Posts Tagged ‘High Dive’

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The first time on double vinyl for this buried treasure from the legendary singer/songwriter. The post-Geffen string-driven classic including a re-imagining of the gorgeous ‘Life Is Sweet’ set in a glorious baroque pop setting that elevates her songs into a Sondheim-esque gravity. An overlooked masterpiece from the heady days of 2003 that remains timeless and just as poignant today. Released originally in April 2003.

Seven years between albums is a long time. But in her quest for artistic freedom and total control over her own material, Maria McKee took the time to get out from under the Geffen imprint, write a host of new songs, and create a new band. And as is her wont, her effort on “High Dive” is something as different from her earlier recordings as they were from one another. In 1996, when “Life Is Sweet” was released, McKee had left behind the country-rock that had established her for a raucous and woolly aggressive rock sound where she played all the guitars in overdrive.

That record was full of grief, rage, and the desire to shed her skin. It was a misunderstood work of high, inimitable art. High Dive is by turns a gorgeous rock record and a Baroque pop masterpiece. Strings, horns, and a full-on rock band grace its 14 tracks — including an absolutely stunning redo of “Life Is Sweet” title track.  McKee has always possessed two gifts as a lyricist: her ability to make all images completely vivid and her naked compassion and empathy. All of the songs here are loaded with both. Her melodies are positively irresistible and infectious, and her lyrical tomes are full of everything from the longing for freedom “To the Open Paces,” to co-dependence, “Be My Joy,” to a near Buddhist sense of loving kindness, “Life Is Sweet,” to all notions of love and loss.

All of these have come to be expected from McKee, who is one of the most underrated lyricists pop music has ever produced. But on “High Dive”, it’s the sound of the record that is also stunning.

Along with Jim Akin, McKee employed a virtual string orchestra and a group of chamber horns and arranged them for a sound that is as timeless as it is current. This sound is Mckee’s alone, and ultimately, despite the range of emotions she addresses and conveys, this is an album about amorous love, full of its dizzying heights and its turbulent spirals into the abyss of loss. Its particular gift is how, no matter how dark or even horrifying the lyrics are, the music is upbeat, full of a life-affirming transcendence that makes it the ultimate statement from love’s battlefield, where scars and wounds are the gateways to a deeper understanding of what it means to be human; they add depth and dimension in such grandeur, no matter how tortured, that you’re still willing to risk everything to find its promise.  McKee is never morbid in her storytelling , just unflinching, and “High Dive” is a leap from the cliff of who she was and was perceived to be into being what she is: an artist of considerable vision, passion, and both musical and literary acumen.

McKee’s “High Dive” is simply an awe-inspiring album and easily her finest recorded moment. Maria McKee – ‘High Dive’ double black vinyl LP with download code. released for Record Store Day 2021.

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