Thursday, May 03, 2018

Ten Years After

I suppose you could consider this a continuation of the piece I wrote on Alvin Lee.  It comes from how my latest music binge has evolved.  Do you remember a little while go, when I wrote a piece about the album, Triumvirate?  Well, that got me digging around my collection for anything with Michael Bloomfield on it.  After that, I went kind of sideways, into British blues, and checked out what I have from Savoy Brown.  (Street Corner Talking and Hellbound Train have held up well, Looking In has not.)

At this point it was decision time.  I thought about going through early Fleetwood Mac, which I will still do at some point.  But instead, I headed for Ten Years After, seeing that I never really paid any attention to their early stuff.  Whenever I went there, I would start with Cricklewood Green and follow the thread to the end.  This time, I went back to the beginning.

Listening to their first three albums with new ears, I came away surprised.  I'd always considered TYA to be Alvin Lee and his backup band.  He wrote the vast majority of their original material, played lead guitar, and sang.

On these early albums, dating from 1967 and 1968, the band really showed its stuff.  Leo Lyons (b.) Chick Churchill (k.) and Ric Lee (d.) turn out to be excellent musicians, easily on AL's level.  They helped to found a sub-genre that would come to be known in the 70's as Boogie.  Their followers would include Foghat (coming from the aforementioned Savoy Brown), Lynyrd Skynyrd, and many others.  Now, they would be considered a jam band.

Their Wikipedia page calls them blues-rock and hard rock, and although I can understand why, I get the feeling that this evaluation was given by someone who doesn't really know them very well. 

For one thing, they were heavily influenced by jazz, and could play it with authority.  And yet, they do not fit in with what would later be known as jazz-rock fusion.  Fusion, like Mahavishnu, Jeff Beck, Brand X and so on, was largely instrumental rock with lots of harmonic influence from jazz.  What TYA did was a lot closer to hard be-bop.  It swung!  Check out their take on Woody Herman's Woodchopper's Ball.

This is not the version from Undead, but AL's band in 1983.  I like actually seeing them play it.  But TYA's version is just as hot, and about twice as long.  (Actually, the caption says it is TYA, and that could easily be Lyons on the bass.)

And, yes, they did the occasional blues tune, but it's widely known that AL was a huge fan of Elvis Presley.  In fact, the name Ten Years After refers to the fact that they took that name in 1966, a certain amount of time after Elvis' big breakthrough in 1956.  And, yes, AL plays a lot of pentatonic scales, but I think his style owes a lot more to Scotty Moore, James Burton, and Carl Perkins than it does to Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, or the Kings.  Alvin Lee is the love child of Moore and Johnny Smith, on acid.

It's also quite unusual for a band's second album to be a live one.  Normally, a live album is kind of a Best-Of from earlier releases.  Undead repeats almost nothing from their eponymous debut.

It's also fun to follow the evolution of what became their signature live song, I'm Going Home.  Undead's version is quite a bit different from the Woodstock version, which is again different from the version on Captured Live.  There's also a version of it on the live album released a few years ago from shows they did at the Fillmore in 1968 that fits between Undead and Woodstock.  And, go on YouTube and there's versions AL did with his own band in the 80's and 90's.

The next stage of their development involved getting out from under the shadow of rockabilly and be-bop, and finding their own voice.  Shhhh was released in August 1969, the same month they took the stage at Woodstock.  When the movie came out, they immediately became one of the hottest bands in the world.  Love Like A Man from Cricklewood Green got radio airplay, and they were clearly stretching out artistically.

Bad Scene from Shhhh set the stage, being quite the departure from what TYA fans had been used to.  And yet, it's surprisingly familiar, being kind of a mash-up of all they styles they did on their first three albums.

You dig into that, and things like 50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain from Cricklewood, it was quite stunning.

The next stage began when they left their long-time record label, Deram, and signed with Columbia.  Sometimes, you can look at one album and see the clear peak of a band's creative muse.  With Ten Years After, that peak was A Space In Time.  Yeah, I'm sure you disagree, tough.  It's my blog, and I'm sticking with it.  ASIT was, and is, the greatest album they ever did.

And the sad part about reaching your peak is; it's all downhill from there.  But like any great band, that's not altogether bad.  Just as the first albums were rough and raw, they were still great and hold up well over time.

