Monday, March 30, 2009

We Always Need The Leaning...

A little over a week ago, I received a re-release of the album Sunday Afternoon by Ken Medema.

Something like 25 years ago I had the chance to shoot the album cover photo and do the album graphic design for this album and it's always been one of my favorites. The album as a whole presents a collection of lovely variations on a theme, beginning with the title song, which sets the scene for a soft afternoon of settled listening and then segues to a collection of classic hymns and original tunes that feel like John Wesley meets Stephen Sondheim. There is both an old school Broadway show tune feel to the tune. Lead Kindly Light, for instance, feels like it belongs deep inside scene from A Little Night Music, perhaps just before... or after... Send In The Clowns.

You can pick up the album (a remastered edition taken directly from one of the original vinyl albums) at

Yesterday, while do a bit of much needed, highly overdue, spring cleaning, I had the chance to re-listen to this album from so long ago. It was a pleasantly peaceful experience, filled with softness, a bit of nostalgia, and the memory of lying on the living room floor, my head beneath the piano, as Ken originally played these tunes for restful times with family and friends.

Then came There's A Turning, a song that flat out stopped me in my sweeping tracks, picked me up and carried me to the computer to play and replay the tune as I listened to what it had to say and what it meant, all these many years later.

It, like most of the rest of the album, definitely possesses a mid-80s feel, with Roland-style electric piano, synthesized strings, and a trippy little vibrato effect, but the sound works its purpose in the almost magical telling of the real inside the magic (or is that the magic inside the real?).

This is a song that could not be more perfect for the present reality of worldwide meltdown. An appropriate lament, and acknowledgment, of the disaster we face after our collective blindfolded meander through the Land of George and our acceptance of the largesse (even by those who pretended not accept it) that we were able to glean from false prosperity and ignorant hope.

Castles in the sand, washed away by the rolling tide

Once upon a time we rode the waves
And now they're too rough to ride

Once our walking was swift and sure
But now the guideposts are gone

Roads are ending
No signs to read to tell us how to go on.

The album ends with a reprise of the title song combined with a lovely soft rendition of I Need Thee Every Hour. It folds itself back in like a flower closing at the dusk of a spring day with that same Sondheim-like lyricality that began the album. There is a definite sense that the what and who we need in every hour is something and someone more imminent than the distant savior of a time gone by.

The feelings will not last, 'cause Monday's comin soon.
How can I hold on... after Sunday's gone?

Help me to hold on... to Sunday Afternoon.

This is the gospel of Lent; our very specific Lent. The gospel of wilderness meander. The gospel of letting go.

We ALWAYS need the leaning... but in The Turning... We Need It More.

As they say...We're all in it together.