Hundred Year Flood
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Released Sept 10, 2002
Trent Gardner vocals, keyboards, trombone
Wayne Gardner guitars, bass
Joe Franco drums, orchestral percussion
Ian Anderson flute
Tony Levin bass
Robert Berry guitars, bass
George Bellas guitar
Hundred Year Flood. The idea that this is the big one, the one generations will recurringly talk about, the one that swept away everything. Prodigious progressive legends Trent and Wayne Gardner and their family had something taken away as well: a brother and a son, swept away in the heat of battle back in Viet Nam. The story is here, as Hundred Year Flood's opening track 'The Great Goodnight'. It is graphic and emotionally crushing. It is touching and it resonates a sort of timeless spirit-swift knowledge. But the event, in itself, as rare and poignant as it is, is not the Hundred Year Flood. The term refers directly to the act of just talking about it, letting an amazing story such as this get told.
"For me, the meaning was something that only happens once in your life, something that was really rare," offers Gardner. "And to me, it was really rare to write about something quite so personal. I can't really imagine doing that very often. I always wanted to try find a way to write about my brother getting killed, but I wanted to do it in a way that didn't come off cliché. Plus you're dealing with a subject that has been talked about to death. So how do you do that? In that sense, maybe progressive rock is the appropriate forum. What happened was really simple, but to try and take a personal view of it was hard."
'The Great Goodnight' in itself is a hundred year flood of a title, not to mention the power of the actual piece's sweeping, monumental movements. Comprising essentially two thirds of the album (Magellan's fourth overall), it is innovatively broken up into 13 tracks for ease of use, although Gardner is rightly confident, given the drama and the effortless passage of time through a mountain range of dynamic, that the listener will stay rapt and rocking for the full 35 minute odyssey into a lush world of memories and the very nature of memory itself.
Loss, memory and spirituality are fickle, fleeting and enigmatic, but so is the nature of creativity, the muse behind 'The Great Goodnight' proving this idea with alarming rapidity. "When I wrote this," explains Trent, "I was sitting in my living room watching TV and something came on that just kind of triggered my memory about that. And literally the lyrics for 'The Great Goodnight' I wrote in like 15 minutes. I just sat there and all of a sudden out of nowhere, this thing just kind of gushed out of me and I was furiously writing. Fifteen minutes and it was done, exactly as it is now. That is just what came out. And then I thought okay, now what? Because normally what I do is write music first and then put lyrics to it. And this time it was like 'Oh, I've got words now; now what do I do?' So it was a matter of writing the music around those lyrics, which I kind of wanted to keep intact. That was definitely different for me. In terms of the idea, I was talking to Wayne about it like three or four years ago. You know, should we do something about this? Neither one of us were particularly moved to do it, but once I had the words, and Wayne felt that the words were really right on, he agreed to do it. And once he heard a little bit about where I was going with it musically, he said this was good, do it as a Magellan album. Wayne's a great sounding board. There are pluses and minuses to having your brother in your band (laughs) and that would be one of the pluses. I trust his musical opinions a lot."
'The Great Goodnight' is unarguably the Magellan masterwerk thus far. It is a swelling, rumbling wellspring of emotion and it alone seals the record's legacy as a neo-progressive rock classic. Along with Wayne for the harrowing ride are guitarists Robert Berry and George Bellas, the former providing a rock bed of tasteful rhythm guitar, the latter, upon Mike Varney's recommendation, providing the flash and fire. Drumming on the entire album is courtesy of seasoned New York City session god Joe Franco who pounds his way into the sound picture with force and finesse. But back to 'The Great Goodnight'. The tale of Jack Elroy Gardner's death, at the age of 21, will not be expanded upon here. The lyrics tell all, and the heartbreaking photographs and news clippings tell even more.
Of course, there are additional dimensions to Hundred Year Flood, and the second and third tracks relate to the anchor track of the record only by title, perhaps a bit by musical tone and tenacity. 'Family Jewels' is a six minute instrumental that features the keyboard wizardry of Gardner, along with the magic flute of Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson.
"What I did was send him his tracks and we discussed it over the phone and that's how that worked," explains Trent on Anderson's contribution. "He was really pleased with the outcome. We've been in touch for years and had been trying to link up schedules for him to finally guest on one of our albums and here it is. 'Family Jewels' was originally supposed to have lyrics. I was going to do a story about my great-grandfather, who got thrown in prison for six months for holding religious meetings in Scotland. But we left it instrumental to be ambiguous, sort of like the meaning of the title itself. I guess the tone of it is definitely a continuation from 'The Great Goodnight'."
