Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Running Order

Here is the running order for the album "Antipodes"

1. Anyway
2. Dreaming on the Night sky
3. Jazzman
4. The Last Goodbye
5. Inside Your Heart
6. Take Your Time
7. Demon
8. Only in Dreams
9. Because of You
10. If Love Is
11. Ordinary Man
12. I Believe in You

Available soon.

Song 12 - "Dreaming on the Night Sky"

And so to the last one. The first demo of this song arrived on 30th January, although Rob had already mentioned that it was an existing lyric that perfectly fitted the new tune he had come up with.

The song was very REM sounding - we both thought so, and it was great to have a guitar based song that was going to be included. The trouble is, with the REM style strumming guitars, it didn't leave a lot of space for me to invent anything. Neither of us ever try to compete with the other. A lot of people in this business are just born show offs, and although there is nothing wrong with that (after all it is entertainment), I think Rob and I are past that stage, and wanted what is best for the songs. This, in my opinion, is why we have worked together so well and come up with 12 finished songs in 5 months.

With that in mind, I just recorded some simple piano chords along with the guitar, and added a flute on a couple of the fills. I sent the first mix through and Rob soon replied that he loved what I had added, but wanted it louder - so I duly obliged. He then wanted an atmospheric sound way back in the mix on the choruses, but, try as I might, these sections of the song were just too "busy" already to add anything to, but it needed something.

I eventually settled on a very simple string line behind Rob's guitar solo which I think has really worked well - see for yourself on the clip.

We were almost there, apart from waiting for Rob's additions to "Ordinary Man" at this stage - as previously mentioned, they have now come through. Rob spent a lot of time working on the running order of the songs for the album - this is a very important part of the process. The order he sent through looked good and I re-arranged all my copies of the songs into the suggested order on my Ipod and had quite a few listens - it was perfect, although I was surprised he left "I believe in you" until last.

Here is the clip of the 12th and final song. It is to be the 2nd on the finished album.

Song 11 - "Jazzman"

Within 6 days of sending through "Ordinary Man", I had written and recorded my last contribution for the album (apart from adding to Rob's one to come). I was indeed enjoying quite a prolific couple of weeks. Sometimes, it just happens like that - other times you can go for months - in fact, until "Antipodes", I had been idle for some 8 or 9 years, so one is definately re-energised by having a goal to work towards.

"Jazzman" came about by just idly sitting at the keyboard and mucking about with the various drum sounds. I came across a drum kit sound called "brush kit" and played a few of the different jazz sounding drum and cymbal notes. That was it. Never having written a complete jazz number, I decided to give it a go.

I recorded a few simple bars of drums and added a double bass sound, and I was hooked. I started from scratch again with the piano. Wasn't too long before the entire "tune" was written and recorded on just the piano track. I added the complete drums and double bass which was enough of a basis for me to start writing the lyrics.

The first line of the song "I've always wanted to be a jazzman" is not necessarily true, although I do have a great admiration and sneaky desire to possess the skills of improvisation that comes with this particular blend of music. Once the first line was written, the rest came easy. I just imagined a laid back sax player, going to, playing at, and going home from a jazz gig in some little club somewhere - hopefully, I have managed to convey the atmosphere that such a place conjours up.

I added a sax sound on the two intro verses and originally, I left two instrumental verses in the middle for Rob to do his thing with some jazz guitar. I then recorded the vocal track and sent a demo through to Rob on 26th January. He was quite surprised that, yet again, I had deviated from our original plan, but I think he was quite pleased to have a different type of song to work on.

He said it was a shame that his saxaphone playing friend (brilliant by Rob's reckoning) was not available to play on this one, but I must confess, although it would have sounded 1000% better than my effort, it would have for the first time involved someone else on the album - so I am glad of his unavailability really. I wanted this to be our project for the first album, and I think Rob did too to be honest.

A couple of days later, Rob suggested some sax fills and a piano solo for the second instrumental verse, leaving him with some guitar fills and the first inst. verse all to himself. Good idea, it certainly gave the song a better balance and I was quite proud of the jazz solo I managed to get done.

On 5th February, Rob sent through the completed track. His guitar was excellent - very BB King. The thing was, he had also put on some very good backing vocals, but after a few listens, we decided to ditch those as it made the song more 60's soul than 40's jazz. Anyhow the song was done, but during it's making, one of the greatest jazz saxophonists, Humphrey Littleton, died. Spooky.

Here is a sample of the finished product

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Song 10 - "Ordinary Man"

On the 15th January - I sent Rob a photograph of me for the album. If you are linking to this through Facebook, you already have seen the photo I am on about as it is my profile pic.

Quite a lot of snow had fallen in our county over the first couple of weeks of January, so my other passion - golf - had to be put on hold. As a result, I could spend a lot of time in the studio, and came up with my 5th and our 10th song - "Ordinary Man". I was going to call it "Ordinary World", but I think Duran Duran may have objected. Rob mentioned he had already written a song in the 90's called "Ordinary Man", but he didn't have as much clout as Simon Le Bon so I didn't care! Nor did he.

Fairly straightforward song about everyday life for me. I decided to put on some acoustic guitars myself on this one, just as backing, which would give Rob a free hand in putting some electric or acoustic fills plus some backing or harmony vocals. The other new addition was a tambourine track - not from the keyboard - but a real live Mick Jagger waving tambourine. The song is over 5 minutes long and that is a lot of arm waving for the tambourine track - needless to say, I did it in one take.

