Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Beaten To The Punch

Sorry for the long absence, guys.  I've got plenty to say - gig updates, band updates (Three on the Tree is about to bite the dust - insert sad emoticon here), musings about disco, and many other things.  Many of the the blog entries are still in my head; some are half done, waiting for me to finish in my Blogger dashboard.  I'll do it, I swear.

One entry I've been kicking around for years is to do a sort of remembrance on the Great White Force that is Michael McDonald.  There was a time when you could not escape the former Doobie Brother's distinctive voice.  In addition to writing and releasing his own stuff, it seems like he was constantly doing backing vocals on others' hit records or possibly doing a duet with this celebrity or that.  Hell - I even remember seeing him on an episode of "What's Happenin'?" about musical piracy.  When I was young, McDonald's ubiquity bugged the shit out of me.  As I got older, I became amused.  Now I'm sort of jealous - the guy was money in everything he did, and he worked his ass off.  He can just sit back and enjoy his legacy at this point.

Well, someone beat me to the punch on the McDonald article.  And it's a good one - get on over there and read it.  It's got tons of amazing links on the current King of Yacht Rock.  I wouldn't necessarily say I was a fan of Michael McDonald (though some of it is okay), so any article I would've written wouldn't've had the appreciative tone that this one does.  But still - lots of fun, thought provoking stuff in this article.  You should go read it.

Now enjoy Michael McDonald takin' it to the yacht streets.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

My Summer Music Hall Of Fame: The LPs [UPDATED]

For me, mix tapes will always provide the official soundtrack of summer.  However, there were a few LPs from my past that got heavy rotation for a summer or two.  Eventually, even today, I think of or listen to these albums once the weather warms up.  And given that none of these are even close to being considered "new releases", you can correctly assume that most of these are deeply rooted in childhood memories of summer.

Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper - "Frenzy"
Tears for Fears - "Songs From The Big Chair"
Dire Straits - "Brothers In Arms"
Camper Van Beethoven - "Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart"
Camper Van Beethoven - "Telephone Free Landslide Victory"
XTC - "Skylarking"
XTC - "Black Sea"
The Kinks - "State of Confusion"
REM - "Murmur"
G. Love and Special Sauce - (Self titled)
The Who - "The Kids Are Alright"
Bruce Springsteen - "Born In The USA"
Billy Joel - "The Stranger"
Billy Joel - "Piano Man"
Simon and Garfunkel - "Greatest Hits"
The Eagles - "Greatest Hits, Vol. 1"
The Jam - "Sound Affects"
"Animal House" Soundtrack
The Police - "Zenyatta Mondatta"
Madonna - "Immaculate Collection"

. . .  and on and on - this list is not exhaustive.  What are your summer LPs?

Some more:
Midnight Oil - "10,9,8,7,6. . ."
The Moon and the Melodies - (Self titled)
The Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Uplift Mofo Party Plan"
Beastie Boys - "Paul's Boutique"
The Fall - "This Nation's Saving Grace"
Suzanne Vega - "Solitude Standing"

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Trowar Report: The "Dear Quack" Version

Dear Quack:
Thanks for asking about the Washington trip.  There's a lot to report, but musically, it all went down like this:
  • I got in Thursday morning and went directly to Ghost Train Studio and worked on the set with Fred.  In the L.A. rehearsals (which I never did write about - sorry) we had the song order and basic structure of each tune firmly established.  This was a huge help for me AND the band.  We can finally start concentrating on some fine tuning instead of learning new changes and orders.  We practiced for about 3 hours and it went smooth enough that for some reason, I began to get paranoid that things were not as they seemed.  That didn't stop me from going to Palmer's and eating a steak sandwich, then heading back to Chris Wilhite's (manager) house to go to bed early.  I had gotten up at 4:30 AM to make the flight in Indy; I was pooped.
  • I got to spend a little time with the Tone Hammer DI box that Chris had bought at my request.  The primary purpose of this purchase was to address one key problem:  to get myself heard in the band mix.  A secondary - but not as important - goal was to clean up the tone with the greater number of options that this box would give me.  The thinking was that I'd plug my bass into the Tone Hammer, then send two cables out:  one to my amplifier and one to the house PA.  This more or less turns my amp into a monitor for me while putting my bass directly into the house speakers, making it much louder in the mix for both me and the crowd. I'm still figuring out this thing, but it worked like a charm.  Turns out at both venues, the sound guys would rather mic the bass amp than go directly to the PA from the DI box.  But still:  there was plenty of volume to spare, and I've only scratched the surface of the tonal combos between the Tone Hammer and my amp.  (I actually "zeroed out" my amp, meaning I put everything on 5 just to see what kind of tonal variation I could get out of the Tone Hammer.)  I think Chris or Fred is shipping the Tone Hammer to me to keep working with it, and to have it for the Indy gig.  Never thought I could get this excited about a direct input box.  It was a pure delight that my bass was loud and the tone didn't sound like farts.  It actually sounded like a bass, with warm, round, full tone.
  • John's flight came in on Friday.  While we waited for John to get in from the airport, Fred and I worked with a vocal coach named Emily who we've worked with pretty steadily the past few practices now.  She's fun to work with, even when (especially when) she's pushing you outside your comfort zone.  She's very good at getting us to think about what we're doing and how we might look and sound to the crowd.  She seems to have no shortage of "tricks" for pushing us.  Fred and I both know that the vocals have a way to go, but we - particularly Fred - have come a long way.  Now that the songs and the set as a whole are coming together, we hope to really hit the vocals hard by bringing Fred's vocals up a bit in the mix and have the harmonies tight as hell.  I think we'll get it.
  • John came while Fred and I were working with Emily.  He set up his drums as we continued to practice vocals.  Once he was finished he jumped in as we worked.  Next thing I know the volume was up and we were off and running, drums and all.  I'd say our total practice time with John that day was about 45 minutes to an hour.  Everything sounded so good we didn't go much beyond that, opting instead to tear down our gear and get it in the truck.  We spent the rest of the day trying to relax and get rested up for the gig.
That is more or less how the practicing went.  I'm about out of time, so I'll wrap this up for now.  I'll post something about the two gigs very soon.