no commercial traffic
first released as an LP by Cinemagic Pictures in 1983, is now available again on cd. This recording contains some of Rod's most often-recorded songs, and has been re-mastered in 2014 for cd release.

Review by Arthur Wood/Folkwax       

Lyrics to songs: All lyrics  Printable lyric sheet (2 sided)   The Unearthly Fire   It's Goin' To Take Some Time   Butter My Bread   Something Beautiful  

On The Road In New York Town   American Jerusalem  Dear Grandfather  A Sailor's Prayer   What I Wanted   Every Living Thing   

The Unearthly Fire
©1983, 2014 Rod MacDonald (Blue Flute Music/ASCAP)

In the town known as greed on the high plains of money
The men looked at the land, flowing with milk and honey
But a far greater need a few did desire
To harness and sell the unearthly fire

And the lovers of greed did exile the ones
Who believed in the arms of the earth and the sun
Wherefore they did build a magnificent pyre
And weighed down the land with the unearthly fire

Five thousand degrees in the mere hands of men
Soon darkened the rivers, soon hardened the land
With the sun came the sickness, with the wind came disease
Came the crying of children, to the lovers of greed

Til the earth could no longer stand the strain of such heat
And it shrugged its great shoulders, it cracked its great seams
And the unearthly fire spread over the vale
And lonely I live to tell you this tale

For he who scars the earth will have scars to bear
He who blackens the river, he who steals from the air
He who poisons the soil, does harm to the seed
Will know the high plains of the lovers of greed

And he who heals the earth, he who breathes long and deep
He who drinks the pure water and upon the soil sleeps
He who with his seed beckons for peace in our time
Will not see his blood ravaged by the unearthly fire

It’s Goin’ To Take Some Time
© 1983, 2014 Rod MacDonald (Blue Flute Music/ASCAP)

When I look into your eyes
I know that I believe in you
But it’s goin’ to take some time for you to believe it, too

I know you want it to be strong
Well is there anything that I can do
‘Cause it’s goin’ to take some time for you to believe it, too

In the morning feels so right to have you lying by my side
Anyway, it’s so new, but tell me
Why can’t a dream come true

In the morning feels so right to be lying by your side
Anyway, it’s so new, but tell me
Why can’t a dream come true

I love you yes, I do
All the angels on the head of a pin don’t compare to you
In the morning feels so right to have you lying by my side
But it’s goin’ to take some time for you to believe it, too
It’s goin’ to take some time for you to believe it, too

Butter My Bread
©1983 Rod MacDonald (Blue Flute Music/ASCAP)

Take the tape off the window, fix the toilet in the hall
Company’s a-comin’, send the roaches back into the wall
And boil up another plate of rice
What I like about you baby is you butter my bread on both sides

Life ain’t cotton candy, you can’t tear it off in hunks
Life ain’t so dandy when you spend it all in the dumps
But you don’t ever make me feel slight
What I like about you baby is you butter my bread on both sides

We’re just getting’ by, I know folks getting’ rich
they get good food, good drugs, and they get so good and sick
Of everybody treatin’ them so high and wide
What I like about you baby is you butter my bread on both sides

So put on the kettle, I’m gonna catch me a fish
We’re gonna sauce him up sideways, serve it like some famous dish
We’re having Poisson au Hudson tonight $32.95
What I like about you baby is you butter my bread on both sides

Something Beautiful
©1983, 2014 Rod MacDonald (Blue Flute Music/ASCAP)

If you ever want to know why I stay when I might go
There’s something beautiful in you
Darlin’ don’t I love you so

If you wonder why I call
When I’ve got nothing much to say at all
Darlin’ don’t I love you so

When you turn and you catch me
Looking at you secretly
I may be blind as blind can be
But there’s something beautiful I see

Do you hear what I say
Or do the words just get in the way
There’s something beautiful in you
Darlin’ don’t I love you so

When you smile, I smile too
There’s nothing else that I could do
It ain’t your clothes or the color of your shoes
It’s that something beautiful in you

On The Road In New York Town
©1983, 2014 Rod MacDonald (Blue Flute Music/ASCAP)

New York town and it’s a quarter past four
Good night show’s over, over, here’s the door
You sung every tune you know and a couple more
Ain’t there someplace left you ain’t been before
You’re on the road in New York Town

You’ve got an apartment, you can call it home
But there’s no one there, you don’t want to be alone
You’re walkin’ around lookin’ for romance
You’re like a telephone that no one answers
On the road in New York Town

You’ve been on the highway and they’re all your friends
They give you rides, meals, highs, money, wave around the bend
Now you’re lookin’ round, standing in a mob
Lining up on Friday for a Wednesday job

