About Poem de Terre (in brief)
Poem de Terre performs a powerful repertoire of original material and exciting new interpretations of others' music and spoken word. "War and Love" is the latest evolution of this socially conscious music, reinvented with a rootsy hard-rock edge for the new millennium that won't let go!
After thirteen years playing and recording, the members of Poem de Terre found the perfect place to record their seventh release, "War and Love." A large, rambling Nineteenth Century farm house, almost 200 acres of rolling, wooded land, a crystal clear lake at the doorstep, and state-of-the-art recording facilities: this is Leopard Frog Studio.
And what a process! Six months rehearsals in two rented spaces. A marathon three day recording session of 18 songs played live from the floor. That's six songs completed per day, folks! More than three months in the studio tweaking and polishing songs that already shone like the diamonds.
The result: the very best work ever done by Poem de Terre. Fantastic!
About Bob MacKenzie
Readers and listeners either love him or hate him. Its hard to be ambivalent about this Canadian writer who often mixes his media and messages in unexpected ways. Beginning with readings of poetry over flute or piano, Bobs art has evolved into a multi-media format that brings together printed, spoken, and sung words; music performance; and visuals including photography, painting, print making, and collage.
Bob believes that the individual arts and crafts are part of a greater whole, are simply Story. A time-honoured unified tradition of the arts is the basis for Bob's multi- media approach, integrating his written and spoken words with various other artistic approaches. This is the art of the travelling Bard, of the Shaman adding elements of magic to every tale.
Born on Canadas west coast, son of a photographer/ musician and a photo-colourist, and raised in Albertas parklands, Bob has followed his family roots East as far as the Maritime Provinces and visited every province along the way. He has been writing and performing his words since he was five, making a short 16 millimetre movie by the time he was eight and combining his words, music, and images ever since.
Bob cites influences in music and poetry that include John Donne, Leonard Cohen, Edith Piaf, Jaques Brel, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Hank Williams, Felice and Boudreau Briant, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, Mystic Moods Orchestra, Ogden Nash, Dr. Seuss, T. S. Eliot, Barry White, Lawrence Ferlingetti, Tangerine Dream, and hundreds of others. High on the list are Cohen and Holly.
Bob MacKenzie's performances have been compared to artists as diverse as Jim Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Burl Ives, William Shatner, Jerry Garcia, Red Sovine, Alan Ginsberg, Barry White, and many others spanning the worlds of roots/popular music and modern literary poetry.
About Poem de Terre
Since it was formed by six artists in the summer of 1993, Poem de Terre has organically evolved a unique sound and style with a powerful repertoire of original material as well as new interpretations of music and spoken word pieces previously performed or recorded by other artists.
While the musical style of Poem de Terre's material transcends genre, at heart the music is folk. Building upon this foundation of folk music, Poem de Terre draws upon many influences to create dramatic music for the new millenium.
As much as the music, words are central to Poem de Terre's work, presenting compelling stories and ideas to the community in the form of live performance.
Into this stew of musical and literary influences, each member of Poem de Terre brings his or her influences, most often as broad and eclectic as Bob's, to create an exotic blend of sounds and images that is unique to this Canadian performance collective.
Usually performing with eight to twelve people on stage, over the years Poem de Terre has featured more than fifty artists. Each artist brings to the performance his or her own creative sensibility and subtly changes the quality of the performance and the clarity of the message.
Poem de Terre's performances have been compared to The Doors, Pentangle, Cranberries, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Moody Blues, Spirit of the West, Baz Luhrmann, The Grateful Dead, A Wing and a Prayer, Judy Collins, Melanie Safka, Joni Mitchell, and diverse other artists.
Instrumentation on War & Love
Murray Chappell (bass, vocals)
Wes Garland (piano, organ, electronic keyboards, guitar)
Steve Gillen (guitar, vocals)
Sharon Hinbest (flute)
Jay Jantz (saxophone)
Bob MacKenzie (vocals, percussion)
Eriana Marcus (vocals, percussion)
Ian Montgomery (drums)
Tracie Morgan (vocals, guitar)
Kate E. White (vocals).
War & Love Website
2006: War & Love, compact disc, 18 songs [16 original]
2002: Live at Newlands Pavilion, Part One: Folk, compact disc, 12 songs (recorded in Summer of 2001) [10 original]
2002: Live at Newlands Pavilion, Part Two: Rock, compact disc, 13 songs (recorded in Summer of 2001) [all original]
1999: Assume Nothing, compact disc, 20 songs [all original]
1995: Pyramid, 4 track recording on cassette, 9 songs [all original]
1994: Windfall, 4-track recording on cassette, 8 songs [all original]
CD Review: War And Love, Poem de Terre
Reviewed by Richard Marcus, Leap in the Dark
In the early 1970's Toronto was home to the beginnings of one of Canada's most vital periods of artistic growth. It may not have seen like much compared to larger countries with a more distinct cultural identity wouldn't, but for the first time a native theatre community was born. George Luscomb's Toronto Workshop Productions led the way, and hard on his heels was Theatre Passe Muraille, The Toronto Free Theatre, and The Factory Theatre.
