Monday, February 26, 2007

Spin It On

Hey Soul Mates,
I finally picked up the latest copy of Spin magazine. It has a feature about Robbie Rist (musical savant/voice over artist and actor) that focuses on the LA pop scene. We were told by our fans back in August that Spin had been in attendance at our IPO show in LA. Spin had interviewed several of our rabid backers. But after reading the article, I understand why we wouldn't have made the cut and I'm thankful for it. Spin basically tears the Los Angeles a new one, but little of it is unbiased reportage. It paints a dreary picture of the IPO crowd: aging, all-male, geeked out, playing an antiquated style of music. Not us. In some cases, that could be said. At least those artists have IPO to support their desire to play, but what it says about our fair town is more accurate.

In Los Angeles, it is difficult for original music to find fans and vice-versa. There are exceptions of course, but for the most part non-hip-hop and non-emo shows are poorly attended. Although, friends tell me the alt-country set are doing ok here. Clubs price their drinks too high and cover charges are exorbitant. That being said, our experiences with IPO in Liverpool and San Francisco were the polar opposite, the shows were well-attended, club's buzzing and bands on fire.

Since the article is "about" Robbie and his prodigious playing and full-frontal lunacy, it was nice to get a brief history of the Poptopia groups that predated my move to LA. Plus, I love Robbie, basketcase that he is and he makes for a fun interview. Adam (our producer) gets a couple of mentions in the mag, so that's cool, too.

Have a great week. I've got a lot of listening to do.
Love, Power, Peace

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Week One Is Done: Album Sessions Day 5

Hey Soul Mates,
last night we completed our first week of recording. It felt good to walk out of the studio with our preliminary material. We wrapped up the evening with Bryan laying down guitar parts on Roosevelt's Revue. The other track we spent time on was Sucka. Which is so slamming it hurts. I had nice talks with Adam & Doug today about our progress and everyone feels that the album will be a real showcase. We're sure you, our fans will groove with it.

We are due back in about 2 weeks to continue working on the guitar parts and a few bass fixes. Then vocals and keyboards, piano, clavinet... In the meantime, we have our work cut out for ourselves. Lots of listening to do. Refining parts, deciding on arrangements. I spent much of the day singing along to the tracks. That's very cool for me. Usually, when we've recorded, the vocals were cut within hours of the backing or the backing wasn't available to me. Not a lot of time to rehearse, polish and make choices for phrasing, breathing, etc. Or, in rehearsals and practice, I'm concentrating on singing and playing bass at the same time. But now, I've got an album's worth of RHS karaoke!

Being out of the loop the past few nights, I've got to catch up on Lost and American Idol.

I'm excited about tomorrow. I've been invited to a friend's birthday party and everyone has been encouraged to bring their vinyl albums and 45s. Last time he had a soiree, I wound up DJing for an hour. I dig that Wax!
Love, Power, Peace

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Short + Sweet: Album Sessions Day 4

Good Morning, Soul Mates.
Short, because I'd like to get to bed before 2 a.m. this morning. Sweet, because that's what we do.

The sessions were once again productive. This time I was the lone band member in attendance. Steve was working his magic on the boards, mixing drums and bass. The cuts we concentrated on were Everyone's Ingenue and Everything My Heart Desires. We'll get an earlier start tomorrow afternoon for a full 8 hour session (I might get there a little early to stroll to the ocean). Our focus will be Roosevelt's Revue and Sucka.

After tomorrow, our sessions go on hiatus while Steve records other clients and Adam's band hits the road. I know Doug mentioned that he'd catch up with the Chaos Band at Old Ironsides in Sacto. But we will refine parts and work with our tracking thus far. I'm particularly excited for working out vocal arrangements.

As advertised: that's it. I'll check in again soon.
Love, Power, Peace

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Bass-O-Matic '76: Album Sessions Day 3

Hey Soul Mates,
It's early morning in the city. Got home from the Lincoln Lounge at exactly 2. Snacking on sponge cake from Chinatown.

