Do you need a vacation? If you do that probably means you’re one of the working stiffs of the world.
Unless you’re one of the small percentage of Americans that is independently wealthy or retired and doesn’t take
part in the 9 to 5 grind on some sort of regular basis to make money to pay bills, the answer must be a resounding; YES, I
NEED A VACATION!
This CD is like the soundtrack to a vacation. Like a good vacation it runs the gamut of emotion. At times
upbeat and fun while other times mellow and retrospective. Still other times bluesy or downright depressed. Hey, not all vacations
are trips to the “happiest place on earth” and completely void of anything negative happening. Sometimes the best
pre-planned vacations come crashing down around us in flames and turn out nothing like we expected when we started out on
And while sometimes we are away from home, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re on vacation.
Sometimes we are away on business. Sometimes that business trip is to places that many people only dream of going to, like
the Caribbean or Hawaii or on a cruise ship. When you’re in a traveling rock and roll band you go all over the country
and sometimes the world, yet many times are so busy working that you don’t get to see the sites and do the tourist thing.
I’ve done gigs in LA and I can’t tell you what the beach or Hollywood looks like but I know the loading dock and
the ballroom of the local Hilton like the back of my hand. Sometimes that’s as far as you get on these trips. When you’re
traveling for work you have to leave the ones you love behind. So while you may be in paradise, at the end of the day you’re
alone in a motel room. Sometimes you’re lonely, depressed and missing those you love and care about most.
The references to vacation and water in the song titles alone make me want to go on vacation. “Seaside
Town,” “Ocean Waves the Lonely Moon Goodbye,” “Cozumel,” “Endless Blue Horizon,”
“The Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea,” “Baby Girl Ocean Blue.” Pass the sunscreen and pour the Margaritas!
Last one in is a rotten egg!
While probably not intended to be a concept album like some of the great ones of the past (Quadrophenia,
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, The Wall or Tommy), that have a continuous narrative,
StephenBard’s Ocean Waves is in some way a concept album. All the songs, while seemingly independent of
each other, are actually bound together by some underlying theme.
Singer/songwriters are influenced in many different ways, but many draw from their own personal life and
experiences and this usually provides inspiration for their best material. Too many critics throw around the term “self-indulgent”
like it’s a bad thing. I think self indulgence is often a great thing. Ocean Waves builds a strong case
for self indulgence immerging as beautiful, meaningful lyrics with great music and vocals.
Since the birth of his daughter and with another one on the way, it’s easy to see how this songwriter
has been influenced right within his own home. And it is true what they say about having children. They will completely change
your life. One only needs to look at the album cover (sorry, as a child of the 60’s I still call them albums) to see
the influence of children on the life of this artist. You don’t need to pore over the album cover and liner notes like
you’re examining the cover of Abbey Road searching for clues of Paul’s premature and untimely death.
Bard is about as subtle as a sledgehammer when it comes to letting you know what inspired this CD. First, there is the most
obvious clue, the cover itself with family photos and his daughter’s artwork. The liner notes include a dedication to
“a wife and child.” Alphabet refrigerator magnets holding up the preschool art of the most precious person in
our lives. I get it. Any one with children they love can relate to that scene, which Bard has captured with a modern digital
camera and made into an album cover that would rival some of the best by Hypgnosis or even, dare I say, Roger Dean. (OK, so
I’ve gone a bit far comparing a picture of a refrigerator with the exquisite art of Roger Dean but you get the point.)
Having some knowledge of this artist’s personal life makes it easy for me to see the changes in his
musical styling and influences. But even to the casual listener who doesn’t know StephenBard from Stephen King, they’re
not difficult to spot. Bard’s latest and previous release (The Old Neighborhood) are more mellow and acoustic
oriented and certainly a departure from his earlier material (Splashing Children/Sex Politics, Inching Ever Closer
and his collaboration with drummer Todd Cohen on BardTodd/Night Nude Luge) which were decidedly more
rough, edgy, youthful, and even occasionally off color. Sometimes the lyric was just satirical or poetic rambling, at times
even showing off exotic word play ala Jim Morrison (See “Sadomasokissed” and “Sugar” and “I
Don’t Got You”). In Ocean Waves I see less of this and it seems almost every line is filled with
meaning and purpose, enticing the listener to listen closely and unlock the secret story of each track. Although, “Where
That I Should Be” and “Lying to Your Feet While the Truth Is In Your Hand” are not exactly phrases that
we say every day and upon further listening I have discovered some more of Bard’s trademark play on words like, “sitting
in the lapse of luxury.” (Love that one.)
The first song is like the start of any vacation. It is up-tempo and motivating, filled with hope and great
expectations. Still it reminds us that we all have a job to do and responsibilities to uphold, yet we need this 2 week departure
from our daily grind to break up the monotony of our blue collar existence. “Too Weird For Words” tells me that
while we all know we are working for a living and probably have been for a long time, when children are thrown into our lives,
our jobs suddenly have purpose and become a necessity to us. In our past lives as single people or married without children,
we have all quit or lost jobs without much thought given to it. We just move on and see what fate has in store in the next
phase of our money making career. Once those kids are blended into the mix, no job is quit or left on a whim. No sir, responsibility
is at home staring you in the face in the form of a tiny bundle of joy counting on you for food, clothes, diapers, formula,
car seats, strollers, Tickle Me Elmos, designer jeans, the latest, greatest must-have footwear and every other thing that
kids these days need to survive. It resonates deeply in an adult way.
