Human life

by Michael Rattray

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about

I know Michael Rattray a little. A rare, intimate live appearance last year brought a tear to my eye whilst our occasional communication has shown him to be a gentle man with a kind and generous soul. He also exudes both creative talent and wit in abundant, generous measures. But, this artistic flair and admirable disposition hide – as is often the case with a rare talent – a darker side, a more troubled man filled with personal foibles and a heavy soul. This side of Michael’s persona is opened up and exposed at its fullest in his new album Human Life.

Whilst Human Life reveals Michael’s inner turmoil, unveiling his personal demons to the listener, it’s done with such honesty and beauty that its affect is both gut wrenching and uplifting. The former as you can feel his heart desperate for love, his mind searching for answers and his soul suffering in his quest for both. Yet the album is laced with hope, with heavy doses of positivity despite life’s constant pressure clearly weighing heavy on his shoulders. In ‘Got This Far’ and ‘Here Comes The Silence’ it’s not just the message that offers hope and positivity, the music matches the mood too with Lightning Seeds slices of pop-perfection.

“This world was meant for me with all its faults and charms… They say it’s not the destination it’s the ride / so turn off your virtual world there’s a beautiful one right outside” – ‘Here Comes The Silence’

Listening to such hopeful prose lifts the heart as it lets you know that despite the battle, there is an optimism and belief that any doubts and worries will disappear. Most of all, love regularly rears its longed for but yet unattained head, but as always there is hope, and with the beautifully poignant homage to Nick Drake the message sounds perfectly autobiographical, “He doesn’t love no-one it’s tragic / he loves melody and magic” – ‘The Ghost of Nick Drake’. However, with music carrying such emotion, it is when the desolation hits you hardest that Human Life has the biggest impact – it’s when the album is at its most moving and sentimental and when it’s at its best.

Human Life is bookended with perfect piteous and melancholic impact. In the wonderfully emotionally-drenched opener Michael gets straight to the nub, “Oh universe, what to do with this brain / I don’t wanna know the sunshine from the rain again… Show me somewhere that I can belong.” ‘New Shoots’, Getting Up’ and in particular ‘Porcelain’ are album highlights, all sung with incredibly passionate fragility and backed by perfect, simple guitar. These songs are far more than sad ballads, as well as hitting the senses hard they are brilliantly melodic and impeccably performed.

If there is one over-riding theme to be taken away from Human Life it’s Michael’s despairing need yet ever-hopeful search for love. Closing track ‘Life Without Love’ is a stunning and intense finale, gone is the perfectly beautiful tone, in its place is more pain, more hurt, more despair…

“I’ve spent the best years of this life / just trying to find some peace of mind/ for all this trouble all this time / I need a reason why”

“Oh Lord send me down some hope / send it down from above / and Lord your greatest crime of all / is life without love”

Human Life is a deep voyage into one man’s inner turmoil and despair. It’s sensitive, affecting, and amongst the search for love and reassurance shines brightly a magnificently ethereal album full of hope.

Tony Foster.

credits

released December 2, 2013

All songs written by Michael Rattray. Copyright 2013.
Damn Fine Records / Tunecore Publishing 2013.
Recorded at Clearwater studios, Perth Concert Hall and Damn Fine Studios between 2008 - 2013

Produced by Mark McClymont and Michael Rattray at Clearwater studios, Perth. Mixed by Mark McClymont
Mastered by Pete Maher at Top Floor Mastering, Brighton.

THANK YOU TO:

All the wonderful musicians who gave their time, talent and expertise to make the songs sound their best: David Shaw, Fiona Ballantine, Ian Scobie, Owen Nicholson, Iona Marshall, Martin Hodge, Gavin Kelly, David MacFarlane, Pete Harvey, Debra Salem and the Craigie Community Choir.