It's been said many times that Alvin Lee never really liked fame.  He said so at the time, as Woodstock and I'd Love To Change The World from A Space In Time were getting them known everywhere.  He always claimed to prefer playing the small rooms and having the connection with the audience that they never could achieve in the huge auditoriums.  We could start a big, long argument debating which live album was better; Undead or Recorded Live.

Myself, I feel that their fame worked to their advantage in the long run.  It gave them the ability to fill a room just by posting their name.  Alvin Lee made his living for the next 30 years just by being Alvin Lee.  Even so, listening to Positive Vibrations today, you can see the cracks.  They were running out of gas.  I've always liked this album, and still do, but now it feels like outtakes from ASIT and R&R Music To The World.

There's even a coda to the TYA story:

The original band got back together in 1988, did some shows, and recorded About Time, which was released in 1989.  The reviews were lousy, but I like the album.  It certainly shows that Alvin Lee kept busy and evolved considerably in the 15 years since Positive Vibrations.  And the other three were just as good and tight as ever.

That would prove to be the last time TYA went into the studio with Alvin Lee.  But it would NOT be the end of the band.  In the early 2000's they got Joe Gooch to sing and play guitar, and the newly revised band recorded Now.  It's . . . good . . . in that, it's well done, Gooch can really play, sings well, the songs are . . . good . . . but . . .

Let's face it, the guy could probably approximate AL's vocals and leads on stage.  Other than that, the album really did nothing for me.  And, I haven't heard A Sting In The Tale yet, which features yet another guitarist/singer.  Gooch, along with bassist Leo Lyons, left TYA to form their own band, so there's a new bass player as well.  According to their website, they're still out there, playing mostly in Europe.

So, there's the history of a sorely under-appreciated band, and my take on them.  Dig out that old stuff, get on YouTube, and let me know what you think.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Everybody Knows

Everybody knows, right?

I am writing this on the premise that, in spite of all our political differences, the average person understands that the government doesn't give a royal shit about us.  By "government," I mean the Presidents, Kings, Premiers, Ministers of Defense, Members of Congress and Parliment and the Diet and the Kremlin and so forth and so on.  These people are in this as if it were a high-stakes game.  They are working for their own advantage, and the advantage of their party, which inevitably is for their own advantage.  We elect them, and participate in their ascension, hoping they will work on our behalf, but they never do.  At best, we get the scraps.

The dealings that governments have with each other is, again, for their own advantage.  You ally yourself with somebody that has something you want, whatever that might be.  France and England were bitter enemies, until Germany became a threat to them both.  Now, Germany is a friend of both, because the USSR was a threat.  Russia can be a friend if it becomes to everybody's advantage.  And to "everybody," I mean to the governments.

If you've ever seen the 1960 epic "Quo Vadis," you might remember the performance that Peter Ustinoff gave as Nero.  Talk about chewing on the scenery!  Anyway, there was a scene where they were discussing what to do about the problem of a dusty, dirty, filthy city of Rome.  Nero's vision was to build a beautiful, new city.  Problem was, the old one was still occupied.  I don't remember the exact line, but an adviser said something about the necessity of populace; that a ruler needed someone to rule.

We are nothing but a problem to these people.  We don't actually exist, unless their car needs gas, or their lawn need mowing, or somebody has to babysit their kids.  We are game pieces, best understood as demographic groups instead of human beings.  Human beings could be their equals, and that's ridiculous.

Yes, we all understand this.  It explains why we are so cynical.  It explains why we repeat talking points we hear in the media, as if they were deep truths.  Liberals honestly care about people; No, wait, they hate their own country.  It's the Conservatives that care about the working man; That is, when they're not helping their fat, rich, white buddies line their pockets.

Yeah, we know, they're actually using us.  They have to convince a sizeable number of us to vote their way, because we know that if we do the nation will lean in a general direction that we can tolerate.  We're all suckers, but we know it, and we go along because somebody has to be President and populate Congress and print our drivers licenses and Social Security checks.  And the choices, sadly, are limited.

Some of us get so damned sick of it that we run for office ourselves.  Selectman, or City Council, or Alderman, depending on the size of the community we live in.  Maybe we go in, do some good things, and attract the attention of the Democrats or Republicans.  They suggest you run for something bigger.  Or maybe you just decide to do so yourself.

