My recent discovery of Jim
Carroll and his talents led me to purchase Pools of Mercury, a combination spoken
word and music CD released on Mercury
Records in the fall of last year. The record was released concurrently with Jim's book
of poetry Void of Course. (Both can be purchased on Amazon.com among
other locations.) Six of the CD's fifteen cuts
are poems that appear in Void of Course. Four cuts are poems from Fear of
Dreaming, a book released in 1993. The rest are songs with lyrics recently
composed by Carroll.
I find it odd that the
adjectives I would use to describe this CD seem clichéd: haunting, dark, introspective,
surreal. This recording is anything but a cliché. It is in fact unlike
anything I have ever heard before -- a fascinating mix. Poems read by Carroll over
sound effects, alternating with his songs -- harshly seductive melodies and rhythms
backing his grinding and powerful vocals.
Pools of Mercury is
one of those recordings that is itself a large work of art, not merely an anthology of
several small works packaged together to sell. Each piece on this CD is like one of
the teeth in your upper jaw -- each working together with the others to chew up your
I have resisted reading Void
of Course along with the recording. I want only to hear these poems while the CD
is on and experience fully Jim's voice and his vocal inflections. Indeed the pieces
take on so much more this way. When reading a book you are focused on the book and
the sound is in the background. I want to focus on the sound.
Musical pieces interspersed
with spoken poems is something I have not seen done before -- at least not done
effectively. Jim's singing is quite different from his reading. When he is
reading he is exploring his soul. When he is singing he is reaching out and
communicating allegories. The music composed for his songs by Anton Sanko and others
is pulsating and moving. The sound textures composed for his spoken pieces are
constant and without beat. These contrasts are like that of a stark black and white
photograph. There is very little color in Jim Carroll's world. We like black
and white photos because our brains do not have to process color information, thereby
allowing us to see the essential meaning much more clearly and easily. This is why
black and white photos can be much more disarming and affecting than color. Only
rarely will someone describe a black and white image as "beautiful".
Experiencing Jim's view this way, you see, without rosy shades, what churns at the core of
his life. The emotion is raw and unfiltered.
One song on Pools of
Mercury is particularly "haunting" to me.
say it's a lie, some say it's a sin
Do you know how it ends if you won't let it begin?
You feel it waking now beneath your skin
You can't live without the beast within