I hope it will not leave me in bad odour. I owe Terry Pratchett for stealing a line from his “Good Omens” : “The thing about pollution is, the sunsets are beautiful!”
9 Late Spring
tune trad arr Igor Medio/lyrics G.Papavgeris
Impatience at the late arrival of spring. But this song is so much more than that: The tune is based on a song and a dance from the Asturias (La Xeringosa & Dancia de Cenera), and Igor Medio, leading light of the amazing Asturian Celtic band Felpeyu, wrote the original lyric on the same topic, calling the song Los Fayeos De Mayo (The Beechwoods of May). I loved it first time I heard it (thank you, Denis!). Then, on the night of the 2006 Summer Solstice, Felpeyu’s van was involved in an accident. Both Igor Medio and Carlos Redondo, another band member, were killed. I knew then that I had to offer something back in their memory. Nunca te olvidaremos…gracias por todo.
10 One by one
A time-of-life observation, I suppose. But I find it scary that my mentors and heroes are all disappearing, leaving me to be the “wise” and “respectable” one with all the answers. And the doubts of my youth return: am I good enough?
or “Dance of the Old Men”) A true childhood memory from a time when life’s veterans were celebrated rather than cast aside. Written to the characteristic rhythm of “tsamiko” - the dance the old men danced that day, and one of the oldest Greek dances, traceable to antiquity.
It was always Baba’s wish: “Let me be the first (to go)!” – and Mama would scold him for “talking such rubbish in front of the children”. We knew however that he could never have coped with Mama’s “going” first, and were pleased for him when he did get his wish. Then one day, the sound of a coughing fit from downstairs made me realise that Baba’s wish is now mine too.
13 For a Friend
Written for Paul at the request of his best mate, while Paul was recovering from a nasty accident. But Paul was my friend too and the feelings in the song echo my own. And they apply to all of us and our relationship with our friends. The lesson is simple, yet we mostly ignore it: Let those you love know it, today. Because you may not be able to do it tomorrow.
14 Harbour Lights
As you approach Thessaloniki from the mouth of the Thermaic Gulf, the ‘Hill of Thousand Trees’ behind, it looks like a woman’s neck, wearing the city like a blouse and the harbour lights like jewels. For many it was the last sight of home as they emigrated; for some, a welcome sign of the end of a voyage. But nothing is ever as it seems.