Update

Although I’ve recently posted details of one of the songs that has been written/reworked for the KOAS project in the last couple of days and also some of the edits and rewrites of some lyrics that I discussed in my last update nearly two months ago, its been a while since I last took stock of how far down the road this project is.

As is often the way of the many of us who have a day job as well as doing this thing that we love and have a calling for, the day job tends to swallow an awful lot of the available time meaning that the timelines for projects such as this, particularly complicated ones (like trying to write/record/produce/mix/master two release-quality albums at the same time, almost single-handedly… who has dumb ideas like that, ferchrissakes?) tend to end up moving sideways. So, my apologies for my lack of updates/progress, but a lot of things have been achieved since I extracted my digit a while back.

And, as these particular tasks have been achieved, they now bring other key milestones into sharper focus as they are things that have to be done and will take their own time before they’re exactly right and ready. So, I’m afraid this isnt a “its all done and y’all can buy it next week!” post. Sorry about that!

The three key things that have been achieved so far are as follows:

  1. Album covers/artwork, sleeve notes etc, all done and ready for both London Road and No Expectations. Many thanks to the fabulous Aminah Hughes for her photography for No Expectations. I knew from the moment I saw those photos that I wanted to use them for an album cover, if she gave her permission.
  2. There is only one track left that is at the “needs almost everything doing to it” stage, and that song is Doesnt Matter Now, which has always been a bit of a problem child. Everything else is at a very highly advanced stage of recording and arranging. Most of them, so far as tracking/recording are concerned only need occasional solos/overdubs and vocals.
  3. I faced up to the fact that some of the songs needed to be re-jigged/re-arranged/new lyrics needed to be written and did it – and in doing so, managed to unlock the potential of the songs from ideas to (almost) completed works. In this respect, I have been particularly heartened by the progress made on Manhattan Lullaby (such a departure from what I’m used to listening to and writing), Elia (forty years of pent up synchronicity), No Getting Over You (especially the pre-chorus, the chord pattern of which is my happiest possible accident, it sounds truly beautiful and evokes exactly the emotion I wanted for it), Fear Of Missing Out, Five Years (one of my most intense, honest and direct lyrics) and Let It Go (one of my most musically ambitious).

Doing all of those things only at weekends has been quite challenging. But it is happening.

Next, after these remaining overdubs are done comes the vocals. Given that there are going to be quite a lot of BV’s/harmonies to go on, which will all be (for want of a better word) mechanised (using a TC Helicon Voicelive Touch, tech fans!), this is likely to be quite time consuming too,  as its not just oohs and ahhs, much as I love them and some songs need them (and they will be there too, they have their place) but not as time consuming as it would be doing root/3rd/5th/Octave for real without the aid of technology. The  Helicon is a very useful piece of kit and has already been used on an AlterZero track, Brand New Wave, nearly two years ago. The time is soon arriving for it to really start earning its keep and I’m confident it will without the BV’s sounding in any way obviously robotic, which is always the downfall of such technology in inexperienced hands. But, if done properly, it can be a real boon to any track.

And thats not forgetting the real vocals as well. With three notable exceptions that are slated for the London Road album, specifically Heroes, Are You Coming Home With Me and Without You, which will be feature lead and backing vocals by my BASCA collaborative partners who were involved in the writing, performing and recording, the rest is likely to be down to yours truly to deliver. That in itself is going to be a whole other mountain to climb and a real rubicon for me to cross, personally but one that has to be done, because there is, pretty much no-one else to do it, so it has to be me who steps up. Its that thing of hearing your own voice being played back and getting used to hearing that tone that takes a lot to learn to be comfortable with.

And, once that minor thing is done, then comes mixing and mastering.

I’m pretty confident that all of the overdubs, solos etc will be completed by the end of March, given the current work-rate; Backing Vocals I’m expecting to have done by the end of April at the latest (given that my current day job contract is up at the end of March, freeing up more precious time to devote to this project) and I’m hoping that all the lead vocals will be done by the end of May, at the very latest. My goal is to have both albums mixed and mastered and ready by the beginning of September.

So. Only a year behind schedule, but whats a year, huh? The best things in life are always worth waiting for, so we’re told…

 

 

Elia

This one came about originally (as the more regular readers may recall) from a track that was going to be called The Last Dance, which was conceived some time back in 2013. And while I had an idea for the music, what I didnt have was any way of really making that real. So far, so me. *grin*

So, on the trip to Long Island last year one of the  main objectives was to try and talk to my uncle Angel to see if he could help me find the right music to go with it, given that he had far more exposure to the kind of music that I was hoping to develop. What transpired was that he and a very good friend of my late father, a vibraphone player and close friend called Paul Oves (who played with my father in a New York function band called The Jewels in the early/mid 60s and who had passed away some time ago) had written a track that had stayed as an instrumental because they hadnt developed any lyrics for it.

