What Living’s All About: Liner Notes and Lyrics

Back cover (aka tray card) for What Living’s All About. Photo of Alicia by portrait photographer Nils Juul-Hansen in 1999.



Alicia Bay Laurel created What Living’s All About: Jazz, Blues and Other Moist Situations as the third in her CD series. In 2000, Alicia recorded Music From Living on the Earth: Free-spirited Original Songs for Voice and Guitar from the Late ‘60s and Early ‘70s, playing open-tuned guitar in the John Fahey style, followed in 2001 by Living In Hawaii Style: Original and Historic Hawaiian Songs, Sung With Slack Key Guitar, featuring Hawaiian spiritualist/chanter Lei’ohu Ryder and jazz guitarist/vocalist Sam Ahia.  Alicia is best known for her 1970 best-selling hand-written back-to-nature manual Living on the Earth, now in its fifth edition in English, and in print since 1974 in Japanese. 

Rights

All songs (music and lyrics) by Alicia Bay Laurel (c) 2006, and published by Bay Tree Music (ASCAP), except “I Could Write A Book” (music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart) (c) 1940, and published by Williamson Music Company and Chappell & Company, and “Nature Boy” (music and lyrics by Eden Ahbez) (c) 1948, and published by Golden World.The spoken words on “I Could Write A Book” are quoted from How To Write A Book Proposal, Third Edition, (c) 2003 by renowned literary agent Michael Larsen. They are used with the kind permission of Writer’s Digest Books, a division of F+W Publications, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio.  All rights reserved. If you could write a book, you need to read this one. The spoken words on “Love, Understanding and Peace” are quoted from the Bible, New Testament, Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13, and are in public domain. The powwow chanting and drumming at the end of “America The Blues” is from Honor The Earth Powwow: Songs of the Great Lakes Indians, recorded by Mickey Hart and Dr. Thomas Vennum, Jr. of the Smithsonian, and originally released by Rykodisc in 1991.  The humpback whale song after the powwow is a sample I found on findsounds.com, but not even the webmaster of the website from which it originated was able to tell me from whence it came.

Credits

Cover paintings, graphic design and liner notes by Alicia Bay Laurel (c) 2006

Tray card photo of Alicia by portrait photographer Nils Juul-Hansen

Manufactured by A to Z Media for Indigo With Stars, Inc. (Alicia Bay Laurel’s art, music and literary business)

Executive Producer (the person who paid for everything): Alicia Bay Laurel.

Producers (the people who decided together which instruments and singers went on which song, and how to arrange the songs): Oscar-and Emmy Award-winning film composer Ron Grant, and Alicia Bay Laurel. 

Recording: The original sketch for the project was recorded in August 2005 at Seawest Studios, in Pahoa, Hawaii, with Hoku Award-winning owner/engineer Rick Asher Keefer (who recorded Alicia’s first two CDs).  All of Alicia’s guitar parts and her vocal on Best of the Rest of You are from those sessions.  Ron Grant recorded in his own studio some of the vocal parts for “America the Blues” and “Love, Understanding and Peace,” and created the electronic symphony on “America the Blues.” All of the other recording, mixing and mastering was accomplished in November and December 2005 and January and February 2006 at the studio of Scott Fraser in Los Angeles.  Scott is the recording engineer and live sound technician for the Kronos Quartet’s recordings and performances, and was nominated for a Grammy Award for You’ve Stolen My Heart, a collaboration of the Kronos Quartet and East Indian pop superstar Asha Bhosle, which he co-produced. 

Musicians: My heartfelt thanks to all of the superb players who participated in recording this CD, including avant-garde guitar hero Nels Cline (who plays with his own ensembles, as well as with the band Wilco), jazz upright bass legend John B. Williams (Nancy Wilson, Manhattan Transfer, Arsenio Hall Show Band, Tonight Show Big Band) and his red hot R & B vocalist wife Jessica Williams, who forms the gospel choir along with her daughter Vetia Richardson, and her friend Irene Cathaway (with whom she sings backup for Connie Stevens), gospel keyboardist Reverend Harold Pittman (Minister of Music at the Greater Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in South Central Los Angeles), woodwind wizard Doug Webb (who totally smokes on a different instrument on each of four songs), three fabulous top flight drummers: David Anderson, Kendall Kay, and Enzo Tedesco, fluid and cool jazz pianist Rick Olson, two rock-solid, multi-talented bassists: Kevin O’Neal and Chris Conner, versatile actor/vocalist Jody Ashworth, and soulful Liberian gospel singer Francis Nyaforh.

