Rise Above or Fall Below

by John Ludi



This is an album both of transcendence and my usual social/political/philosophical observations/criticism/bitching. Musically this could best be filed under "Eclectic...REALLY Eclectic"...and it is a work that I am VERY proud of. It is a great leap forward from the prior album (Hell's Laughter and Heaven's Ache) in terms of overall production and deals with many of the same themes in a somewhat more antic and colorful way. Lots of biblical imagery on this album, but it's not due to any belief system of mine...it just kind of came out that way.


released October 5, 2004


John Ludi did everything on this album with the following exceptions:

Greg Kutcher (no relation to Ashton) did the incredible guitar work on The Way.

Ken Shaw added some really nifty accents on a hand drum on Still Comes the Dawn that was tuned down via the miracle of software to about the pitch of a tympani.

Tom Kozup lent the use of his studio (Digital Vision in Wixom, MI) for some vocals that were way too loud to sing in Ludi's apartment (on SUV, Feet of Clay, The Beast of Armageddon) and recorded the vocals for ...or Fall Below. He did the mastering too.

Michael Moore (not the one you're thinking of) engineered/recorded some of my vocals on The Whore of Babylon, Filling the Hole, SUV, The Way, Mediocrity, Home, and Mr. Sad. He also ran some of the tunes through some nifty mastering-type software that made things sound way spiffy.

For a more updated sound, these songs have been run through even MORE mastering gear...just to make them even brighter and shinier and punchier.



all rights reserved


John Ludi La Crosse, Wisconsin

John Ludi is a musician/singer-songwriter with a wide array of influences and lyrical interests who was "Indie" before the term even existed. Working outside of the music industry by choice has given Ludi the ability to release songs of a level of lyrical depth that are anathema to the minds of the "suits". Ludi lives off-grid in a yurt in the woods of WI and will "fight the power" til he dies. ... more

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Track Name: The Whore of Babylon
The Whore of Babylon

Hello...do you remember me?
I was your conscience before the fall.
Here before the beginning,
before all this living buried it all.

Sold your soul to illusions,
the blinding desires of fortune and fame.
Forgot all your true passions,
the visions that led you before you became

the Whore of Babylon.

Control and the will to power
claimed you like an addict, a moth to a flame.
Trapped by the chains of consumption,
the machine of commerce, that gave you this name:

the Whore of Babylon.
Track Name: Web

Here we are watching everything unravel,
all the wonders of life now fade before our eyes.
Nature’s certainties now frail and sick and weary,
all her unities now falter fail and die

Grasping hands rend the web of things connected
our feeding frenzy and our thirst for more and more
The deserts we produce host the tombs of our grandchildren
who will reap the bounty of the warnings we ignored.

Implosion and erosion
Contortion and corrosion.

Debate and disavow and justify inaction
as the storm gathers above our busy heads.
Pretend the clouds are not looming on the horizon
shut out the visions and the fleeting face of dread.
Track Name: Filling the Hole
Filling the Hole

Playing the part, chasing so hard, climbing so far
and sending all your ego's armies
marching off to nowhere.

Sensing no fall, wanting it all, heeding the call
of this sirens sad and sorry wailing
calling out to land you
upon her rocks false promise,
her barren land of plenty.

That shining ring, these worldly things...
you're bartering your life.

Filling the hole, feigning control, pawning your soul
to be with all the moneyed people
living out their daydreams
in television splendor
in full suburban languor.

All you can get without regret,
as you forfeit your life.

Now you're some spoiled spent thing
lying in the ashes
poisoned by the nectar
of all your earthly passions.

The darkest sleep...as angels weep
you'll fight to keep your life.
And as you pass and breathe your last
might you just grasp the true meaning of life?
Track Name: Rise Above
Rise Above

Poor soul without a place to call home
plagued by the nagging echoes of the past you've disowned.
Poor soul all alone in the cold
with a drug-addled vision of the future you've sold.

Be in the world but not of the world.

Poor soul working day after day
with all of your worries and those debts to pay.
Poor soul, lines on your face and your hands
reflect the endless procession of mundane demands.