Every time I hear “And The World Goes Round” I picture a scene from a movie. No particular movie,
but I am sure if a Hollywood director ever heard this song he would know exactly what scene in his movie to use it for. A
couple that is very in love is in a park and then they embrace. When they start to kiss everything starts to spin in a circle.
Then the camera starts to spin around them and before you know it the couple is kissing and spinning, the camera is spinning
and StephenBard is singing, “I’m in love, I’m in love” and “the world goes round and the world
goes round”. The other night I was watching a DVD my daughter rented and there it was. The scene just like I pictured
it. The only thing missing was “And The World Goes Round.” If you have ever been in love then you know the feeling
this song captures. Although deeper examination of the lyrics suggests the meaning is about more than just a fool in love.
It seems a plea to corporations and governments to stop raping the Earth and save some of its resources and beauty for generations
to come. However, I don’t care about that because, “I’m in love and the world goes round.” Great lyrics
and an upbeat tempo make this one of my favorites on the disc.
“I Didn’t Think I Could Love You More” is another song that could easily be background
to a love scene in a movie. While “And The World Goes Round” is a love song in the chorus and a protest song the
rest of the time, this one is a full time love song. It never strays from its main theme of boy meets girl, gets married,
has child, lives happily ever after. Bard really conveys the love and pride he feels for his wife, his child and even his
mom in this one. This is a good one.
“Vanishing” contains an opening riff that makes you stop and say, “Hey, I know this song”
and then quickly changes, making you think, “no, I must have been thinking of something else.” It later throws
some recognizable Beach Boy lyrics at you, yet really doesn’t sound like a remake of that song either. Later when reading
the album credits, er, I mean CD liner notes (sorry, still struggling with the whole album vs. CD thing), I see that Stephen
acknowledges quoting Brian Wilson while not blatantly covering the Pet Sounds classic “Sloop
Similarly, in “For Eddie Ray Howard,” you can hear Bard’s imitation of one of the all time
great songwriters Bob Dylan, albeit with tongue firmly planted in his humorous cheek. And just in case you can’t hear
it in his singing, the lyric clearly mentions Mr. Dylan, driving the point home with a jack hammer that this song has Dylan
influences. It’s a feast of wordplay and a fine homage to Bob D.
The last track is of course, what else? A lullaby. How fortunate are the children of musicians? They get
their own personal lullabies. No rock-a-bye baby for these kids. Lennon wrote “Beautiful Boy” for his son Sean.
Billy Joel wrote “Lullaby (Goodnight, My Angel)” for his daughter Alexa Ray. Bard writes “Baby Girl Ocean
Blue” for his daughter and it is beautiful and touching. Peter Gabriel once sang, “I got sunshine in my stomach,
like I just rocked my baby to sleep.” The feeling you get rocking your baby to sleep provides inner peace, true warmth
and love like no other feeling on earth. Though my child is now a teen, listening to this song took me back to those years
not so long ago, yet gone forever, of holding him in my arms while he drifted off to never-never land. Like each of us must
face our own mortality as we get older, Bard already acknowledges that someday he must do what is now certainly unthinkable
and let his child go. I love the lyrics to this song. They express the thoughts that any loving parent has for their child
yet most of us don’t have the talent to put into words and lay a music track behind it. All those thoughts and emotions
were in my head but it took a talent like StephenBard to pull them out and throw them back at me like an artist throwing color
on a canvas. I had the picture in my head all this time, but now it’s on the wall for everyone to see. Some of the lines
that move me from this song are: “To love something so much is very frightening, something more than yourself,”
“There’ll come a time when you want to go your own way although you’re happy now between your mom and me,”
and “How will I ever release you?” So “self indulgent”, yet so beautiful.
Much of the music here is influenced by Bard’s own personal musical heroes and rightfully so. Since
many of us share a common admiration for many of the same rock icons, it adds to my enjoyment when I am listening to this
alb... CD (caught myself that time) and hear those influences coming through loud and clear. In one song I listened to the
melody of the lyric over an over because it seemed so familiar. Then it hit me. It is sung in a similar phrasing as “Handle
With Care” by the Traveling Wilburys. No wonder I liked it! I hear influences of The Beatles, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan
and Roy Orbison among others and it comes across well, although at the same time it never eclipses the originality or identity
of the music.
The scenes painted by each song are delightful. The references to cruise ships, seaside towns, ocean waves,
and Cozumel, Mexico all make me reflect on my own vacations to places with water. After all, where do most
of us go on vacation? To the ocean, sea or some body of water. I don’t know why it is, it just is. We humans love the
water. The Caribbean, Hawaii, Mediterranean, the Riviera, Bahamas, cruises, San Diego, Daytona Beach, the Pacific Northwest,
Martha’s Vineyard all have one thing in common; WATER. Ocean Waves is a perfect title. It conjures
up an image of one of the most relaxing sites and sounds there is, the gentle crashing of waves on the beach. As I am writing
this on one computer, my other computer is in screen saver mode and what I hear is ocean waves and the occasional sea gull
cawing as it flies by. If we can’t actually get there to here it live, we have sound machines by our beds; sounds of
nature CDs and even screen savers to replicate the sound of waves crashing or brooks babbling. It is a sound that is so relaxing
to us we want to hear it even when we are landlocked and miles from any body of water.
The sound of ocean waves is one I have always loved and now with a CD of the same name that love continues.