The point is, the further up the ladder you get, the more compromise you are subject to.  Scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours.  And if you don't, you can't do anything you want.  If you play along, they own you.  And if you don't, you're stuck.  Anyone with actual compassion finds themselves selling off little bits of what they care about until the machine just grinds it all up.  The end.

But what if someone with actual compassion got into a very, very high position?  Someone who looks out their limousine window and honestly cares about the people he's driving past?  And I don't mean a Bill Clinton cynical 'I feel your pain' kind of faux compassion, but who actually cares.  Who sees the world as clearly as any of us, and is sick of the assholes always winning?

What would such a person think of the current situation in the Middle East?  It's such a mess, and everybody with power over it has been hopping in and out of bed with everybody else for centuries.  The people that really care about something seem to care more about their religious ideology than any people, including themselves.  Everybody else seems to be more concerned with who controls the oil.

Just imagine, if you can, that somewhere there was somebody that watched all this never ending war, chemical attacks, continual oppression, and was sick of it. Somebody that felt the people living there should have a better chance of a decent life.

If I were a person like this, I think I would see three basic paths to follow.

One would be, get out, get lost, hands off.  Let everybody else worry about it.  We have oil, and tech, and we don't really need anything that they have there.  Let the Shi'ites and Sunnis kill each other.  Let Russia control the area.  Let Turkey stomp the Kurds into the dust, and Europe make deals with whoever they want, at whatever price, and to hell with everyone there.

Two problems with that.  For one, the people of the Middle East are suffering.  Ah, but they've always suffered.  And our love for oil has helped fund the oppression.  Saudi Arabia is always high on the list of oppressive regimes, right up there with North Korea.  It seems like everyone in power there hates everyone they're in power over, even the ones on their side.

For another, we have already seen what happens when those areas of the world are left devoid of our influence.  So, what do we do if (if?) they eventually come after us?  Oh, but they'd never do that.

We will now take a ten-second break while nobody remembers 9-11.

Second path:  Total involvement.  People keep telling me that "those people" wouldn't like democracy, wouldn't appreciate it, couldn't even understand it.  That's like saying that if I had a billion dollars, I wouldn't be happy.  Thank you for your concern, but I'd like a chance to find that out for myself, if you don't mind.

History tells us that democracy has worked every time it's been tried.  Does anyone remember the happy faces of Iraqis holding up their blue fingers?  And yes, corruption is almost inevitable, but even corrupt democracies - like ours! - are pretty damned decent places to live.

So we could go in, dare Russia to cross the line in the sand, kick out the criminals and despots and build some nations!  In spite of what Pres. Trump says, by 2008 Iraq was headed in a pretty good direction.  Compared to their recent past, and anything their neighbors had experienced.  I STILL say that THIS more than anything was the cause of the Arab Spring.  Small people all over the Middle East looking through the fence and thinking, "I'd like some of that."

There is also the invisible elephant in the room; Israel.  Maybe you hadn't heard . . . but they are God's chosen people.  Scoff if you will, but I didn't pick them.  No, they're not perfect.  They're not even nice.  News flash; they never were.  Read about it in the Bible, which they wrote, and even then it didn't ger covered up.  Again, I didn't choose them.  And if you want to stand up to the dude that did, then let me get out of your way.

One thing I would point out; Will Durant wrote an epic set of books called the History of Civilization, aided later in his life by his wife, Ariel.  It discusses every significant civilization that left any historical or archaeological record.  I've never read it, but I do know a couple people who have gone through all 11 volumes, and they say it covers every empire, every nation of every significance . . .

. . . except Israel.  The reason for this is, Israel's history doesn't fit into any model that any other nation has ever experienced.  Like, it was different, for some reason.  So, they simply left it out.

There is a difference between problem solving and management.  Let's say, you own a restaurant.  You walk in, and there's a dining room full of hungry and thirsty people, a fully equipped and stocked kitchen, and an empty cash register.  You get to work, and soon you have satisfied people, a dirty, empty kitchen, and a full cash register.  Have you solved a problem?

Well . . . yes, and no.  You've solved the immediate problem, but you still have to pay the mortgage on the building, restock the fridges, clean up, and hope your dining room fills up again tomorrow.  So, you solve each of those new problems, rinse, and repeat.

