Articles from the September 1997 Unification News

Music Review of "Elevation"

Elevation: Defying the Laws of Literary Gravity
by Ken Hendricks

In a world inundated with music laced with ignoble themes and questionable lyrics, Stefan des Lauriers’ debut CD "Elevation"
is quite refreshing. The songs, ranging from Americana folk, to pop, blues and jazz, produced by Kevin Pickard on the Music Kingdom label, break the limits of the sky.

In an era of political, social, economic and environmental correctness, des Lauriers has gone one step further to spiritual correctness in art. In other words, "Elevation" is the "true alternative" today’s music listener is looking for.

Teeming with themes of the triumph of the human spirit, and graced with his own quirky humor and philosophy, "Elevation" is a rare gem. In essence, to possess the album is like possessing the cosmos and its many splendors.

As an independent film producer myself, with an affinity for the independent artist, I can appreciate the need to express one’s truthful, beautiful and good personal passions. It is the noble aspiration of the artist to bring his following upward to the highest spiritual plane. "Elevation" does just that.

Breaking out of the post-modern Toronto coffeehouse scene some 20 years ago into the great wilds of America, des Lauriers was finally compelled to elucidate his life’s experience through his music and unique poetry. Des Lauriers became acutely aware of this need to document his work on learning three years ago that he had Parkinson’s Disease.

Stefan admits being compared to "Arlo Guthrie approaching the Beatles with a whimsical pop influence." Frankly speaking, "Elevation" is Stefan, only Stefan, and nothing but Stefan des Lauriers at his best!

And just who is Stefan des Lauriers, really? (For a taste of his whimsy, check out his web site at www.musickingdom.com if you please.) As the essence of the painter is in the painting, so then is Stefan revealed in this compilation.

In a typically offbeat press release, Stefan explains that "‘Walking On Air’ eradicates the need for a willing suspension of disbelief in a single bound. While looking at the sky one day, I thought to write my song there, but the sky wasn’t big enough. So, I wrote it on a stack of business cards." Don’t let the ethereal upbeat circus music fool you, though; essentially, it is the quintessential love song.

"‘A Miracle America’ paints a patriotic picture with a pointed brush." The soulful anthem with its expansive orchestrated interlude pays tribute to "those brave souls who were lost to us." Because of them "we are free to reach for heaven and be all that we can be."

In "Hand Full of Stars," a haunting jazz piece, Stefan poignantly says that he would like his light to be with his long lost friends after he fades away. But I think his light will shine brighter with time: "Long ago I had a dream that I would be a star.... I might have climbed right up the charts, I may have taken a fiery dive, but heaven helped me on the way, and kept the dream alive."

Stefan describes "The Wind Up Monkey Dance" as a "line dance for kids who have a tendency toward stepping out of line." "Take a step to the right and make a monkey pose. Take a step to the left and make a monkey pose. You get the swing of it and you’re out of NRG, but there’s a key behind each monkey."

One of my favorites is "Blue Whale Blues." It begins with Sharkey McKuen’s lilting guitar (Sharkey plays guitar on nine songs), and finishes with a full-fledged orchestral arrangement supplied my master composer Kevin Pickard. The song is about two lovesick whales searching for each other in all the wrong oceans. "Perhaps their paths will cross and things won’t seem so callous, Beneath the moonlit icebergs and the Aurora Australis."

With love the strongest force in the universe, an artist has no alternative but to seek new musical expressions suited to each unique situation and circumstance. An iceberg may be able to thwart lovesick whales, but in the Dixieland blues number "Imaginary Mountains": "Nothing stands in the way of true love." Who of us has never been put asunder by the "Imaginary Mountains" we’ve placed between us and our beloved until finally "the glacier in my heart, nudged by your romance, breaks the ice and I become an avalanche." This theme continues through "Hearts in Harmony" and "Rise Above The Rain."

For a change of pace, "Look Out, Ma, I Think," a pseudo-Celtic takeoff, and "Jet Fuel Folderol," a rollicking rock and roll tune, offer comic relief. Both songs feature an inflatable auto pilot as "an icon for post-modern culture about to pop." "Jet Fuel Folderol," which was produced by Sharkey McKuen, exhausts a solitary rhyme scheme as Mr. Poet takes a wild cab ride in search of Jet Fuel Money. Everything rhymes with "all." "Mr. Poet, your writing’s on the ball, You know it’s so exciting to rise above it all...." However, at the end of the journey, just in front of the Taj Mahal, the cabby succinctly puts it to Mr. Poet after he pays the fare and offers a measly tip. "Mr. Poet, Ya left out small."

Perhaps the song which sums up what has been described as "a thinking man’s album" is "Stream Of Thought": "A song is just a stream of thought, It makes melodic bends; When it gets to the delta, Does it begin or end?"

Every songwriter (myself included) wishes he or she could harness the universe of life’s experiences as Mr. des Lauriers has, which is clearly reflected in the contents created for our listening pleasure. The album clearly rises to the poignant significance behind the name given it-"Elevation."

The listener who purchases this album will meld into new musical dimensions with each listening. The depth and profundity of the lyrics cause one to relive the songs in a new way time a track is played, each time a note is sung, each time a measure is reached.

It is no wonder that his music appeals to people of all ages. The experience Mr. des Lauriers had with the making of "Elevation" has helped him further realize his forte in writing motivational songs for children, which is directly in line with his next project, "Time Of Wonder."

Anyone with spiritual sensitivity will appreciate what Mr. des Lauriers has given us through the musical compositions and rare poetic viewpoints expressed.

Mr. des Lauriers has been accepted into the sponsorship program of the New York Foundation for the Arts and is currently seeking grant money for his next project. Anyone wishing to make a tax-deductible donation for the children’s CD may do so by contacting NYFA at 155 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013-1507. To order a CD please send $12.00 plus applicable tax and $2.00 shipping and handling to: Music Kingdom, Box 4, Glen Ridge, NJ 07028.

Ken Hendricks is producer/director of the feature motion picture "Dakota Sunrise," which he wrote and filmed entirely in the badlands of southwestern North Dakota. The film is currently being represented by L.A.-based distributor Movie Reps, International. Mr. Hendricks is also a songwriter, author and actor/performer.

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