More forward progress in the studio tonight. When Bryan and I arrived, Steve and Adam had been at work for an hour mixing drums and finding places for me to redo (aka overdub) bass parts. Steve was particularly articulate explaining to me what kind of performances the tracks needed. And the fact that he said "more (like) Cameo, than the Time" told me this cat knows his funk.

I put it down on Fall Out and U Had The $. In fact, with an assist from the production squidod, I found a whole new way to play my bass riff on $. Eye-opening and tighter, thus funkier. Plus, a little peer pressure goes a long way, as
Chaos Band bassist Teresa Cowles again was in the house. Can't sound shabby with her around. She bags on me as it is for always playing with a pick. But even she was shakin' her booty to the groove. We also selected the master take for Everything My Heart Desires. The crucial track for the album, if you ask me.

While Adam had his laptop out, we insisted on introducing everyone in the studio to
Little Superstar. If you haven't seen this dancing sensation, now's the time. As you may have guessed, there's a lot of time for serious thought and focused performances when you are recording. But sometimes you have to step away from what you're doing, so you don't burn out your ears. Witnessing Little Superstar is just one of the many ways to get re-centered. We also took a walk to the local convenience store and read a new article in Spin Magazine that mentioned Adam by name and Teresa as an "ex-bandmate." Hilarity ensued.

Callie has just joined me in the office. We went for a short trip round the block. Dang, winter is back in SoCal. Call me a neat-freak, anybody else clean their dog's paws after a muddy walk?

By Midnight, Bryan was finally getting some time with Steve, discussing amps and guitar tones. Not my forte at all. While they were determining how to capture Bryan's sound, I picked up a copy of Carl Hiassen's Sick Puppy that was on a console. The first 12 pages had me laughing out loud. Thanks for the lend, Steve. I'll endeavor to have it back quickly. It will tide over my fiction reading until my buddy Mike's new novel
Jacob Have I Loved arrives.

More time is scheduled for the studio later tonight. I'll see if I can get to sleep at a reasonable hour this week. Ha ha.
Love, Power, Peace

Monday, February 19, 2007

Picture This: Album Sessions Day 2

RHS at the Lincoln Lounge. Tuff. On a break during today's session.

All right, Soul Mates!
The rhythm tracks are nearly done on our new LP. We managed to get all of the drums finished today and after a productive session, Doug headed back up north. Our all day marathon saw us work out all of the numbers for the album. We started with Fall Out which is simply a jam. We cut it a bit faster than anticipated, but it moves like a locomotive. Done Lost My Mind, plus our two newest songs, Roosevelt's Revue and I Can't Cry For You rounded us out.

Time for photographs. Please bear in mind these are from my camera and are not the HQ pics you are accustomed to seeing of us. Even so, it will give you an idea of our surroundings. And you can see that we are alive and well.

The band. Not as tired as we appear.

Adam's production notes for our LP.

We were pretty loose this afternoon and that helped. Plus the Mr. T talking key chain kept everyone in check! "Grrrrrrr."

Bryan, Doug and I got into some of the studio toys, too, including walkie talkies, a toy piano and record albums that decorate a hallway.

Doug lays down a killer keyboard part.

"I can't live without my radio!"

Bryan and Doug share a moment.

Ah, yes. The Dance Party LP. Strickly inspiration for this crew. And Strickly Dan Stuckey! Paso Doble, anyone?

After the primary playing was done, Steve and Adam got to work mixing the drums and overdubbing a few flubbed bass parts. Mmmm... I wonder who that was? It's been a learning experience working with Messrs. Refling and Marsland. They have really put a lot of thought into the project and have done a great job of coaxing wonderful performances from us thus far.

Here's the only known photograph of Rush Hour Soul and the producers. Hope you liked the pictures. Another day of bringing it at the Lincoln Lounge.

I have to tell you, I've lost a lot of faith in dentists in the past 5 years. My visit the other day, not swell. I've got one molar that had been bugging me, but by cutting back on refined sugar it had not worsened. But, the dentist decided to test the veracity of my claim of tooth sensitivity by tapping on it repeatedly with the back end of the tartar scraper. WTF!? That hurt like hell and what was sensitivity has become a constant ache. Viva dentists!

