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Track Listing

  1. Time is Now
  2. Click here to play a sound clip! Education
  3. Release the Dove
  4. Click here to play a sound clip! Woman, Mother of the Earth
  5. Click here to play a sound clip! Morena Osha
  6. Click here to play a sound clip! Calypso Rising
  7. The Sun Didn't Shine
  8. How Can I Love Again
  9. Will We Make It
  10. Click here to play a sound clip! Slippin' Away
  11. Click here to play a sound clip! You Are What Love Is

Mavis Sings
Mavis E. John

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Reviews

Mavis John Sings. She sings above the din and grin of our opinionated city. Her soul is a migrating wounded bird. Can't you see that woman there - an injured wing of a boat that has taken off. Rather, has been wrenched from the roots of her womb, to find another place. Can't you see the smoldering flame peep from the rust-bound blade, still steeped in the chord?

She is peopled by the voices of many that died without uttering the promised word! Their presence is rendered as an enduring fact, not fiction; without artifice or nostalgia, for, she seeks after something else. She is the believer, the willing receiver, the seed is sown!

Get it in our hardened hearts, she has not yet found it. Hers is an all-strident longing, a longing for the "word," but first, she must taste the blood that was spilled for it! A blood that when it is gathered, swells the breasts to break the suburban and urban complacency of fashionable intelligence, in order to restate feelings.

What we must tune our ears to is the incessant longing in a child's disbelief that her mother is dead! She hugs herself as if to say, my beloved is right here with me, he has not left me, can't you see!

In her longing, she gathers. In that manner known to love and separation, she sings, which is to gather a community, it's pure moments of weighing marrow for marrow in a devotion to rendering the tenderness of that woman in her that will not go away! She sings as if to make that time live again in a stroll where romance ripened like unfolding petals. Knowing him again, as he patiently unsheathes the single rose of her wondrous heart!

Over the years a legion of women, all daughters of our rich earth, have come forth thus, their voices raised above the roofs, with parasols lifted to the endless reaches of the skies! Didn't our abuse of women start with our neglect and ignorance of a legacy, set in motion by Charmaine Forde, Charmaine Yeates, Ann-Marie Inniss, Ella Andal, Jennifer Pakeera, Carol Addison, Melanie Hudson and Singing Sandra. There are others we think we know!

See her there, if you know what Eye am aiming at! You must be familiar with that genre that includes the likes of Miriam Makeba, Cesaria Evora, Billie Holiday, Yma Sumac, the superb and extraordinary Nina Simone, Etta James, and distinguishes itself by the extents that have need to be delved deep-deep in order to attract the musings of those who, because of their incomprehensible solitude, move, so invisibly among us.

"Mavis John Sings" is Mavis' first comprehensive album. The selection of compositions, but for a few, has long been the signature and repertoire of her style. It is a precious, gemlike representation of some or our best composers. The honors list includes Tony Wilson, Slinger Francisco, Andre Tanker, Gregory Ballantyne, and others. Among a battery of sound specialists and arrangers are Roger Israel and Pelham Goddard. All coming together to make of this, not only an historic event, but a signal to what degree of uniqueness is possible through expressions of artistic commitment and devotion.

Hers is a supplication - ours too - before the riddles of life that beg to forget, beg to forgive! She assures us in the open: The Time Is Now. She convinces: You are what love is. She admonishes: Slipping Away. She wonders: How can I love Again! For me she rises up from the bowels of our earth to kiss the sunshine of tomorrows in Tony Wilson's Song - We Will Make It. Let us welcome, let us celebrate her with a glad heart!  [LeRoy Clarke, May 15th 2002]

The Time Is Now For Mavis John
By Terry Joseph
Trinidad Express December 2001

Normally, music released at this time of the year reflects either the spirit of Christmas or advent of Carnival, but Mavis John's new CD panders to neither emotion specifically.

Among the even more valuable things the CD Mavis Sings does, is rescue a bundle of timeless musical values that were risking extinction in the face of todayís preferred styles. For openers, she sings flawlessly.

To add variety, John and executive producer Margaret Gittens used four different engineers, as many studios and three arrangers, delivering several distinct moods, without sacrificing the albums fundamental sweetness and sincerity.