The song is a dramatic and symphonic tour de force, an explosion of keyboard-generated, ELP-cinematic sound sliced deftly by Anderson's flute. "When I scrapped the lyrics I started playing around with some new keyboards that I had bought and that was actually one of the first things I recorded with those new keyboards," explains Gardner. "And I was trying every sound I could get out of it (laughs), this patch, that patch, and just started to do a bunch of overdubs and that's the result."
The somewhat absurdly assembled and madly executed track, ends with a brief symphony of cacophonous effects. "You know when you see these people doing a high wire act? That was just one of those things. I knew we were really stretching and taking a chance there, so it's just a little humor. Every time I hear that, it just cracks me up. I thought 'God, how are we going to end this thing?' and I started playing with that and went 'That's it!' and we were done. Do you remember the composer John Cage? I mean, he would just do weird things, like play spoons on a car. He would do anything. There was just no boundaries and I really like that bizarre, absurd ethic. It's hard to articulate. It strikes you a certain way and you just like it. If I like it, God, I don't even analyze it anymore. Yeah, let's go with it (laughs)."
Closing the album is a dense and malevolent pounding patch of rhythm rock called 'Brother's Keeper'. Despite the title, it has little to do with 'The Great Goodnight'. Rather, the lyric looks at the brotherhood of man, and just how sincere that brotherhood is, or should be. "I think it's about acknowledging that maybe there is a little bit of responsibility that we have for other people, or at least posing the question with respect to how much there is. I'm a firm believer in individual responsibility, but I think it would be great if every once in awhile we'd step outside the box of our own concerns and just do something, or at least think about doing something, for someone else. It's a little bit preachy, but it's kind of where I was at at the time. Musically, I think it's the heaviest sounding piece on the album in terms of the rhythm section. It's pretty much just a heavy, rocking tune from beginning to end, as opposed to the rest of the album. It stands out in that sense. And there's also some different things we've done, with the drums and the electronics in the middle. And there's an attempt at something I guess you would call progressive rock rap in one section. I couldn't really figure out a melody that worked, so I halfway spoke it. So there are some things I haven't done before."
"The biggest thing I'm happy about with this record is that you can finally hear the damn kick drum," laughs Gardner, honing in on the powerful spectrum of sounds awash over Hundred Year Flood. "Wayne and I were laughing about that the other day because we were checking it out and we were saying 'God, you can actually hear what the drummer is doing.' I had a bit more input this time and worked really closely with Joe Franco's studio, where it was mixed. And in terms of instrumentation, it was a little bit different. It has a bizarre beginning with all those a capella vocals and vocally, there is just a lot more going on. Really, it's a counterpoint, with all the little parts that are running into each other. It's not just your typical lead with background vocal parts. It was challenging from that point of view, to make these lines interweave throughout. The song structures, particularly on 'The Great Goodnight', kind of force that, because it's definitely not typical song structure. And the record is more melodic overall. To tell you the truth, I'm really getting tired of unnecessary time changes. Of course I've got a few on here, but I'm getting to the point where I want it to be a little more listenable, just for me, if not for anyone else. That beginning part aside, there's a lot on this album that is a lot simpler."
Ultimately, though, the lasting impression one gets when experiencing this record is the deep emotion, the sorrow of the situation housed within 'The Great Goodnight', the record's sad, half-mast flagship suite. The real life character of the Gardner matriarch makes an indelible impression. "You know, she was another big concern, before I got too heavily into it," reflect Gardner on the danger of opening the wounds of his brother, and his mother, once again, nearly 40 years after the fateful fact. "My father has passed, but my mom is still around and she's doing really well. She's 82 now, which is remarkable. She's got more energy than I do. I went over to her place awhile back when we were putting the package together and said 'Hey, can we go to the archives here?' All those photos in the booklet were from her personal records from over the years. And she was really moved, a lot more than I thought she would be. I thought she would be hesitant. I think so much time has passed now... But she felt really moved by it and that made me feel really good, a lot more comfortable with telling this story."
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Hundred Year Flood
Catalog # : MA-9045-2