Enjoy your Presidents' Day. Celebrate the unsung Presidents today. Even Coolidge and Pierce are destined to "grace" the new $1 coin. We'll be back at the studio the next few nights, I'll report back soon. It's late. Been up since 8 a.m.
Love, Power, Peace

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Album Sessions Day 1

Gung Hay Fat Choy, Soul Mates,
or something like it. It's Chinese New Year's. An auspicious weekend to be in the studio. We are done for the evening. Doug and I have been chilling watching Justin Timberlake do his thing on an SNL repeat. D*** in a Box is still hilarious. And JT and his band tore up My Love.

Our day was long and productive. It was our first day of new recording sessions. We haven't been in the studio since Wales last June. Rush Hour Soul was in full-effect at the Lincoln Lounge in Venice Beach. Got down there about 11 a.m. Nice to be by the ocean.

We tracked drums for 6 songs this afternoon and evening. The numbers we cut today were Everything My Heart Desires, Fall Out, Down By Love, U Had The $, Everyone's Ingenue and Sucka. The sounds captured by our production team of Steve Refling and Adam Marsland are slamming. The drums are hitting hard and the bass is deep. I've got the blister on my thumb to prove it. There will be some serious dancing to this album. It's going to be a groove!

We've got more work and playing ahead of us tomorrow. Our goal is to record the basics for 4 additional songs before we start in on vocals and guitar parts.

If you have a spare hour and 1/2 to go to the movies, Music & Lyrics is cute and quite funny. A great date movie and it was a gas to see Hugh Grant portray a musical has-been. Brad Garrett was quite good as his manager. Drew Barrymore is the epitome of cute, but never cloying. As a musician, I probably had a better appreciation for some of the industry jokes and being a child of the 80's is helpful. Lots of references to the new wave and new romantic groups I grew up with, as well as stabs at reality TV and today's spiritually vapid "pop-kinds" (did I just coin a phrase?). Regardless, there is certainly worse out there for new movies.

Love, Power, Peace

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Let The Buzz Begin For 2008

Hey Soul Mates,
it's the eve of Valentine's Day. What do you have planned? I've got the day off. So there will be the visit to the dentists. You may remember I chipped a front tooth at our last show. That will be on the agenda. Then it'll be off to see the new Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore flick Music & Lyrics. I'm actually jazzed to see it. ABC's Martin Fry was the technical advisor for Mr. Grant's pop performances. Sounds perfect. And in fact, Hugh can sing. That's him on the soundtrack doing a credible Martin Fry imitation.

As for my claims clairvoyance for next year? Well I've got a few early calls on new albums released on my birthday (that's auspicious). I've just heard the new discs from
Fall Out Boy and Katharine McPhee.

I'd like to say that the FOB record Infinity On High will be a disc to reckon with. Keeping up with the newer pop/rock groups can be daunting, so I'd let this recent generation slip past my sonar. But now that I've heard Infinity (and read reviews saying it's a stylistic departure), I'd say FOB has created a wonderful album. It still rocks fairly hard, but their knack for melody and hooks came as a surprise to me. The Take Over, The Break's Over is an instant pop/rock hit. Reminds me of the Romantics with heavier guitars. There are sure to be people out there that think I'm late getting on the boat or that Fall Out Boy has sold out and is wiggety wack. Even Babyface has producing credits on it. But I like it; it sure sounds like you could dance to it... somewhere.

Kat McPhee, a shoo-in for best new artist in 2008, has a lot going for her on her self-titled debut. The CD opener Love Story is a fun slice of neo-Dusty Springfield. Elsewhere on the disc she comes close to Mariah territory, in a good way. She was not my favorite of the Idol contestants last year, but she's convinced me here. There are a few McWince-inducing missteps, but it's a debut and thus a tad overproduced.