Acknowledgments:

Nudging, kibbitzing, hand-holding and divine guidance:  Ron Grant, Scott Fraser and Rick Asher Keefer (see above), improvisational music legend Joe Gallivan, jazz pianist Theo Saunders and his actress/artist wife Susan Heldfond Saunders, music producer Stan Goldstein (the first Woodstock began as a synapse firing in his brain), jazz vocalist Ruthie Ristich (who coached me), vocalist/ songwriter/ actress/ dancer/ novelist Sierra Faith (who coached me), speech therapist and singing teacher (and godmother) Godeane Eagle (who coached me), artist Tracy Dove (who never stops nudging me to do more art), singer/songwriter Joe Dolce (a shining example), electronic music pioneer and enlightenment wonk Ramon Sender (for funny faces and wise words), guitarist Joe Marquand (who wanted me to record these songs so much he volunteered to play on my sketch sessions for free), journalist Koki Aso (who, while interviewing me for Be Pal magazine, wished mightily for a CD of my jazz and blues songs), record producer Koki Emura (who released my first two CDs in Japan in September 2005 on his label, EM Records), and vocalist/ songwriter/ bassist Sachiho Kudomi, who says now that I have three CDs released in Japan, I should come on the road with her.  Big love and big thanks to you each and all!   

The friends who sheltered me the year I got this CD together: Composer Ron Grant and artist Benida Solow, vocalist and community organizer Lyndia Lowy, architect Walt Bell and artist Norma Bell, surgeon and community leader Barry Blum and playwright and educator Gloria Blum, Professor of Sociology and activist Noelie Rodriguez and Hawaii County Planning Director Chris Yuen, artist Tracy Dove and mechanical genius Ralph Coppen.  How can you tell if hippies have been staying at your house?  They’re still there.  Thank you for your generous hospitality and over-the-top friendship!

Other friends I’d like to thank: Internet promotion mavens Kim Cooper (editrix of Scram Magazine, Lost in the Grooves, The 1947 Project and Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth) and computer wizard Richard Schave, television sound engineer Bill Daly and event organizer Lihau Daly, attorneys Mark and Marissa Batt (who was nominated for an Edgar Award for her first true crime book Ready for the People in 2005), luthier Dennis Lake (for blessing my guitars with his care), luthier David Santo (I’m playing a guitar he built for me in 1976 on this CD), and, of course, my mom, artist Verna Lebow Norman.  Thank you all for your help. I am blessed you are in my life!

The Songs:

Floozy Tune

Beloved by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, my grandmother Anna Lebow (1894-1990), and 20-year-old actress Ali Grant, Floozy Tune should have been written in 1920, when women got the vote and got rid of their corsets.  However, I didn’t get around to it until 1982.

Arranged by Alicia Bay Laurel and Ron Grant, Vocal: Alicia Bay Laurel, Piano: Rick Olson, Clarinet: Doug Webb, Bass: Chris Conner, Drums: Kendall Kay

Mr. Nightlife, Mr. Cool, how could you make me such a goddamn fool?

I was made to sing church songs, but what did I know

‘Til I went out to your nightclub show?

Girls like me never laugh ‘til dawn;

We know too well where the lines are drawn.

So, why do I want to do what I do not do?

I want to sit on your piano and sing you a floozy tune.

Mr. Jazzfingers, Mr. Blues, how could you offer what I can’t refuse?

I was made to be married to some Mr. Right,

‘Til I got enlightened last Saturday night.

I danced and sang and I laughed ‘til dawn;

Fell in your arms when the shades were drawn,

And found I could do with you what I do not do,

So I’ll sit your piano and sing you a floozy tune.

They’re gonna lose their Sunday school teacher, their volunteer librarian.

My mama’s gonna have conniption fits, but it’s time that I had some fun.

Mr. Jazzfingers, Mr. Blues, the Sunday soprano is a sweet chanteuse

Touring the country with a reprobate band,

Reputation lost to a piano man.

Rise at sunset and sleep at dawn,

Deep in your arms when the shades are drawn.

I knew I could do with you what I do not do.

So, I’ll sit on your piano and sing you a floozy tune.

America The Blues

This is a song about speaking truth to power–not only to despots, but to our own collective power.  The operative lyric here is VOTE.  If everyone who could vote actually did vote, we could elect representatives who would work with us to reverse the vast environmental, public health, diplomatic, and human rights problems we earth-dwellers face, and make this a sustainable, joyful world for all who live in it, now and in the future.  To vote well, we need truthful media (for example Truthout.org or Commondreams.org.)  Also, we vote daily with our money; we need to support businesses that further sustainability and social justice, and boycott the rest. We need elections with state-financed candidates and hand-countable paper audits.  Thank you.

Katharine Lee Bates wrote the lyrics to American the Beautiful on July 4, 1893; the melody comes from the hymn Materna, composed by Samuel A. Ward in 1882.  Ms. Bates, a professor of English literature at Wellesley College, prolific poet and author, and ardent feminist, lived openly as a lesbian with her lifelong partner, Katharine Coman, Dean and professor of economics at Wellesley.  Curiously, the lyrics to America the Blues also revealed themselves on July 4th, while I was registering voters for the 2004 presidential election.

Arranged by Alicia Bay Laurel and Ron Grant, Singing and Speaking Vocal, Rhythm Guitar: Alicia Bay Laurel, Speaking Vocals: Jody Ashworth and Jessica Williams, Vocal Harmonies: Alicia Bay Laurel, Ron Grant and Jody Ashworth, Electric Guitar: Nels Cline, Electronic Symphony Orchestra: Ron Grant, Upright Bass: John B. Williams, Drums: Enzo Tedesco

America, the beautiful,

You’re thorny as a rose:

Radiation, global warming

Poisoned food from GMOs.