Even in her calypso cuts, Sparrowís Education is treated to a sparkling bounce rhythm by arranger Pelham Goddard, who also enhanced the contemplative value of Gregory Ballantyneís Calypso Rising by decelerating its tempo to that of a slow-dance.

Roger Israelís arrangement of Andre Tankerís Morena Osha takes the listener in yet another direction and on Tony Wilsonís Will We Make It? Ming Low Chew Tung and Wilson deliver a touch of good olí fashioned funky stuff without the hoopla of crashing cymbals, bells and whistles.

The result is an 11-track CD that has already enjoyed the attention of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and even local political parties wishing to adapt her performance of Release the Dove to their own designs.

All this from a lady who retained no airs from success and massive shows of adulation through almost four decades of singing professionally. As a pre-teen, John so loved entertaining that she sang in nightclubs robust men feared and spoke about only in whispers to carefully selected friends.

"I actually worked in The Pepperpot and sang for sailors at the naval base in Chaguaramas as a little girl and performed on Sunday Serenade at an innocent age", John said in her most matter of fact tone," because I wanted to sing at any and every opportunity".

By the late 60s, John was a teen idol and after growing up to wed popular radio announcer David Elcock in 1970, teamed with him to release a fresh wave of hit songs, followed by the first of three periods of self-imposed hiatus. "Trying to balance my teaching career (in the sum, she taught in primary school for 35 years) with being wife, mother and entertainer was a little more than I bargained for", she said. But when she did release a song, it went directly to the top of the local hit parade, enjoying equal rotation on the party circuit. In fact, on Mavis Sings, she restores a couple of her hits from the period, soothing reminders that there still exists the pure form.

Mavis Sings also makes quite another kind of statement. Itís a kind of stocktaking, she said. "Iím not a teenager anymore and it might appear ungrateful to retire from this plain without leaving something as testimony to the gifts God so kindly gave me in the area of interpreting words and reproducing melodies". In full and final settlement of that requirement, You Are What Love Is and The Sun Didnít Shine fill the need exquisitely.

By the same opportunity, they also provide earliest recollections of her career. Being a neighbour of Jeffrey Turpin, who then managed popular singing group, The Strollers, John was proposed for the flip side of one of their singles. She sang Itís a Mans World, and when the recording was released, the popularity of her cut rivaled that of her host. She became part of Turpinís caravan and recorded a second song, one that had been refused by several performers, called The Sun Didnít Shine. That too became an instant hit.

In the long interim between those early successes and Mavis Sings, she took two extended vacations from the stage, bouncing back most recently in 1995, in a dramatic role in the play Shades of I-She, then hitting with a comeback concert called Overdue, a title that reflected widely held sentiments.

Now retired from teaching, son Jason (currently Parliamentís communications officer) settled at age 29 and giving her a grandchild in the process; John sees herself doing a little more work under the bright lights.

"For everything there is a season", she says in deeply philosophical tone. "I prayed for guidance as to when the time would be right and when the response finally came, I wrote the song Time is Now. In the circumstances, I make no apologies for slotting it as the first track on the CD, so it would set the tone for the entire recording. It was the nucleus of the spiritual process that started me on this project.

And I have been extremely fortunate, she said. My manager, Margaret, identified and pursued the corporate help that came from BPTT, Algico, Watkins and Associates, the National Lotteries Control Board and a number of people whose inputs were invaluable to the production.

While the CD carries my name, it really is a combined effort, because these productions are expensive and to have people taking the kind of time they did to ensure it was properly done, is something I treasure.

The concept of remaining within the Caribbean region for inspiration from our composers and being able to record the work of writers like James Lloyd, Clifford Wilson, Christophe Grant, Sparrow, Andre Tanker, Tony Wilson and of course, Jeffrey Turpin was "another kind of joy altogether", she said.

Today John does a private launch of Mavis Sings to say thanks to all those who helped her put it together and publicise the final product.

[Reacting to comments about her recent appearances] "People ask why not go to a bigger venue, but I have always liked audiences whose eyes I can see", John said. "I like warm and intimate venues, because I like to be able to read what people feel when I perform live, so I can incorporate as much of that as is possible when it comes time to record those songs".

And don't even think another furlough will follow the current wave. John recently purchased a keyboard while in New York and plans to resume piano lessons abandoned early in her childhood. "God has been good to me, she said. I canít disappoint Him now".

 

 

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