Maja reveals the stories behind Signs of Life‘s songs in her notes below:
We Used to Wonder
I well remember the moment when, sitting on the banks of The Rideau Canal, the worlds of art and science united for me . I was forever changed . This song is a sweeping odyssey celebrating the union of science, art and love travelling from the heart to the centre of the earth, to outer space and back . Images from the adventure stories, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Around the World in 80 Days come to mind…. galleon ships and air balloons….
Call Me (But Only If You Want To)
I’m not sure if it was raining but in my memory it feels like it was . We left the afterhours club and got into a taxi . The three of us . I was dropped off . I didn’t want to be . When I write it this simply I am reminded of my favourite country song lyric: “Don’t make me jealous . I don’t like it, you see .” But I’m wise enough to know that if you don’t want to call then there’s no point in doing so . Sigh .
The sun was so extraordinarily bright that morning; reflecting off the snow in those captivating diamonds that lure us into a beautifully transformed world yet this is a song to mutter and howl at the moon .
Don’t You Worry
Oma and Opa were my neighbours on the west side of my home on Rural Route #3 . One morning I woke up and looked out to see they had hung beautiful, pastel Easter eggs on the tree outside my window . I was smitten and enchanted . Oma and Opa welcomed me into their home many times . And when I gave a performance at The Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre in gratitude for all those who had helped me arrive and settle through a hard time, I was most pleased to see my neighbours Oma and Opa and, the beloved owners of my home, Allister and Sue in the audience . My heart was bursting…
I Want A Man
I’d heard tell of the Valley Inn not long after I settled in Niagara . But I didn’t cross the threshold of this restaurant that was tucked away in an unsuspecting neighbourhood until about ten years later . It was described as terribly romantic . The Valley Inn has become a gathering spot for many special occasions and a place whose décor tickles and thrills me each time I’m there .
Ode to Venus
I believe every self-respecting Canadian songwriter must have an ode, a tribute, to Leonard Cohen . This is one of mine . I believe he and I were born within the same astrological house . Besides, who else could scribe such precise and achingly poignant lyrics as, “Lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, come back to me…”?! The musical style recalls Gilbert and Sullivan’s patter songs which I get a great kick out of! It’s my tribute to them as well . But never, ever expect me to sing it again as fast as I do on this recording! What was I thinking?
Just A Kiss
A friend was speaking to me about a man who we both knew and she mentioned he had “glad eyes”. I had never heard that expression before but knew instantly what it meant. Not long afterwards one of my brothers and I walked up and down the escarpment and over the boulders and rocks along the edge of Twenty Mile Creek all the while I was asking, beseeching him to explain to me, again, the difference between men and women and how they perceive the receiving or seeking of a kiss .
T(his) Foolish Heart
A touch of Heart of Stone as sung by Mick Jagger and Millie Jackson’s Caught Up concept album . I still recall the afternoon on Ward’s Island when I first heard Jackson’s recording at a friend’s house . Millie portrayed both wife and mistress caught up in the web of the love triangle . The way she sang the words “married man”; the intensity of her performance, electrified me . Mix these two vocal sounds with the age old story of a friendship betrayed and all for a chance at love … and you’ve got the recipe for this song .
In my head this is a stadium rock song with a huge drum sound . The voice I hear is a female vocalist who can sing with sweetness and then belt it out…that isn’t me so if you know any singers like that pass it along!
Signs of Life
The sensual, concrete, tactile, ephemeral and spiritual aspects of a life recalled, treasured, loved .
Bohemian Rags to Rhapsody
This song was part of a performance commissioned by the Art Gallery of Algoma to celebrate an exhibition inspired by the Surrealists .
Gallery Director, multi-disciplinary artist and musician, Michael Burtch, and I presented our interpretation of an Isadora Duncan performance complete with wild improvised, dancing provided by me as Michael played enthusiastically on the bongos . What great fun I had flinging and whirling myself about the gallery with brilliant scarves . In Paris I paid homage to Isadora by visiting the columbarium at Père Lachaise Cemetery where her ashes were placed and then I went on to the Centre de Danse Du Marais to attend a dance class .
This song, too, reminds me of those beloved Gilbert and Sullivan patter songs .
Bring the Heroin Home (for Dr. W.)
The end of life can be peaceful or intensely painful . This is a plea to legalize heroin for those who are in need . The balance to maintain consciousness while alleviating tremendous pain is a delicate dance . The dedication is to one of my doctors who was lobbying the government to change the law .
Something in My Eye
Sometimes this seems to me to be a frothy, silly song and yet I’ve so enjoyed singing it for various audiences over the years and hearing how they often join in . And, best of all, the voicing reminds me a little of Blossom Dearie, a jazz singer and pianist, who sang a song with one of my all-time favourite titles, There Ought to Be A Moonlight Saving Time .
Stand By My Man
A river, a waltz, a man .
Take Me in Your Arms
After I heard Bob Dylan’s Love & Theft album, I realized, I too, had paid homage to songs that I loved by referencing them in Take Me in Your Arms . I included words or phrases from both Careless Love (written by Spencer Williams or so say some sources) and Long Black Veil written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin in 1959. It was first recorded by Lefty Frizzell. The character is a young man speaking from the spirit world after his execution. He had been falsely accused of murder and refused to reveal his alibi. The song is both chilling and hauntingly beautiful. These were beloved songs long before and remain so long after I went deeply into the bewildering realm of grief . I have yet to discuss this love and theft business with Bob though I look forward to the day .