WASHINGTON, April 5, 2012 - Who would have thought someone would put out a 12-track music CD all about the life of a security chief inside the CIA. Well, that’s the fodder for Stan Carew and The Magpies, a Halifax based group from Canada, who have released a new CD entitled “The Head of Security” on the Zoeydog Music label.
It’s a single-theme concept album about a man, according to the CD sleeve, “who has spent thirty years in the shadowy world of espionage, from Central America in the 1980’s, through both Iraq wars and Afghanistan. Cool headed. Dependable. A survivor. Back in Washington in 2008, he finds himself facing the most implacable enemy of all…the enemy within.” Mr. Carew, who is also an actor, is pictured as the agent on the cover of the CD. The song notes reveal his political leanings.
The first reaction of this reviewer was, please, not another attack on the CIA. These “intelligence” folk populate the Washington D.C. area and live in my neighborhood up in Howard County. As I wrote, it’s amazing how the CIA, the defense industry or the U.S. military are constantly the quintessential nasty guys in Hollywood and popular culture these days.
That said, this CD is not too overly political. It’s introspective and subtle at times, as it details the biography of a man who has seen too many bad things and now sees his marriage falling apart.
The CD, with all the songs written by Mr. Carew, is a follow up to the bands popular “Circle The Wagons.”
It’s hard to pigeonhole the Crew’s style of music. It seems to be a mix of folk, rock and the blues.
The first track, “The Head Of Security,” has the chief bodyguard of head of the CIA, seeking help from a shrink. The song sounds like its straight out of Leonard Cohen’s playbook, as our protagonist reflects on miserable life: “Everyone thinks I’m tough but deep down I’m a powderpuff.”
Mr. Carew, who is a longtime host of Weekend Mornings on CBC Radio Nova Scotia, has a good voice and is obviously a talented songwriter.
“Stand My Ground,” is a haunting song about the war in Iraq and one of the strongest tracks with a Tom Petty flavor: “If we are consumed by this fire, who will remember our names?”
“Occasional Man” is a jazzy track while “Road To Freedom,” seems to be a sarcastic look at the military, while “When The Money Came Down,” trashes aspects of U.S. foreign policy.
The track “Just Leave” is a ballad of broken love as our security man hears that his wife is walking out. “The Debutantes Ball,” is a positive and upbeat pop song.
The security man is down on his luck in “Down To Zero,” a sad ballad which reminds one of a number of Bob Dylan songs: “You gotta hollow feeling deep down in your soul…I’m down to zero and no one seems to hear.”
“Let The Rain Come Down,” has the head of security relaxing in the Caribbean and healing those internal wounds. It’s a well-written country song and proves Mr. Carew has quite a range os styles: “Let the rain come down, purify my humble peace of holy ground…”
Our security guy maybe a tough old solider but he has a heart. The song “I’ll Be Beside You,” is delightful song all about his daughter, and is accompanied by a delicate guitar riff.
The last track “May As Well Laugh As Cry,” is a bubbly song, fitting of Al Stewart, as our central character sees his former wife, who is pregnant, on the street with a scruffy looking, tattooed, tough-looking biker-type: “I shake my head and wonder why and I may as well laugh as cry.”
Listeners might be left shaking their heads and wondering about the real back story of this CD.
Carew’s decision to choose such a topic is either a some vicarious adventure, an act of genius, a naive political statement, or just the curious imagination of an artist at work. What ever happened to silly love songs?
Note: The Magpies are made up of Eric Jones (bass), Steve Brown (electric guitar), John Sayre (piano, organ) and Richard King (acoustic and electric guitars). Guests Jeff Arsenault (drums) and Josie Brown (vocals) also appear on the CD.
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