Rob has now sent through his additions to this song - the last one to be completed - so although the album (apart from the artwork) is completed as I write this, there are still two more songs to consider on the blog.

Here is a clip of the completed song

Song 9 - "Inside Your Heart"

Over the Christmas period I had a bit of a scare with my 12-track digital master recorder. Halfway through transferring something from it to the computer on Cool Edit, an error message came up on the 12-track that (a) made no sense and as a result (b) scared the living daylights out of me.

I took the most technical of routes - I turned it off and turned it on again and the thing behaved itself for the rest of the evening. Turned out it was probably too full of data, so I got rid of a lot of master material that I had saved as an mp3 and (touch wood) to date - no more error messages. "Antipodes" could continue.

Rob had sent some artwork through that he found on the net that would be perfect for our album cover - so it was all coming together nicely. He also sent through a new mix for "Only in Dreams" with extra percussion - but for me, it really spoiled the song, so he agreed to ditch the additions - he pretty much thought the same anyway.

So into the new year. I was now lagging a couple of songs behind - but I needn't have worried. I feel the next two of mine were the best of my own efforts (with the possible exception of "Anyway"). It's hard to describe what inspires you to write any song. The melody (or tune if you like) is very important, as it is normally the music that first grabs the listeners attention. But I also try and write decent lyrics when I can, because this is the part of the song that normally grows on people after a few plays and turns a good song into a long lasting song.

I decided to write a song to my son Marc who is due to be married this year. I know that his sister Leisa will understand that it would have seemed trite to also compose one for her on the same album - it will happen - as I think the world of them equally - but it will be on a future compilation.

For the first verse and chorus, I decided on no drums at all. Just a piano, oboe and some strings. Rob later added some chorus guitar to this which sounded brilliant. He also puts harmony vocals on the first chorus - equally excellent.

For the second verse and chorus the drums come in - sounding military style with a lot of emphasis on the snare. Along with Rob's harmony - the song draws to a finish with the intro repeated on the oboe and piano and Rob throwing in some great final notes using a swell pedal - very Mark Knopfler.

Rob really liked the song. He asked my permission to sing harmonies as the subject matter was personal. "Of course" I told him "This is our project - not just mine" He did a first rate job of the harmonies too.

There were a lot of problems with a particular note towards the end of the song, but thanks to some pretty neat editing on Rob's part, we ended up with the finish we wanted.

Here is the extract

Song 8 - " If Love Is"

This should have been the point at which I was telling you about the next number from me - but as previously explained, Rob sent through 2 songs within a day of one another, the second one being this one "If Love Is".

He called it my early Christmas present and said it was one for me to work on over the holiday. Little did he know that it was the day before my birthday that it arrived and I liked it so much, it turned into my birthday present as I worked on it during that day - 19th December.

Rob had left this one wide open for me to experiment with. His comment was that he was not sure it was one for the album but wanted to wait and see what I did with it first. To go alongside the opening acoustic guitar chords, I chose a rock organ sound that I could put a lot of tremelo on whenever I wanted (thats where the note starts in a straight line, but then begins to waver - very effective. I had that on the intro and on the first instrumental.

I then found a lovely flute sound on the keyboard which I tacked on to the end of the song as it faded out. Otherwise, it was just piano chords in addition to the guitar, bass and drums Rob had recorded. It was then on to some harmony vocals. I decided to just add an answering line of lyric for the last line before the final chorus and then sing 3-part harmony on the final chorus. As Rob had also harmonised with himself on each chorus, the last one was going to have a lot of voices going on, but it turned out better than I could have hoped - sounded really full and not jumbled at all (which can sometimes happen).

Sent all my additions through on 21st December. Rob replied overnight stating how much he loved what I had added. So much so that he wanted more flute on the second instrumental break instead of the intended guitar. I managed to get this done after Christmas, and sent through the results on 2nd January 2010 which were received very well by the New Zealand half of this partnership.

A clip of this song features on Rob's website (which is www.myspace.com/robsmithmuso)

Here is another

Song 7 - "I Believe in You"

So - into the second half. The next song of Rob's was received on 17th December - just 4 days after completing "Demon", but before I could even get started on it - yet another one arrived from the other side of the world. We were on a roll obviously (especially Rob) and we were both enjoying ourselves. I actually worked on the second song first - but more on that later. He really wasn't sure about this first one though - but I was.

Straightaway, I liked the song - "I Believe in You", as it had strong possibilities on the chorus for some vocal harmonies from me - something I had not really managed up until now. This was due to the different way Rob and I phrase things - we would sing exactly the same song in two very different ways.

But this was an exception- the chorus has a very strong melody line and once I got used to the phrasing, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. The verse was very different - probably the weakest point of the song and probably the reason for Rob's doubts. Having said that, the song opens with a nice piece of picking on acoustic guitar and after a bit of experimentation, I settled on a piano in the higher register, plus a harmonica sound which complimented it nicely. The sound of the harmonica was so authentic, that Rob stated in his next e-mail that he didn't know I played one! (I can get a tune out of a real one but not as good as what I can do with the keyboard).

After the first chorus (where I had added 3 part harmony vocals) the drums kick in and the song bowls along nicely. We then get to the guitar solo - Rob called it "another rock ballad lead section" and added it was something he intended to get away from for a while. Not because it didn't sound great, but......well...too much of a good thing and all that.

The song finishes with another bit of guitar lead over Rob's repetition of the title - together with some harmony oohs and ahhs from me to a faded end. One of my favourite songs to work on (although I have loved them all).

Here is a clip