Your poor die sick and hungry,

And your wealthy live tax-free,

While they murder ancient forests

The soil and the sea.

America, America,

Greed sheds disgrace on thee.

Vote corporations out of power;

Revive democracy

For future generations

And human decency.

America, don’t blow it

All to smithereens.

You don’t need nukes; you don’t need slaves,

And you don’t need gasoline.

What you do need is compassion,

And respect for human rights,

Permaculture, sustainable systems,

Mediation instead of fights.

America, don’t wave that flag

To con us with your jive.

If the multi-nationals have their way

Even rich folks won’t survive.

We’re all family here on this planet,

So lay down that smoking gun,

And start sharing with your neighbors;

There’s enough for everyone.

I pledge allegiance to the earth

In the myriad stars of the universe

And to all the beings who upon her stand

One family, indivisible,

With liberty and justice for all.

America, America,

Greed sheds disgrace on thee.

Vote corporations out of power,

Revive democracy

For future generations

And human decency.

Don’t wave that flag at me;

Try human decency.

Aquarian Age Liberated Woman Blues   

I still can’t believe how much fun I had in the ’60’s, even if the guys wouldn’t commit.

Arranged by Alicia Bay Laurel and Ron Grant, Vocal and rhythm guitar: Alicia Bay Laurel, Lap steel and acoustic lead guitar: Nels Cline, Bass: John B. Williams, Drums: Enzo Tedesco

Sprouts in a jar, stash in a can, a twenty-pound backpack, and a Volkswagen van,

Aquarian Age Liberated Woman Blues.

Bee pollen candy, honey shampoo, seaweed for breakfast is good for you,

Aquarian Age Liberated Woman Blues.

Uncle Sam is my sugar daddy, but you can be one of my valentines, honey.

Just don’t come around when the moon is full, I’m on cosmic birth control.

Easy to come, easy to go, a free school dropout in free box clothes,

Aquarian Age Liberated Woman Blues.

Natural hair, natural mind, the fashions can fool you but the eye don’t lie

Aquarian Age Liberated Woman Blues.

A Guatemalan huipil and natty dread, belly dancing lessons to loosen my head;

I’ve been rebirthed and I’ve been Rolfed and given a mantra, or two,

An astrology chart, polarity rub, astral projection, community tub,

Aquarian Age Liberated Woman Blues.

Beaches by day, boogie by night, always groovin’, never uptight,

Aquarian Age Liberated Woman Blues.

I’m asking the Tao when I meditate to send me the name of my cosmic soul mate,

But before I surrender my ruby nose ring, I’m gonna throw the I Ching,

Cause believe me, Ms. Eve, since Adam split,

The nuclear family’s become a relic,

Aquarian Age Liberated Woman,

Aquarian Age Liberated Woman,

Aquarian Age Liberated Woman Blues.

Zero Gravity

Inspired by the view of Los Angeles from the crest of the Hollywood Hills, Zero Gravity reflects upon the shimmering, pulsating coldness of the star machine at night. Ron Grant created the amazing arrangement on the spot in the studio.  He said to pianist Rick Olson, “Think halfway between Tori Amos and Debussy…”

Vocal: Alicia Bay Laurel, Piano: Rick Olson, Alto Saxophone: Doug Webb, Bass: Chris Conner, Drums: Kendall Kay

You’re never alone in the city,

And seldom you see the moon.

A star’s eye view of the galaxy

Is the usual nighttime view.

Lovers are yearning; fossils are burning;

Virgins are learning, every single night.

A saxophone man in the city

Swings with a chic chanteuse,

And she casts her corsage in the museum fountain

And sings to a limousine muse.

There are deals in the making; there are girls for the taking.

In the discos, they’re shaking, every single night.

Is this a movie we live as we see?

Or is this an exercise for life at zero gravity?

You’re never alone in the city,

And seldom you see the moon.

A star’s eye view of the galaxy

Is the usual nighttime view.

Lovers are yearning; fossils are burning;

Virgins are learning, every single night.

In the late, late twentieth century.

Doctor Sun and Nurse Water

I know. It sounds like a bat mitzvah at a Baptist church, with readings from Dr. Masaru Emoto’s Message from Water. Actually, I wrote this song when I first moved to Hawaii (in 1974) and was healed. Hallelujah!

Arranged by Alicia Bay Laurel and Ron Grant, Lead Vocal and Guitar: Alicia Bay Laurel, Choir: Jessica Williams (soloist), Irene Cathaway, Vetia Richardson, Organ: Rev. Harold Pittman, Bass: Kevin O’Neal, Drums: David Anderson

Doctor Sun and Nurse Water, Doctor Sun and Nurse Water,

You give me rhythm and take away my blues.

Oh Nurse Water, I see you flowing through my veins.

You’re the sunset clouds; you’re the springtime rains.

And you carry away my sorrows, and you leave me purified;

May we run together, side by side.

Doctor Sun and Nurse Water

Oh Doctor Sun, you fade away my city grays,

With the healing magic of your golden rays.

And you dry up all my tears, leave me glowing rosy as the dawn;

You’re the earth’s sole provider of energy for us all.

Doctor Sun and Nurse Water, Doctor Sun and Nurse Water,

You give me rhythm and take away my blues.