The running commentary from the posse about the Grammys was hysterical. Love means never having to say your sorry for Scarlett Johanssen's breasts. Miss you boys. And to make it official, my brother Nate really doesn't like the Dixie Chicks. But I think he's in decent company with the District crew. Ha ha.

Keep on listening.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Love, Power, Peace

Monday, February 12, 2007

Being There [Grammy Recap]

Hey Soul Mates,
Check out your boy. Yes, I did look that damn suave at the Grammys last night. Look, the tickets very clearly said "black tie." What could be less rock and roll than black tie? Not wearing "black tie." Frankly, the hipsters and the club girls just looked silly. Maybe I'm getting sartorially conservative, but you must be clean for the Grammys.

We arrived early in the afternoon. A beautifully mild afternoon in downtown L.A. and not a sign of the predicted rain. I wanted to experience the whole nine, so we got there in time for the "Pre-telecast" ceremony. This is where 97 of the 108 gramophone statuettes are awarded. It was much more entertaining and endearing than the actual broadcast. The winners were genuinely moved, were not limited in their speech time and came in all stripes.

Now, very few of the acts I voted for won. But the day did start off with a bang as OK Go won best short form video for the treadmill hopping video for Here It Goes. One-for-one, but that was about it. I think I pegged about 7 winners. I must tell you at one point I felt absolutely horrible for someone who did not win. Unlike the larger event in the Staples Center, seating at the Convention Center for the pre-show festivities was open, that meant sixth row, just inside the middle aisle. Close to all of the action.

Halfway through, one of my heroes, Stax legend and nominee Sam Moore of Sam & Dave and his coterie, arrived and plunked himself down right across the aisle. I waved to him, gave him a big thumbs up and he smiled heartily and waved back. As his category (best traditional R&B vocal performance) was announced we made eye contact again. Sam beamed as I crossed all fingers. But dammit, George Benson and Al Jarreau won. They play jazz! Anyway, I was so dejected I wanted to cry for Sam. Mr. Moore remained fairly stoic and I was glad for that. I wanted to talk to him afterward as he left once his category was awarded. But I was so upset, I figured I'd stay put. Sam, just know I was feeling you!

Other notable folks in attendance at the pre-game festivities included Weird Al, Ike Turner, Keane, Carrie Underwood, the Chilli Peppers' drummer Chad Smith, Peter Frampton, Keb' Mo, American Idol's Randy Jackson, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Lynn Redgrave, Jonny Lang and Kirk Franklin. A veritable musical who's who. The best acceptance speeches came from Grammy winners Ruby Dee (spoken word album) and comedian/curmudgeon Lewis Black (comedy album). The Hawaiian winners did an impromptu vocal performance with layered harmonies in Hawaiian that brought the house down.

There were several standing O's; for another Stax veteran, Irma Thomas and the most beloved recipient of the evening, Tony Bennett. When he passed us going down the aisle for his Grammy, I was blown away. He's much smaller than I reckoned. But I must respect an artist who at 80 topped the pop album chart! The audience was tickled when he thanked Target for being the best sponsor he ever worked with. Cute and sincere.

I won't say much about the national broadcast, which was fairly pedestrian. You saw it with your own eyes on TV. But "being there" was superb. The Police were amazing to see. Their performance of the now standard Roxanne was quality, if vaguely hesitant. This was a group I thought the world of in their prime and figured I'd never see them in person. They were the highlight and they opened the show.

The audience as a whole, seemed surprised at the Dixie Chicks perfect 5-for-5 evening. And this was the crowd that voted for them. Odd that the boo-birds appeared after the Chicks won the big prize of the evening. I was not and am still not a fan of their music, but their performance on the show was impressive. Needless to say, I was again bummed that the artists I voted for were shut out on TV.

I was anticipating seeing several acts in person for the first time, but no one had what the show's producers like to call "their Grammy moment." Gnarls Barkley did an interestingly bombastic, but ultimately dulling version of their ubiquitous hit Crazy. Smokey Robinson was fine on Tracks of My Tears and I actually enjoyed Christina Aguilera's tribute to James Brown on It's a Man's, Man's World. She was hitting and holding notes that were thrilling. I still think CBS should've opened up the checkbook and given Prince anything he wanted to pay homage to James.

