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VINE VOICEon 20 September 2002
This is Ron Sexsmith's best album and certainly the best introduction to this supremely gifted songwriter. Ron is a great craftsman, something he shares with his great champion Elvis Costello and the dedicatee of this album Harry Nilsson. The opening track 'Secret Heart' is achingly beautiful with a superb vocal interpretation - the limitations of Ron's voice only emphasise the vulnerability at the heart of the song. If you don't like this song you probably won't like the rest. 'Speaking with the Angel' written for his son was borrowed (as a title) by Nick Hornby for an anthology of short stories in aid of a school for autistic children - the lyrics are startlingly appropriate and the connection only emphasises their depth and universality. The song is an outstanding moment on an outstanding album.
Another more personal favourite is 'Wasting Time' an easy going love song...but the whole album is - no other word will do - great.
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on 5 September 2000
Ron Sexsmith's first album remains his best. It is that old story that an artists' debut contains years of melodies and emotions distilled into songs, as the subsequent albums have to recreate the same intensity and within a year or two. Sexsmith was 31 when this album was released, and it is certainly worth the wait. Mitchell Froom's production is perfect for Sexsmith's delicate songs, with acoustic guitars layered gently over a sympathetic rhythm section. The main attraction, however, is Sexsmith's unique voice. Soulful and warm, Sexsmith evokes the emotion of 'Song for you'-era Gram Parsons or the intimacy of Dylan on 'Restless Farewell' or 'Girl From the North Country'. The words he sings share with with fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen the near perfect poetic construction, and Cohen's 'Heart With No Companion' is covered by Sexsmith here. But whilst Cohen's lyrics wryly tell of melodramas, Sexsmith's stories are of the everyday, the humdrum made beautiful and heroic. Thus the modest yearning of 'Lebannon, Tenesse', or the vignette of feelings never spoken 'The words we never use'. Difficult to pick a standout track, but 'Speaking with the Angel', a paen to his son (after whose birth Sexsmith said 'he first felt like a songwriter'), has it all - a lullaby melody that enters your mind and never leaves, and sentiments to melt the stoniest heart. Ron Sexsmith has reached similar heights on his subsequent albums, but he has not equalled the lovely 'completeness' of his debut.
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on 1 March 2005
The release of this the first album by Ron Sexsmith was a long journey that had started in December 1987 when Ron had not long moved to Toronto he went to see a producer called Bob Wiseman, he liked Ron's songs and agreed to help him record a Demo tape, the producer just had a tiny basement studio this is where the demo was to be recorded, a 4 track demo tape was planned.
In the process of recording the demo the 4 tracks turned onto 11 tracks, however Bob Wiseman played for a well-known Canadian band called "Blue Rodeo" and with their busy touring schedule and Bob's other work commitments the recording of the 11 tracks was stretched over a 3-year period, finally the 11 songs were released as a independent cassette called "Grand Opera Lane" this was early 1991.
As if by magic a copy of the tape found it's way down to a bigwig in Los Angeles this lead to a publishing deal, which in turn lead to a recording contract with the label "Interscope".
If you want to get hold of this tape forget it, (long time sold out) but now from Ron's own website the tape has been re-issued as a C.D.
Out of the 11 songs that appeared on the tape only 1 track made it to the major label debut, the track in question is called "Speaking with the Angel" which is a lot rockier in nature than the version you will hear on this album.
For the release of Ron's eponymous album, one of my favourite producers was brought in (this is how I personally discovered Ron) Mitchell Froom along with his long time partner Tchad Blake, who was employed to record and mix the recordings.
The another attraction for me was some of the musicians that appear on this album firstly one of my favourite drummers, Jerry Marotta, who for this collection of songs under plays so as not to overwhelm the delicate songs that Ron has written, and of course the superb keyboard skills of Mitchell Froom who also under plays.
Another appealing element for me was the overall sound of the album; this was achieved by the skills of Bob Ludwig at "Gateway Mastering" the master of sound in my opinion.
Ron Sexsmith has very angelic face and has a voice to match; in one minute you feel like the man is going to break into tears and in the next moment he has you the listener feeling like you will break down with him.
As he sings the opening lines of the first track "Secret Heart" the feeling of his despair comes washing over you, this is an album of love lost and of love unrequited.
The only time that this underlining feeling isn't felt for me is during the singing of the only cover song "Heart with no Companion" which is strange because it's a track written by fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen (the master of the downer song) for Ron's version is the only track on the album that rocks a bit.
To close the album Ron has chosen to include another version of "There's a Rhythm" which has Daniel Lanois playing electric guitar on it, Mr Lanois also produced this version.
As quietly as this collection had began it finishes, this album is barely 43 minutes long and along the way the tracks that you have heard on the journey to get there will have had touched your heart and made you feel the pain of longing and heartache.
An album that is perfect for going through a break-up, that's what I've used it for in the past anyway it helped me....
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Ron Sexsmith's career has ambled along engagingly over the last decade and a half, migrating from label to label without ever troubling the chart listings. His delicate, melodic, well-constructed songs are unlikely to achieve mass appeal, despite their many attributes. A colossal shame, of course, because there is much to enjoy in Sexsmith's understated, but meticulously crafted music. His voice won't be to everyone's taste; he wobbles slightly flat sometimes, but his deceptively simple tunesmithery has many winning ways. This album, his major label debut, is probably his best; it contains the awesome 'Secret Heart', which Rod Stewart once covered, and two versions of the song 'There's A Rhythm'. The closing version, produced by the staggeringly overrated Daniel Lanois, is the best of the two, with a delicate guitar figure that seems to float through the mix like a feather falling to the ground. Elsewhere, 'Lebanon, Tennessee' is a confection that is sweet but never sickly. In truth, though, there's not a bad track on here, and the album as a whole is a subtle grower that gains with each successive play. It's odd, then, that this album is now deleted - pick up a copy while you still can. A talented guy, who has never made a bad record, even if his ability to genuinely surprise diminishes with the years.
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on 22 August 2009
Found this one in a bargain bin in 1997....best fiver ever spent.My wife was pregnant at the time with our son and we had cancelled a holiday due to some complications(both are well by the way),and this album reminds me of that time.All of these songs are first rate and i never tire of singing them,plus there`s plenty of space in the production for you to add your own harmonies!`Lebanon Tennessee` so wistfull ..makes you want to go there;there`s real tenderness and compassion in there ditties,and as mentioned in another review `Speaking with the Angel`is a cracker and was the one i sang to my wife`s stomach and my wee boy all those years ago.
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on 30 August 2011
Perhaps not for everybody, Ron is an acquired taste. On first hearing his albums can be quite ordinary, but they definitely grow on you. I like this album, but it is not as good as his latest, Long Player Late Bloomer which is easily my favourite album of the last 12 months. I am quite obsessed with RS, I think he is brilliant!
This album is worth it just for Lebanon, Tennessee although his latest versions of this wonderful track are even better.
I am sure by now Ron S. has a significant cult following. I am quite happy if it stays that way.
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on 7 March 2016
Beautiful, just beautiful. I heard secret heart and had to buy the album. I was not disappointed. I've been looking for something new to listen to for a while and this just hits the spot.
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on 3 February 2004
The release of this the first album by "Ron Sexsmith" was a long journey that had started in December 1987 when "Ron" had not long moved to "Toronto" he went to see producer "Bob Wiseman" he took him to a tiny basement studio to record a 4 track demo tape. In the process of recording the demo the 4 tracks turned onto 11 tracks, however "Bob Wiseman" played for a well-known "Canadian" band called "Blue Rodeo" and with their busy touring schedule and "Bob's" other work commitments the recording of the 11 tracks was stretched over a 3-year period, finally the 11 songs were released as a independent cassette called "Grand Opera Lane" this was early 1991.