Oh Latin lovers I wish I was you
Huddled in the subway makin’ one out of two
Bright lights, splatter, screech, brakes drownin’ out
Old drunk singin’ can you help a fella out
I’m on the road in New York Town

Stripped bicycles, bums, hunger everywhere
You’ve got a bank account but it’s nothing but air
Anyway the vampires are all around the bank’s
All night machine lookin’ for someone to fang
They’re on the road in New York Town

Long black limousine, Catherine Deneuve
You put your hand on the window and a cop says ‘Move’
Bag lady sleepin’ in a store doorway
This time the cop’s got nothing to say
She’s on the road in New York Town

Asshole tourist, struck out with the chicks
Breaks his big beer bottle on the bricks
Drives his big car home after blowin’ all his cash
Says ‘the trouble in New York is there’s too much trash’
He’s on the road in New York Town

What you wouldn’t give for someone to hold
But you had somebody and you turned her cold
There was one in Georgia but this is New York again
Nobody can hold you in the state you’re in
You’re on the road in New York Town

You got a warm bed but that’s inside
And there’s bars on the window and the moon is high
You can go to the square, you can sleep outside
Some guys are already there, but they won’t mind
They’re on the road in New York Town

Oh but you can’t sleep what are you gonna do?
You can go to the river, you can stare at the view
You been going to the river now for 17 nights
It’s the only thing’ll make you feel all right
You’re on the road in New York Town

American Jerusalem
©1983 Rod MacDonald, ©1985 Universal Polygram Int'l (ASCAP)

New York City rain
I don't know if it's making me dirtier or clean
went for the subway but there was no train
and the tunnel was crumbling for repairs again
and the sign said welcome to American Jerusalem

I been around
you could spend forever looking for a friend in this town
and all you get to do is lay your dollar down
till you're stumbling drunk up the stairs again
and the sign says welcome to American Jerusalem

In the temples of American Jerusalem
they buy an ounce of South African gold
they don't care who was bought or sold
or who died to mine it
in the temples of American Jerusalem
they buy an ounce of Marseilles white
somewhere on a street with no light
somebody dies trying it

and somewhere in a crowd
looking the kind of way that makes you turn around
will be somebody who knows what it's about
and she's going to take the ribbons from her hair again
and welcome you to American Jerusalem

In the alleys of American Jerusalem
the homeless lie down at the dawn
the pretty people wonder what they're on
and how they afford it
in the ashes of American Jerusalem
the prophets live their deaths out on the corner
the pretty people say there should've been a warning
but nobody heard it

then shadows lick the sun
the streets  are paved with footsteps on the run
somebody must've got double 'cause I got none
I forgot to collect my share again
so go west to breath the cleansing air again
go Niagara for your honeymoon again
go on the road if you're going to sing your tune again
go to sea to learn to be a man again
till you come on home to American Jerusalem

Dear Grandfather
©1983, 2014 Rod MacDonald (Blue Flute Music/ASCAP)

Dear Grandfather my people are troubled these days
We put so much faith in things
And things aren’t worth the ways you have to pay for them
And Dear Grandfather so much our freedom depends
On how well we’ll pretend we’ll kill more of them
Then they’ll kill of us in the end

And I call to you wishing to serve you well
Is there a way I can heal what keeps us apart
For I am an orphan who’s come home to you in my heart

Dear Grandfather we tax all the land for what it’s worth
Til it has to make money and we build something ugly
An insult to the sky and the earth
And Dear Grandfather our rivers have suffered the worst
And I learned to drink before I learned to think
And still I am dying of thirst

Dear Grandfather I put my faith in a song
Til I’m learning to believe you get what you need
And sometimes you must lay it down
And Dear Grandfather to your silence I have come
For the wisest of men say we’ve spit on your hand
And soon your answer will come

A Sailor's Prayer
©1978, 2014 Rod MacDonald

Though my sails be torn and tattered
and the mast be turned about
let the night wind chill me to my very soul
though the spray might sting my eyes
and the stars no light provide
give me just another morning light to hold

and I will not lie me down this rain a-ragin'
I will not lie me down in such a storm
and if this night be unblessed I shall not take my rest
till I reach another shore

Though the only water left
is but salt to wound my thirst
I will drink the rain that falls so steady down
and though night's blindness be my gift
and there be thieves upon my drift
I will praise this fog that shelters me along

Though my mates by drained and weary
and believe their hopes are lost
there's no need for their bones on that blackened bottom
and though death waits just off the bow
they shall not answer to him now
he shall stand to face the morning without us

What I Wanted
©1983, 2014 Rod MacDonald (Blue Flute Music/ASCAP)