Sadly, too many acts took the opportunity to lull the audience to sleep with ballads or midtempo material. Earth, Wind And Fire were utterly wasted backing up Ludacris and Mary J. Blige. During the commercial breaks, we were treated to highlights of past performances (U2, Usher and James Brown, Eminem and Elton John, Prince and Beyonce, Gorillaz & Madonna), all of which were more exciting than just about anything we saw last night. Plus, several acts seemed to lip-sync, which should be outlawed.

The Grammys would do well to feature more uptempo performances for the audience in attendance and the viewing audience. That and add another 4 or 5 categories to award on the big broadcast. It felt like the same 5 or 6 nominees were up in each category with little variation. In years past, they've televised Producer of the Year, best video, best rock performance by a group, etc. Those could provide some colorful acceptances and fresh faces to say the least.

Trivial notes: I've now seen both Al Gore and Bill Clinton at Staples Center. Will Ferrell (not in attendance) and Chad Smith were separated at birth. Oh, and the presenters weren't always announced before they took the stage. So how did I know it was Scarlett Johannsen with Don Henley at the end of the night? No other legit female celebrity has that top half and I said as much out loud.

The whole experience was inspirational. Seeing all of the winners and being among peers all day long got me psyched for our sessions this coming weekend. 2008 I'm determined to be there, on the list of nominees who's awards are televised. Watch me! Watch us!

Thanks for reading. Have a great week and a Happy Valentine's Day.
Love, Power, Peace

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Grammy Morning

Hey Soul Mates,
this time next year, Rush Hour Soul will be giddy with anticipation. Up for several awards, including Record of the Year and Best Urban/Alternative performance. Trust me. 2008 for Rush Hour Soul at the Grammy Awards.

I've just about figured out my bow tie. Photos will be forthcoming. Think I'm not gonna document this?! Too bad we can't take cameras into Staples. But c'est la vie. Anyway, I've got lots of primping to do. It rained last night. Hopefully, the atmosphere has that weather out of its system for the day.

I've been listening to the nominated artists this morning for inspiration and a reminder of for whom I've voted. How's that for grammar? First it was Christina Aguilera, now Gnarls Barkley's spinning. The show should be amazing: The Police, Earth Wind & Fire, Smokey Robinson and Lionel Richie! And of course, I'm looking forward to the newer acts.

All right. Gotta get clean! Watch for me on the red carpet.
Love, Power, Peace

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

It's My Birthday, Too, Yeah

Hey Soul Mates,
thanks to everyone who sent along Birthday greetings via phone, postal service, e-cards and comments on MySpace. Your sentiments are warming to the heart. The past year was quite tremendous personally. I only hope that I'm able to entertain more of you in the coming 12 months.

My iPod turns a year-old today. Although it took about a month to figure it out and load it for bear. One cool feature of iTunes is that it features a play counter, so I can tell what I've been listening to and how many times. It's no surprise that Rush Hour Soul should be at the top. A rehearsal recording of Roosevelt's Revue had a whopping 67 spins. Two versions of A Talent For Loving combined for 50. They were trailed in the pop category by Raspberry Beret, Beat It and Crazy respectively. By virtue of their large catalogs on my iPod (called the Soul Source), Prince, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Dylan have dozens of plays.

But the LP that got the most plays was a devotional record performed by one of the most popular Hindustani singers today:
Sanjeev Abhyankar. I shit you not. Ganesh Mantra was given to me as a gift this time last year and it went straight onto the iPod. Given the fact that the CD is on heavy rotation around the house, it was definitely the most played album of the past year for me. Mr. Abhyankar is a classical musician from India and only recently was I able to put a name with the voice. He does things with his vocal performances that are mesmerising and other-worldly. Ganesh Mantra got me through a lot of challenging times and was a brilliant record for focusing and relaxing. It was what I listened to on the banks of the River Monnow in Wales. Sublime. Although, my Hindi is rusty, I can hum a few bars. Ha ha. This weekend I discovered his latest CD Yoga For The Soul (yes, cheezy title), which is a more song oriented album, nearly as inspiring. I haven't braved his albums of ragas yet, but I may. It's just cool that music like this is available on line. Sure won't find it in stores. If you see it at Best Buy, call me!

