REVIEW: John Ludi - "Hell's Laughter and Heaven's Ache"

By Mike Ventarola

Chain Border

John LudiJohn Ludi, the current name and incarnation of this artist, has been involved in the music world for about 15 years, give or take. His work has appeared under various names such as: John Ludi, Tim Elder, Tim Eldair, and Tim Zukowski. His involvement includes the production of a few bands, owning a couple of labels, creating multiple scores of soundtrack work for independent films and videos, and playing on numerous artist sessions. With all that he has accomplished, he still remains somewhat of an enigma, whose work is slowly worming its way into the hearts, ears and minds of newfound fans worldwide.

All Dead Dictators is perfectly placed at the opening of the CD. The catchy hooks draw you in and the vocals seal your attention. Some have rushed to compare the vocals with Peter Murphy. There is a bit of that element there, but there is also some early Bowie as well. Progress starts with a bossa nova feel, but delivers a punch towards the end while delivering impassioned and inspired lyrics over an alternative folk rock-like beat. "So here we are all standing on the brink a bible in one hand, in the other a drink. Into diversion we joyously sink. 'Cause it'll be all right as long as we don't think. Your world is so advanced it doesn't work at all."

Cycles could easily have been an homage to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young with a modern updating. The initial vocal verses reminded me of a serious Adam Sandler, but then the vocals took on the passion and inflection heard in previous tracks. "Witness the numb youths slouching towards tomorrow with cynical eyes and tattoos by the score, hardwired for oblivion (if it's entertaining). History's seen many like them buried before." The Complacent Song has an opening similar in style to Mandolin Wind by Rod Stewart. This segues into a soft rock anthem, which states the obvious about the mental state or suburbanites all over. "I'm just another consumer watching Eden turn to hell, so don't ask me to be the one to ask."

Dysfunctional finally puts this sentiment to a musical score with an edgy rock guitar rift. The beauty of this track is one can hear it as a tongue in cheek reflection of one's inner angst, or utilize it as an anthemic purging of one own pity party. Secret Serenade is a song of longing. Lyrically, the ruminations center around the object of one's affections that are unattainable. Hell's Laughter and Heaven's Serenade, the album title track, has an early punk rock drum kick with a softer layering of music around the song.

Song of Set is a reflective song that could easily slide into top 40 light FM with the right connections. Despite its gentle flow, the lyrics remain poignant and telling of societal ignorance. "He is weary won't you let him go? He is bound here and the earth is his soul. Call it evil and you'll miss the mark, for we are primitives afraid of the dark." The Clear Light of Day is another relatively soft alternative rock track with telling lyrics. In the space of a paragraph, it is impossible to provide justice for the intensity behind the words, thus one is encourage to read this bit of beautiful poetry in its entirety at the artist's web site.

A Late Night Argument With God highlights the frustration that many feel when faced with their approach and dialogue with the Creator. This is an angry plea for answers to that which we are conditioned to revere, but never seem to receive any answers from. Kali Yuga thunders home to drive the points taken in the earlier tracks. Musically, there is a Goth/Pink Floyd connection going on.

The initial disappointment that this was not a gothic recording was immediately replaced by respect for Ludi's talent. Considering that this is a one man recording, with some backing vocal assistance from Jodie J., Hell's Laughter and Heaven's Ache ranks as one of the best self-released, self-created CD's to cross this desk in quite some time. I will go out on a limb to state that had David Bowie recorded these songs, the CD would have gone multi-platinum by now and quite frankly, he would probably kill to get his hands on these tunes if he knew they existed.

Bowie's loss is our treasure, simply because we are able to obtain this remarkable work at a fraction of the cost that major labels charge. Ludi is a poet, priest, anarchist and peace-monger. Contradictory as that may seem, much of his inner mind is wrapped in the intelligent lyrics and impassioned pleas that demarcate the recording, delivering many of us from the glut of banality often seen in the music world. The catchy hooks are merely sugar coating on lyrics that pose questions and ideations long buried in our slumbering psyches.

The work does include drum machines, however, in light of all the Synthpop that has been breaking new ground in clubs all over the globe, this no longer detracts from the work as some earlier reviewers have remarked. Instead, Ludi demonstrated that, like Bowie, he is ahead of his time. This current CD is positioned for massive consumption, as his time has arrived. Ludi may shudder at this, as he disdains commercialism, however the work is up to the minute at this point and deserves all the accolades it receives.


Legends Online