Sunday, February 25, 2007

"Okay, Songs From The Blue House, I'm afraid I'm going to have to hurry you..."

Our kind and munificent record company have finally started looking at their watches, tapping them meaningfully and making raised eyebrow gestures toward the clock whenever we turn up to add another cello, bass trombone, vocal or mandolin to the masterwork in progress, and have faced us down with the sort of offer that James is increasingly negotiating with his children - "Okay, one more, and then we really have to go to bed". In our case it's not "one more" story, rotation of Thomas The Tank Engine on his track or YouTube viewing of monster tractor racing, but one more day of easy-going studio work before they start asking us for money every time we turn up. Which is fair enough - at market rates we've already spent about twelve grand's worth of their money (or, as we like to think of it, they've invested that much faith in our ability to produce a half-decent album while not bumping into the furniture) and we are over our agreed deadline. Four weeks may seem like a long time to put together sixteen songs, but we've not had the luxury of gathering everyone together for a couple of weeks pre-work and rehearsals and then decamping to the studio en masse for the duration of the sessions and then calling people in from the chill-out lounge when we need them to do a bit more work on their bit. A keyboard part has been put down btween prog-rock tours of Scandinavia and The Netherlands, a pedal steel solo between moving house and working on the new McFly album, a cello part because Liz was in the studio working on one of the other albums being recorded there, and a fairly integral acoustic guitar part after our protagonist managed to wrap up a training course in double quick time and scoot off to see us in the afternoon. We are moving air here, and so merely plugging things into a home PC isn't going to cut it once the thing is mixed, mastered, laser etched and delivered (or downloaded) - hence the airy studio and expansive (and expensive) selection of studio gadgetry involved, however now the pressure is on to not compromise all the hard work we've done (and cajoled people into doing on our behalf) so far just because the meter's very audibly running. The album itself is a medley of an affair. Some folky, some country, some acoustic pop and some confessional singer-songwriter, and so how it all hangs together is a peculiarly irksome nut that we're still no nearer to cracking than we were when we arranged all the songs in alphabetical order after the very first rough mix. There are a multiplicity of singers (and a dearth of the second album's big selling point - our female vocalist) and so the murky water of the stylistic content is further muddied by the changes in who you're listening to delivering it. Nevertheless, the material is strong, and so once everyone's downloaded it onto their computer and hence to their iPod where they'll listen to it on shuffle, that's really not going to matter too much. I think I may be the last man in England who listens to albums all the way through. The clue's in the title though - these are songs from The Blue House, and so whatever's best for their delivery is what makes the cut.
And so, heads down, ears open and let's get ready with those pursed lips and thoughful, furrowed expressions as we attempt to guide these steers into the corrall and brand 'em with the SftBH iron. It's tempting to try and rush this part of the process, but in the same way that you can't hurry love, in our game we long ago discovered that it's not over until The Fat Controller sings....

No comments: