In truth, the first half of 2023 in mixtapes fit together to tell the story from the fall-winter transition to the winter-spring transition, a period in which I decided to move back home to Cleveland. Where the Winter 2023//forces at work tape was about returning to the age I was when I got into punk and my family left Cleveland on my first book research trip, this spring tape is a metaphor in which music is a vehicle which carries us and Cleveland is heaven. It’s also about how I’m very clearly being protected and looked after by Ghoulardi and the Guardians of Traffic.
I made this tape for my friend, Shane C, who is also from Cleveland. I met Shane back when I was part of the Hugo Ball crew in Chicago, throwing monthly Dadaist dance music happenings once a month at Smart Bar. When I brought my friend Glenna into the Ball fold in 2015, we went on a trip to Cleveland to check out what was cooking with some emerging underground dance gatherings like In Training and Heaven is in You that Shane was involved in. I don’t think I had any idea how young Shane was then! She is almost a whole decade younger than me, and since we first met, she has risen to become one of my most favorite DJs and is on the T4TLUVNRG label run by my mama from Hugo Ball days, Eris Drew.
Shane popping up and being interested in a tape when I needed a new person to make my spring tape for at the last minute is very much a part of the wild synchronicity that has characterized all aspects of my life recently. Shane was the perfect audience for this tape about Cleveland and I’m proud of the way that my work on and about Cleveland has been bringing people back towards it with a new appreciation and love. (I made Matthew J. Rolin miss Cleveland with my newsletter and now he is moving back here, for example.)
The framework for this tape is the first song, “Good Lord (Run Old Jeremiah),” a ring shout song that I first discovered writing the guest essay for Norman W. Long’s Calumet in Dub solo exhibit. A ring shout is a collective ecstatic dance ritual in which the human body is used as an instrument through singing, shouting, complex counter-rhythmic clapping, slapping, and shuffling. In this song, the shuffling of human bodies evokes the sound of a train chugging along, while the lyrics tell the story of having to run for your life and surrender your fate, be it to God or the railroad engineer. The frantic, collective rhythm communicates both a restlessness and a determination; a momentary transcendence of suffering through constant motion and sound, which is also a chronic worry of what may happen if you are stopped. The final conclusion of the song is that “this is the chariot,” the song itself a vehicle of power and glory, determining the course of the journey. You may recall that last spring I made a mixtape called “the sputtering chariot of the vernal equinox,” which included a reference the chariot card in tarot. The chariot is associated with the journey and overcoming obstacles through determination, willpower, and strength. The chariot is the seventh trump or Major Arcana tarot card in most decks, so it’s associated with the number seven. Here is a list of things that add up to seven in my life currently:
-the year 2023
-the winning offer on my new house that I’m supposed to get keys to later today
-my new zip code, both the five digit part and the four digit part after it
23 is also the difference in the age I was when I left Cleveland and the age I was when I returned to it. It was all manifested through the tapes if you really listen. This is the chariot.
This version of the Staple Singers doing “Sit Down, Servant” is one of my favorite pieces of music and it captures well how that counter-rhythmic clapping from ring shouts survives in more mainstream forms of gospel music. Additionally, it introduces the theme of giants and unlikely victories for underdogs. It was a necessary intro to Carl B. Stokes presenting the majesty and spirit of Cleveland, a city so cool we not only were the first large American city to have a Black mayor (who remains the greatest American mayor of all time), but a mayor who made tunes with the Oliver Nelson Orchestra that you can find on really sick compilations of spiritual jazz and protest music on the Flying Dutchman label. Following this, the majesty of Cleveland expands out via the early ’70s funk band S.O.U.L. (Sounds of Unity and Love) and the ’80s cosmic improvisational liberation music of Universal Liberation Orchestra. Every time a Matt Christensen track appears on here, it’s to create a sense of pensive atmosphere while I was waiting for all these legal issues I was dealing with in Chicago to be tied up, so I could actually return to the land and get after the Cleveland Renaissance.
Side B moves back to Land Majesty for a bit, with a Black Unity Trio song both showcasing the avant garde jazz happening here in the late ’60s and meditating on the journey into and out of existence in the place I plan to make both transitions. “Children of the Water” by Ensemble Volcanic Ash continues jazzy spring opening vibes and the sense of returning to my birthplace. “Spring Chant” acts as a sort of prayer or spell, beckoning spring to come and to get safely to the other side of the equinox while life was still enormously uncertain. “Big Sky” is a song I listened to a lot during that time; it captures well how my life was opening up, but still totally indeterminate…the sky of questions expanding out from the dissolution of my life in Chicago. “Above the Clouds” takes us out beyond those clouds of anxious, incessant wondering and “The King’s Broad Arrow” signifies the arrival of legal settlement money, enabling me to actually escape my horrible living situation and come to Cleveland to set up my new life. (This symbol was used historically to denote property or ownership of goods by the Crown.) “Never Get Old” is also a sort of spell of protection, as well as a moment in which I am crossing a threshold of maturation in my own life, moving forward towards my dreams in a major way and grappling with mortality a lot more consciously as I work on my book about how Northeast Ohio modernized rock music.
Side C is for Cleveland, obviously. “Dogsleds in Heaven” brings us back to our chariot theme quite marvelously. It features a couple tunes specifically for my birthday, which occurred on April Genius Day (April 2nd), as it does every year. The Easter Monkeys songs “Power” and “Splendor of Sorrow” became such an important soundtrack to the victory of this whole season and experience of my life that I had to put them both on here. “Foggy Notion” live at La Cave to remind you once again that music never gets old and that the Cleveland Renaissance is lit, it’s on, it’s happening, it’s here. Horace Tapscott Quintet close it out with their epic “The Giant is Awakened.” Who’s the sleeping giant being awakened, you wonder? Cleveland or EMD???? Fortunately for everyone, it’s both.
© COME AWAY WITH EMD 2023