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Sleeve Notes for Looking Both Ways by George Papavgeris

Looking Both WaysForward and astern. Traditional and modern. Strange and familiar. Night and day. Near and distant. Old and new. East and West. Young and old. Multiple perspectives, each with their validity yet each also limited in the view they can afford.  And still many of us cling desperately to one or the other pretending to be seeing some universal Truth that excludes others.  Most of my adult life I tried to fight such tendencies within myself, a fight that I will no doubt lose one day as ideas harden to keep pace with the arteries.  But meanwhile I soldier on, always looking for new recruits to take up the cause of observing ourselves from the outside and smiling (lovingly, always lovingly) at our anthropocentric veneer of self-importance.

Who will take my shilling?


The flood of songs in 2001 and 2002 is down to a controlled trickle now (controlled? Whom am I kidding? I don’t control any of it).  With my initial objective of leaving something behind pretty much achieved already, these days it is either wistfulness or anger that mostly move me to new efforts, and that may show in the contents of this, the eighth album in eight years.  Either that, or I am getting older and more ornery – please spare me the answer!

Once more I have others to thank for dressing up my ideas ready for an outing:  Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer are even closer friends now, and in the words of an American performer on the folk circuit “the act that has advanced the most in the last two years”, as their album “Gleowien” proves.  Yet they still humbly take on the role of my “Los Marbles” every time and lug keyboards and double bass around for my sake, in addition to their usual vanful of guitars, nyckelharpa, accordeon, smallpipes etc. They continue  dissecting professionally my East-influenced time signatures and harmonies, and improving my West-centred ones, and do it all with their signature smiles, enthusiasm and natural empathy for music.  Paul Sartin adds character with fiddle, oboe and Chor Anglais. Pete Flood makes cajon, Iraqi frame-drum and Udu pot speak the words I couldn’t write.  Stuart, Paula, Sarah and Kathryn Tindall, lift the harmonies to soaring heights like colourful, sparkling kites riding the breeze.

Track Notes

1 Handmedowns
George Papavgeris

Inspired by Mark Cohn's beautiful "The Things We Handed Down", this is a much more ascerbic (OK, bitter and twisted!) observation that so much we take for granted is indeed just that - handed down.

2 Serendipity
George Papavgeris

Ode to fortuitous happenstance bringing people together for a song. We are all just passing through, but meanwhile…

3 Daniel and Ayse
George Papavgeris

On cross-cultural relationships and the reactions to them from different sides of the generation gap, missing the real point. Dedicated to the memory of Ayse Ozdemir.

4 Thieves of innocence
George Papavgeris

Re-recording of a 2002 song about the forcible use of children in armed conflict; something that has happened time and again throughout history and across the globe. And a lot nearer to you than you might think, though the most recent examples have been from the Congo. With thanks to Joe Dolce for his chiding

5 Miracle of life
George Papavgeris

Celebration of that which is all around us, yet we take so little notice of. Nothing is lost, not even when it is gone. Written for self-help reasons – to rationalise my becoming an orphan. It worked!

6 Erotokritos
George Papavgeris

Translation of an excerpt from the traditional Cretan epic poem of the same name – this is The Parting, a well-known Greek traditonal song

7 Love of a sort
George Papavgeris

Lunchtime observations at a Milton Keynes café. With my best wishes to the Unknown Couple.

8 Rejection
George Papavgeris

A review of my generation's achievements in shaping our world. “This is another fine mess, JFK…”

9 Street Life
George Papavgeris

Real images from a real street and real people, showing multiculturalism at work. With thanks to my neighbours for their inspiration and enthusiastic approval. My answer to the BNP.

10 Life's dreams - The art of kite flying
George Papavgeris

The quality of dreams changing with age - hopeful, anxious, reflective, overlaid with real childhood memories of making and flying our own kites, watching them “carrying our dreams”.

11 Azadeh
George Papavgeris

Based on the 'tweets' of a medical student, single parent (let's call him Muhammad), between Monday 15th and Friday 19th June 2009 during the protests following the Iranian Presidential elections. In his messages he referred to his daughter as Azadeh (Farsi for 'freedom fighter') - I believe the name was symbolic rather than actual, and therefore I also use it here with its double meaning.

12 Hills Above the city
George Papavgeris

From the hills above the city, all its ills and problems are non-visible or insignificant. Distance is blind to ugliness and can give a false picture. A follow up to “Harbour lights”, in my head.

13 When foxes rule the street
George Papavgeris

Late night town centre images. A logical follow up to “Anytown”, it highlights how we give up our domain for others to rule at night; how thin the veneer of our civilisation.

14 The last song
George Papavgeris

"If this is the last song, don't let it be sad..." - closing song for a session. Or a life. Johnny, I promise to smile.