While the Living Theatre of New York City had long been working with the idea of collective creation, this was a new concept for theatre in Canada. Theatre Passe Muraille especially established itself as the home of this artist run creative process. Instead of the actors being presented with a script at the beginning of the rehearsal process, they would gather to develop and workshop scenes that built around a central theme and the playwright would develop the script out of this process which would then be rehearsed for performance.
But as money dried up and budgets tightened it has become less and less common for artistic companies to attempt the commitment required for a collective creation. It's far easier and safer for companies to present their casts with the fait accompli of a script then have to worry about them coming up with something marketable. But further out on the fringes of artistic creation, collective works are still being attempted; perhaps not for theatrical presentations but with a performance still in mind as the final result.
Poem de Terre was formed in the summer of 1993 in Kingston Ontario as a musical collective. Over the years it's membership has fluctuated as performers move on and others rise up to take their places in a continual evolution of sound and style. No matter the composition though, it continues to focus on the bringing together of diverse interests, talents, and artistic sensibilities to achieve the goal of presenting compelling stories and ideas through words and music via live performances.
Under the leadership and direction of Canadian poet, broadcaster, writer, and photographer Bob MacKenzie Poem de Terre entered the studio for the first time in February 2006. War And Love is not their first release, but first deliberate studio album as opposed to recordings of live performances. The move into the studio environment seems to have been an attempt to further enhance the experience they offer during a live performance, by using technology that can't be accessed or utilized readily on stage.
The almost 80 minutes of music performed on the 18 tracks of War And Love have been drawn from Mr. MacKenzie's own creations over the years and combined with covers of two classic tunes from the sixties, "Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream" by Ed McCurdy and "Lay Down" by Melanie Safka (Who was better known simply by her first name Melanie).
I have to admit that my first reaction on seeing the total amount of music being presented on this one disc was to say that's too much. Especially for an album that's going to be dealing with the themes of "War" and "Love" nobody is going to be able to sit through this and not feel like they've been hammered in the head.
But I hadn't counted on the subtlety of the minds at work behind this disc. War And Love is not just some pop album with a theme, or the simplistic message of War is bad and Love is good. It is a carefully crafted collection of contemporary music and words that explores the irrevocable interrelationship between war and love in our personal lives as well as on a global scale.
War can be between two people as easily as it can be between two nations and love is not limited to the affections we show the people we care for and the people of Poem de Terre know that. Like in real life ambiguity abounds on this disc as each track represents a different facet of the diamond that is humankind's struggle to find a means to co-exist, if not in harmony, at least without tearing each other's throat out.
From the innocent naivety and hope of "Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream" to the searing indictment of the way we deny any possibility of culpability on our part in "Innocent (I Wasn't There) " Bob MacKenzie and Poem de Terre explore the dichotomy of human behaviour in regards to our reactions to war. How can the same race that dreams of ending war also be the one to shirk its responsibility to the people we share the planet with by simply shrugging our shoulders?
Is love really the flipside of war, or is it just another battlefield itself? Emotions run as high in times of love as they do in times of war leaving us as drained and spent as a full-scale fight in armour. Is it any safer to have your heart pierced by an arrow of love than by one shot at you by an archer? Well you will probably survive the first attack while the result of the second is usually a foregone conclusion resulting in your death.
But anytime passions are elevated humans are at risk of loss of some kind or another. Whether the death of a dear friend or family member, betrayal of the trust that is so important to love, or even unrequited love, all can leave scars upon your heart and psyche.
On War And Love pieces like "Rain", " Barb, Because You Were", "A Man Came By Today", and "North" love and what we will do to achieve it and what it can do to us is touched on. No one song, poem or probably anything made can do complete justice to the complexity of love and our reactions to it.
The conventional love song is blind to that reality and relies more often than not on cheap sentiment over emotion to grab a listener's attention. Everything is reduced down to either getting the other person in the sack or having your heart broken with none of the middle ground of reality entering into the picture.
War And Love is an example of the whole being the sum of its parts. By that I mean while each song has something to say individually what the whole makes you feel at the end is equally important. It doesn't paint a particularly rosy picture, of the world we live in and stirred up a strong emotional reaction within me when I had finished listening.
It wasn't anything particular like sadness, anger or hope that was triggered, it felt more like I had gone on a journey that travelled through the current state of the human psyche and that's not a happy place to be. In spite of that though this is not a disc without hope, or one that induces despair.
