Produced by Kristoph Klover, performed by Leslie Fish and published by Prometheus Music, Avalon is Risen is the filk album we have all been waiting for. The music is celtic and folkish, but with that special touch that only Leslie Fish adds. If you are not a Fish aficionado yet, you will be, after listening to these songs.
A Leslie Fish album is not something you listen to once and then put away. It is an experience to savor, to hear over and over again, until the music sinks into your soul and your spirits rise.
Some of the songs are funny. Some are serious. But all are full of magic and meaning. Leslie Fish composed the music to nearly all the songs, with some exceptions. She wrote the lyrics to most, and those whose lyrics are not her own come from the pens of Isaac Bonewits, Rudyard Kipling, Poul Anderson, Gordon Dickson (music!), Don Simpson and Christa Landon.
Additional credits run as follows: Margaret Davis: backing vocals; Shira Kammen: vielle; Kristoph Klover: backing vocals, djembe, electric bass & percussion; Nada Lewis: accordion; Kevin White: backing vocals; Rob Wilson: bodhran.
If you buy the physical CD, you will receive with it a beautifully illustrated booklet with all the lyrics and an introduction by Diana Paxson.
But there is another, much less expensive way to to purchase the album. You can get all the songs as an mp3 download, or you can also download each song separately as a single. Just to give a few highlights, I will describe for you some of the individual songs.
The lyrics to “Avalon is Risen” are by Isaac Bonewits. He is the author of Real Magic, a seminal work on modern sorcery.
The song he wrote begins like this:
Hail the day so long expected, when the Gates are opened wide.
Magicks, old and new collected, have restored the ancient pride.
Throughout Faerie’s wide dominion hear the trumpets swoop and soar.
Avalon is risen, is risen, is risen.
Avalon is risen, to fall no more.
“The Sun is Also a Warrior” by Leslie Fish acknowledges that while war is to be avoided when possible, there are things much worse than war, and that is why wars will never cease.
Of course, battle madness, while helpful in the fray, must be controlled. That is the subject addressed by “The Berserker”:
Oh, do not seek to know what lies
Behind these mild and patient eyes,
For I have seen the demon’s powers –
And even let the monster run –
In certain unforgotten hours.
The fire that sleeps within the blood
Can waken to a burning flood
That sweeps away whatever moved
Before the wordless killer’s eye.
Oh, do not cry to see it proved!
“The God’s Aren’t Crazy” is a fun song by Leslie, more playful than serious, about how inexplicable events may be laid down to the gods’ inebriation:
Look out your window and what do you spy?
Rain falling out of a sunshiny sky.
It’s changing to hailstones that weigh half a ton,
With seven live frogs hopping out of each one.
It’s not the Last Judgment; stop wailing of Sin.
It’s only the gods at wine tasting again.
So drink, drink, to Charlie Fort’s memory –
Marvelous doings, and marvelous sights.
Drink, drink, we may as well join them.
The gods are not crazy; they’re higher than kites.
One of my favorites is “Lucifer”, with lyrics by Don Simpson based on a poem by Browning.
Taste of the fruit of the tree that is knowledge,
Of good and of evil, and all the world’s lore.
A creature’s thought must exceed what it’s taught,
Or who is Heaven for?
So come here and learn to become as the gods are,
For I’ve got a wonderful secret to tell:
A creature’s reach should exceed its grasp.
What else is Heaven or Hell?
Other notable songs include the “The Ballad of Three Kings” with lyrics by Poul Anderson and music by Gordon Dickson (!), which I used to hear sung not very well at my local filksing, but which is beautifully performed by Leslie, and Chickasaw Mountain, Leslie’s song about the deals musicians make with fame.
They’re good, and Bow and I have listened to them all. The only one he objects to is “Jack the Slob” which somehow seems to suggest that a female chimpanzee is unattractive. Bow and I know better than that. But on the plus side, the instrumentals on that song are great!
If you like folk music, magic, science fiction or even just metrical poetry, you will like
Avalon is Risen. Buy the album, if you can afford to. If you can’t, buy the mp3 download– or at least, your favorite song. Even if you’ve heard these songs before, you have never heard them like this!
(c) 2012 Aya Katz