Everywhere the people pray for a miracle today

Ain’t they got the sense to go outside when the sun shines?

Go down to the sea and cleanse all your worries and your sins

From your soul whenever the holy solar one shines.

Doctor Sun and Nurse Water, Doctor Sun and Nurse Water,

You give me rhythm and take away my blues.

You give me rhythm and take away my blues.

What Living’s All About

A song about sex, which I first heard about in 1958 when Miss Peggy Lee sang “Fever.”

Arranged by Alicia Bay Laurel and Ron Grant, Vocal: Alicia Bay Laurel, Piano: Rick Olson, Tenor Saxophone: Doug Webb, Bass: Chris Conner, Drums: Kendall Kay

No bought love was ever a bargain; no bought lover was ever a prophet.

No good reason could be without feelin’; no good feelin’ hasn’t a season.

That’s why I’m not in business, I’m in pleasure.

I give and take what I get, I don’t measure.

But unless you treat me as kind as I treat myself alone

Better stop the lights and the action, ‘cause I’m goin’ home.

Yes, I feel a spark of attraction, gravitational polarization,

A vibrational magnetic current, an electrical-chemical reaction.

Oo, it bowls me over like a torrent.

Oh, hear my body heave a sigh.

Ain’t gonna try to reach for the source of emanation,

But I might surrender if you try.

Hips will roll the rhythm of mountains;

Tongues will savor the flavor of human.

Lungs express increased locomotion;

Souls ignite in fiery fusion.

Oh, I’m in orbit; I’m in ecstasy.

This is what living’s all about.

Oh, dear God, won’t you keep those channels open?

Until you gather me home, over and out.

Sometimes It Takes A Long Time

If you are reading this, you’re still alive, and therefore the story’s not over.  Something else could happen.

Arranged by Alicia Bay Laurel and Ron Grant, Vocal and Guitar: Alicia Bay Laurel, Choir: Jessica Williams (soloist) and Irene Cathaway, Piano: Rev. Harold Pittman, Bass: Kevin O’Neal, Drums: David Anderson

Sometimes it takes a long time to find the one you love.

Sometimes it takes a long time to share the world you’re of.

The waiting is hard, but aren’t you glad now?

Sometimes it takes a long time to find yourself a home.

Sometimes it takes a long time to know where you belong.

The waiting is hard, but aren’t you glad now?

Sometimes it takes a long time to find your work to do.

Sometimes it takes a long time to see your dream come through.

The waiting is hard, but aren’t you glad now?

Sometimes it takes a long time to free yourself from things.

Sometimes it takes a long time to learn to use your wings.

The waiting is hard, but aren’t you glad now?

This time it took a long time to find the one I love.

This time it took a long time to share the world I’m of.

The waiting was hard, but I’m so glad now.

Whoa, love you so.

Whoa, love you so.

We’re so glad now.

Love you so. Whoa.

Nature Boy

In the first half of the twentieth century, long before the term “hippie” was coined, longhaired vegans in natural-fiber robes roamed Southern California.  Eden Ahbez, one of the two most famous of these (the other being Gypsy Boots), probably wrote this song in reverence for Bill Pester, who brought the back-to-nature lifestyle to California from Germany before World War I. Based on a Yiddish waltz, “Schwieg Mein Hertz” (“Hush, My Heart”), “Nature Boy” became a ubiquitous jazz standard after Nat King Cole’s original version hit big.  For great pix and 411 on the freaks of yore, pick up a copy of Children of the Sun by Gordon Kennedy on Amazon.com.

Improvised by John B. Williams, Alicia Bay Laurel and Enzo Tedesco (upright bass, vocal and percussion, respectively), with special effects by Scott Fraser.

There was a boy, a very strange, enchanted boy;

They say he wandered very far, very far, over land and sea.

A little shy, and sad of eye

But wise, very wise, was he.

And then one day, one magic day, he passed my way,

And as we spoke of many things, fools and kings, this he said to me,

“The greatest thing that you will ever learn 
Is just to love and be loved in return.”

Best of the Rest of You

I hate seeing a friend get used.  But would I tell him? Only in a song.

Arranged by Alicia Bay Laurel and Ron Grant, Vocal and Guitar: Alicia Bay Laurel, Electrified Lap Steel Guitar: Nels Cline, Upright Bass: John B. Williams, Drums: Enzo Tedesco

Tell me why did that woman have to do what she did to you?

She could have left your extra sweat pants, your credit card and your cool.

She could have kept her lacquered fingers out of some of your pies;

She could have left at least a couple stars in your eyes.

Tell me why did you let her get the best of the rest of you?

She fed you ginseng, peyote and vitamin E,

Made you crawl across the room to her on your knees.

Put you on the tantra seminar mailing list,

So she could go there with you, and her psychologist.

Don’t get attached, baby, you might be considered gauche.

Tell me why did that woman have to do what she did to you?

She could have picked some narcissistic, bullet-headed bodybuilding fool.

But that ball-busting lady don’t like macho boys,

She’d rather try to leave behind a trail of broken toys,

And there she goes, baby, with a brand new Erector Set

She has a way with circuits and she rewired you

So you would run from other women when she got through.

She’ll be back when you recover from your deep sea bends,

Just to see if you’ll go down to her dive again.

Better take your bathysphere this time; you might be down for a while.

Tell me why did that woman have to do what she did to you?

She had the spiritual rap, the kitten eyes, and the moves.

She didn’t care about your marriage, your ego or your art,

Just a juicy specimen for her collection of hearts.

Tell me why did you let her get the best of the rest of you?

I Could Write A Book

So you could, could you?  Better hear what renowned literary agent Michael Larsen has to say about the book biz.  All of the spoken words sandwiched in this 1940 Rodgers and Hart show tune-turned-jazz standard are from Larsen’s How To Write A Book Proposal, Third Edition (Writer’s Digest Books, 2003).

Arranged by Alicia Bay Laurel and Ron Grant, Sung and Spoken Vocals: Alicia Bay Laurel, Piano: Rick Olson, Soprano Saxophone: Doug Webb, Bass: Chris Conner, Drums: Kendall Kay

If they asked me, I could write a book

About the way you walk and whisper and look.

I could write a preface on how we met

So the world would never forget.

And the simple secret of the plot

Is just to tell them that I love you a lot.

Then the world discovers as my book ends

How to make two lovers of friends.

It’s Not Fair       

I asked Nels if he would help me scream at my ex, and he said, “Sure, glad to.”

Arranged by Alicia Bay Laurel and Ron Grant, Vocal and Electric Rhythm Guitar: Alicia Bay Laurel, Electric Lead Guitar: Nels Cline, Upright Bass: John B. Williams, Drums: Enzo Tedesco

It’s not fair that you love her more than me

When she doesn’t even sing.

She’s not a musician like you are, like I am,

What about all the times we used to jam?

We had rhythm and harmony

Now we don’t even meet,

Unless she is with you, and then it’s all small talk.

How boring. It’s just not fair.

Well, it’s chemistry, and it’s poetry,

But it’s not me and it’s not fair.

How did you decide to give her first choice of your time,

And all of your lovemaking, too?

She’s not a joker like you are, like I am,

What about all the laughs that we been through?

We used to get so crazy;

Now you don’t even call,

Because she is with you, making all of that small talk.

How wasteful; it’s just not fair.

Her topography, choreography,

Made a fool of me and it’s not fair.

It’s no fun getting over you now,

With all those ideas we had.

She’s not an artist like you are, like I am

What about the masterpiece we planned? (Yeah, loser!)

You were once my inspiration;

Now I’m cookin’ alone.

And she’s still in your studio, bending your ear,

And you love it.  Yeah, you just love it.

You love it so much.

It’s just not fair.

Love, Understanding and Peace

How succinctly Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13 explains love and spirituality! Everyone can dig it.

Arranged by Alicia Bay Laurel and Ron Grant, Lead Singing Vocal: Alicia Bay Laurel, Spoken Vocal: Jody Ashworth, Second Singing Vocal on last verse: Francis Nyaforh, Choir: Jessica Williams and Irene Cathaway, Piano: Rev. Harold Pittman, Bass: Kevin O’Neal, Drums: David Anderson

Every love has its season; maybe ours has come and gone.

You are far from the doorstep that my beaux must stand on,

But I feel you in the morning when I rise to say my prayers,

All your goodness, all the childish things we shared and did not share.

We had our scenes of pain and pleasure, heaven knows, we felt it all,

But the curtains on those first acts quickly fall,

And the sets are quickly changing, as the night becomes the day.

Will we be childish in the next town that we play?

Sometimes I wonder what the tenth year of our friendship will be like.

Will we have outgrown those early childhood fears?

Will there be trust and resolution, will our vision then be clear?

We did not know each other well in this first year.

Simple passion is so deceiving; we moved in so fast we could not back out right.

So it was fight or take flight to scene one, act two;

See you in paradise when we rendezvous; I know you will not show surprise.

Love is patient and kind.

It is not jealous, boastful, envious or rude.

Love does not insist on its own way.

It keeps no record of wrongs.

Love recoils from injustice,

But rejoices when the truth prevails.

It always protects, always hopes, always endures.

Love never ends.

We are practicing forgiveness (I forgive you);

We are speaking higher truths (God is love);

We are praying for deliverance from our weakness (we shall be free).

And we both have come a little bit further along

Toward our love and understanding, toward our peace,

Toward our love and understand, toward our peace (let there be peace).

Reviews of What Living’s All About

PERFORMING SONGWRITER MAGAZINE, MAY 2007

TOP 12 DIY PICKS by Mare Wakefield, Indie Music Editor

What Living’s All About—a title that’s appropriate for a woman who has lived her life with such gusto. A Bohemian artist, Alicia Bay Laurel lived on a houseboat off Sausalito and a commune in Sonoma before spending 25 years on Maui. In addition to her music, she’s worked as a cook, collage artist, yoga instructor, wedding planner, underwater photographer and she’s the author of a New York Times bestseller, the whimsical Living on the Earth, first published in 1971.