The musicianship, singing, and arrangements are so exuberant that it offsets some of the intensity of the message. How can one despair when you listen to the efforts of so many people working together to accomplish a project. There is an energy captured on War And Love that in spite of its thematic heaviness manages to convey spirit and hope.
The music is alive and vibrant, the skill level is simply astonishing without a weak link anywhere and the production has been designed to ensure that the listener gets as much of an impact from each note as possible. On some songs, like their version of Melanie's "Lay Down" there is a close to gospel feel that brings a celebratory note to the proceedings.
War And Love by Poem de Terre is not going to be everybody's taste. It's difficult and confusing in places and brings up emotions and thoughts you might not want to experience. Those who are not afraid to look into the mirror every so often however will be rewarded with an intelligent, provocative and inspired creation. As of now you can purchase the CD for download by track or complete disc at ClickBands and it will soon be available at most major download sites including C.D. Baby, iTunes, and Amazon.com.
Comments from Poem de Terre listeners
Here's what some listeners have said about the music of Bob MacKenzie and Poem de Terre:
[War & Love] Reminds me of the music I liked as a teen so long ago but with a more political edge than Dark Side of the Moon. (Sharon Hinbest, Flute Improv Artist)
[The End of June, 1966] sounds a bit like Melanie's 60's greats ... exciting song cut!!! (Strehl Music)
[First Star] is a cool relaxed little jazzy blues, ... sure to get right under your skin! (Jens Hausmann, German Recording Artist)
I'm sure [War & Love] will go over well. [Bob MacKenzie's] voice on the narrative songs was ... familiar or remindful of Leonard Cohen. (Craig T., Professional Musician)
Celtic-influenced hybrids of the precious folk of Judy Collins and the Gothic eccentricities of bands like Death In June and Virgin Prunes. Poem de Terre injects the sounds of the Age of Aquarius with a heavy dose of fin-de-siècle gloom. (Chad D., listen.com)
I was moved to tears by this haunting song. Thank you for writing it and recording it. It expresses so beautifully the longing of the soul. This world we live in is so small, and the world of the soul so vast. People need to know the distance within themselves, so that they can begin the real journey toward the deeper waters of experience. I lost my love years ago and nothing can heal that pain, but your song gives the great distance meaning and beauty. (listener, garageband.com)
[Assume Nothing is] a very interesting CD, and you have to listen to it more than once to appreciate it fully. (Rick Jackson, Music Canada, CFRC Radio)
Weird, cool stuff. (David Lafferty, Sick Man's Coffin)
[Pyramid is a] Powerful view of social evolution! (www.mp3.com)
Well I clicked on you a few times.. interesting stuff! I kind of like that oddball Hand thing... not my normal style, but irresistible none the less. (Nelda Sisk, Sisko Kids)
With twenty explorative songs and the creativity of several different musicians, Assume Nothing is a project that has produced dazzling results. A balanced combination of spoken word and singing from different vocalists, this album is hard to turn off midway. ... "Pyramid" touches on more serious subject matter than other songs on Assume Nothing, revealing to a fuller extent MacKenzie’s astounding talent as a writer. ... Although this album is entitled "Assume Nothing", it would be safe to assume one thing: this is a CD not to be missed. (Betsy MacDonald, canEHdian.com)
This enhanced CD offers top entertainment value for anyone who has access to CD-ROM technology ... Setting aside the bonus of navigating session notes, lyric sheets, biographies, photos and a complete mystery novel entitled Ghost Shadow, the music on Assume Nothing -- 20 songs, three producers, five vocalists, six instrumentalists, and more than a dozen composers -- stands on its own. It's eclectic entertainment and an intriguing experiment. (Jon Sears, Progressive Independent Community Press)
Poem de Terre's First CD: "this is a CD not to be missed."
Reviewed by Betsy MacDonald, CanEHdian.com
“There is a rustle in your name, like the passing of the years; the sound of days falling like leaves around you, inevitably to leave a barren scarecrow in the wind without a rustle."
This is one of the many thoughts that have sprung from the mind of Bob MacKenzie over the past three decades. A poet, songwriter, novelist, and commercial writer, MacKenzie has used his talent as an artist to express himself in many different forms. Assume Nothing, which features songs and poetry written by Bob Mackenzie and performed by different musicians, is an experimental album that gives the listener a taste of several different kinds of music. While some songs on the album explore country, classical and pop styles, others consist of nothing more than a guitar, a piano, and MacKenzie’s calm, baritone voice reciting his insightful words- some of them dating back to the late 1960’s.
