Monday, June 18, 2007

Report on Recording Trip Part One

I've been back from NY for about 30 hours so I guess it's time to report. As promised. I was unable to even look at a blog while I was away. A combination of a hopelessly hyperactive computer in my host's home and the severe lack of time to deal with it. I've always been a Mac guy and Windows plus a touch pad that fires on the very aura of my finger, kept me off the thing. Now I have a week to catch up between the ongoing prep for my recording Part Two.

Part One went better than I could have imagined, actually. I work by myself almost all of the time so having instant feedback and collaboration from somebody you love and trust musically is quite an exhausting joy ride. Helen Avakian is clearly a terrific collaborator and producer. She gently insisted I use Scott Petito's NRS Studios, in the Woodstock area. I certainly know and trust Scott but I was reluctant because he is so busy with actual famous people, I didn't think I'd get enough time. And I might not but the time I get with him, he is 100% involved, helping with production decisions and contributing astounding bass, guitar, piano and organ so far. He's like having a second producer that has worked with everybody from The Band to the various Taylors (James, Livingston, Kate and Ben) to the Dave Brubeck Quartet., to name a few.

So, yeah, the CD is gonna be my best work. We did five songs and will do at least five more in July and August. Scott thinks we can be selling CDs by Christmas. But I won't rush it if I don't think it's ready.

Helen and I spent thirteen hours the first day I was there doing two demos with her amazing husband, Terry Champlin. Terry plays classical guitar but definitely has rock roots and contributed some terrific variations on my licks. He and Helen played a beautiful duet on a love song called Can't Leave My Mind. Then he unleashed a very cool backing on the medium tempo rocker Let Me Go, which they all feel will be the hit of the album.

We spent a lot of time fine tuning a few lyrics and a few chord and melody enhancements. It made my vocals much more challenging to deliver so I just put down scratch vocals. I'll do the keepers when I get back in late July. Typically, my best vocal was done in Helen's basement on Let Me Go but Scott won't use tracks done outside. He's that protective of his sound. I won't argue about it. He has ears that the rest of us think of as fantasy.

A surprise late addition song is Meltdown, a rocker written by my student James Braha and me. Helen and I restructured it a bit and now we're having great fun with it.

I learned a lot and so I'll spend all my time between now and my return to NY tweaking words and music, practicing vocals. Cathy and I are going on a cruise next week with her family. I might possibly get to work between various Cathy inspired events. I have one gig and a bunch of students to work around too.

Now I must catch up on everything in Blogland.

posted by Bud @ 7:34 AM

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Painful Changes

As I start to wrap up business here, do my last gig and get stuff ready for students I'll miss for a week or more, I'm faced with other unexpected problems. Lyric rewrites. Helen Avakian is right, I'm just a bit overwhelmed at the timing. Her suggestions all make sense. I just have to come up with some better lines for several songs and put other songs aside for this project because they need too much. It pains me to do that in some cases but I know the songs will be better on the next project if I put them aside for an unhurried rewrite. I already have enough material for two or even three CD's. But they all need work.

The beauty of working with somebody as particular as Helen Avakian is that she's a stickler for detail. The hard part is that she's 1500 miles away, working on her own CD and has many more students than I have.

Other things that did not work out as I wanted on this project involve personnel. I really wanted to get as many people involved as possible. My brother and my son, for instance. Logistics are going to keep them and several others off this particular project. Several people I asked to do some backup vocals are also not going to work out because of the logistics problems.

NRS Studios is Scott Petito's baby and he is meticulous about the tracks he makes. He is not at all likely to accept tracks done someplace else. So an internet type project is out of the question. I'm outrageously lucky that Deni Bonet is going to be available to come up to Woodstock when I need her. I couldn't ask for a finer professional, to begin with. Great things are about to happen for her. I can feel it. Scott is also an amazing bass and guitar player. My son-in-law, Josh Peni, is a terrific drummer. Helen's guitar work is impeccable. Beth Reineke is an excellent and well seasoned back up vocalist who has worked with many well known artists. And on top of that, you just never know who else might be available. It is Woodstock.

This is going to be a much better CD than the last one. I take full responsibility for that one. I learned a lot. Mark Zampella, who produced it did a fantastic job of mixing the tracks I provided and encouraging me to do my best. We are already talking about a future project. He remains a very close friend of mine. Many years my junior, he's an inspiration and a guru to me.

I'm rambling but I'm not going to be back in Blogland for a while and I frequently feel the need to make the point that I'm blissfully happy with my life because I'm surrounded by fantastic family, friends and associates.

It's the first day of hurricane season. Tropical storm Barry gave us some much needed rain. It's a little windy out there. Palm trees are slapping the window in my studio. I should record that and use it as a sample. And if the hurricane season is not kind and my house is ruined this summer, I'll still be able to smile at the incredible run of luck that was the first and middle parts of my life.

I'll be back for a quick report in a couple of weeks.

posted by Bud @ 9:12 AM