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 
George Papavgeris 

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”… 

2 Regrets 
George Papavgeris 

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. 

3 Rozellas 
George Papavgeris 

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" 
George Papavgeris 

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 
George Papavgeris 

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. 

6 Apology 
George Papavgeris 

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? 

7 Rebetiko 
George Papavgeris 

(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 
George Papavgeris 

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 
George Papavgeris 

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? 

11 Tsamiko 
George Papavgeris 

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. 

12 Pieces 
George Papavgeris 

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 
George Papavgeris 

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 
George Papavgeris 

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. 
Another Day
A sarcastic take on how easy it is to get wrapped up in the importance of what we each do
Regrets
This is a love song
Rozellas
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
Toni with an "i"
It struck me that one must feel really desperately unhappy to put oneself through the mental
Sample not available
Rush Hour
Sitting at a café pavement table outside 39 Victoria Street in London
Sample not available
Apology
I have the Katsimiha songwriting brothers to thank for the idea for this song. I can only speak for myself
Sample not available
Rebetiko
(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
Sample not available
Upwind of me
Tongue-in-cheek frustration at the political pussyfooting around global warming and the partisan attitudes towards first its existence
Sample not available
Late Spring
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)
Sample not available
One by one
A time-of-life observation
Sample not available
Tsamiko
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
Sample not available
Pieces
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
Sample not available
For a Friend
Written for Paul at the request of his best mate
Sample not available
Harbour Lights
As you approach Thessaloniki from the mouth of the Thermaic Gulf
Sample not available

Hot Press

Sarah McQuaid

Born in Salonika, Greece in 1953, singer/guitarist George Papavgeris discovered folk music in Oxford in the early 70s, but only became a songwriter in recent years. Since then, his songs have been covered by the likes of Andy Irvine, Roy Bailey and Martyn Wyndham-Read. Listening to his seventh album Lifes Eyes, its easy to understand why. The deeply affecting Regrets was written following the death of Papavgeris father, but will resonate powerfully with anyone whos lost a loved one  and besides that, its melody is simply beautiful, bringing to mind the best work of Leonard Cohen. The waltz-tempo Harbour Lights, inspired by the singers former home in Thessaloniki, is a classic in the making, with a universal appeal that goes far beyond the specificity of its origin. Rush Hour is another highlight, sung as a round-style trio of harmony and countermelody with labelmates Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, who contribute an impressive variety of backing instruments elsewhere on the album: Swan plays double bass, flute and Scottish smallpipes, all very well indeed, while Dyer wields the guitar, accordion and keyboards with equal aplomb and grace.  

Eight/Ten



The Living Tradition

David Kidman

George only began his songwriting career began in 2001, but over 180 songs later, his craft still continues to develop apace for album number seven (which is his first for WildGoose). In many ways, though, Lifes Eyes is still very much quintessential George with his typically right-on commonsense worldview, continuing to score high on his key attributes (acute powers of observation, compassion and essential humanity), and all the while shot through with the delightful winding contours of his by now unmistakeable melodies and guitar riffs. But George also cleverly rings the changes on this record, with an increasingly adventurous approach to form and structure in particular, confidently and unassumingly bringing into the musical mix piquant flavours of the music of his native Greece, all the while consolidating his strong musical rapport with his unbelievably versatile Los Marbles colleagues Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer by presenting an ever-engaging and subtly enhancing musical backdrop for his songs. Additionally, Georges distinctive singing voice has matured immeasurably from its slightly diffident beginnings into a gloriously expressive (and idiomatic) vehicle that his superbly intricate yet intrinsically musical guitar playing ideally counterpoints.