The rich tapestry of her life translates to her music. In the Billie Holiday-esque “Floozy Tune,” Laurel plays the role of the Sunday School teacher turned barfly. In “America the Blues” she dishes out scathing political commentary to the tune of “America the Beautiful” (“America, America, greed sheds disgrace on thee / You don’t need nukes, you don’t need slaves, you don’t need gasoline”). She has fun with the smart “Aquarian Age Liberated Woman Blues” (“Seaweed for breakfast is good for you”) and the gospel-imbued “Doctor Sun and Nurse Water.” Laurel’s jazzy Earth-mother sound will seduce and inspire.


Review by John Stevenson of Ejazz News in London, June 2006

Dear Alicia,

Just a quick note from London. I have reviewed your last CD at ejazznews.com. It is excellent. As I wrote in the review, by far one of the best for 2006.

I get close to 200 CDs a week sent to me, but yours stood out because of its transparently high level of musicianship and sincerity – qualities which are very rarely found combined these days.

Kind Regards,

John Stevenson

Alicia Bay Laurel: What Living’s All About, Jazz Blues & Other Moist Situations (IWS)

With a provocative title like this one, Ms. Laurel will certainly catch the attention of any reviewer! This is most certainly one of the most audacious, heartfelt and honest discs I’ve put in my CD player for the year. Alicia (who sounds like the artistic love child of Joan Baez and Tom Waits) brings a folk-singer’s sensibility to bear on jazz and pulls no punches: On America The Blues, she declaims: America, the beautiful/you’re thorny as a rose:/Radiation, global warming/Poisoned food from GMOs./ She also sings a delightful version of Eden Ahbez’s Nature Boy. The accompaniment from guitarist Nels Cline, bass player John B. Williams and pianist Rick Olson is divine.

*                    *                        *                      * 

BLUES REVUE MAGAZINE January 2008
Tom Hyslop
Blues Bites: Reviews in Brief

Alicia Bay Laurel conveys life’s sudden shifts and jarring juxtapositions on What Living’s All About (Indigo With Stars 003). Sandwiched between the opener, “Floozy Tune,” and “Aquarian Age Liberated Woman Blues,” two formally classic blues that could have come from Ma Rainey if not for the namechecks (belly dancing, astral projection, The I. Ching, bee pollen candy and natty dread), comes “America the Blues,” with strident references to economic inequality, environmental rapine, corporate greed, and political corruption. Laurel moves from girlish singing on the Twenties-style songs to this doomy incantation, the arrangement taking full advantage of the jaw-dropping talent of avant-guitarist Nels Cline (best known as Wilco’s secret weapon). With cuts such as “Doctor Sun and Nurse Water” (a gospel-drenched number with oddly matched lyrics), and the Fever tribute of the title track, Living will strike some as too California in its outlook. But lovely touches abound, such as the stately, quietly anthemic “Love, Understanding and Peace,” and Doug Webb’s beautiful alto work on “Zero Gravity.”


FEMINIST REVIEW, Friday, June 1, 2007
Alicia Bay Laurel – What Living’s All About

All would-be writers who have studied how to write know the rule: “show me don’t tell me.” Visual artists find this advice easy to do and musicians are, perhaps, the same way. When the creative instrument does not rely solely on words, showing is not too difficult.

Alicia Bay Laurel wrote Living on the Earth, a cult classic and the first paperback on the New York Times Bestseller List (spring 1971), which has sold over 350,000 copies. She has also written five other books. Laurel is a talented, trained musician. She grew up playing classical piano, switched to guitar in her teens and learned open tunings from legendary guitarist John Fahey, a family member. On this latest album, What Living’s All About, she works with some of the best musicians in the field, including avant garde guitar hero Nels Cline.

Alicia Bay Laurel tries to show and tell by weaving feelings, melody and an occasional diatribe word. She celebrates the Earth (nature) and embraces her sensuality. She also loudly laments the destruction of the environment, as in her song “America the Blues,” where the listing of our environmental sins drags a bit. At the same time, the song is strangely effective. The entwining hypnotic music ended with a smashing guitar rift, followed by a spine tingling sound of whale songs and a Native American Chant. This is an excellent protest song. Alicia Bay Laurel and Al Gore should be friends.

“Zero Gravity” is a haunting song about a city at night, reminiscent of Ground Zero in New York City where the Twin Towers used to be. Laurel talks about sex in this CD and does it with class, sometimes with gentle humor, like “Floozy Tune.” However, you won’t know what she’s talking about unless you listen closely. This blend of jazz, blues and gospel is a powerful feminist statement. It’s fantastic!

Review by Patricia Ethelwyn Lang


“Floozy Tune” Wins Song Contest

7/9/2007 4:38:10 PM
“Floozy Tune”
Status: Selected
Congratulations, you have been selected as a Top 20 Finalist in the Jazz Category of the 11th Annual Unisong International Song contest. Results are at http://www.unisong.com/Winners11.aspx.

This year featured the highest overall quality of songs, lyrics, and writers ever submitted by far, with the most diverse and varied entries from a multitude of countries representing every continent on Earth except Antarctica (and songwriting penguins out there).

The judging therefore was extremely competitive and to be singled out anywhere in the top 15% of all songs submitted was no easy feat.

