Next comes one of the most impactful and influential albums of my entire life, and chances are, most of you have never even heard of this act or certainly listened to this album in its entirety. I discovered Tom Luce and his band Luce about the same time I came across Better Than Ezra, in the same fashion as well, by a random discovery on XM radio. The most successful single of the album, “Buy A Dog”, is what first pulled me in, but it quickly became much, much more. As a small independent artist from the Bay Area, Luce performed in similar circles with more commercially successful artists like Train, with much less acclaim. I had to order the CD “Never Ending” from his website. As I listened to it all the way through, I realized I really loved the entire record, not just “Buy A Dog”, which is a phenomenal track. This CD assumed nearly universal control of my music listening for as long, and probably longer, than any single record in my life. My obsession was fairly comprehensive, and I made or purchased copies for several of my friends to spread the gospel. Like most albums, I latched on to a certain rotation of favorite tracks, and typically jumped chaotically from song to song depending on my mood. It wasn’t for some time that I realized the true brilliance of this album. Not only was it a great collection of tunes, the album from beginning to end, was actually a mini-novella of the “Never Ending” cycle of the birth, jubilation, hesitation, and crash-landing of a relationship, only to start the cycle all over again.
The record opens with “From the World of the Lonely”, and the very first line completely sets the stage. “The first time that I saw you, it just came to me, I was ready to remove myself from the world of the lonely”. Aside from great story-telling and a catchy melody, even the production of this song contributes to the theme. The album opens with the sound of scratchy vinyl, and the first half of the song, up to around the 2:40 mark, is very low-fi and restrained in its sound quality. Then suddenly, as if the world is opening to new possibilities, the sound expands, the bass thumps in, and the song truly carries the weight and excitement of the potential of this new relationship.
Next comes the previously mentioned “Buy A Dog”, which is simply a classic love song about the possibilities of starting a life together with the centerpiece being a shared canine companion. The triad of devotion between two in love and their equally beloved dog has always appealed to me greatly, and it absolutely symbolizes a place of love and three-way affection I hope to experience once life is much quieter and simpler and less adventurous than it is currently and hopefully will be for some time.
With each new song, the relationship and excitement builds. “Amsterdam”, “The Sweetest Smile”, “Fortunately, I”, “Worth the Wait”, and “Wanna Be” all tell the story of that “honeymoon phase” when everything is seemingly flawless and perfect. Yet, as we all know, most relationships don’t stay in that place of eternal bliss, and while the lucky few among us find or have found that happy landing spot of long-term love and devotion, we have all gone through the crashing down that inevitably comes with time in most failed relationships. With “Never Ending”, the title track, we see the first cracks in paradise. “Outside of It All” takes us to that place where you know things are in trouble, but your heart still wants to think and believe there is a way to make this right. By the time we get to “With A Kiss”, it is acknowledged that the end is near, and “Diamond Lights” is a perfect song of lament, looking back in sorrow with a small dose of appreciation for the positive memories and impact each had on the other. Lyrically, we even return to the same phrasing of “From the World of the Lonely”, except that now when we hear “The first time that I saw you, it just came to me”, it is sung sadly and with great regret.
And just when you think all hope is lost, and that one can never be happy again, the album concludes with “Maria”, and the rays of hope shine again. “She worked at Denny’s, I met her there… Maria Lopez was her name”. And so, it begins again, the eternal cycle of promise, hope and love.
Once I realized the full scope of this record, my appreciation, which was already sky-high, elevated to a new level. Undoubtedly this was in no small part to my own private misery I was experiencing at the time, but the story and music blended together unlike any record I had every discovered previously. Back to the music for a moment, it wouldn’t have worked and I never would have taken the time to unravel this mystery if the songs weren’t highly compelling from a musical perspective. For me, “From the World of the Lonely”, “Buy A Dog”, “Worth the Wait”, the blend of “Wanna Be” and “Interlude One”, “Outside of It All”, and “Diamond Lights” are not only the best songs, but they serve as a great mini-version of the core theme of this story. I would highly recommend at least listening to each of those, or as many as you can find. And that’s where the last practical challenge comes in for fully appreciating this record.
Something must have gone awry with the rights to these songs, the label on which they were released, or some other legal complication I can’t begin to decipher. I say that because on my preferred streaming service, the version of this album is a butchered mess. The songs are out of order, not sequenced with the original album or story, and in many cases, are slightly altered, perhaps to create a slightly different digital signature than the original version. As such, at least where I listen, you can’t find this album in its original glory, and you can’t even find it on YouTube, as near as I can tell. It does appear that there are still copies for purchase floating around the internet, (I went ahead and grabbed another), and some other streaming services may in fact offer the original and complete album.
If I were to give you a short, short list of my personal recommendations, this album would be on it for the reasons listed above. My obsession has healthily waned in time, but the memories of this record and the meaning behind it will always be with me. For all the mistakes we have made in life, hopefully we can learn from them and get better at knowing what and who works in our life. As one who is now very happily living every day in the first half of this album in my current state, thanks to Christie, my life lesson for finding the right person boils down to common interests, common priorities and values, ongoing physical attraction, and the vulnerability, desire and willingness to learn, love, and listen. I hope each of you have found or will find the end to the never-ending search, and I hope this record gives you something to think about and experience along the way. On a different album, Luce captured this state of extended bliss on his song “Good Day”, which is as equally infectious as the best songs on “Never Ending”. I will leave you with a line from that song… “Well, it’s a pretty good day, I’m looking forward to tomorrow, To have a pretty good day, Yeah, we’ll have a good day.” Check out Luce… I think you will be glad you did.