Prima Donna

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What You Are About to Hear

What you are about to hear is music that is 36 years in the making. In late 1979 and early 1980, Bob Statham, Woody Meeker and I decided we wanted to record an album of original material. We also decided we would write a concept album. The concept: One person believes the world is coming to an end. He tries to convince everyone he’s right and they should join him in his cause. Pretty much no one believes him. The world ends and only those who believed him survive. With that in mind, the three of us put pen(cil) to paper. There really weren't any “You write this part and I’ll write this part” conversations. We all just started writing. Once we had some material written, we put them in order based on our concept. That’s when we saw what holes existed in our storyline and wrote more material to fill those holes. After we had our line up, we practiced and tweaked them for a few months. Finally, the time came to start recording. However, recording at night in our barracks room would have been a disaster with all the noise from everyone else seeping in. So with a little help from the people in charge of the rec center and our supervisors, Woody, Bob and I were given a full week off. We spent all day every day in the rec center recording piano, guitars, bass and vocals. Leroy Jordan, our drummer, had just recently taken a vacation so he was not given the full week, only that Friday. So on Friday and Saturday (I’m not too sure about Sunday) we did a lot of recording of drums. If you listen closely to the original recordings from 1980, you will hear that only one or two songs have the drums and guitars in sync with each other throughout the entire song. Without the drums, the three of us had very bad timing so Leroy had to hesitate and do other rhythmic trickery to stay in time with us. Our recording equipment was limited to a four track reel to reel and a two track reel to reel. We couldn’t really layer things very much because every new layer meant loss of quality of the previous recording. With the bulk of the recording done, we hauled everything back to our room at the barracks and added some backing vocals and some guitar work. It took some time, but we finally got all of the songs finished and mixed down to a master tape. We made numerous copies of that tape and sent it to our family and friends.

Fast forward 27 years to a conversation my brother and I had on Christmas day, 2007. Ken: “Would you be interested in rerecording that album? With the sequencer we can get perfect timing, and additional instruments that you might have wanted.” Me: “Sure! That sounds like it would be fun.” Thus ended the conversation.  I mentioned it to Bob, and he said if things worked out, he could provide some guitar work if needed. Fast forward another 7 years to Christmas of 2014. Ken: “You still interested in redoing that album?" Me: “Yes!” Life seemed to have gotten in the way since the last time he had asked. This time around we actually got things started. We both had the same hardware, so as instruments were sequenced we could simply share a small file and collaborate that way. I was quite new to sequencing, but as I went along it became easier. I ended up doing the lion's share of the sequencing, while getting adjustment advice from Ken. Not long after Christmas I got in touch with Bob again, and asked if he was still on board. He was. I also managed to find Woody on Facebook and told him what the plan was. He was on board as well. So we scheduled a Skype session in March, 2015. Close to three hours later we were all caught up on each other’s lives, and had a loose plan for how to proceed. My original goal (when it was just going to be Ken and me working on it) was to finish by Thanksgiving so I could hand copies out at Christmas. That is why the album is the 35th anniversary and not 36th. Woody returned to his true form of nitpicking almost every aspect of the songs from 1980. After the initial Skype session, Woody spent a week or so listening to the original recordings and wrote up proposed changes for most of the songs. No notes were made on my song (Future Feelings), or The Legacy since it was left off of the original album. So we had a starting point for most everything. We held Skype sessions every week to discuss progress and any thoughts or ideas we thought of during the week. Life has a funny way of getting in the way though. Bob missed quite a few of the Skype sessions due to traveling for work. So between Woody and me, we spent just over 3 months working on Just a Couple of Fools. That pretty much blew my chances for getting everything ready for the holidays. So I just went with the flow. By November of 2015, Just a Couple of Fools was the only finished song. Future Feelings (The only song that is completely my own) was close to 90% done, but I was working by myself on that song. We had started working on Deadlocked in Love because Bob had become available again. And lastly Woody had gotten The Visionary about 15% complete. That was about the time Woody sent out an email informing us that the company he worked for closed shop, and he would have to back out of the project for a while. Bob was also back to travelling quite a bit for work. So, with Woody’s notes in hand, I forged ahead.

With the project being back to pretty much a one-man show, things progressed much faster. We had already discussed lyric changes and alterations for the songs that ended up being changed. I also had all of Woody’s notes and did my best to try all of the suggestions. I would say a good 90% of his suggestions have been included in the final project. From mid-November to about the end of May I got all nine songs to 90% or better complete. There was a lot of listening and tweaking after that. By mid-June all nine songs were 99.5% complete. There are a few songs that after the 300th time of listening to it I said “I don’t like xxxxx” and would go make an adjustment to the mix or re-record a vocal.

Modern technology is awesome compared to what we had to work with 36 years ago. Back then we recorded everything two tracks at a time. All guitars, vocals etc. went into a mixer first, then to two tracks. If we only needed four tracks (only The Messenger fit this option) it was simple. Everything that needed more than four tracks required the original two tracks to get bouncedto the remaining two tracks along with the new stuff being recorded. Then we could record more new stuff on the original two tracks. We only allowed a single bouncing of tracks so all the 1980 songs were technically limited to six tracks. With modern digital recording on a computer the sky (and I guess hard drive space) is the limit. The biggest song in terms of audio tracks is Future Feelings. The body of that song weighs in at twenty-six tracks. Sixteen of those tracks are the choir. One of Bob’s earliest concepts for The Age of Man was “Acoustic guitars during the intro and verses, crossfading to electrics for each chorus, then crossfade back.” That proved to be an improbable task in 1980, so we just used electrics for the power desired on the chorus. While recording the guitars for The Age of Man this time I remembered Bob’s idea and on a whim I recorded a 6 string and a 12 string acoustic for the verses. After a few tweaks to get the sweet spot of the crossover just right, I was sold. It is such a change in dynamics. Needless to say… the crossover stayed in.

Well, I think I’ve written enough. I’ll just say I hope you all enjoy listening to this as much as I enjoyed making it.
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