Be in the world but not of the world.

Rise above or fall below...

Poor soul with all your money and power
with your meager view of the world you devour.
Poor soul with all your status and fame,
with the hidden hurts of an ego inflamed.

Be in the world but not of the world.

Rise above or fall below...
Track Name: SUV

It’s all going to go away
so use up all you can today
Hoard all the manna of progress you find,
suck it all down ‘til it makes you go blind

You were drinking your ambrosia and feeding on the fat
as the dinner bell of plenty started ringing flat.
You were basking in the sweetness of luxury and leisure,
wading in the excrement of unconscionable pleasure

Buy a thing, another thing, and then some things to house them,
eat the leaves and gnaw the roots and suck the juicy stems.
Frivolous and carefree, living second to second…
(the skeletal hand of the future now beckons).

Spend your way to nowhere with debts you’ll never manage
Soulless and rapacious and mindless of the damage
Driving towards the better life (always one purchase farther)
down a road paved with all the lives our countries bartered

Driving by in my SUV.

The worlds is a playground for your appetites,
as long as it feels good it must be right.
And little dark people are working so hard
so you can max out your fat credit card.

You have hungers and desires the past could not imagine
and you don’t see how your consumption fans the fires of famine.
Images flicker on the screen that speak of desperation
caused by the sick desires of a fat decadent nation.

Watch them die on my big TV.
Track Name: The Way
The Way

I'm here in every branch and fiber,
in every stone trod underfoot,
forgotten dust in every corner,
in every leaf, in every root.

I'm here through any tempest or conflict,
through every writers aching pen,
through any flaw, lack, or defect,
the love and loss of any friend.

I am the way, I am the light, come to me.

If love, luck, and fortune neglect you
and none of life's wounds ever mend,
I'm here, I will never forget you,
at the start or at the end.
Track Name: Still Comes the Dawn
Still Comes the Dawn

Time is not on your side
and still so much further to ride
to a place that for now you call home;
your temporary shelter from the unknown

(For what, for whom) driving blind through the gloom.
The night stretches on, yet still comes the dawn.

All the people you've know
in their own ways have grown
while you look in vain for your place,
some elusive comfort, some friendly face.

Old friends now gone (one backwards glance on),
now travel beyond...and still comes the dawn.

Days pass by in a rush,
you feel numb and strangely untouched.
Sometimes you want to run away
to some far off anonymous place.

Abandon your name and stake a new claim...
yet you carry on and still comes the dawn.
Track Name: Mediocrity

I awoke and realized that all my purposes are vain
and every path that I choose leads to another set of chains.
My will to transcend the world leads to more worldly pain,
as seemingly the worlds intent is to drive me insane.

I deserve a break...

My same old strident ego keeps on making its demands
while my juvenile emotions keep me from being a man.
Any solid ground where I tread just dissolves into sand
and everything just falls apart no matter how I plan.

I deserve a break...from me!


Someone's getting in my way, a malevolence I can't see
who drags me into situations of grief and misery.
He sets me up for failure and observes my fall with glee
(yet in my quiet moments I know that malevolence is just me).

This empty life, this hallow curse,
every tear, every fear, I get worse and worse.
All failed glories I have stalked,
every stumbling mile I walk,
every well-meant plan that fails,
all potential freedoms jailed...

it's not my fault!

(it's ALL my fault!)

Blame me?

Blame me!
Track Name: Feet of Clay
Feet of Clay

You've got a look that says that you're looking for something,
you've got a walk that says that you're easily led.

Come into my parlor, come in seeking refuge,
got something to tell you.
Come in, be at comfort. Come in fit for sleeping
(good news to sell you).

I think that you would make a fine addition to my collection
of wandering souls and those who somehow lost their way.

Lay you down your burdens,
lay in soothing waters of peace and plenty.
Lay down all your worries, lay down all your anger,
make your mind empty.

I come walking towards you bearing gifts on my feet of clay.
My wisdom enfolds you and my loving hand points the way.