As if by magic a copy of the tape found it's way down to a bigwig in "Los Angeles" this lead to a publishing deal, which in turn lead to a record contract with "Interscope".
If you want to get hold of this tape forget it, (long time sold out) but now from "Ron's" own website the tape has been re-issued as a C.D.
Out of the 11 songs that appeared on the tape only 1 made it to the major label debut, the song in question is called "Speaking with the Angel" which is a lot rockier in nature than the version you hear on this album.

For the release of Ron's eponymous album, one of my favourite producers was brought in (this is how I personally discovered Ron) "Mitchell Froom" also his long time partner "Tchad Blake" was employed to record and mix the sessions.

The other attraction for me was some of the musicians that appear on this album firstly one of my favourite drummers, "Jerry Marotta", who for this collection of songs under plays so as not to overwhelm the delicate songs that "Ron" has written, and of course the superb keyboard playing of "Mitchell Froom" himself.
Another appealing element for me was the overall sound of the album; this was achieved by the skills of "Bob Ludwig" at "Gateway Mastering" the master of sound in opinion.

"Ron Sexsmith" has very angelic features and his voice matches his appearance, in one minute you feel like the man is going to break into tears and in the next he has you the listener feeling like you will break down with him.

As he sings the opening lines of the first track "Secret Heart" the feeling of his despair comes washing over you, this is an album of love lost and of love unrequited. The only time that this is underlining feeling isn't felt for me is during the singing of the only cover version "Heart with no Companion" which is strange because it's a track written by fellow "Canadian" "Leonard Cohen" for "Ron's " version is the only song on the album that rocks a bit.

To close the album "Ron" has chosen to record another version of "There's a Rhythm" which has "Daniel Lanois" playing electric guitar on it, "Mr Lanois" also produced this version as well.

As quietly as this collection had began it finishes, and along the way the songs that you hear on the journey to get there will have had touched your heart and made you feel the pain of longing.

An album that is perfect for going through a break-up, that's what I've used it for in the past anyway, it helped...
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on 23 June 2015
A great songwriter at the height of his powers. Deserves to be more widely acclaimed and rewarded.
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on 3 October 2014
Good stuff, but if you want to hear better seek out Roddy Frame/Aztec Camera.
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