What I wanted to do tonight was to come around
Turn down the front hall light, put my arms around you
Didn’t matter that much to me if we drank or smoked
Or listened to some new records or went for broke

What I wanted to do tonight was to spend my time
With the one who’s been calling me, been on my mind
Didn’t matter that much to me if we talked or kissed
Just being somewhere with you, that’s what I miss

But you say to make it clear what I want from you
I want to be your lover (3x)
It’s true, yes it is it’s true, yes it is it’s true

What I wanted to do tonight was to come around
Maybe look into your eyes, ‘stead of looking down
Didn’t matter that much to me if we didn’t behave
'Scuse me if your company is what I crave

Every Living Thing       
©1983, 2014 Rod MacDonald (Blue Flute Music/ASCAP)

Seems like there ought to be a way
to look each other in the eye
to see we're all in this together
and put all thoughts of victory aside
seems like there ought to be a way to
turn some fear into trust
no matter what you say, there has to be a way
every living thing
is counting on us

Seems like there ought to be way
to separate the freedom from the flag
to see what's real in the illusion
sometimes a beauty walks around in rags
seems like there ought to be agreement
we would rather live in peace than fight
no matter what you say, there has to be a way
every living thing
is on our side

Seems like if there's a god in heaven
we must've been put here to get along
to see that life is for the living
to leave alive the living when we're done
seems like this ship out on the ocean
must fly on the wings of the dove
no matter what you say, there has to be a way
every living thing
is reason enough

