OK, so this is where I start getting really opinionated. There
never has been a David Ackles compilation album but, then, do
real fans actually agree with much of what is on compilation
albums? Here’s one that doesn’t, so with that in mind, I’ve
compiled my favourite ten tracks. They are listed below. I
should also say that this has been a very difficult task,
because David's music can so easily fit moods and emotions. What
I reckon to be my top ten tracks one day could easily change by
the next. If I've omitted a favourite of yours, just let me
know; many have already! I'll try to compile a complete list of the
tracks people most like. Perhaps a record company will actually
take notice someday. Please note that the list is not in order
of preference, but simply chronological order.
lyrics of each of these songs are given on the Lyrics page.
Meanwhile, to hear an audio clip of any of the songs below,
simply click on the
symbol beside each title. I've found that this is more
successful in Windows Explorer than in Mozilla Firefox or Google
Chrome, where you may have to be patient in waiting for a
ability to write in character is a talent shared with
people like Harry Chapin and Randy Newman. What does our
penal system do to people? It doesn't just lock them
away for a spell - it wrecks relationships and creates
the kind of people who will subsequently appear on the
Road to Cairo or Laissez Faire. No matter what his
crime, our character has served his time and doesn't
deserve his further exclusion from the society he was
once a member of. Musically, an outstanding piece of
work, ending with some delightfully judged guitar. This
was the song that first drew me to David Ackles and is a
favourite of many people, including Phil Collins, Elton
John and Elvis Costello.
I can only
guess at the meaning of the lyrics - as one should with
all poetry which is personal to the writer - but is this
a hippy anthem or a hymn to God? The vocals are gentle
and the sentiment is one of hope rather than the gloom
which pervades many other songs on the album. And, hey,
guess what? The bass player gets to play his own
counterpoint rather than just thump away to a beat, as
on so many pop songs.
When Love is Gone
predecessor of That's No Reason to Cry, with another
lovely bass line from Jerry Penrod and a beautiful
melody. But the main aspect of this song is the desolate
voice carrying a lyric of realisation and realism. "Only
a fool is content with a cloud to hide him." The theme
is breakup, appreciating that there is no point to a
relationship once the love has gone from it. This may be
an album for lonely people. But it's also one for fans
of beautifully crafted lyrics, set to music in a finely
judged manner and sung with a voice that haunts, for all
its variety of tones and colours.
That's No Reason to Cry
The ultimate bedsit album track puts the breakup of a
relationship into clear words: "I'll find another lady;
you'll find another guy". This is clearly a follow-on to
When Love is Gone from the first album. The album's back
cover shows David as the hobo of his first album, while
the reference to Jude, the patron saint of lost causes,
suggests that not everything is right with the world.
And yet in this song, there is still hope for the
future. This is not the wrist-slitting music of
despondency that Leonard Cohen was caricatured for. It
retains the innocent feeling that life goes on in this kinda hippy world that David was inhabiting then.
dare to write a song about a child molester?
Interestingly, David chose not to go into character for
this one, but he did put out the guy's point of view.
What damage do we, as society, do to our young people -
as parents, as teachers, as youth workers, as carers in
children's homes, or as a government putting them into a
war when they have no concept of why they are involved?
And then we wonder why some of our young people develop
the evil traits that they do. A brave song and one that
suggests that all of us have been harmed in some way by
our upbringing and that this will have an effect on how
we treat each other throughout life.
Inmates of the Institution
Hinting at what was to come in his next album, this song
is not exactly government-friendly and it cannot have
gone down too well with those of a non-liberal
disposition in his home country - just as Jackson Browne
got rough treatment for Lives in the Balance many years
later. David's voice is almost rasping in its contempt
and scorn of those who simply do what's expected. And
yet, he reminds us - in a non-preaching way - that we
all had a chance of redemption. All this, with a jazzy
backing and gorgeous saxophone solo that remind us that
David knows how to arrange music to good effect.
is so much in the American Gothic album that should be
in a top ten. I've already skipped by the title track
that lays bare the concept of the family home in a way
that it took David Lynch another fifteen years to do.
The phrase "paper legs with paper seams" is so
dismissive of everything that Heffner & co ever
produced. Meanwhile, track 2 brings such a conflicting
tenderness to the album as to shock. It's a beautiful
ballad that defines one's emotions perfectly. The belief
that this could be the one person to live with for a
lifetime is a hope that all romantics have. It was
surely written for Janice, the lady on the album cover,
and David's wife for 26 years.
Waiting for the Moving Van
A song where the hopes and dreams have again
been dashed by the reality of what life is all about.
All the plans are gone and a relationship is over.
Another of the many vignettes that permeate this
wonderful album. All American life is there - not just
the Mom & Apple Pie notion that Hollywood tried to feed
us. This is the darker, brooding side of real life, the
Twin Peaks or Millennium. This song is a gentle, loving
one in amongst the harsher, crueller aspects of life.
Yet what could be more cruel than the break-up of a
kind of thing you hear too often on the radio, yet this
is hailed by music critics and fans alike as a
masterpiece. The writing is accomplished, the theme is
epic in its scope, and the music, taking its style from
Aaron Copland, paints a scene that many moviemakers
would die for. Its final message is essentially that we
were all put here to create a future for our children. A
monumental piece of work from an outstanding talent.
Yes, I know
I have only left myself one track from his final album
and I know that's not enough. A Top Twenty would have
made this task easier. Anyway, getting back to the
subject, this is the antithesis of all the surfing songs
of the period - and features Dean Torrance of Jan and
Dean on backing vocals! David manages to replicate the
surfing sound magnificently while throwing in the lyric
"You can't hang ten when you've lost a little toe". Yes,
we all have to grow up and move away from our youthful
pastimes. Was this David saying goodbye to being a pop
Well, there we are. If you disagree with
my selection, please don't get angry about it - I could just as
easily choose a different selection on a different day,
depending on my mood. I therefore hope that you will
consider sending me your views by e-mail to Webmaster (below) in
the hope that I can build up a Fans' Top Ten.