1977-04-07 Ocala Star-Banner

‘Ghost Writer’

by Stan Mieses


A small package named Garland Jeffreys has made a very big album, and it’s a good thing.  Rock has needed a representative who’s not championing white noise.  Jeffreys’ “Ghost Writer” (A&M Records) reflects the full spectrum of rhythms and emotions that his city, New York, has to offer, but transcends his personal experience to become a metaphor for living under any skyline.


“Ghost Writer” is about coming of age in the big city, and for Garland Jeffreys, it’s been quite a trip.  First and foremost, he’s had to come to grips with a mixed racial background that put him on the fringe of every group.  Garland’s green-eyed, tawny visage makes him a standout in any crowd.


But he’s taken advantage of his connection with these different worlds to make a stylistically varied album with deceptive emotional depth and consistency.  Whether he rocks out on “Wild in the Streets” and “Cool Down Boy,” or shifts into reggae on “Why-O”, and “I May Not Be Your Kind,” the attitude remains constant.


“Some kids are burned on radiators, others are psychologically hurt,” says Garland.  “There are rich kids who are fatherless; some locked in closets, others let go on the streets.  I don’t want to make myself out to be a ‘case’.  I’m not still an angry adolescent.  But there’s always been some sort of conflict.  Like in ‘Cool Down Boy,’ that’s what I was always told.  This isn’t symbolism.”


Garland describes his growing up as “rough” and his finding his own voice on this ironically titled record.  He sings of the painful and sometimes violent experiences of an urban childhood.


“Wild in the Streets,” originally released over three years ago, when it became a minor cult hit, was written after Garland heard of a pre-teen rape and murder in the Bronx.  “Why-O” is a child’s response to racial separatism, with specific reference to busing, which Garland underscored in a recent Boston appearance.  “I May Not Be Your Kind” speaks for itself.  Says Garland:  “Everyone I know has either come through those rough times, or is trying to.  That is the record’s sensibility.  That’s why I feel people are going to like it.  It’s forever, all-encompassing.  That’s why I basically dedicated it to children.”


It’s been four years since Garland Jeffreys has made an album.  While the wait, he claims, has made for some rough going in his adulthood, it has allowed him to mature as a musician.  “I feel like I’m making a lot of big discoveries in my life, and it’s good to have emotional facgts examined publicly.  I used to feel a little pushed around.  Like in ‘Lift Me Up’ where I sing ‘I’m the restless child of the underground’ – that’s pretty clear.  But I’m not that connected to a feeling of resentment now.

“I’m more connected with the idea that people like Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday – jazz people – really suffered through it and made beautiful music.  I thought about that a lot during these years, and it’s been a real inspiration.  There’s been a long dry spell between kind words.  You just have to have confidence in your work, and fortunately, I do.”

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