The late Jackie Leven is celebrated as one of the world’s most prolific and accomplished singer-songwriters, with his recordings encompassing everything from folk to Celtic soul, driving rock to lyrical ballads.
Today marks the release of the first ever repress of his seminal album ‘The Mystery of Love (is Greater Than the Mystery of Death)’. To celebrate, we discuss the legacy of this vital record with Jackie’s widow Deborah Greenwood and have a test pressing of the album for one lucky winner.
The Mystery of Love (is Greater Than the Mystery of Death) is arguably Jackie Leven’s most celebrated album, originally released in 1994 on Cooking Vinyl. The legend of this uniquely talented artist grows every year as more and more people discover and celebrate his remarkable catalogue of recordings.
With a retrospective feature on Jackie’s music scheduled to run in August’s Mojo, there’s never been a better time to discover Jackie’s music and – as Deborah Greenwood explains – this album is the perfect place to start.
TM: It is over a decade since the world lost Jackie and yet interest and reappraisal of Jackie’s music abide. What is it about Jackie’s music that has made its appeal so enduring?
Deborah Greenwood: Jackie always dealt with the universal experience and his songs resonate with people who realise that they have been there too.
Whether that is the ups and downs of romantic love, darker issues such as death and betrayal, or the big question of what are we here to do?, his songs touch people deeply at the same time as they wonder how this big Scotsman knew just what was going on in their head and heart. Add those lyrics (or poems really) to wonderful melodies and blend a voice that can make you shiver with its beauty and it’s a potent and enduring mix.
TM: The Mystery of Love (is Greater Than The Mystery Of Death) is reissued by Cooking Vinyl on 2CD and Double Vinyl editions. Out of Jackie’s prolific album output, what is it about this particular record that is so special?
Let’s start with the title. A quote from Oscar Wilde’s Salome and one of Jackie’s key tenets: love IS a mystery and we should respect that and not try to ‘solve’ it.
But it is the music, of course, that made this one of Q Magazine’s Top 100 Albums Of All Time. Glorious, romantic Celtic mysticism threaded with a rock sensibility but – sitting above all the amazing contributors – that soaring, searing voice and probably Jackie’s best-loved anthem, ‘Call Mother a Lonely Field’ as a high point.
TM: Celebrated crime writer Ian Rankin writes the sleeve notes on these new editions – can you talk a little about Jackie’s relationship with Ian and why he was the man for the job?
Ian and Jackie were fans of each other’s work and once they started working together, I think they found each other great company. I can’t speak for Ian, of course, but I know Jackie adored working with him and was extremely proud of their friendship. Ian is a complete music nut (in the best possible way) and Jackie really respected his views and knowledge.
Although I doubt he would ever have told him (not very Scottish to big up your pals!) he would have been secretly extremely honoured to have Ian give his view on the album.
TM: What is your favourite track from The Mystery of Love (is Greater Than The Mystery Of Death) and why?
I am going to cheat and choose two because ‘Call Mother a Lonely Field‘ was the first track of Jackie’s I ever heard and it touched me so indefinably that I will never get over it. From the original keening, boozing opening of ‘Danny Boy‘ to the last notes of the wonderful outro on the album version, you are lost in the yearning for homeland and Mother and the vocal breaks your heart while the melody charges ahead and throws the pieces that are left around the room.
My second choice is ‘The Garden‘. It starts with the great American poet, Robert Bly, reading a poem by Antonio Machado before Jackie intones the stories of his drinking days over a mystic musical soundtrack. In theory, it should be pretentious and inaccessible but it is mind-blowing and beautiful and eternal.
The collector’s edition of Jackie Leven’s The Mystery of Love (is Greater Than The Mystery Of Death) is out now on 2CD and Double Colour LP on the Jackie Leven Official Store.
The Double Colour LP is presented on beautiful double marbled vinyl, with a new special gatefold packaging including a spot gold cover and exclusive new sleeve notes by celebrated author Ian Rankin. The double expanded CD is out now and features brand new packaging with the hard-to-find The Right To Remain Silent: The Mystery Supplement EP on the second disc.
Enter our exclusive giveaway to be in with a chance of winning a test pressing of The Mystery of Love (is Greater Than The Mystery Of Death) Collectors Edition.
The winner will be chosen on Monday 8th August.
N.B: If the competition entry module above does not load, enter the giveaway directly HERE.