The story that Angel told me goes that they (by whom I mean the band Intensive Heat – who were akin to an NYC based Toto who deep down aspired to be Earth Wind & Fire) were rehearsing the track in Atlantic studios in New York City (I understand they were using some downtime in the very late hours) some time in 1975, in the company of a then barely known engineer who who subsequently went on to achieve great things with Foreigner (and lots more big artists since then!), called Jimmy Douglass and while they were playing around with this particular track and into the control room walks the great Arif Mardin (check out his discography, its staggering – suffice to say “George Benson” or “Aretha Franklin” or “The Bee Gees“. He’s a record producing legend, sadly no longer with us) who stands behind Jimmy with a growing smile on his face, nodding in approval as the track goes on.

The end of the track comes along and Arif pushes the talkback button with a big smile on his face – “Hey guys, that was great!” to which Mr Oves on Vibes turns, looks up at one of the world’s most pre-eminent record producers and drawls (possibly a little too smugly)

“…yeah…. I know”

… at which point, Angel recalls that the smile melts away from Arif Mardin’s face as fast as it appeared and in pretty short order he says goodbye to Jimmy, he turns and walks towards the control room door and leaves. Never to be seen in the company of Intensive Heat again.

Talk about how life can turn on a sixpence.

It is so easy to look back and say if only, if but for just a little humility and a thank you that their lives may all have been different. But, these things happen and these are decisions that we have to live with. When Angel told me the story, my chin was on my chest and the question “how did Paul make it out of the city alive after that?” sprang to my mind, but… I wasnt there. Its not my place to judge and history always wears 20/20 spectacles.

So…. for the best part of nearly 40 years since that day, the piece of music recorded that day as a basic two track instrumental, known as Elia has lain on a cassette in my uncle Angel’s house in Long Island and had hardly ever been heard by anyone outside the band.

Until the day I turn up asking for help in putting together The Last Dance. Angel played me a ProTools recorded wav file of this recording and its simplicity (only three chords in the entire thing, pretty much) was exactly what I was looking for, without having to make any kind of structural change at all. I was bowled over thinking:

“….s**t… talk about synchronicity.. how strange is this.. a forty year old track somehow is a perfect fit for a song I couldnt find music for, for the last 4 years….?!”

Anyway. Over the course of the next 10 days, I recorded ten guitar track takes with Angel and put together the backbone of the track and then on my return to the UK started to build the rest of it.

And, as it built, two things came to my mind. One, it was still different enough from The Last Dance for that track to still have another chance to be built anyway, in its own right and secondly, I had a lot of lyrics floating around that could bring Elia a life of its own.

So, I elected to write some lyrics specifically for Elia so that she could come to life after nearly 40 years and these were written to the tune itself, as opposed to my usual way of working which is lyrics first, music later. And here it is.

Musically, the track is in a very very advanced state (just needs vox), is true to the original but with my own bridge sections and the only thing that has been kept musically is Angel’s guitar parts. Everything else is yours truly. I hope it will appear on either the London Road album or quite possibly No Expectations.


Elia

Verse1/
Elia
Do you still remember our favourite song
Those summer nights are gone
And I’m left wondering just where I belong
We stood on every rooftop
And fell in love in every town
And the wonders of the world mean nothing
Without you around

Verse2/
Oooh, Elia
I miss you so much, so much now you’re gone
Was there nothing I could do to make you want to stay?
Ooh, these city streets are so empty without your love around
And all that I wanted was just one more day
Just one more day…

Ch/
Oh my Elia,
Oh you’re like a bird on the wing,
I got you under my skin
And I dont know where you stop and I begin
Oh, my Elia,
My sweet Elia,

Bridge/

Verse3/
Oh Elia,
Sing your song like a bird flying home
Just remember, you’re never on your own
Now you’re gone I’m left feeling blue
I’ll always remember my last dance with you
My last dance with you.

Ch/

Bridge/Coda

© 2016 Lyrics by Steve McCarthy-Hunt
    Music by Angel Paniagua/Paul Oves/Steve McCarthy-Hunt

The featured picture is a publicity shot of the band Intensive Heat and is used courtesy of my cousin, Cynthia Paniagua.