The Blacklisted Journalist Picture The Blacklisted Journalistsm

(Copyright © 1998 Al Aronowitz)


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I'm willing to bet some of my chips that Ellis Paul ends up getting recognized as royalty in that melodious court of oracles ruled by King Bob and Queen Joni. I'm already as hooked on Ellis as I am on Bob or Joni, any one of the three of whom has the power to send me into mental heaven. They lift my spirits during my long, lonely hours at the computer keyboard. They give me joy during the grind of the protracted walks I have to take as a recuperating heart patient. Accompanying me wherever I can wear earphones, they inspire the best of head-trips in my all too corkscrewed dome. As Bob himself once told me: "I like to listen to things that make me wanna do good things." That's why I like listening to Bob, Joni and Ellis. They make me wanna do good things. After all, didn't they inspire me to sit down and write what I'm now writing? But who is Ellis Paul that I now dare to rank him with Bob and Joni? Yeah, who is this newcomer that I now compare him with the brightest stars in the singer-songwriter heavens? First of all, how do you fall in love with the work of a singer-songwriter? How does his or her songs get to be your best friends? As for me, my romance with a song begins when certain lyrics reach out from the tune to grab me like I'm the prize ring on a merry-go-round. The very first time I put Ellis' A Carnival of Voices on my CD player, these lines reached out to grab me:

The Mona Lisa, I said, "She smiles just like she knows me." . . .She gathers a crowd around her, then she flirts with perfect strangers, but she'll never take a lover in the Louvre--- she will never take a lover in the Louvre...."

Those lines are on the second song of the CD, a tune called Paris In A Day and, as someone who once was in a crowd gathered around the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, I found her smiling at me, too. At the time, I, too, was doing Paris in a day. But those weren't the only lyrics to reach out and grab me. The third song:

I think snowfall should be measured By how much it takes a city by surprise

The fourth song:

she broke her own commandment thou shall not steal from me my breath is gone that's burglary

The fifth song:

She slaps the doorman's face in the lobby He'd only asked her, "Are you all right?"

The sixth song:

When she walks in a room it's like she's walking on water or stepping across the moon like she's gravity's only daughter She's weightless

The seventh song:

"Who rolled a joint when Bob Dylan got high with the Beatles?"

The eighth song:

. . .for fifteen years, he's had his nose to the old grindstone poured his money in the bank to feed the beast called portfolio. . .

That was on first listening. Those lines had pulled me into Ellis' Carnival enough for me to

A voice, a tune and lyrics that immediately imbed themselves in my brain

want to take another ride on the merry-go-round. Immediately, Paris In A Day proved to be so much fun, I had to hear it again and again. The song is a "touristy" travelogue that starts off with two drunken lovers stumbling along the sidewalk that runs along the Seine while the cathedral's gargoyles laugh at the ". . .Two stupid Americans."

We were at the mercy of a passionate waiter who pulled the corks at the Osterasis Cafe he kept serving us wine we hadn't ordered then he blamed us for the weather it was cold and rainy--- but we raised a glass to him anyway We did Paris in a day What would Marie Antoinette say? We made a vow on the Champs Élysée that nothing would come between us

The two lovers climb "a thousand steps up the Pompidou" so they can gasp at the view, but to try for Jim Morrison's gravesite, they would have to find a tour bus.

and man, how do we find a tour bus without finding another day?

It's a story about the two lovers' one-day tour of Paris. They take an M across the Seine and head for the Eiffel Tower, where street merchants call out:

"Cool shades for the Americans" They said in their finest hipster English and then they told us, "Every Yankee looks the same."

The lovers light a candle for a ghost in Notre Dame Cathedral and then get lost on the Left Bank looking for a place to stay. When they tell the waiter what they had done, he says: "Only an American would attempt Paris in a day."

We put up our feet at the Fountain Cafe and toasted the bond between us We drank sherry with an Englishman . . . Under the Arc we watched the sunset end and laughed at the miles that had passed beneath us. . . You said, "That's kilometres, baby but I wouldn't let it come between us nothing will come between us

A "touristy" travelogue and a love story! I never claimed to be a music critic but, to me, the melodies, the singing and the lyrics on this CD turn out to be nothing short of mesmerizing delight. Certainly enough so that Ellis' A Carnival of Voices competes with Joni's Hits and Misses and Bob's Time Out of Mind for my listening time. And A Carnival of Voices isn't the only CD Ellis has on the market. His two previous CDs, Stories and Say Something are also jammed full of enchanting tunes, poignant, if abbreviated, narratives and lines that reach out to grab you. And if that doesn't offer entertainment enough, Ellis has a new CD, Translucent Soul, which is about to hit the market. As someone who purports to be a storyteller himself, I guess I'm just partial to other storytellers. As a journalist-storyteller, I'm jealous of poets, who can tell their stories in such a few words. But I'm even more jealous of singer-songwriters, who sing their stories not only in fewer words but also to the accompaniment of melodies that transfigure their storytelling and tingle your soul. In their own way, they, too, are journalists. Right now, Bob, Joni and Ellis are my top three. ##



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