Perth Concert Hall, Andy Shearer, Pete Caban and Bandwagon.
Pete at Genepool Records. Gavin Munroe and Red Pine Timber Co. All the Clearwater studios crew - Fiona, Tony, Gav, Freddie and Beth without whom I would never have completed the album. But maybe next time some of them could make the coffee instead?

Mark McClymont for endless energy and enthusiasm. The True Gents. Pete Mayer. Stuart Blance and Jamie Moffat for their photography. Chris Renton for his time with design and layout. All my family and friends for their support.

Thank you to anyone who follows me or who has supported me and my music.

This album is dedicated fondly to the memory of Jack Kelly, a wonderful musician and friend.


"How did I come into being and what is this thing called the world? Why was I not consulted? And if I am compelled to take part in it, where is the director? I want to see him."

Soren Kierkegaard

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Michael Rattray Perth

Composer, singer and artist based in Perth, Scotland.

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Track Name: Human life
Hello universe, what are you doing here? I don't think youre all that sure yourself my dear
and oh universe, what to do with this brain? I don't wanna know the sunshine from the rain again

They say you're made of love but I'm not all that sure
give us everything we need, still we're wanting more
if you know all your secrets and youve really got it sewn
show me somewhere that I can belong

Hello universe, you put me on my feet, but it's hard filling this evolutionary niche
and so universe, this is human life, mother nature's washing hanging on the line

They say you're made of love but I'm not all that sure
give us everything we need, still we're wanting more
if you know all your secrets and youve really got it sewn
show me somewhere that I can belong


They say you're made of love but I'm not all that sure
give us everything we need, still we're wanting more
if you know all your secrets and youve really got it sewn
show me somewhere that I can belong
show me somewhere that I can belong
Track Name: The ghost of Nick Drake
Got my troubled soul soothed on an autumn day
A peculiar stranger crossed my path today
He doesnt love no one it's tragic, he loves melody and magic

la di di da, la di da

I have been hanging out with the ghost of Nick Drake
we mutter and laugh out loud at all our mistakes
and as we watch misfortune take her last swipe
we're still singing, singing for our lives
La di di da, la di da

He whispers to me "I'm feeling down again"
Then sings me the sweetest tune from beginning to end

he doesnt love no one its tragic he loves melody and magic
la di di da, la di da

I have been hanging out with the ghost of Nick Drake
we mutter and laugh out loud at all our mistakes
and as we watch misfortune take her last swipe
we're still singing, singing for our lives
La di di da, la di da
Track Name: New shoots
Push it down, as far as it will go
leave it out, watch the cold wind blow
Write it off as something you don't know
cut it down, watch the new shoots grow

Life will find a way

Tell it that there's nowhere left to run
show it's hope as the setting of the sun
Here I stand the earth is coarse and dry
a scattered seed fallen from the sky

Life will find a way
Track Name: Here comes the silence
Your life will be over before you make up your mind
now is your forever, yeah, now is your time.
No use in waiting for the right words to say
your ship might not come in, so get outside and get on your way

Here comes the silence and I stand with open arms
this world was meant for me with all its faults and charms
Here comes the silence and the sun shines on a new day
and all the love inside my heart knows what it wants to say

And looking too far ahead is only gonna turn you blind
the past is gone, let it go. Don't waste any more of your time
They say it's not the destination it's the ride
So turn off your virtual world there's a beautiful one right outside
Track Name: Big black dog
I asked my mama “Why do I cry?” She said “Son, I’m gonna tell you why. I hate to say it, but big black dog’s back again”.

And I wanna run but I can’t move, wish somebody else was livin in these shoes, coz life ain’t easy when big black dog’s back again

And when I’m up he’s always there just waiting for his moment to lead me to despair.
There ain’t no joy when he’s in town and he decides how long he’s gonna sniff around. Well oh my lord he’s a big black dog yeah


Went to the doctor said “Somethin is wrong” He said “By now you should be dead and gone because it looks like big black dog’s back again”.

I asked the preacher to help me to my feet. He shook his head and said “The lord above would weep, just to discover big black dog’s back again.

