Neil Coppen

writings/ plays/ poetry/musings/travel journals and newspaper columns

Gary Thomas

October23

When I first lay on my bed and slipped in the Jeff Buckley-Live at Sine CD, I found myself submerged in something inexplicable, profound. Yes this was genius, I understood the word and for the first time I could place a sound alongside it. Not refined, produced, tampered with by the machine. Here was Buckley a dead man, live, living, breathing, wailing in my bedroom. Immortal Buckley, one man and his guitar, the sounds of clinking glasses from the bar, casual chatter littering the track. An exiled Lucifer lamenting for a lost paradise, angels powerless against the seduction. Fingers bled on strings.

This is how I come to Gary Thomas- a born bred now living in Cape Town Durbanite-a man who I would go as far to say is master in our midst. There is no niche, no market he panders to. Thankfully his music is far to complex to find its way to mainstream radio stations, the backgrounds of coffee shops and dinner parties. This is music that demands attention. Preferably a dark room, silence, hell a joint if you up for it. To listen is to be lost, transported, shaken. A musician who side steps the futile pursuits of ‘adoration’ rather and wisely so, seeking ‘appreciation’. This is craft, he is a craftsman not a rock star (the world has enough of those)

Thomas is a music addict, a compulsive listener but it’s to his credit that none of the songs are derivative, references only detectable through homage. Once thrown in the Gary blender a sound arises unlike anything one has heard before. One of the rarest things to find, let alone create- a new sound, a sound unlike all the others.

I imagine ‘twenty something’s’ in the future uncovering this early recording. Perhaps Gary is touring the world by now, has several albums under his belt, but this, this one- these mythical, unobtainable Kalk Bay sessions (the signed copies sell for millions on E-bay) the ones that came before the producing giants, the record label vultures swooped in. Before international recognition, acclaim, stardom. Before all that. When life was simple and Thomas was scraping by- an unsuspecting loafer with a supernatural gift.

I imagine one of these twenty something’s shifting through his dad’s old CD collection, pulling out this CD, slipping it in the player, lying back on his bed, eyes closed. What occurs takes the form of revelation. He finds himself drowning, battles to breathe, only once the CD ends does he swim to the surface- gasping. Blessed, now he will not settle for anything less. Anything less is a compromise. He throws out the kak he has been listening to in the past. A bar has been raised, the standard set.

I look forward to the day I can say ‘I told you so”. To own this album is to own a (minor/major- time will tell) piece of history. Not just a necessity then but a wise investment.

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