The Day The Music Died

 

T Max (aka Timothy Maxwell) describes himself as a singer/songwriter/storyteller. For many years he published The Noise, New England’s longest running music magazine.

He founded Boston Rock Opera, wrote two folk-rock operas, released 10 solo albums, produced Boston Rock ‘n’ Roll Trading Cards, was the music director for Project Eno (a tribute to Brian Eno), lectured on marketing music media at Emerson College, was a fine artist in wood, a photographer, graphic artists, and even placed 4th in 1988’s US Chess Open.

Medic’s friend, and New England music legend Willie “Loco” Alexander states, “T Max is a man from another century, like Ben Franklin or Ian Whitcomb, a man of a thousand voices (and hats). His music runs the gamut of standards to scat—creating songs from the lost jukeboxes of time. Amen.”

In 2010 T Max asked Medic to review his latest album, Why Do We Go To War? A Moral Dilemma. Below is my review of the fifteen song CD, as it appeared in the June 2010 issue of The Noise.
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I’m a Nam vet. During a tour as an infantry medic I saw my share of fear, chaos, and killing, and what comes afterward. I had a tough time listening to T Max’s album Why Do We Go to War? though not for reason’s one might expect.

It’s clear that much time and effort and love went into its production. However I found the story line and lyrics somewhat stereotypical. The annunciatory “Why Do We Go to War” gave the impression the music that followed might be ideologically driven. That seems the case. Intervals of great musicianship were often diluted by overly theatrical singing and less than stellar lyrics.

The individual songs, each describing a part of a soldier’s life in war’s unruly cycle, were simply not convincing to one who has direct experience of it.  And perhaps that’s the heart of the matter.

This well-intentioned album is not borne of down-and-dirty hard-won suffering and even harder-won redemption, but by their imagined twins. No bones and blood or terror-filled eyes, or final glances from final faces, occur in studio sessions. No sudden ambushes, no slumping bodies, no glissando agonies fill the heated air. No haunting losses, no drinking binges or drug-fueled reveries duel with murderous rage. That’s not possible. And yet successful war protest songs or albums that wed the personal and the political and rise above it have been written and how that is done I do not know.

What I do know is this: The numerous voices and their messages in Why Do We Go to War are at a critical distance from the real; in essence they are well-meant but less than compelling and impress as artificial. No doubt there will be an audience for this uneven (for when the music is good it is very good) but well-intentioned album whose words and story are discomforting yet safe and knowable. But for this combat vet there is no genuine voice that has directly or somehow indirectly walked the dark valley of the living nightmare and lived to tell and wisely protest it.

Marc “Doc” Levy, Delta 1/7 First Cav, Vietnam/Cambodia ’70

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