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Way back what seemed a lifetime ago it was a late afternoon in 1978 and on my way home from work I was fixated on accomplishing one thing that day and one thing only. Burton Cummings’ ‘Dream Of A Child’ album had just been released. I had already bought several of the man’s albums and played them nearly threadbare were that possible with vinyls. Ultimately the stylus would begin to hiccup and ride up the worn grooves and skid across those albums of his and I’d be off to the record store to buy another copy…truly this was my gauge of a hugely personal favourite when I had to go out to buy another LP. There were very, very few that I ever bought twice.
But this album was different. I had been hearing the local AM stations playing the title song repeatedly over the course of the past few weeks and though I really liked much of what I had heard of Burton’s music to that point in time, those tremendous hits out of the glorious days of The Guess Who and then moving forward into his solo years, this title song was, well, it was something really quite a departure from what I had been used to hearing the man perform.
Music for me was and always will be a personal escape, a transference, a journey to a place that was reserved exclusively for me. Few artists in that day and to this very day take me away like Burton Cummings. I say without hesitation that he is the only, only male singer of the past five decades who has actually moved me to tears. A number of female recording artists brought out that emotional connection in me through their music but Burton has exclusive club rights to this honourable mention.
When I arrived home I immediately tore away the outer clear wrap and pulled the vinyl disc from its cover…oh man, what can I say about that cover…designed by our dear friend Ernie Cefalu who I feel did an exquisite rendering with the cover, so completely attached to the music it packaged.
The opening track, ‘Break It To Them Gently’ has always been THE one song of Burton’s that has taken me over the top each and every time I have heard it and the times I have seen him do this iconic song live tears streamed down my face. I’m not sure exactly why the song invokes that kind of emotional response from me but there it is, an association of sorts I guess…always has, always will. The Big Guy has dedicated the song to me live several times, most recently December 14, 2012 in Vancouver, BC. In that instance the moment was all the more deeply felt and our large group of The Faithful were there to share that moment with me.
But I digress…from the moment the stylus eased down on the vinyl and the first few tracks played…Break It To Them Gently; Hold On, I’m Comin’; and that stunning ‘I Will Play A Rhapsody’ through the remainder of the record I had a sense I was hearing something that took me beyond anything previous. When the opening notes drifted through the air and this man’s voice broke out in song with ‘When I was a boy…’ I sat motionless staring at the turntable, the rotating vinyl, the gentle rise and fall of the stylus and right then and there this man captured, for me, what no-one else had ever captured through their vocal and/or instrumental presentation. I was absolutely lost to the potent energy and hypnotic cadence of this gorgeous song right through to ‘I love Brenda Lee…and Brenda Lee loves me……..yeah’. At the tender age of 20 it was the first time I teared up to a song.
Many of our dear friends here have been blessed to have seen this man perform live. For over a dozen years Burton Cummings and The Carpet Frogs have astounded their audience with so many of this man’s huge hits, a parade of gentle ballads to the greatest of rock ‘n roll songs ever written/recorded.
Still, on this night I do a little of what Burton so affectionately calls “time travel”, back to a time when I was a boy, a boy who had dreams like most other young boys. The music took me away, especially the Burton Cummings music…just took me far, far and away. And then on that magic late afternoon in 1978 it was ‘Dream Of A Child’…and that unbreakable connection was made between the man and his music…and a young man sitting in fixated silence to a song that, for him, was truly a turning point. There would be none other remotely as remarkable, as gifted, as deeply moving as one Burton Lorne Cummings.
And Burton…in case I haven’t said it before…you just send me….yeah.
Visit Burton Cummings’ official website: Burton Cummings
© Don MacIver 2013; All Rights Reserved
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