That's called, management.  Which brings us to the third option; managing the situation.  As that situation now stands, the Europeans have relative security as to their oil supply, the Russians have increasing control over their biggest competition in this same area, and the despots on the ground have plenty of support in their intermural pissing contests.  Saudi Arabia and Iran are each held in relative check by their chief backers, us and Russia, and the others line up behind them on sectarian lines.  The pieces in play are struggled over.  And everybody hates God's chosen people, except us, maybe, depending.

The whole situation can be seen as a big problem, solved by either quitting altogether, or taking control altogether.  Or, it can be seen as a management situation, in which one would exert power and spend capital for and against all the players mentioned above.

But what about the people that live there?  The people that run the oil wells, and load the ships, and so on and so forth?  Who's on their side?  Careful examination would indicate that they have problems, too.  And don't bother Daddy, he's got more important things to do.

In my fevered imagination, I wonder what would happen if the President went to Putin and announced his intention to see things change significantly in the Middle East; Syria, in particular, at this time.  Putin would probably look back, wondering what move in the game this was.  Why would you want that, he might ask?

Because it's the right thing to do.

This answer would cause confusion.  Putin, of course, would completely reject that as a possibility.  What other game is being played here?  What position on the board is this a move toward?  Right for whom?

A commentator on NPR mentioned the other day that the current Middle East resembles Europe in 1914.  I can see his point.  Some little person could easily do some stupid thing that could cause the whole thing to explode, and World War 3 would begin.  All the world's major players, save China, have a lot invested in that region.  And, I know, you reading this probably are aware of China's involvement more than I am.  It's a dangerous place to play with fire.  The whole place could light up, and take us all with it.

So let me ask you this; if there was actually a world leader who decided to act on behalf of the little guy, what would it look like?  What would they do about things like gas attacks on innocents?  And in the mighty words of Woody Guthrie, which side would you be on?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Peter Pan's Lemonade Stand

At its core, this song is about marketing strategy.

A few years ago my wife, Lynn, and I were talking about my 'music career,' such as it was.  The phrase popped into my head as the perfect explanation for how I like doing things.  'Peter Pan' refers to the fact that I'll never grow up.  And a lemonade stand is a business where it's not important to make any money.  It's more about hanging out on a sunny day and sharing with the neighborhood.  I own the lemons, the sugar, the water, the cups, etc. 

This was one of those songs that, as soon as I wrote it . . . I hated it.  But I liked what it said.  The original groove was more of a cut-time 2/4 thing.  I piddled around with a little, played it for Jonathan and a couple other people, got good feedback, but still didn't like it.  And then, I played it for Rocko.  He put a whole new spin on it, and now it's a favorite of mine.

This might be one of those one-take songs, two at the most.  Including the guitar solo.  Jonathan does a really nice little harmony on the chorus, but he wasn't there when I went in to re-do the vocal, so I did that one myself.  Sorry, Jon.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Heartbeats, pg. 2

I got so involved with telling how the song got written, I forgot to mention how it got to be recorded.

The original plan for our album was to record it ourselves. That would save a lot of money. Then, Rocco gave me a copy of Stovepipe Mountain's CD. One listen was all it took to convince me that you get what you pay for.

I made arrangements to visit the place where it was recorded, and meet the man responsible. Wes Chapmon owns and operates Studio Bohemo in Bath, NH. I hope I'm getting this story right; he used to co-own a commercial studio in Texas and wanted to open a little one of his own. His wife happens to be from New Hampshire, so they found a place and set up shop.

We hit it off immediately, and I was very impressed with the facility. He even offered to cut us a break on the price, and we set a date for the first session. Jonathan, Rocco and I got there about 9 am on a Saturday, set up, and started. The plan was to do basic tracks for as many songs as we had time for, and build the finished product from there.

By the middle of the afternoon, we were pulling out songs that the three of us had never even played together. Every song on the CD was begun that day, and most of the bass and drum parts are from that first session. A lot of the rhythm guitar, and even some of the leads and lead vocals all happened in that one day. I don't think we needed more than 3 takes of anything, and some we nailed in 1. It was quite exciting.