A multi-media project, Assume Nothing is more than just an album. Put in a computer, this CD presents a full library of song lyrics, biographies of the musicians on the album, and information on alt-folk band Poem de Terre, who play on the album. Also included is a full length crime novel, Ghost Shadow, written by MacKenzie himself. With twenty explorative songs and the creativity of several different musicians, Assume Nothing is a project that has produced dazzling results.
A balanced combination of spoken word and singing from different vocalists, this album is hard to turn off midway. “First Star", a true gem in this treasure chest of songs, is a tasteful combination of jazz chords and blues singing from country girl Lesleigh Smith. With but a guitar and a soothing alto voice, this song is simple yet rich in feeling and style. The lyrics, written by Mackenzie and Julie Knetsch, create the mellow atmosphere of a warm summer’s night under a full moon. Lesleigh Smith projects this feeling perfectly with her beautifully vibrating voice.
Bob MacKenzie’s interest in country and western music is expressed in several songs on this album. “A Man Came By Today", also sung by Smith, is a classic country waltz. “The Fast Moving Blues" is an odd song that almost seems to have been ameteurely recorded. There is also a bit of classical music found in the song “Some Times of Night", a slow, pretty ballad that also crosses over to a folky, pop feel.
Of all the spoken pieces on this album, the sobering “Pyramid" stands out. This somewhat unsettling song is a mini-trilogy telling a story about man’s beginning, the war and destruction that follows, and the recovery that must take place afterwards. “Pyramid" touches on more serious subject matter than other songs on Assume Nothing, revealing to a fuller extent MacKenzie’s astounding talent as a writer.
With other songs on the album experimenting with reggae, folk, alternative, and new-age music, there is a wide variety of music to be heard on Assume Nothing. Bob MacKenzie, with his eclectic taste and talent that is expressed in many forms of art, has created a worthwhile listening experience that has a little bit of something for everybody. If you are lucky enough to be the type of person who enjoys many different kinds of music, you are in for a real treat. Although this album is entitled “Assume Nothing", it would be safe to assume one thing: this is a CD not to be missed.
Expect much from Assume Nothing: The Songs of Bob Mackenzie
Reviewed by Jon Sears, Progressive Independent Community Press
"Under the moon, like a first star, my heart/ lies so alone dreaming your wish./ I'll light the night, till you come, my own first star./ One million years I'll shine for you."
— From the song "First Star"
This is from my favourite track on Assume Nothing: the songs of Bob MacKenzie, an October 1999 Poet Pourri Entertainment release. The next verse, which begins the chorus, is as fine a piece of pop jazz lyric as you might find: "I was looking for you when I noticed the moon/ Where could you be at this hour?"
This enhanced CD offers top entertainment value for anyone who has access to CD-ROM technology (CDN $18.99). Setting aside the bonus of navigating session notes, lyric sheets, biographies, photos and a complete mystery novel entitled Ghost Shadow, the music on Assume Nothing — 20 songs, three producers, five vocalists, six instrumentalists, and more than a dozen composers — stands on its own. It's eclectic entertainment and an intriguing experiment.
The CD-ROM material shows that Assume Nothing is part of a larger artistic vision and community, drawn together by the Poem de Terre performance ensemble, led by McKenzie. The ensemble's philosophy that "no one is the star" notwithstanding, Assume Nothing shows that, in a project as encompassing and ambitious as this one, some combinations shine, while others only glimmer. Certain tracks are clearly the product of blended expertise and talent, while others offer imaginative and enthusiastic, if not entirely refined, experimentation. This patchiness gives Assume Nothing its own challenges and its own charm.
And speaking of charm, vocalist Lesleigh Smith sings "First Star." Kingston folk and country music lovers may recall her prize-winning performance at the Kingston Exhibition and Home Show in September. On Assume Nothing, Smith is comfortable in and beyond her country mode — especially in pop jazz. Although the CD's eclectic range includes folk and funk, classic rock, country and new-age ambience, the best songs embrace the richness of jazz & blues. "First Star" is the best example of this.
The song's lyrics, by MacKenzie and Julie Knetsch, are basic and genuine without sliding into the kitsch that tarnishes other numbers, or into the stilted quality of certain spoken word pieces. The lyrics integrate well with the lounge-blues music (by Wes Garland and Knetsch), and Smith's vocals coax the accompaniment from Jim Graham on guitar and bass. MacKenzie preserves the spirit of the performances in his engineering and production of this song.
It's hard to capture the sound of live performance in the studio — particularly in folk, jazz and country ballads — but MacKenzie and Alex Young produce certain tracks impeccably. And there lies the future. An ever-changing cast may make this future difficult. However, Assume Nothing shows that MacKenzie, and the eager artists he gathered together, are committed to meeting the challenge that his poetry entails and are equal to the task.