i picked it up in amsterdam at a tiny record shop in one of the back streets of the jordaan. it was sold to my by a very cheery and cigar smoking dutch man who in the hour or so i was in the store managed to regale me with tales of the german occupation, most specifically the time he and his mother were hidden BY german soldiers from the baying dutch locals, who were at the time paid cash for every jew they turned over to the occupying army. i don't remember reading about that in the anne frank 'hide and seek' museum.
so anyway, it turns out that this is apparently an 'anti-war' concept album. i found out barely ten minutes ago when i was checking the release date on the internet.
i thought the entire thing was supposed to be about the events at balaklava in 1850 whatever when lord cardigan led the truly stupid and massively fatal charge of the light brigade. turns out this theme only carries as far as the albums name and opening 17 second track a bugle call taken from a wax cylinder recording of one trumpeter lanfry (one of the original buglers from the battle). the rest of it is just loose anti-war statement, the kind that were in 1968 tired and ten a penny.
it's a real shame and i really wish i had stayed on the dark on this. i loved the willfully obscure idea of an entire album about the charge of the light brigade, the fact that it was recorded by some american hippies out of new york in the summer of love only added to this. it was brilliantly perverse.
i used to imagine that 'i saw the world' was the song of a dying horse soldier and the inclusion of leonard cohen's 'suzanne' a poem to a wife or girlfriend left at home. most of all i thought 'translucent carriages' was a song about the dead being taken away from a cold and dark theater of war, a field stinking of death; bits of horses, dying soldiers and beautifully tailored uniforms smeared with gore. the heavy breathing that runs through out the track the death rattle of some unfortunate. the line 'jesus...raise the dead' what else can it possibly be about?
turns out 'translucent carriages' is just some east coast hippy shit, probably about drugs, body painting or flip-flops. when tom rapp sings 'every time i see you, passing by, have to wonder whyyyy?' as much as i had grown up thinking this was the ghost of one of the dead soldiers asking lord cardigan why the 'charge' had been called, it is far more probably about some stoner guy who burnt tom's lentils.
and what a fucking shame.
i shouldn't bitch and moan too much. balaklava is still up there, i mean it's truly brilliant and 'i saw the world' is one of the best songs ever written, it's just that with what i though to be the original intent of the piece turning out not to be the case it's just lost a bit of it's sheen.