Thursday, March 03, 2011

"Sprinkle some fairy dust on the bastard..."

We are currently in the throes of recording the fourth Songs from The Blue House 'album' (as we persist in referring to these collections of songs that won’t go anywhere else) and are at the stage where things are starting to be tidied up, re-done, added on and revamped, for although this month’s special interest magazine is next month’s recycling and tonight’s blog is tomorrow’s thing on the internet to check for up arrows, SftBH IV will be listened to and commented upon long after we’ve committed the final mix to the mastering process, hence it would be nice if we could remove as many irritating little glitches as possible in advance. The sort of thing that you, the casual listener, would probably not even notice but that I, the guitarist who shifted to an Am chord instead of dropping down to the C in the middle eight, would be pained by until long after the discussion about it fitting into the relevant chromatic scale has been played out on internet forums around the globe. 

The plan for this week’s expedition was to pick Our Glorious Leader up at The Blue House and drive him to the recording studio in order to record, layer and harmonise some vocals, and then deliver him back home afterwards, thus facilitating a session wherein he would not be distracted by such minor irritations as whether to park nose first in the studio yard or by this country’s inconveniently strict approach to the subject of drink-driving, given the option that a few looseners in the vocal booth might help with the appropriate level of relaxedness in delivery. It’s not that excessive an idea - I mean, come on, it’s hardly Fleetwood Mac and their velvet bag under the mixing desk, is it? Having explained all this to Neighbour Neil at my point of departure from home I was disappointed to not immediately be credited with the sobriquet of Executive Producer and A&R Consultant for the evening but, as he pointed out, “You’re basically his chauffeur, then?” (I should point out that my official title for this project is ‘John Kalodner’ by the way). 

We were greeted by Pig Pen studio impressario, SftBH drummer, engineer and co-producer That Nice David Booth, fresh from a weekend working on his own project with one Nigel Stonier (co-writer of Fairport Convention’s The Wood and The Wire, trivia buffs). After a weekend thus charged and vitalized by his collaboration TNDB was in remarkably chipper form, and once we’d cracked a couple of beers, exchanged stories about our kids’ teething troubles and then broken the early evening ice with a couple of choice remarks regarding common acquaintances (“So – did you smash it, then, or what?”)* OGL stepped up to the plate (or, less metaphorically, the rug) and while being alternately encouraged and cajoled by Booth into delivering a series of relaxed and assured performances (“…honestly, that last take was just fine, it’s just me – I always like to have three versions to choose from” – whether that’s true or not, it’s great way of taking the pressure off a man in headphones) OGL got into his stride and after about his third delicious Brewers Gold (Mmmmm) hit the perfect mark between finesse and feeling. 

Perhaps my requesting that the vocal on Rolling and Tumbling be a “…little less rapey” was a high-risk strategy, but it was one which served to confuse him so much about what we meant that he delivered a perfect reading the next time through while still stunned – “like being wrapped in a crushed velvet blanket and snuggled closely” was, I believe, my Executive Producer’s assessment at the playback. Similarly, by the time we embarked on the last take of the evening(well past TNDB’s bedtime) of A Land of Make Believe** he was just the wrong side of caring, and so it came out less vitriolic than it is when performed live - more bruised but defiant, which made it all the more affecting. Obviously it all has to be listened to again in the cold light of day but it sounded pretty good to me at the time, and I’m not sure the copious tea intake was clouding my judgment that much… 

*Don’t worry – after an internal investigation he’s been appropriately disciplined and instructed to attend a course on gender sensitivity in the workplace.

**No, not that one.