Tuesday, September 20, 2011
That is my producer Adam's new one word review of the work we have wrought so far at Karma Frog. Shameless like Black Eyed Peas. Shameless like Culture Club. Shameless like Chic. I'm-a take it. I don't know if I could make an earnest album. In fact, most of my favorite records are shameless. Tom Waits may not be pop but he isn't ponderous. The second word that comes to mind with these sessions is fun. I am making the album I want to listen to, that I want to dance to and this has been an utterly joyful experience and I think you'll be able to hear it in every performance.
Last night was a night of harmony. Literally. One of my favorite recording sessions ever. I got to work voice-to-voice with the Ladies of Chaos, Teresa Cowles and the inimitable Evie Sands, on three part harmonies for five tracks on the new record. In this context, I was the weak link; but better that. As I figured, Adam and the three of us put down sweet vox.
We started with the album's big ballad "Our Love Is Known By Name." There is a challenge with making ballads interesting, especially the way I write them. I tend to get to the hook and stay there. The ladies and I did the choruses and then added a counter-point on the coda that opened the song wide. Then we added some filigree to the top of the number that elicited Adam's "shameless" comment. My reply was "ZAP!"
Then we took a step back in time to the heyday of Studio 54 for the bridges of "Saffron Dancer." When I performed this one back in 2006 on my first tour of Great Britain, this was more of a power pop number. Now it is another one of my rollerskate jams. Evie and Teresa definitely know how to get past the velvet rope to the VIP lounge. Adam's vocal arrangement was spot on for the feel.
One of my chief goals with this album, even more so than it was with A Talent For Loving, is to recreate my favorite listening experiences as a kid. When I was a preteen and teen, radio was much more inclusive and you would hear different genres (disco, rock and roll, country, soul) on the same station. E.L.O. followed by Fleetwood Mac, followed by Amii Stewart, followed by Rickie Lee Jones, followed by the Spinners, followed by the Rolling Stones. This was true at the roller rink, too. As long as you could groove to it, Johnny Lee, the Knack and Donna Summer were on the same playlist. That is the aesthetic, big word, I pursue. The album is still cohesive and 21st Century.
Next, the ladies and I worked out some doo-wop harmonies for the R&B waltz "Majestic Rejection." I'm going to use the word wheelhouse, because Evie's performance anchors the backing vocals on our "hoodoo doodoo doodoo bop's." And yes, that is the lyric I wrote on the spot. For a song like this, you got to tell that girl trying to mess you up that she's working some doodoo hoodoo.
"Supermodels" got the Ladies of Chaos treatment, too. Teresa sang a guest spot at the top of the song playing the role of your little sister. By the time we got to "A Miracle Is On The Way," we were on a roll. Again, this is where Evie's soul stylings were critical, she helped inspire me on the backing parts to avoid being too sentimental. Evie is simply an angel and one of the most brilliant vocalists I've ever heard. It is always an honor to sing along with her in a live setting. To have her sweetening and bringing her encouraging spirit to my record is a dream.
I've been really blessed to have some heavyweights contribute to this record: Evie and Teresa; drummers DJ Bonebrake and Kevin Jarvis; and of course, my main man, Bryan Farrar on guitar. Adam is no slouch mind you and I certainly don't take his work for granted. If you are in the market to make a polished album without paying Ocean Way prices, ahem, please check out Karma Frog and tell them I sent you. How's that for shameless?
We have two more recording sessions before we concentrate on final mixes. In two weeks, I will add the final layers of harmony vocals. In a month: HORNS!
Peace and disco beats!