 

Review of What Living’s All About by psychedelic folk radio DJ, Gerald Van Waes. His show, Psyche Van Het Folk, is on Radio Centraal, Antwerp, Belgium.

Like one of my favourite heartfelt singer-songwriter singers (Heather McLeod with ‘Funny Thing’, 1997), also Alicia went to more towards (slightly standard) jazz territories, but as a former hippie, it is clear this is not done as a compromise to please/tease a public. Her interpretations (-most songs are self penned-) are with great feelings, and a certain light happiness beyond each other idea or emotion. She describes the style mix well on the cover as “jazz, blues and other moist situations”. With additionally a a bit of New Orleans influence on “Floozy Tune”, and a bit of gospel on “Doctor Sun and Nurse Water” (about what the environment of Hawaii did to her), she wrote inspired something between jazz and jazz-blues and something else soulful. I like the idea on “America the blues” saying “America, don’t wave that flag to con us with your jive…”..”we’re all family on this planet”.. (Just imagine how America is built upon so many nationalities and bought talents from everywhere, unfortunately mostly still chosen from what are seen as the trustworthy countries and areas (so practically still excluding preferably the French, Spanish, and several Arab-speaking countries and native Indians for economic concurrence, racist, nowadays partly religious, and a few other reasons)… Potentially, I realize America still has all opportunities and a certain openness to experiment for those who succeed to start to participate in the system. This track, like a few tunes elsewhere has some, for me, rather amusing freaky electric avant-garde guitar by Nels Cline (Wilco,..). Alicia, for having experienced a certain earthbound process, matured, she still has the happiest aspects of the hippie; this sum must having benefited the soul and music of the singer, who on her recent photograph on the back cover still looks 25 or so, so I guess the message of this lies somewhere as a benefit hidden in the music. Rather brilliant as an interpretation I think is “Nature Boy” (originally by Nat King Cole, but also covered by Grace Slick), in an emotionally calm contrapoint-driven moody jazz style, with the help of John B. Williams on upright bass and Enzo Tedesco on other instruments. A really fine and enjoyable album.


Review by legendary guitarist Nels Cline on his website:

Alicia is a self-proclaimed “hippie chick” who I met through (drummer) Joe Gallivan. She had a hit book back in the 60s called [stay tuned for title – forgot it], which she says “was in practically every hippie commune outhouse in the west” (no doubt right next to “Be Here Now”!). This is, I believe, self-released, and is quite an odd but strangely entertaining, original, and disarming recording. It has some amazing L.A.-based session/jazz players like (saxophonist) Doug Webb, who reaches beyond his Coltrane-esque tenor to turn in some beautiful post-Desmond alto, brilliant drummer Kendall Kay, and bassist John B. Williams, whom many may remember as the Fender player on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson for many years. There is a choir on here! The songs are sort of 1920s-30s era swing, acoustic swing blues, and… Well anyway, when someone like Alicia asks me to do tons of Hendrix-inspired shrieking and psych looping (“America The Blues”) or fuzzed out adversarial commentary (“It’s Not Fair”), I figure that when the disc comes out that the stuff will, as it usually is, be buried or cut out altogether. I was amazed when I heard this that Alicia REALLY WANTED these sounds and that THEY ARE REALLY LOUD! I don’t know what people who know my music will think of this, but there is something so wry and self-deprecatingly amusing about Alicia’s hippie anthems, protest songs, and tales of failed romance that I find myself grinning. Hmmmm…Oh yes, I also play slide, lap steel, and acoustic guitar on this. I’m on 4 or 5 tracks.

 

Review by Platinum-selling singer/songwriter Joe Dolce

I think this is a very creative record with a lot of wonderful ideas and performances and some pretty extraordinary playing, and endearing vocals all over the place. I like it a lot!! I liked all the songs much better on the second listen. A keeper. Good work.

The album is eclectic, diverse musical styles. Therefore, I can relate to it! What holds it altogether is Alicia’s musical ‘personae’ – the complex character she is creating, through her voice and ideas. As you get to know this character more and more, as the songs and ideas progress, you trust her more and it allows you to enter more easily into whatever type of musical style is coming next. (Also this trust is a reason to want to go back and listen again.) Also the IDEAS are clear. The lead vocals are strong with a lot of presence. The musicians are all brilliant and the soloing is tasteful and creative – no cliches or stumbling around musically anywhere to be found.

Re: “Nature Boy.” I believe that if you can take the listener to a unique Hilltop, and give them a view that they will never forget, even ONCE in a recording or performance, that is enough. One brilliant moment builds a bridge of trust between you and them that will allow them to be more open to whatever you do from then on, even if they don’t relate or understand it. (You may never be able to take them to that High Point again but it doesn’t matter – it’s like great sex or great playing- you may not be able to LIVE with that person, but you will NEVER forget that encounter.) This track took me to that Hill. I feel different now about the whole recording.

Re: “I Could Write a Book.” This track is the track where I first gasped: genius! What an amazing idea. A track like this makes me have to listen to the whole CD over again to see if I missed anything the first time around on those opening tracks. A totally inspired idea that works. No one else has ever done something like this with a standard. Perfect. I played this one for Lin. She liked it a lot, too. (She didn’t think her publisher would like it though! ha ha!)
Joe Dolce
Melbourne, Australia

Floozy Places Again

Alicia Bay Laurel performs her prize-winning song, “Floozy Tune” at Yukotopia night club in Umejima, Tokyo, in 2010.