This song in particular is an example of the magic that Wes worked from that point on. The rhythm guitar parts were done with a Fender Strat, through my Deluxe Reverb. I went back in to add leads with a Les Paul and one of his Fender Princetons. I also re-did the vocals.

At that point, Wes took over. We did the original guitar parts dry except for a little reverb, so he added some effects. He also pulled the rhythm guitar completely out of the first half of all the verses, which I thought sounded great, so we do it that way live now. He also put a little synthy-thing in that same spot, which gave it a nice little edge.

I have made it a point to not ever ask Wes what he thought of the music, whether or not he liked it. Jon and Rocco, yes. It was important for me to know what they thought of what we were doing, because it was as much theirs as mine. If I find I've brought them a song that either of them don't like, it's gone. Wes, on the other hand, is essentially a sub-contractor we hired to perform a service on our behalf.

The mark of his professionalism is that he tackled the whole project with a passion, working hard to make every note as good as it could be. I would like to think he would put that much into any project he worked on, even if he didn't particularly like the music. Whatever his opinion was of what we brought him, he truly became the 4th member of the band.

So anyway, thanks, Wes, for a job very well done.  I'm honestly amazed at how good the finished product came out.  It sounds better than I could have expected, and much, much better than what we'd have done on our own.

Studio Bohemo has a very good web site, and they sell gear on the side.  I've got my eye on one of those D'Angelico archtops.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

In Between the Heartbeats

The genesis of this song was a chance meeting with a gentleman who had once been a member of an outlaw biker gang.  As he explained, there are only two ways out of such gangs.  One is, to die.  The other is, as happened to him, "getting religion."  He became a born-again Christian, and promptly told the leadership of his gang that he could no longer participate.

Now, anyone else who said such a thing, announcing that they would no longer be a part of the gang and its activites, would find leaving very difficult.  In his case, he was shown the door.  It seems that, while not understanding the impulse to surrender oneself to ones creator, it is traditional to at least show said creator a certain level of respect.  In a nutshell, if that guy is now the property of God, and he's willing to risk his life to tell you so ... well, that's an owner they don't want as an enemy.

Being the inquisitive type, I asked about life in the biker gangs.  The gentleman told me about the breadth of influence these gangs hold over large segments of society.

"My God!" I said.  "You should write a book!  Expose them."

He just laughed.  It seems the books have already been written.  I'd even read a couple of them.  And, the gangs go on as if nobody knew a thing.  So, I asked him if he felt a responsibility to do anything about them.

Turns out, he does.  He goes back.  Not to join in on their crimes, or get hammered at their parties.  He goes to be available.  He does whatever he can to be allowed to hang around; cleans their bikes, get someone that's passed out to safety, treat injuries; he's cleaned up messes when somebody throws up, gives "guests" rides home, whatever he can.

If you've ever been to the Bike Week festivities at Weirs Beach, you've surely seen tables occupied by different chapters of some bike "clubs."  Members of the chapters sit out in the hot sun and promote the clubs more beneficent works.  This guy will bring them bottles of water, no charge.

His whole purpose for hanging around a group of people whose activities he has disavowed is; every now and then, somebody else gets the idea that they'd like to leave.  They'd like to put that life, and the things they've been doing, behind them and move on.  But so far as they know, there's only one way to do that.  He hangs around, to show them that there's another alternative.  Not that they have to respond as he is doing, but just so they can get out.

I have thought a lot about that conversation over the years since.  I've come to realize that this situation is not restricted to biker gangs.  We are surrounded by groups of people who have a unified identity and a singular vision.  A lot, if not most, (if not all) of these groups may present a public face that is benign, to show that their motives are pure and good and righteous.

The reality is that they exist only for their own benefit.  They are willing to go to varying degrees of effort to advance their agenda.  Often, a few at the top of the pecking order run things and the deception dribbles down through the ranks, until the operatives in the street believe the lies themselves.  If they challenge the holes in the logic they promote, they are silenced.  They may be directed into activities that keep them busy, or driven out, or even promoted.  It's a way of dealing with people who say things like; "If A is B, and B is C, isn't C really A?"

