Michael C Ford’s “Look Each Other in the Ears” is like sitting in a cool jazz nightclub, the lights low, a cocktail sitting on the table in front of you, and digging the words of the poet onstage and the notes of the musicians’ instruments wafting across the room. That’s the exact imagery Ford invokes in his opening track “For Openers” when he names the jazz bars and clubs that were the ’40s – ’50s predecessors of the rock clubs in L.A.
“Look Each Other in the Ears” is more a spoken-word album than poems turned into songs. It has bridges and choruses added by producer Harlan Steinberger and Tommy Jordan, and the backing band is none other than Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger, all in their jazz mode. But the center of attention are Ford’s poems.
Ford’s poems are melodic. The language of the poems may sound simple using language from the surfers’ “gnarly” to evoking mythology as advertising, to turning a cliché on its head such as in “Mars is America” with the phrase “the grass is always redder on the other side of the senses.” the simplicity is an illusion that belies the complexity of the thoughts, ideas and themes Ford builds in each poem.
“L.A. Woman” is a rock star’s tour of the Los Angeles landscape and “Look Each Other in the Ears” thematically may be an exploration of Ford’s poetic past. From the orange groves of his childhood, the jazz clubs as he was coming of age, and the poets that influenced Ford, we’re given a tour of the early influences of his poetic vision.
Any critic that is bemoaning the loss of the album as an art form needs to take a look at this CD. The artwork has a pop-art feel with a cool booklet inside, providing nice preambles to the poems. The poems as printed are more like short paragraphs, but really come alive when listening to them as read by Ford. Good poetry has the ability to help us discern and give voice to the ineffable. “Look Each Other in the Ears” is good poetry.
“Look Each Other in the Ears” is available on CD or vinyl at Amazon.
Originally published November 14, 2014.