Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Maggie Roche – Where Do I Come From: Selected Songs

Where Do I Come From: Selected Songs
StorySound Records 

As I’ve mentioned before, “I first started writing record reviews for the Montreal Gazette back in 1975 and one of the LPs I wrote about that first year was Seductive Reasoning, the debut of a sister duo, Maggie & Terre Roche, built around quirky, affecting songs and terrific harmonies. Later, younger sister Suzzy Roche joined up and they became The Roches, releasing a series of albums between 1979 and 2007.”

Maggie, the eldest sister – who lost her battle with cancer on January 21, 2017 at age 65 – was a uniquely gifted songwriter responsible for almost all of the songs on Seductive Reasoning, as well as on many of the The Roches’ albums. Where Do I Come From: Selected Songs is a lovingly compiled 2-CD set of Maggie’s songs including tracks from albums by The Roches, as well as duo albums by Maggie & Terre and Maggie & Suzzy, a couple of previously unreleased demos from the early-‘70s, a solo home recording of what was probably Maggie’s final song, and a new studio recording of a previously unreleased Christmas song of Maggie’s by family members Suzzy, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Oona Roche, Dave Roche and guest Daisy Press.

Whether singing solo on the demos or in beautiful or soaring harmonies with one or both of her sisters, Maggie’s songs are always compelling for their poetic lyrics – whether narrative or oblique – and gorgeous melodies.

While I could easily heap praise on all 32 songs, I’ll cite a few as particular favorites. For those of us who have worked in small folk clubs, “Malachy’s” rings with authenticity. Similarly, “Hammond Song” captures the 20-something angst that so many of us were feeling in the ‘70s as we created paths in life that steered away from conventional expectations. “The Married Men” balances guilt and defiance within irresistible harmonies, while “My Winter Coat” is a delightful eight-minute celebration of something simple. And those four highlights barely scratch the surface.

The album ends with a solo home recording of “Where Do I Come From,” a fragmentary song that Suzzy found after Maggie had passed away. Assuming that Maggie knew her time was short adds much poignancy to thoughts like “All I got is me/ My hands are full of time/ Wanting to be free/ Is that a crime/ No one seems to hear the beating of my heart/ Don’t want you to come near/ I’m torn apart.”

While almost all of these songs were already very familiar to me, these “selected songs” are a great reminder of Maggie’s brilliant creativity.

My one regret about Where Do I Come From is that it doesn’t include a version of “Apostrophe to the Wind,” a lovely early song of Maggie’s that was never included on any of the albums she made with her sisters. I learned it from the late Jack Hardy when he was staying at my apartment in Montreal in the early-1980s and was hoping this collection might include a demo of Maggie singing it.

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Mike Regenstreif

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