December 12, 2008

“Floozy Tune,” the opening cut of my blues/jazz CD, What Living’s All About, has garnered a runner-up position in yet a THIRD songwriting contest, this time as a Finalist in the 100% Music Songwriting Contest.

In summer 2008, “Floozy Tune” received Honorable Mention (7th place) in the World division (which includes jazz), in the Indie International Songwriting Contest

The first award for “Floozy Tune” was in the Top 20 Finalists in the Jazz Division of the Unisong International Songwriting Contest, in 2007.

Land of the Free


Here’s a free download of my matriotic anthem, “America the Blues,” the second cut from my most recent CD, What Living’s All About, featuring avant-garde guitar legend Nels Cline as the roar of the industrial-military complex (and Ron Grant, Jody Ashworth, and me as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra).

Happy Interdependence Day, to all people, animals, plants, planets, stars, universes and microbes.

Queen of the Punks

Alicia onstage in Tamagusuku, Okinawa, October 31, 2010

Dear girlgroup,

In thinking about my year-end list, it occurred to me that there’s something on it that you folks may not have heard but would be quite interested in. And in hopes of getting it onto more year-end lists than just mine…

Alicia Bay Laurel is best known for her 1971 handwritten and drawn commune guide “Living on the Earth” (later picked up by Random House, and an international bestseller). Alicia became a friend and mentor when I was 15, and I’ve returned the favor by helping to build her website, http://www.aliciabaylaurel.com, and teaching her how to blog.

Her new album, What Living’s All About (available from her online store) includes an astonishingly powerful protest tune, “America The Blues,” featuring wild guitar work by Nels Cline and Alicia sounding more like the Queen of the Punks than the Queen of the Hippies. I made her promise to make it available for free, because this song needs to be heard. Please give it a spin if you’re inclined, and think of it when listing your singles for your year end list.

Alicia says: “This is a song about speaking truth to power—not only to despots, but to our own collective power. The operative lyric here is VOTE. If everyone who could vote actually did vote, we could elect representatives who would work with us to reverse the vast environmental, public health, diplomatic, and human rights problems we earth-dwellers face, and make this a sustainable, joyful world for all who live in it, now and in the future.”

More about the song and mp3 link:
https://archive.org/details/AliciaBayLaurelAmericatheBlues

best regards,
Kim Cooper
Editrix
Scram Magazine
http://www.scrammagazine.com

The Interview in Hachi Hachi Magazine


So here’s the magazine interview with me that Takashi Kikuchi wrote for 88 (pronounced “hachi hachi” in Japanese) Magazine, a permaculture journal printed with soy inks on recycled paper. Kikuchi-san is the editor, and he was assisted by Maki Ozawa, who interpreted for us. They flew over to Ohshima (island) to interview me, and they also interviewed me at Koki Aso’s house in Hayama, since he and Kikuchi-san are friends. Every one of the 88 covers is a work of art. I recycled the cover of a May 2005 issue into the shoe box shrine I made at Doshi Camp in Yamanashi Prefecture at the Kurkku weekend workshop.


Page one of the November 2006 issue. This photo of me was taken in the forest in Ohshima, on the path to the ancient style rice straw hut. The way the embroidery on the dress echoes the curve of the ferns is a tribute to the superb designer’s eye of the photographer. His name is Hiroshi.


Page two. Behind the writing is an illustration from Living on the Earth of a girl awakening at dawn at her mountain encampment to the sound of a bird calling. She sits up nude in her sleeping bag, wherein her lover still snores. It’s got to be one of the most evocative drawings in the book.


Page three. Now here’s a wink from the Universe. In 2002, when Mana Koike and Sachiho Kojima came to Hawaii Island and recorded a CD of Tara songs onwhich I sang backup, Mana came to visit me at my home, and I gifted her with a Japanese language edition of Being of the Sun. The book had been out of print since the 1970’s, and Mana thought she might want to re-publish it herself. I was thrilled with her offer, but not counting on it, either. When Kikuchi-san and his crew came with me to Mana’s house in Ohshima, Mana showed him her copy of Being of the Sun, and he had Hiroshi, the photographer, take this picture of it next to the Japanese edition of Living on the Earth. Not long after the magazine came out, I received an email from Soshisha, Ltd., which had published both books in the 1970’s and still publishes Living on the Earth, to discuss publishing Being of the Sun again.


Page four. Again, the graphic designer for the article has chosen one of the other most evocative drawings from Living on the Earth – the title page image of a young man and woman dancing on a hilltop under a moonlit sky while a dog dances beside them. I’m looking very serious in the photo at Koki’s house. I’m probably discussing politics. I wish I could read the article! I wanted to get it translated for my blog, but, mercy, it’s 5 to 15 cents per character, which adds up to hundreds of dollars! Kikuchi-san (“Kick” is his screen name) sweetly featured my new jazz CD, What Living’s All About in a sidebar, with its cover art that echoes the image of ecstatic dancing in nature by moonlight.