A lot of times, a person who has invested their efforts, time and treasure into something comes to a crisis point.  They wonder, what the hell am I doing this for?  I work and work, and we all do, and it all seems to be going nowhere.  Maybe they've even gotten a peek inside, and come to the realization that the people they've been following are not what they were thought to be.  Maybe what they're part of was founded on a lie.  Or maybe it was founded on a good idea, but that idea has become lost over time and succumbed to selfishness.  The thing they believed in has become a means of acquiring power that is now being misused.

The world, life, is a living thing.  It moves in a rhythm.  All things are like music, moving together from one moment to the next, the rhythms bouncing off each other, the notes struggling to harmonize.  Our brains are wired to try and make sense of it all, to catch the melody line, to move in harmony and rhythm with it.

We know that we cannot hold all of this within our minds, hear it all, dance to it all, so we try and hold onto the parts of it that make the most sense to us and hope that we are a "good" part of the music.  Or, it's all so confusing we decide we just don't care, and sing our own song.

And every now and then, in the little spaces between the notes and the beats, we get little glimpses of something.  In between the protons and electrons and neutrons of every atom, there are vast reaches of space, unoccupied areas that dwarf the physical particles that orbit one another.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


So I put this in for the umpteenth time, and went looking for anything that anyone was saying about it ... and found, basically, nothing.

Lynn found a recipe once for a snack that combined rice (or corn) chex, non-dairy powdered creamer, and Nesquik.  There may have been something else, but that was just about it.  It came out kind of gray, and didn't actually look all that appetizing.  So, I tried one.  Not ... bad ... and that was pretty much the standard reaction.  But pretty soon, you had another.  And before you knew it, the bowl was empty and you were wondering if she could make some more.

That's what this album is like.

Back in the day, when vinyl records roamed the earth, I knew a number of people who had interesting record collections.  I would go to their house/apartment/whatever, often with a friend; we would roll a couple of doobies and hang out for a while.  There was often a long wooden crate filled with albums in random order.  The usual thing was for the most recently played ones to get put in the front.  So, I would go to the back.

This is how I got turned onto a lot of great music; Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, Uriah Heep, Super Session, early Fleetwood Mac, lots of different stuff.  This album showed up in a few collections, and I got to hear it a few times.

Mike Bloomfield first came to the public's attention as lead guitarist for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, one of the first white blues groups.  Actually, of the 6 members, only 3 of them were white, but that was white enough for the early 1960's.

John P. Hammond was a blues musician, and the son of record producer John Hammond, who discovered and produced such performers as Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Bruce Springsteen, Benny Goodman, and many others. 

Dr. John (Mac Rebbenack) was a pianist/singer/songwriter from New Orleans, best known for his one chart hit, Right Place Wrong Time.

All three were signed to the CBS family of record labels in the early 1970's.  As was the practice of the time, the company would sometimes take artists that weren't doing much and put them together for one-off projects.  This was one such project.  On paper, I suppose it looked like a no-brainer; three guys who all played blues.

The liner notes are surprisingly brutal in their reporting of the situation.  Usually, liner notes gush glowingly about how brilliant an idea the collaboration was, etc. As it turned out, the first recording session produced the whole sum of nothing.  There was just no apparent chemistry between the three, and they noodled around for a couple days until Dr. John just got sick of it and left.

At this point, the story becomes a little vague.  Did he get a vision, and call them all back?  Or did CBS just apply pressure, reminding him that he was under contract and that he'd better do something.  At any rate, his assessment was that the project lacked focus.  So, more studio time was booked, and Dr. John returned with a fistful of songs and his road band.

What this means is that the album became a Dr. John album with John Hammond on vocals and Bloomfield on lead guitar.  On the whole, you could do a whole lot worse.

I hadn't heard this album in at least 30 years when I found it on CD at Pitchfork Records in Concord.  I was in the middle of a blues blitz, and couldn't resist.  Playing it on the way home, I wondered what it was that I liked about it.  Lyrically, it's not the most profound, and the music could best be described as loose.  

But, like the aforementioned snack, I found it growing on me.  Pretty soon, I got thinking about it, and grabbed it again.  I've done that several more times, and the more I listen to it, the more I like it.  John Hammond is not one of my favorite vocalists, but he's not too bad, and he's quite the good harmonica player.  Mike Bloomfield is brilliant, as ever.  And it's hard to resist that blues/New Orleans/swamp groove that Dr. John and his band lay down.

