If enthusiasm is amateurish I must be a seasoned professional. The effort required to make a CD of new versions of my old songs has felt like a burden over the past 12 months. However, the results of the 2 most recent recording sessions have rekindled the flame, even though I’ve employed a Mad Method in this project.
On April 16, 17th and 18th I went round to Michael Rosenthal’s place to record some drums. Over the years I’ve become used to waiting around for half a day while a sound engineer more skilled than I sets up the drum sound. This time I was able to borrow enough mics and stands to get a separate signal from each part of the kit and Rosie did most of the engineering and all the playing in a much shorter space of time than I had expected. It was a magnificent effort.
It was really in the aftermath of the drum sessions that I started to curse my decision to record each part individually. I was too much of a perfectionist in the early stages of the project, trying to get my parts exactly right before the rhythm section was added. Then, once the bass and drums were there and I found that little sections of my stuff were out of time, I couldn’t summon up the energy to redo them and tried to fix things digitally, which is just about possible but no labour of love.
On a different but related topic, I’ve heard it said that many singer-songwriters are indistinguishable. Listeners get tired of hearing the same old chord sequences, the well-worn themes and the usual influences. So if I’m able to produce something different from the normal singer-songwriter fare I get excited about it. There was an instrumental I wrote called ‘August of 99’ which, many years after its composition, was played at my dad’s funeral as it seemed to capture his spirit. Then there was a track called ‘The Acupuncturist’, on which I asked piano vocalist Kevin James to sing part of the lead vocal and for which I had not written chords when it was recorded (in Leeds, UK). The song is pretty free form and later became a popular live number for Ben and Gary’s Ice Cream Band, precisely because it was free form (in Toronto, Canada).
Now, thanks to the excellent work of a phenomenal sax player I’ve met, there is an instrumental version of a song I wrote in 1995 called ‘Acoustic Blanket’. I asked David French to come round and play some tenor and alto parts to 3 songs. Then I thought, why not add another song, just for my own enjoyment and not necessarily to be included on the CD? I call it