And when Im up he’s always there just waiting for his moment to lead me to despair. There ain’t no joy when he’s in town and he decides how long he’s gonna sniff around. Well oh my god he’s a big black dog

And when Im up he’s always there just waiting for his moment to lead me to despair. There ain’t no joy when he’s in town and he decides how long he’s gonna sniff around. Well oh my lord he’s a big black dog yeah

Somebody save my soul he's a big black dog yeah
Track Name: Getting up
Turn off the light as you turn into dust
You're just a human and that's hard enough
You're reaching your arms out for help
When beauty takes care of herself

Its the getting up that counts when you fall
Soon you'll be waking up after it all
Does anybody ever get it right first time?
Out of the darkness, into light?

So if you're drowning, don't give up dear
Because every person knows the weight of tears
You feel like you'll never return
But one more mile and then you're done
Track Name: Got this far
I've walked as far as my eyes can see
just to watch a falling star burning out on me
I've been a hundred strangers to myself
and we've been wasting time hanging outside the gates of hell

Would it be easier to just throw it all away?
Well if I don't hang around I might miss the brighter day

and I got this far and I'm not giving up
I still believe in love, it's what I'm dreaming of
and I got this far and I'm not giving up
I sitll believe in love, it's what I'm dreaming of, it's what I'm dreaming of

and oh my crazy brain, everything I think I've reached the top it knocks me down again
but I believe there's a place I belong and it's somewhere I hope I might find if I just keep moving on

Would it be easier to just throw it all away?
Well if I don't hang around I might miss the brighter day

and I got this far and I'm not giving up
I still believe in love, it's what I'm dreaming of
and I got this far and I'm not giving up
I sitll believe in love, it's what I'm dreaming of, it's what I'm dreaming of
Track Name: Ticking boxes
If I knew where I was going, could I make it alone and
would this cruel wind stop blowing my heart away?
and I know just why you say it, the game is better if you play it,
still, you want me to lay it in front of you

I could turn on the blue skies, wipe the tears from my eyes
If I knew what I wanted from you

Just turn around with your affection point it in the right direction
'Cause all this complication just frustrates you
If I could just cut my losses, stop wasting time ticking boxes
'cause the last thing I wanted was to hurt you

I could turn on the blue skies, wipe the tears from my eyes
If I knew what I wanted from you
Track Name: Porcelain
Take my hand if you don't understand why the world keeps spinning round and the ways of man
Show me how I can let it out. I'd be happy with some direction to the way out

All this time, just getting by, when under my skin there's porcelain.

And you can laugh as I fall. I'd rather get caught screwing up than not try at all.
And I don't care what they say, it's not better to burn out than to fade away
Track Name: Simple soul
Gonna take my time if I wanna
I'm making up my mind coz I gotta
take a look outside to see what I can find

I wanna write a song that anyone can sing
try and paint a picture of everything
If I can touch your heart then maybe that's a start

Somebody shine a light, tell me everything is gonna be alright
when it's complicated I just lose control I just want a simple soul

And I don't know what's happening to me, it's like I wanna stay but I wanna leave. Either way I'll be how I wanna be.

Somebody shine a light, tell me everything is gonna be alright
when it's complicated I just lose control I just want a simple soul
Shine a light, tell me everything is gonna be alright
when it's complicated I just lose control I just want a simple soul

If I had a simple soul I'd keep you safe from harm
I'd never have to let you go or keep on running from the safety of your arms

Somebody shine a light, tell me everything is gonna be alright
when it's complicated I just lose control I just want a simple soul
Shine a light, tell me everything is gonna be alright
when it's complicated I just lose control I just want a simple soul
Track Name: Higher ground
The wind it is a' changin' and your favourite music's playing and you know everything is gonna be alright.
We all separate ourselves, spending all our days in hell when we all come from the same light

Higher ground it's what we're looking for, when we get a taste of silence we want more
Higher ground it's the air we breathe, always looking for something to set us free

It's three in the morning and the desperation's dawning, if I write the sweetest tune will it subside?
Lost in sheets and old pillows I keep on searching for that simple soul. Is it hiding deep inside?