Here's where I'm confused. If the style of music, singing, the language used and the themes of the work have been around for millenia, why is it called "New Age?" Dumb moniker, but I guess it sells more records than "Old Age."

I started this morning with my ritual playing of the Beatles' Birthday. Then I pulled out an ancient cassette of A Hard Day's Night; the American version with George Martin's instrumentals included. I bought it 20 years ago today at the Record Bar, a long defunct record store at Regency Mall in Jacksonville. Some one had given me a gift certificate for a whole $10 and I blew it all on the Beatles. AHDN had been a favorite of mine to borrow from the Heights library as a tiny tot, so I was very excited to get it. And I still have the cassette and it plays well. I think I have the last car in California with a cassette deck, makes up for the lack of A/C. But acquiring AHDN kindled my Beatles obsession which has lasted to this day. And I'm sure that Martin's orchestrated Beatle tunes are the reason I love Fab Four muzak. I'm a fool for it.

Well, I still have a little Birthday time left, so I'm going to make some tea and chill out. Oh, you may have noticed the new bar at the top of the page. I installed that so you all can search my blogs for specific topics, names, etc. The joy of Google!
Love, Power, Peace

Monday, February 05, 2007

Miami Rain

Hey Soul Mates,
you, probably like me, slogged through the Super Bowl. At least Prince showed up. We were wondering if he'd even take the stage and risk electrocution or slipping on that bum hip in the Florida torrent. Thankfully, Mr. Nelson appeared in Dolphin colors no less to rock the house with a mix of his most indelible songs (Purple Rain, Let's Go Crazy) and a choice covers (CCR, Dylan, Foos). He looked great, sounded fantastic with a little help from the FAMU marching band.

As usual, the game didn't live up to any of the hype. Bryan and I were in the car on the way back from a production meeting when the game started. So we heard Marv Albert's booming call of the opening kickoff which was returned for a touchdown by the Bears' sensational rookie, Devin Hester. The TV announcers were dull, the fans looked unhappy in the rain. It was easy to ignore the bad commercials too. I was disappointed that the rumoured Beatles/iPod ad didn't appear.
Oh well. Maybe next year.

Love, Power, Peace

Friday, February 02, 2007

My Motto

Hey Soul Mates,
yesterday was the 105th Birthday of the great American poet
Langston Hughes. I thought I would pause and celebrate him. Now, just last month, my buddy Robert asked me if I had a favorite poem. Apparently, I had walked in on a conversation about some lame verse and more than a little nonsense. Without hesitating, I said:
Motto by Langston Hughes (copyright 1957).

I play it cool
And dig all jive.
That's the reason
I stay alive.

My Motto,
As I live and learn,
Dig And Be Dug
In Return.

It's the only poem I've ever bothered to memorize. I first came across it about 10 years ago. It is the UrbanAmerican version of the Golden Rule, but it's got a little more verve, huh? I love the way it rolls; it is eternally hip and true.

My Dad knows quite a few of Hughes' poems by heart, too. We were flying to New York together in 2002 and we traded recitations. Although, it was a little one-sided as you can imagine. I've got time to catch up, though!

So, in honor of Black History Minute, go check out some more of Mr. Hughes' jazz influenced and R&B influencing works. I'll be reading from his Selected Poems today. Allow me to leave you with one more from Montage of a Dream Deferred, which certainly applies to Rush Hour Soul.

Be-Bop Boys by Langston Hughes (copyright 1957).

Imploring Mecca
to acheive
six discs
With Decca.

That one just makes me laugh and smile. Not a musician alive that can't grasp that one!
Love, Power, Peace