From the online zine Folkwax ( Album Review: No Commercial Traffic 
MacDonald is a writer, who, through his lyrics, has consistently felt the pulse, taken the temperature and checked the heartbeat of the American nation [and, for that matter, made a parallel assessment of his own life] for almost thirty years. One issue that has, however, constantly astounded me is - why isn't Rod MacDonald filling stadiums on every tour that he undertakes? In terms of skill, he's easily the peer of any acknowledged writer of engaging melodies and thought provoking lyrics that you'd care to name. No Commercial Traffic, MacDonald's first solo recording was issued circa 1983 on the Cinemagic Pictures label, and it has recently been re-released on CD. I'd refer you once again to those elements of medical diagnosis I mentioned at the outset, and then I'd enquire - how many songs that dealt specifically with the environmental damage inflicted by man on this planet had been recorded by the early eighties? Tom Pacheco's "The Tree Song" is one of the few examples that immediately came to mind. MacDonald is an accomplished seer, and this album opens with "The Unearthly Fire," a song that focuses upon the destruction of the Earth's rainforests. Opening with a Pan Pipes sounding solo, hauntingly performed on a flute by John Kruth, the song is as much an evocation of MacDonald's knowledge of Native American mythology - we can never own the land and are only its custodian during our lifetime, as it is a condemnation of man's abuse of the earth's precious natural resources. MacDonald, as a lyricist, was pursuing green themes years before most of us had any awareness of the crisis that our planet faces. If you seek a musical compartment in which to place MacDonald, then it would be that stylistically he has consistently tipped his cap to the Blues. The slow and gentle love ballad "It's Goin' To Take Some Time," and the up-tempo and amusing "Butter My Bread," respectively the second and third cuts on this collection more than confirm that contention. As for lyrics that focus upon the "not so pretty" commercial underbelly of his homeland [at that time], "American Jerusalem" remains a stinging indictment of society's mores. "In the temples of American Jerusalem they buy an ounce of South African gold, They don't care who was bought or sold, or who died to mine it" and "In the temples of American Jerusalem they buy an ounce of Marseilles white, Somewhere on a street with no light, somebody dies trying it." Later, he delivers the lines "In the alleys of American Jerusalem the homeless lie down at the dawn, The pretty people wonder what they're on, and how they afford it." Twenty years on, precious little has been done to remedy the foregoing scenarios. In truth, No Commercial Traffic is, in part, a band album and Rod's Rock'n'Roll tinged anthem "On The Road (In New York Town)" attests to that. Practically the rhythmical antithesis of the latter cut, the lyric of "A Sailor's Prayer" possesses the feel of a traditionally arranged song, yet it is a MacDonald composed original. This cut is performed acappella [and also in that form, to this day, in concert], Rod is vocally supported on this version by the late Dave Van Ronk, Tom Duval and Lucy Kaplansky. MacDonald's song publishing company is called Blue Flute, a name that sources from Hopi Indian mythology, where Blue Flute is defined as music that possess the spirit to heal. The track "Dear Grandfather" further evokes MacDonald's interest in, and considerable knowledge of, Native American culture. The closing "Every Living Thing" is a prayer that urges all of mankind to live together, in peace. Here's a quote, "To look each other in the eye, to see we're all in this together, and put all thoughts of victory aside." And if only we would.................... If you asked me for a summation of Rod MacDonald, songwriter - I tell you that he is a restless traveller, seeker and communicator of the truth and, an obedient servant of his music. In this life, what more is there? Arthur Wood Album Available from : - Folkwax Rating: 7 Reader Rating: 5 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Bio The Lovin' Sound of Rod MacDonald Rod MacDonald was born on August 17th, 1948 and raised in the town of Southington, Connecticut. His father had Scottish/Irish roots and hailed from Nova Scotia, while Rod's mother is of Polish extraction, having been born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. Following High School, Rod attended the University of Virginia where he majored in History, graduating in 1970. Three years later, he graduated with a Law degree from Columbia Law School in New York. Music had been MacDonald's consuming passion from an early age and Rod decided that his future lay in being a musician, poet and songwriter. During 1970 he was part of the five piece, folk group The Lovin' Sound. In the summer of 1971 he worked as a reporter for the Washington DC bureau of Newsweek, covering the Jimmy Hoffa parole hearings and the Pentagon Papers trial. The following summer he performed as a solo singer at a club in Newport, Rhode Island. After graduating from Columbia, Rod began performing regularly in New York City clubs and cafes. His first major engagement came in late 1973, when he opened for Peter Yarrow at Max's Kansas City. A couple of year's later, John Hammond was on the verge of offering Rod a CBS recording contract. The label's interest in MacDonald waned when Hammond suffered a heart attack and retired from the music business. At the dawn of the eighties Rod appeared on his first recording The Songwriters Exchange, a compilation that featured writers who appeared at the Cornelia Street Café's weekly Songwriters Exchange. The performers on the subsequent twelve-track disc, issued by the jazz imprint Stash, included Cliff Eberhardt, Lucy Kaplansky, David Massengill and Rod. An eighteen-track version of the recording featuring three of Rod's songs was released on CD in 1990. The Exchange was a harbinger of Fast Folk Musical Magazine. The Magazine made its debut in 1982, with Jack Hardy at the helm. Rod occasionally wrote for the publication, and in the ensuing years he contributed sixteen selections to their recordings. Rod's "American Jerusalem" was the opening cut on the first disc of the 2-CD compilation Fast Folk - A Community Of Singers & Songwriters issued by Smithsonian Folkways in early 2002. From 1982 till 1985 Rod was booker at The Speakeasy on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village, a performance venue for Fast Folk writers. MacDonald had begun to study Buddhism and Native American culture while still a student and lived, for a time, with the Sioux Indians in South Dakota. In 1987 MacDonald co-founded and organised the first Greenwich Village Folk Festival. Mindful of what had happened with CBS, MacDonald decided he would be the master of his own destiny, as far as his recording career was concerned. He made his own recordings, leasing the masters to interested labels. His first album No Commercial Traffic, appeared on the Cinemagic label in 1983. The German Autogram label issued a recording titled Album 2: For Sale in 1985, and the following year it appeared as White Buffalo on the McDisk label. A subsequent version of the album was released by Mountain Railroad. Bring On The Lions was issued by the Swiss Brambus label in 1989. Over the years, Brambus have released further MacDonald recordings including an enhanced version of White Buffalo. During the late eighties Rod lived for a time in North Eastern Italy, and it was there that he recorded the cassette only, band album, Simple Things. While resident in Italy he composed "The Way To Calvary," and the song closed Highway To Nowhere Rod's debut album for the Shanachie label. A number of tracks from Bring On The Lions resurfaced on the latter recording. His A Man On The Ledge collection followed a couple years later. For a year during the early-nineties, Rod managed a club in Michigan for an old college friend. The latter experience undoubtedly gave rise to the song "The Last Train To Pontiac" on his Brambus album And Then He Woke Up. In a musical career spanning three decades Rod has performed in clubs and at summer festivals throughout North America, and he has appeared in concert in most European countries. He made two historic trips to Czechoslovakia around the time that the communist regime crumbled, and performed in front of massive audiences. Midway through the nineteen nineties Rod relocated to Florida. The songs on the recording Into The Blue chronicle his life in the sunshine state. While "Deep Down In The Everglades" focuses on the 1996 Valujet plane crash, the listener can sense in songs such as "I Have No Problem With This" that MacDonald has concluded that life in Florida possesses definite advantages over "some little apartment on some city street." MacDonald's next album, Recognition, is scheduled for a late 2002 release. Discography: No Commercial Traffic [1983]; Bring On The Lions [1989]; Simple Things [1989]; White Buffalo [1991]; Highway To Nowhere [1992]; A Man On The Ledge [1994]; And Then He Woke Up [1996]; Into The Blue [1999]. Arthur Wood