I am your pope, I am your guru, I am your savior.
I am the source of all the answers that you lack.

I'll be your salvation, I'll end all your questions...
your journey's ended.

I'm your destination. I'm your new addiction
(you're undefended).

I come walking towards you, saccharine words and my feet of clay.
I'm just a humble shepherd for wandering souls who've gone astray.
I come slinking towards you, sulfur breath and my feet of clay,
you're transfixed, enraptured, your soul is mine...you can't get away.

You bleed, I feed, my need is to own you
title and deed. Bound to my will and creed.

My claim, I aim to tame you till you're
a pliable thing...so you can kiss my ring.

I'll still your will, I'll kill it with
my bluster and power. I'll make you fumble and cower.

You ache, I take, I'll break you
down to your basic parts...dine on your heavy heart.
Track Name: Home

So you are tired, so you are weary, so you are haunted,
and there is little left that serves to keep you here.
Run out of words, run out of fire, run out of wonder,
and the world's a hollow place that feeds you guilt and fear.

(Time and distance.)

All that you've tried, all that you've sought, and all you've forsaken,
and all the dreams you've lost with your forgotten goals.
This heavy weight, this empty plate, this aching yearning,
and all the comforts you seek just tax your sleeping soul.

You are never alone, you are never alone.
No matter how far you roam you will always have a home.

Tired of wanting, tired of needing, tired of constant craving,
and there's a hole in you that never will be filled.
The secret wound, the waiting tomb, the sense of endless folly
that pulls you further down and saps your fleeting will.
Track Name: Mr. Sad
Mr. Sad

I don't want this damn job anymore.
I get so very tired of it all.
It always seems that I arrive dimming hopes,
then always leave some bloodied soul against the ropes.

I wish I had something to make you happy...
all the news I bring is bad.

Sincerity becomes a joke now and then
when honest words do not produce what you intend,
but cast a pall over the best and brightest times...
poison the ground with bitter seeds and twisted rhymes.

Maybe it's a good thing that no one's really listening,
and those few gathered sing "he's mad"!

Make me a deal, make me unreal, make me disappear,
and I won't drag you down with my words anymore.

To wage a war against yourself is to lose.
Identity is not something you can choose.
My arrival brings but grief, angst, and pain...
and in my wake, after the flood, come the rain.

And I do celebrate my lack of credibility
and all failed prophecies I've had.
Track Name: The Beast of Armageddon
The Beast of Armageddon

There's a hole in the world that's filling up with dark.
There's a hole in our hearts where the world has left its mark.
There's a void in the mind of the man with the gun,
there's a coldness in the place where his soul has come undone.

There's a bomb-wielding maniac bred on rage and hate
making plans and praising god and hiding at the gate.
There's a white collar criminal who will lie and cheat and bribe
to sell the filth of progress, brand new poisons to imbibe.

There's a hole in the world that's filling up with dark.
There's a hole in our hearts where the world has left its mark.
There's a bible-thumping simpleton polishing his guns
waiting for a Jesus who will never ever come.

There's a legion of robotic youths dancing to the beat
of depravity and illness and a future in retreat.
There's a nation full of empty souls existing to consume
every toy and trinket and ticket to their doom.

Enter the Beast! All hail the Beast!

There's a hole in the world that's filling up with dark.
There's a hole in our hearts where the world has left its mark.
There's a oil-soaked president with blood staining his hands,
knowing that a hungry world will increase it's demands.

There's a rising sense of panic under the commercial glaze
that gnaws at your assumptions of brighter future days.
There's the sinking feeling you will get as find you've been betrayed,
it's the outrage of the hopeless who know that they have all been played.
Track Name: or Fall Below
...or Fall Below

And so you move beyond your time,
beyond this world, the mortal line.
And visions come to add the sum
of all you've done...all you've become.
All your mistakes, all your heartaches,
what pain you've caused, your moral flaws.

To rise above or fall below.
To grasp the world or let it go.
The visions pass, your first and last,
all in between, your every scene.
What joy you've brought, wisdom you've sought,
your clarity and charity.