Well, the album is almost fully recorded and ready for mixing & mastering – not before time!
The last session I’ve just done at Arkham Studios with wunderkind Alex Cooper at the controls was particularly productive. 2 guest guitar solos recorded along with my best vocal efforts on 1 of the 3 tracks I’m singing lead on myself, called Prove You Wrong.
I’m leaning towards this title as the album title itself – seeing as most who know me from off the wireless would scarcely believe I was able to record an album of all original melodic rock material and perform 90% of it all by myself without the aid of computers, sequencers or Simon Cowell. And even those who know me have been wondering about the virtue in the whole idea (“What you going to do with it anyway?” “Why bother?” “Not exactly contemporary is it?” etc etc) so I have a lot of people to prove a point to.
Including the subject of the song ‘Prove You Wrong’ itself, who may or may not know who he is – giving away his identity would be too easy, and revealing even the year in which the song was conceived would give too much away. What is interesting is that originally, the song was a slow, brooding tempo with lots of half-time drumming and atmospheric acoustic noodlings.
When it came to recording it properly, I was in pre-production mode at home and the idea struck me that it needed to be more aggressive and punchy. Taking my cue from Foo Fighters and such like, the whole thing was re-arranged and I’m glad I did so. The results, just from the rough mix Alex put together after all vocals were completed, were just fantastic.
But my limited vocal ability cannot hold a candle to that of Lee Small, who’s sung 12 of the album’s 15 songs. I left Lee essentially to his own devices, sending him the tracks to his own home studio with a guide vocal of mine from which to work, but I gave him very few instructions or demands. I simply said that if he wasn’t sure about something, then he should call me, but mostly to trust his instincts and ability.
That was a big call from me. I’ve blogged before here about being a right controlling bastard in musical situations, but something told me that Lee wouldn’t need much in the way of control – he just needed to be himself.
That said, when he sent me the completed vocal tracks on a rough mix back to me on email, I suddenly became rather jittery – the tracks had been done by him in quick time (2 weeks maybe) and he’d told me that he’d put loads of parts on so that I could simply take stuff out rather than ask him to add stuff on a subsequent session. So I was nervous to hear his interpretations of my (attempted) melodies.
I think the 1st song Alex & I uploaded and heard from Lee’s sessions was ‘Stay In My Heart’, the oldest song in my collection. I was floored. Utterly floored – the vocals were amazing. They just soared over the top of my arrangement and his phrasing and melodic ideas were perfect to take what was an old tune to a whole new level of appreciation for me.
And the same feeling occurred as the other tracks were sent up by Lee – melodies that I hadn’t considered myself both surprised and delighted me in equal measure, whilst Lee himself spoke of his real enjoyment at getting stuck into what was, for him, really different material. He especially loved the riffy, sleazy “She’s From A Different Solar System To Me” and the catchy simply qualities of “Cloud 9”. All I know is, I could never have sung those songs and done them justice like he did. Extraordinary.
Same goes for the guest guitarists I brought in on occasion – I needed a shredding manic solo for “Overflow” – my old college pal Richard Oxland was just the man, giving it his best John Sykes/Vinnie Vincent hybrid effort for me. “I’ll Drag You Down” needed a dirty wah-wah feel that I just couldn’t get a feel for myself, so ex-Dizzy Lizzy pal Greg Platt Lake plugged his Crybaby in and gave it loads. Gaz Morris, my old mate from Musical Exchanges, brought his slide along to sleaze up “Whiskey In A Wine Glass” superbly…and then there was my brother, Phil, whose jazz sensibilities I just about managed to reign in to get a great funky solo out of on “Forget About Me”.
Keith Laurent also added his guitar solo to “Stay In My Heart”. He’d played on the original demo 25 years ago and the solo he played then was exactly what I wanted for the full album version – it was that good. And still is.
That’s not to say I haven’t added some tasty solos of my own on this thing – because I have!!
So, for those who are interested in such things, here are the titles of the 15 tracks going on the album (in no particular order at the moment)
I Wanna Be A Has Been
Prove You Wrong
Overflow (these first 3 sung by yours truly)
I’ll Drag You Down
She’s From A Different Solar System
Whiskey In A Wine Glass
Forget About Me
I’ll Get Around To It
Stay In My Heart
I Cried Tonight
Stronger Than That (all sung by Lee Small)
Fingers crossed it might be out in time for the lucrative Christmas market ;o)) joking!
I’ll let you know as soon as I do when it’s ready to be unleashed – but now I have to sort out artwork, liner notes, thanks lists, mastering, publishing, CD production, review sources, PR…..
Life just keeps on throwing curveballs at my musical friends.
I played on and off with Toxic Twins, the UK Aerosmith tribute for a couple of years in the mid-2000’s. Always fun, always tuneful and always hundreds of miles from home it seemed!!
I kinda lost touch with Terri & Frank, the couple who played bass and guitar in the band after they found a permanent drummer, but earlier this year, Terri got back in touch to ask if I could help her and Frank out.
They were planning a gig to raise money for Frank, who as I learned from Terri had contracted cancer in his cheek and planned to travel to Mexico, where a new treatment for such a problem was being championed.
My heart sank – guitarists & friends Stu Clarke and Steve Harris were not long gone from this world thanks to diabetes & cancer respectively – not another battle for someone I cared about? Frank it seemed was very ‘fists up’ about the whole thing and had the requisite positive mental attitude about the fight ahead.
And so the plan was to reunite with their best ever singer, Luca Celleti from Italy, and put a Toxic Twins show on at The Diamond in Sutton-In-Ashfield to try and put some money in the pot.
The gig was last Friday as I type this, and I’m still smiling at the thought of how much the good people of The Diamond raised…the best part of £2000. Brilliant. Frank was a trooper – 99% of people in his position of health would not have gone through with the rehearsals and the show itself on a hot sweaty stage – but he did and he was amazing. Luca, who himself has survived the most horrific car crash in recent years was his usual impeccable self as Steven Tyler – even I played ok!
Frank was not in a good way post show – the chest infection that he’d picked up recently meant he was coughing and wheezing for a good hour back in the dressing room, but thankfully his immune system kicked in a little bit and he was soon moaning again - a sure sign he was fine! ;o)
I remember Paul Stanley talking about Eric Carr’s battle with cancer in 1991 that ultimately led to his passing, and how to deal with it as someone close to him. I’m paraphrasing, but he said that ‘you have to tell them that they CAN beat the odds, not just because it’s something clichéd to say or that you’re being selfish – it’s because you want them around.”
Frank, we all want you around. Keep fighting buddy. I don’t want you to miss a thing.