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VMP is honored to feature the first definitive vinyl release of Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s masterpiece self-titled second album as our Essentials Record of the Month in August 2021.
Created at the onset of Glenn-Copeland’s recording career, when he was just 26 years old, 1970’s Beverly Glenn-Copeland was a revelation for the artist following a period of classical training and performing in the tradition of Lieder. “I was finally letting myself explore music from around the world more … [Lieder] was starting to disappear from my body,” he said. “In its place flowed North American folk and jazz, and music from Asia and Africa. These newer influences made an electric combination. They also made the work largely unclassifiable in the era of record stores’ neatly delineated sections,” he shared with VMP in an interview for our pressing’s Listening Notes (a full version of which you can read right here.
While his spiritual, transformative and still largely unclassifiable — even by today’s standards — music sat largely unknown to the masses for many decades, Glenn-Copeland, now 77 years old, quietly amassed a small body of work beyond just our ROTM for listeners to enjoy.
“I feel that music originates from the Universe itself, and it comes to me via something I call the UBS i.e. The Universal Broadcasting System,” he said in a statement upon the release of his life-spanning mixtape Transmissions. Whether our feature of Beverly Glenn-Copeland this month is your first introduction to the artist’s remarkable oeuvre or you’ve had the pleasure of spending time with his music in any capacity prior, below is a noncomprehensive guide for further tuning into Glenn-Copeland’s UBS and all of the riches it offers.
Glenn-Copeland’s jazz folk debut album was released via the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s in-house label. It’s a heavy, dark and haunting album, his voice hanging in the hair like an oncoming storm that never comes, detailing narratives of death, loss and struggle.
“The classical tradition of Europe was that if something is painful, and it’s an orchestral piece, you spent 20 minutes going through the horrors of it all,” he told VMP in the same interview. “When I started writing, the darkness was what I knew. Even if I was discussing something that was not my own personal difficulty, I'd wring it out.” A rare and largely unheard album, Beverly Copeland is not only a gripping experimentation in folk and lyrical narrative, but an enlightening picture of the young artist that showcases his immense classical vocal talent that would branch off and evolve in the coming years.
The story of Glenn-Copeland’s discovery to the masses begins with Keyboard Fantasies.
Back in 2015, the owner of specialty Japanese record store, SHE Ye,Ye Records, Ryota Masuko emailed Glenn-Copeland. Masuko had heard Keyboard Fantasies and, as most who are familiar with the record can likely attest, was deeply moved by the album on the first listen. He asked to carry it in his store, immediately sold out and the record gained extraordinary momentum from there. The following year, Invisible City Editions, a record label based in Toronto, reissued Keyboard Fantasies.
When you listen to Keyboard Fantasies, it’s quite difficult to imagine such a force sitting near-latent for the better part of three decades. It was written and recorded in a small cabin in rural Canada that Glenn-Copeland had equipped with a Yamaha DX7 synthesizer, a Roland TR-707 drum machine and an Atari computer, and it sold less than 100 copies upon its initial release on cassette. With its progressive use of synths, its lullaby-like melodies, its glistening, confident landscapes that exist on another spiritual plane entirely, it simultaneously sounds ahead of its time and as if it’s existed forever. It is widely considered Glenn-Copeland’s masterwork, and for very good reason.
Initially released in 2004 under a pseudonym (“Phynix”) and later reissued in 2019, Primal Prayer is a complex explosion of new-age electronica experimentation, inflected with dance, trip-hop, classical and jazz influences. It sounds like an outright cosmic spiritual awakening, and may serve as a glimpse into the inner workings of the artist’s “UBS.” Perhaps both his most transcendent and least-discussed recording, Primal Prayer not only provides divine context for the rest of his catalogue, but is a journey worth taking in its own right.
Transmissions is the career-spanning mixtape from Beverly Glenn-Copeland which features compositions from his early career, selections from Keyboard Fantasies, new and archival unreleased tracks and live versions of his songs. Consider it a sampler from a lifetime of catching-up we all must do on Glenn-Copeland. Because of this, the album spans a seemingly impossible gamut of styles and emotions, from folk to gospel to the classically unclassifiable staples of his career. It’s the perfect place to start, with as comprehensive of an overview of Glenn-Copeland’s career as is possible in merely nine tracks.
“My purpose — who knew! — was to encourage your generation about the fact that you all are going to change the world, and hopefully save us,” Glenn-Copeland said in Posy Dixon’s documentary.“I will be dead, but you will be doing that. I’m gonna be watching y’all from another dimension.”
Although his music only became widely available in the last decade, it’s impossible to measure the immense impact Glenn-Copeland and his music has had on a newer generation of artists. Keyboard Fantasies Reimagined, a collection of songs from the Keyboard Fantasies that have been re-worked by a number of “creative kindred spirits,” is set to be released in November 2021. The first single is out now, a cover of the album’s opening track “Ever New” by Kelsey Lu.
“I feel so honored and completely heart struck to have been able to dive further into the fabric of Glenn’s music, especially ‘Ever New,’ which is a song that when I first heard it, sprung up emotions of grace, hope and care within the ever-evolving cycles of growth, so that’s what I tried to bring into the making of this reimagining as well," Lu said in a statement on the single.
You can preorder or pre-download the album here.
In honor of our Record of the Month, we’ve partnered with Oda to produce an exclusive live performance with Glenn-Copeland for VMP’s members. Over the course of three days, from August 3 to 5, Glenn-Copeland will perform and take listeners through a private journey of his life. An exclusive access link will be provided to VMP’s members. To learn more about the event, click here.
Amileah Sutliff is a New York-based writer, editor and creative producer and an editor of the book The Best Record Stores in the United States.