Review - Brian Caie (Executive Coach, UK)

Love and Let Go by Jenny McGregor Album Review This album is a tribute to Jamie McGregor who died suddenly seven years ago of unknown causes aged 18 months. It will be offered free to all Australian parents who suffer the loss of a child and income from sales to others will be donated to the Red Nose charity. Jenny and Ben McGregor suffered one of the worst tragedies that can beset any parents, the sudden and unexpected loss of a child. However, in a journey that could so easily have ended in breakdown, they ultimately transcended their tragic loss. Such pain can never be forgotten but it is possible to eventually feel good again. This album tracks that difficult path which they hope will resonate with others who face the same challenges. They hope this may ease this road less travelled and help others work through their own pain and loss. Elisabeth Kubler Ross first charted the stages of the grief process and this album traces those stages as experienced by Jenny and Ben. This work tracks a journey from the early shock and despair, through confusion, loss and suffering to final acceptance and recovery. The pain never goes completely but gradually it can be reframed and transcended. The joy of this album is that having expressed the desolation of loss in the early tracks, it does not wallow in the grief but rather finds a way through it, first rather tentatively and then with verve. I cried through the first six tracks and then was lifted mightily by the second six. Psychologists say deep personal change is about letting go and letting come. This piece of work facilitates both. So, on to the individual tracks. The album starts with two powerful but heart-rending songs – ‘Emptiness’ and ‘Sleep Little One’. ‘Emptiness’ combines Jenny’s beautiful piano talent with Mike Caen’s superb production and backing to create a stunning exposition of despair and hopelessness. The echo effect of the reverb creates a deep sense of uncontained space underlining the key lyrical message ‘Only emptiness is what’s left.’ This sense of overwhelming loss carries over into ‘Sleep Little One’, a lament to Jamie. One can feel both the love and pain in Jenny’s vocals. Perhaps only a bereaved mother can express these authentically. Electric guitar backs vocals and piano to confirm the mood – not a dry eye to be found! ‘Runaway’ is a song about the flight and escape response we all feel when trapped in an impossible situation. Escape is seriously contemplated and hugely desired but cannot be found. But now the mood has shifted from despair to desire for action, still conveying frustration but more upbeat thanks to Pete Drummond’s great percussion. Every child carries their own signature energy and for Jamie ‘Butterfly’ the next track title, represents that energy. Those who knew Jamie can’t see a butterfly and not think of him. Sometimes out walking one will follow us closely for ages and to us it seems like Jamie visiting. His mother intuitively knows that he feels her pain but his life was part of a bigger picture and purpose that for now we can only imagine. The music flits and soars in the manner of a butterfly and continues the upbeat feel reflecting the lyrics that ‘everything is going to work out’. ‘Miss You’ then continues with a mothers beautiful conversation to her lost child. The theme is ‘I don’t want to let go yet’. She’s right, it’s too early. Only staying with the pain will release it. But at some deep level there’s a signal that the time for letting go will come – a small step on the journey towards acceptance. This is a truly beautiful song from a mother to her departed child. ’Life Carries On’ then completes the downward part of the change curve: ‘Can’t believe you’re gone but life carries on.’ Nothing has changed out there but in here everything has changed! How dare the world carry on as normal when I’ve lost my boy! Again the mood is brighter helped by Barton Price on his bongos. Somewhere deep inside change is stirring but a vital ingredient is still missing. The next track resolves this. Track 7: ‘Together Separately’ is a work of genius. The album, so far full of feminine undertones, gets an injection of raw male energy through the rap lines of Jas Lall. The words express the whole gamut of repressed emotion – frustration, immobilisation, self-blame, confusion and doubt. The male grieving process is different, more contained, less open, an unexploded mine of feeling and here in this track it all ignites into an explosion of pain. Rarely have I heard such a comprehensive description of how a man can feel in the midst of such loss. The male rap and female vocals open in stark separation but gradually merge into a harmony and synergy that is ecstatic in its quality – ‘I will honour you if you will honour me, we will honour him beautifully. But I can’t carry you if you can’t carry me…. This in my view is the centrepiece of the album providing the turning point in the change process. With catharsis begun and collaboration established the door to healing magically opens. The next song – ‘Memories’ is a celebration of a lost child. ‘You can take away my boy, take away my joy, but you can’t take these.’ Conserving great memories of the lost child is such an important part of letting go and moving on and this song fully honours that need helped wonderfully by the dulcet background sax playing of Ross Harrington. ‘Strong’ is about the paradox of weakness and strength. St Paul said I am strong when I am weak and never was a truer word spoken. In recovery from grief we are forced to pretend strength. The compassion from others available in the early days of grieving soon dries up and we have to stand alone, yet the pain is still there. The core message in this song is ’You only get strong when you’ve been weak enough’. When you pass through the trough of despond, that dreaded change curve, you become tempered like steel. You know that you can survive anything. This realisation is another step on the path to recovery. The music here reminds me of early Eagles ballads. Since Jenny was brought up surrounded by this music, I’m not surprised! Wake Up is a late addition to this album but nevertheless fits as perfectly into this journey as a hand in a glove. All four final tracks have an upbeat feel mirroring the experience of healing and recovery that is taking place. This is no exception. Recovery is about replacing the unconscious negative feelings of denial, anger and depression with full awareness in what Eckhart Tolle calls the Power of Now. Change happens when we stand fully in the present. This change in perspective from wallowing in the past to becoming more present is about mindfulness and awareness. This is the underlying message of Jenny’s lyrics. It’s presented fast and furious to make sure you get the message! When you’re in survival mode the future is not top of your agenda. So when the question is asked ‘Where do you go from here?’ there is real momentum for moving forward. ‘Crossroads’ marks that key decision –have I had enough. Way back in ‘Miss You’, track 5, there was no readiness to let go. Now that has changed. ‘It’s not your time to give up now’ says wallow or move forward and this song leaves no doubt which choice is being made. And so we’re almost done and the final track ‘Good Again’ begins with playful triplets on the piano like soft rain waking an unconscious soul from a long comatose sleep. There’s a brightness and lightness to the music that heralds both feistiness and peace. The element of being surprised by simple pleasures is ever present as in ‘I start to smell the Frangipani Tree’. To suddenly feel a moment’s joy when for so long all around has been pain is the ultimate revelation. The cycle is complete, I can live and function again. I can feel good again. Jamie is really gone but I am still here, present, whole. Overall this is a work of great beauty and depth honed to bring solace and cheer to the bereaved. The lyrics are both profound and prophetic and the vocals reflect the changing mood as time passes. The sequence of the tracks is skilfully ordered to encourage travel on a journey of discovery through this unwanted but essential process we call grief. Jenny’s vocals and piano are exceptional and the production quality and backing musicianship from Mike Caen and the guest artists add so much to the original songs. There is no doubt that this album will provide a bright beacon of light for parents trapped in darkness and despair after their little ones have been taken away. 21st February 2018”

— Brian Caie