So, I would recommend you pick up this album, or at least find it on YouTube or some streaming service and give it a listen.  But be warned; you won't be impressed at first, and yet it will suck you in.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

They'll Never Shut Us Up

Somebody suggested that the only thing missing from the new CD is liner notes.  So, with that in mind ...

The Rick Clogston Band is the alter ego of the Red Hat Band.  Both names come from a complete lack of ability to think up a name for either version. 

I have a red fedora, the third in a line begun when Lynn Bradley bought me the first at Rochester Fair back when we were dating.  We'll celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary in July, 2018.  Anyway, it's become something of a trademark for me, and the band.  During the years while we kept trying, and failing, to think of a proper name, people were asking club owners when the guy in the red hat was coming back.  So, when we got booked, they would put on the sign out front; "The Red Hat Band."  And it's stuck.

So, that band is myself on guitar and vocals, Jonathan Sindorf on bass and vocals, and Ken Anderson on drums and vocals.  But that band does nothing but cover tunes, and I write songs that weren't getting played by anyone.  Jonathan very graciously agreed to help me get them played, and possibly even recorded.  One of our fill-in drummers, Rocko Russelli, also agreed, and the second band was born.  Again, couldn't think of a name, so the guys sat me down.  They pointed out that we're doing songs that I wrote, and I'm singing them and playing lead guitar on top of it, so it's the Rick Clogston Band.  I would like to note that the RCB could not exist without the RHB, so thanks, Ken, for helping make this possible. 

We contemplated recording it on our own, seeing that there are so many options easily available at reasonable prices.  Luckily, one of Rocko's other bands, the Stovepipe Mountain Band, was thinking the same way but much more intelligently.  They had gone to a local studio in Woodsville, NH called Studio Bohemo operated by Wes Chapmon.  The finished product sounded great, so I just had to meet this guy.    He impressed me as much as Stovepipe's CD did, so we made arrangements to come in and record.

We arrived on the appointed day, set up, and got to work.  We quickly ran through the songs that we had prepared, and it was going great.  We'd get a good take or two, and Wes would turn to us and ask; "What's next?"  So, we kept on going.  Pretty soon, we were running through songs that Rocko had never played, although you'd never know it.  The basic tracks for every song on the disc were recorded that day.

The way it was done, we were basically live in the studio, but any part of any song could be done over.  What we were recording was considered to be scratch tracks, but some came out so well we kept them.  On most, I went back in and re-did the lead vocals.  Most of the lead guitar parts are overdubbed, although some were left from the raw scratch tracks.  There were also some background vocals recorded later on.  I think I did one song, Jonathan did a couple, and my daughter, Cathleen, came in and did a couple as well.

From there on, it was up to Wes to mix and master.  We came by the studio to sit in on the major mixing, and he took it from there.  He actually did quite a bit of tweaking on it, and I am flabbergasted by how good it came out.  As it progressed toward completion, we started to think about the cover art.  I had a rough idea, and knew exactly who I wanted to do the photography.

My thinking was, if we put a picture of the three of us with our instruments, people would make a judgement on what was on the disc and decide from there whether they were interested.  I thought instead that it would be fun to have a cover photo that would really give no clue to what the music was, and that would either pique their curiosity . . . or not.

The pictures were done at the Pemi Valley Church in Woodstock, NH.  This is the church I went to when I moved back from California in 1985.  It's also where I met my wife.  And, they have this beautiful old pipe organ, which made the perfect backdrop.  We brought various instruments, and I handed the idea over to my son, Alex Clogston, who happens to be an excellent photographer.  He was ably assisted by his girlfriend, Jess Nichols.

The three people on the cover are Jonathan's son, Peter Sindorf; my daughter, Cathleen Clogston; and my mother-in-law, Sharon Bradley.  The picture on the back cover happened when somebody brought the little white bear, and then somebody else set the hat on its head while it was sitting at the organ.  Alex couldn't resist taking a picture of it as well.

As for the title, that comes from what has been my standard retort for years now.  People I've known for a long time will ask; "Are you still playing?"  And I reply; "Yeah, they'll never shut me up."  And by gum, they won't!

So, that's the story of the CD.  I'll take apart the songs in future posts.  And if anyone has any questions, I'll be happy to answer them here.