The old adage laugh or cry, same price has always been a strong suit for George and his output, and Lifes Eyes again rides the emotional seesaw with absolute conviction, from caustic attacks on present-day society and attitudes (Another Day, Upwind Of Me) to wry slice-of-life observational pieces (the intriguingly antiphonal Rush Hour) and poignantly many-faceted lyrical sketches (Late Spring). Then there are the trademark heart-rending reminiscences where the personal is so expertly given a universal dimension (as in Regrets, written following the death of Georges father, and the unbelievably touching For A Friend), while the emotional and musical pull of (An Emigrants) Rebetiko (quite literally, where Father Thames flows into the Mediterranean), is also considerable. And all in the space of a little over an hour. There are so many gorgeous details to discover: pithy lyric bites, felicitous twists and turns of phrase and melody. This new disc is both a brave step and a proud achievement for George and his collaborators  and special mention for the extremely attractive artwork (by Hilary Bix) and Georges excellent liner notes, all entirely typical of his careful attention to detail. Note too that Lifes Eyes also represents a landmark release for WildGoose: something of a departure for this hitherto fairly traditionally-slanted label, perhaps, but a constantly satisfying and stimulating one that repays your investment many times over  for after all, Georges songs (like those of labelmate Mick Ryan, indeed) are undoubtedly tomorrows tradition.



Properganda

Where do you begin to tell the story of this highly regarded troubadour, who even Martin Carthy regards as "Something special." We're starting here with his seventh album as he only really started writing songs in 2001, although since then he has been prolific.

Born in 1953 in Greece he has absorbed his native music and played in bands in his teenage years. He first came to folk music in England during the 70s and started to perform on the circuit. He cites Tom Leher, Jake Thackery Pete Atkins and Clive James as influences and there's something of Thackery in his disarming vocal style.

But with all songwriters it's the content that counts. George seems equally adept at the personal and the geopolitical, so childhood memories (Tsarniko), global warming (Upwind Of Me), the burden of responsibility (One By one), friendship (For A Friend) and loss of a loved one (Regrets) are handled with eloquence, the knowledge of experience and an eye for the detail that makes these subjects common to us all. Without doubt Mr Carthy has nailed it.

Mardles

Mary Humphreys

Those of you who know George's work will have been amazed at his ability to write songs about anything and everything about the modern world - family, friends, politics, global warming, love, death. This CD carries on these great themes and surpasses all previous offerings in composition and performance. Some of these songs will creep into the tradition, I am sure.

On Life's Eyes he is joined by two consummate musicians well known to us in East Anglia - Vicki Swann and Jonny Dyer - who provide luscious accompaniment for George's distinctive voice whilst allowing the words to shine through. You wouldn't want to miss anything in these lyrics. They are the essence of the songs,  although the tunes - mainly composed by George - make the initial impact.

George is Greek by birth, though he lived in many countries during the course of his day-job. He lives in the UK with his English wife Vanessa. Some of his family live in Australia and he has delighted audiences in the US, Oz and Europe. The influences on his songwriting and singing are therefore multi-national. His roots show very strongly in his use of Greek dance rhythms in Tsamiko ( Dance of the Old Men) and we even have a bonus track of George singing in Greek a translation of his lyrics for Rebetiko.

George has almost single-handedly restored parents as a theme for songs. Not wicked step-mothers or severe and domineering fathers, but people to be loved and respected, celebrated and mourned in some of the most touching lyrics you will hear in song-writing today. He can turn his hand to writing about life's effect on the harrassed and striven city whiz-kid who does not even notice the beggar at his feet or care too much about the goings-on in the world around him. This is effectively portrayed musically by having three separate voices weaving in and out yet never singing the same words. Very clever! Vicki has her solo singing debut on this track. More please!

I don't know how the Scottish smallpipes and guitar can transform themselves into a Greek band of tsambouna and bouzouki, but somehow they do under the watchful eye of Doug Bailey at WildGoose. As ever the recording is first class and the artwork ( by Hilary Bix who runs the Bideford Folk Club and festival - see ad) is beautiful and eye-catching.



If you have never bought a George Papavgeris CD before, then this is the one to go for. Hurry, before they all sell out!

What's Afoot

Colin Andrews

This is the George's first CD on Doug Bailey's WildGoose Studios label and his 7th album. The songs, the singing and the arrangements won't let you down when you buy this album. This is another collection of songs that chronicle his generation's passage through life and tell you some more about the man himself. Some of the songs reflect the pain that George has experienced in his life and some are observations and comment on life in general.

