“Look Each Other In The Ears” is the latest Spoken Word offering by Grammy-nominated poet Michael C. Ford. At 74 years old, Ford has had a long, thrilling career as a poet and all that experience comes to bear on this album.
Ford often reminisces about the by-gone days of Los Angeles and that makes his poetry very location-specific. Not having ever been to L.A. made it difficult to conjure the images he clearly means to draw upon. But the spirit of the poems is clear. These are dark meditations on the negative aspects of “progress” and suburban squalor. Ford certainly has the deep-seated anger and discontent common to contemporary poets. We are taken along through the L.A. of his youth and its deterioration through time in a way that is both very straight-forward and layered with multiple meanings. He rails against the loss of orange groves and the building of cookie-cutter housing developments, the growing disrespect for the arts and poetry in particular, and against his own profession as a Spoken Word artist. In one poem, he goes on a trip to Mars to escape modern American life only to find Mars has its own version which causes him to de-evolve – an interesting commentary on how Ford sees the world. My favorite line on the album is in the fourth track, “I Don’t Wanna Go (Said The Suicide)”:
“We stand on the bridge with John Berryman; but we relinquish our inclination to jump and it has nothing to do with religion; it is simply, as we grow older we discover there’s not that much left to kill!”
The second half continues with the themes of environmental destruction and general decay but takes on a decidedly more political element. The eighth track, “(Autobiography of) An American Bomb”, is unsettling but not as jarring as the Christmas jingle turned into “Halliburton’s cashing in” in the next track, “Wartime Carol (Bringing The War Back Home)”. The final track, “Float Of Drive (Triple Bypass)” seems to attempt to transcend the grimy negativity of the rest of the album by introducing rain. Rain makes music wherever it falls, no matter how miserable the surroundings. This is an effective metaphor for poets. As the track progresses, however, we feel that transcendence ultimately fails until we come to the final word: “over”. This is pronounced in such a way as to suggest that, finally, Ford is over it all.
All this darkness is well counter-balanced by the music on the album. This music was mainly made by the surviving members of The Doors – John Densmore, Robby Krieger, and Ray Manzarek. In fact, it is one of the last recordings made by Ray Manzarek prior to his death on May 20, 2013. To support Ford’s clear, enunciated performance, these men went back to their jazz roots. They were accompanied on various tracks by a full list of musicians and vocalists. Most notable of these were those who wrote the choruses and bridges: Tommy Jordan of the band Geggy Tah with Harlan Steinberger. There is even a moment of delicious scatting. The result is a light, airy, funky vibe that carries the heaviness of the lyrics perfectly.
All in all, this is a highly relevant, if slightly harrowing, album that will age very well, I think – like fine wine. There is unlikely to be a more accurate expression of the times we are currently living in. It has been an honor to listen to and review this CD (which is also available as an mp3 download).