Graham Rockingham: Marc Jordan from Both Sides Now
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
At the heart of Marc Jordan's new album are three unlikely song choices — the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses," Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side," and Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now."
It's not that they aren't great songs. Indeed, they represent cultural milestones of late '60s and early '70s. They just don't seem to fit together, especially on an album backed by a full symphony orchestra.
"Both Sides," which also happens to be the title of Jordan's new album, is Mitchell at a very young age, deep self-reflection cast in the simplest of metaphors.
Then there's "Wild Side," Reed's homage to New York's sex-and-speed subculture. Reed's black leather stiletto heels provide stark contrast to Mitchell's "ice cream castles" and "angel hair." The Stones, meanwhile, are outside all the boxes: a hedonistic rock band crying country blues.
Jordan — widely respected as one of Canada's top songwriters — is on the phone from his Toronto home.
"On this record, I just did songs that I like," he explains, the vocal shrug almost visible through the phone line. "It's as simple as that."
Why not? Jordan, after all, knows songcraft. In Canada, we know him best for his hit "Marina del Rey," but he also spent 16 years in Los Angeles grinding out songs for Chicago, Kenny Loggins, Natalie Cole and Rod Stewart (including the No. 1 hit "Rhythm of My Heart.")
A guy with Jordan's pedigree should be able to respect the craftsmanship of Mitchell and Reed, not to mention Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Curtis Mayfield ("People Get Ready" closes the album).
Into this dizzying equation Jordan drops Hoagy Carmichael, the master of '40s and '50s orchestral jazz. Jordan is a great admirer, which is why he opened the album with the classic "Nearness of You."
It is lushly orchestrated with help from the Prague Symphony, as are all nine tracks on "Both Sides Now." Adding to the retro-effect, Jordan performs in a crooning vocal style more in keeping with Carmichael's era than those of Jagger, Reed, Mitchell or Mayfield.
"I had to do a Hoagy Carmichael song," Jordan says. "My dad sang in orchestras. And, yes, he sang 'Nearness of You.'"
So there we have it. The true inspiration of "Both Sides Now" is not those great songwriters — although they have a big part — it's all those show tunes his dad loved.
Charles Jordan, who died in 1986, was a successful professional singer performing and recording classical and popular music in Montreal, Toronto and New York.
What Marc Jordan has done on "Both Sides Now," is take some of the songs that were key to his formative years and perform them in a way his father may have done during the orchestral heyday of the '40s and '50s.
It's an intriguing twist to a well-trod path, bringing contemporary repertoire to older, more lush sounds. For the most part, it works quite effectively.
Jordan has also thrown in two of his own new songs. The first — "I Saw Your Smile" — is dedicated to his wife, fellow singer-songwriter Amy Sky, with whom he will perform at Artsfest in the Westdale shopping village on June 22.
The second, "He's Going to Break Your Heart," was written for his daughter Zoe Sky Jordan, a singer-songwriter who lives in Nashville with her husband, musician and actor Liam Russell-Titcomb. It's a song only a dad could write.
"It was her first time being in love," Marc says. "But I wrote it too soon because I think she walked away with his heart more than vice versa. And, no, it wasn't Liam."