Higher ground it's what we're looking for, when we get a taste of silence we want more
Higher ground it's the air we breathe, always looking for something to set us free

It's where you gently take my hand and without words I understand.
It's where the devil makes no sound, if only I could reach some higher ground

Higher ground it's what we're looking for, when we get a taste of silence we want more
Higher ground it's the air we breathe, always looking for something to set us free
Track Name: I'm still breathing
Wish that I was waking up after being lost in dark
I grab a hand for some support, but it's not my Father's
and for a while I can pretend the silence comes around again
Is it coming to an end?

I don't believe in sin and I'm not giving in.
The bottom line is I'm still breathing
I'm still breathing

And all the causes from the past meet inside this plastic mask,
breathing life into my bones, reminding me I'm on my own
I can't carry this no more, give me the key and I'll unlock the door

I don't believe in sin and I'm not giving in.
The bottom line is I'm still breathing.
I'm still breathing

But I'm so tired that the blood inside my veins has turned to mud.
For miles and miles I cannot see anything that's touching me.

I don't believe in sin and I'm not giving in.
The bottom line is I'm still breathing
I'm still breathing.
I'm still breathing.
I'm still breathing.
Track Name: Life without love
Step back, back from what you know
Hold it close, or just let go
It's funny, the saddest songs you sing
shine light on everything and torch your soul

Oh Lord, send me down some hope
send it down from above
and Lord your greatest crime of all
is life without love

I don't need cleansed from my sin
just an answer to this prayer I sing
but I don't think you'll understand
I don't think you have a plan

I'v spent the best years of this life
just trying to find some peace of mind
For all this trouble, all this time
I need a reason why


Oh Lord, send me down some hope
send it down from above
and Lord your greatest crime of all
is life without love

Step back, back from what you know
hold it close or just let go
It's funny, the saddest songs you sing
shine light on everything and make you whole.

Oh Lord, send me down some hope
send it down from above
and Lord your greatest crime of all
is life without love
Track Name: The queen and the soldier (Suzanne Vega cover)
"The Queen & The Soldier"

The soldier came knocking upon the queen's door
He said, "I am not fighting for you any more"
The queen knew she'd seen his face someplace before
And slowly she let him inside.

He said, "I've watched your palace up here on the hill
And I've wondered who's the woman for whom we all kill
But I am leaving tomorrow and you can do what you will
Only first I am asking you why."

Down in the long narrow hall he was led
Into her rooms with her tapestries red
And she never once took the crown from her head
She asked him there to sit down.

He said, "I see you now, and you are so very young
But I've seen more battles lost than I have battles won
And I've got this intuition, says it's all for your fun
And now will you tell me why?"

The young queen, she fixed him with an arrogant eye
She said, "You won't understand, and you may as well not try"
But her face was a child's, and he thought she would cry
But she closed herself up like a fan.

And she said, "I've swallowed a secret burning thread
It cuts me inside, and often I've bled"
He laid his hand then on top of her head
And he bowed her down to the ground.

"Tell me how hungry are you? How weak you must feel
As you are living here alone, and you are never revealed
But I won't march again on your battlefield"
And he took her to the window to see.

And the sun, it was gold, though the sky, it was gray
And she wanted more than she ever could say
But she knew how it frightened her, and she turned away
And would not look at his face again.

And he said, "I want to live as an honest man
To get all I deserve and to give all I can
And to love a young woman who I don't understand
Your highness, your ways are very strange."

But the crown, it had fallen, and she thought she would break
And she stood there, ashamed of the way her heart ached
She took him to the doorstep and she asked him to wait
She would only be a moment inside.

Out in the distance her order was heard
And the soldier was killed, still waiting for her word
And while the queen went on strangling in the solitude she preferred
The battle continued on