My particular favourite, One by One, an unaccompanied song, is a reflection on the passing of one's peers and just one of the songs that you will hear sung by other singers at folk clubs in the future. Some of the songs are enhanced by the subtle accompaniment of Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer's tasteful musicianship and credited as George's itinerant Los Marbles. Rush Hour is a lovely song reminiscent of the songs of Lionel Bart on which George shares the lead vocals with Vicki and Jonny. Harbour Lights, Pieces, Apology and Rozellas are also highlights of the album and fine examples of George's songwriting skills that demonstrate his confidence and ability to sing a simple song; simply but effectively.

I should mention that Doug Bailey once again gets it absolutely right with production and balance to make a finely tuned album.

Shreds & Patches

Neil Brookes

George Papavgeris has been a busy man over the last few years. As well as an impressively full diary of club and festival bookings this year, he recently released his seventh album (the first with Doug Bailey's Wildgoose label) of his own songs in just over five years.

Last year I had the pleasant surprise of seeing George at one of the smaller Sidmouth festival venues, and knowing little of his talents at the time, it was quite an eye opener. It is refreshing to see a performer who can hold an audience gently but firmly in his hand by presenting his highly personal songs in such a modest and straightforward manner. On this superb album, George channels his astute observations of various aspects of life in the twenty-first century into 14 fine tracks (plus a surprise treat at the end of the CD), some of which are flavoured with the distinct and delightful essence of his Greek background, either by the melodies themselves or by the vocal decorations that he uses to great effect.

The subjects of George's compositions range widely from the loss of loved ones in the poignant 'Regrets', to problems associated with global conflict, our environment, working lives and even sex change in 'Toni with an �i�'. He tackles these often difficult subjects with sensitivity, wit and wisdom, whilst retaining a sense of balance and humour. The choice of 'favourite tracks' will depend on the individual listener's circumstances and outlook on life, as every song has its own particular appeal. This CD is one of the most absorbing, moving and simply lovely works that I have heard for a very long time. It is especially worth noting that Vicki Swan and Johnny Dyer provide beautiful instrumental and vocal support throughout, and demonstrate a rare talent in finding exactly the right accompaniment to enhance each musical setting without distracting from the lyrical focal point of the songs. Greek tunes on Scottish smallpipes? � it's what the instrument was made for!

EDS

Joan Crump

For someone who came relatively late to songwriting, George Papavgeris has certainly made up for lost time. Life's Eyes is his seventh album in five years and, on balance, it seems that he must have been storing up everything he had to say for quite a while! While George is a fine singer, it is undoubtedly his songwriting skills which set him apart. The subject matter here is extremely varied and unpredictable: sardonic social commentary, beautiful evocations of other places and times, reflections on the passing of family members and friends, and even the tortured yet optimistic thoughts of a pre-op transsexual.

George's arrangements, ably assisted by his 'Los Marbles', Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer, complement the songs very well. Personal favourites include the impossibly catchy 'Rozellas', with its exotic imagery and bossanova rhythms, and 'Upwind of Me', with its cheerfully subversive message contained in a somewhat scatological package! But I think my favourite song on the CD is 'Tsamiko' (or 'Dance of the Old Men'). It seems to encapsulate the qualities which characterise George's singing and performance: the song is a wonderful narrative of a Mediterranean scene, a memory from childhood which conjures up a very specific place and time, but there is something ineffably redolent of Englishness in the melody and the way in which the story is told. It's this seamless fusion of Greek and Anglo influences, overlaid with very fine storytelling, which sum up George Papavgeris's unique appeal.

Lancashire Wakes

John McAlister

George is a prolific songwriter - 180+ and counting. This is his seventh album, which gives you the idea of his output. His work is an interpretation of how he sees and experiences the world around and he is an accomplished user of the English language, despite his Greek origin. The songs range from personal to international protest, love to nostalgia. He uses the guitar (6 and 12 string) to ably accompany the songs and is accompanied by Vicki Swann and Jonny Dyer to good effect. George's singing is proficient and emotional but he does not have one of those instantly captivating voices; well, you can't have everything!

This is a CD you have to listen to many times to appreciate the skills of this word smith who is already being appreciated by other artists who are covering the songs. George has been on the circuit since 2001 and is making his mark. Kindly, the lyrics to his songs are on his website www.folk4all.net He must be good, he comes from Middlesex yet has toured Australia and they are booking him up North! He will appear at the Fylde Folk Festival on 1st & 2nd September if you want to catch one of the rising stars of folk music.