We all have one: an album that touched us so deeply that it plays in the background of our most profound memories, and yet somehow no one else you know has heard of it. For me, that album is the 1995 self-titled release from Canadian singer-songwriter Rebecca Timmons. A friend of a friend of my mom's was in her band or something, and as a result, I had the good fortune of having a copy of it in the house where I grew up. The production quality is some of the best I have ever heard, and it features the talent of many wonderful session musicians, not to mention lovely Rebecca herself. Let me say a few words about a few songs on this scintillating, yet sadly obscure album.
"Angels" starts off very simply, with Rebecca's beautiful, unconventional voice accompanied sparsely by piano. As the song goes on, it comes to its full, lush, orchestral potential, while remaining poignant and bittersweet. It also kicks off the album well by setting a precedent for unusual themes. Specifically, "Angels" deals with people who die young and how they are lucky, "because they don't have to live in the shadows of the things they leave behind."
Rebecca betrays her rock and roll influence in "Up the Walls of the World". It is powerful and inspiring while remaining shrouded in enigma and metaphor. "Forever after, they'll hear the laughter, the ones who rose up the walls of the world", the chorus goes. For me, it conjures an image of an army of free thinkers besieging and pouring into the walled garden of paradise.
"Stand On Your Own" is one of my favorite songs of all time. I used to scribble the lyrics in the margins of my diary when I was in the throes of that deadly torture they call adolescent girlhood. In the lyrics, Rebecca Timmons has falling stars streaming across the sky, imparting wisdom to a lost soul standing on the ground.
"Coming of the Dream" is another one that touches me so deeply, even now, that I can barely talk about it. It's an ecstatic, tears-of-joy-streaming-down-your-face, saving-your-life kind of song that is choking me up even as I type these words.
My mother would sometimes put this album on in the background when we were entertaining. When Track 14, "Sleep", came on, everyone in the room would fall silent, and the hairs on the backs of our neck would stand up. One of us would be obliged to get up and change the CD. It's an eery, skin-crawling lullaby about witch trials.
The last song, "Calling", is basically a six-minute opera. I could have written a paper about it in university. It's enormously creative and very difficult to describe, though I am inclined to compare it to Bohemian Rhapsody, if Bohemian Rhapsody dealt with the nature of the universe and the dawn of a new age of enlightenment.
If you take a moment to peek at the track list here …
… you will see that the album has 17 tracks, but only 13 of them are songs. The other four are intro tracks, only a few seconds long, which use sound effects to introduce the songs that follow. This is one of those creative techniques that, sadly, is no longer pragmatic for recording artists and labels who aim to make their releases compatible with the digital age. Albums are seldom played from beginning to end anymore, but instead are fragmented, their components scattered to the four winds of the iPod shuffle. While there are many things about the digital age that I love and embrace, I must admit that the decline of "the album" as an art form makes me sad. I have been complimented by some of my fans for shelling out the extra few hundred dollars to the printers to have all my song lyrics printed out in their entirety in my CD booklets. This, too, is becoming an archaic practice when consumers can easily look up your lyrics online. I'm just old school, I guess. But I'll get off my soapbox now.
The music of Rebecca Timmons is unspeakably beautiful. Her poetry is profound, her voice expressive, and her style unique. You must not miss it. It's a little heard to find, but you can still buy it online if you hunt for it.