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- TESTIMONIALS -

the story of the making of The Chase at Studio Evolution by J. Brian

 


I am documenting the production of The Chase, as this time in my writing/recording life will forever be embraced as the most joyful time in my musical life. I use the word ‘joyful’ as it best describes in one word, the ensemble of emotions I experienced while immersed in the 12 weeks of production to complete. I want to share this experience with the interested reader and of course anyone who will be an owner of The Chase.

My last original (non compilation) album was released in 2006 entitled For What it’s Worth. On April 19th 2018 I released for the first time to the internet 3 albums, entitled - Live - Laugh - and Love, with 45 songs taken from previous original albums produced from 1993 to 2018. In January 2015 I experienced a chop saw accident that left my left hand doubtful of ever playing the guitar again. In August of the same year I walked out of my last Physio appointment in tears that wasn’t able to yet play my guitar, at least not in a competent manner for public consumption. In September of that year I experienced my own personal 9-11 as 12 angina attacks was followed with a heart attack resulting in 2 stents 45 mm long installed in my ‘Widow-Maker’ LAD artery. A week after my heart attack and home suddenly my hand started to feel better. Fisting it was finally possible and I explained this to Susan and we were both wondering and fairly cautious about this unannounced and unexpected development. I immediately picked up my guitar and started playing…

Fast forward to 2018…

I had invested a good chunk of cash into a full digital recording system that paired up with my 27” iMac. I don’t mind saying this was a stressful time for me because for near 45 years all my recordings were analogue based. Yes that’s right! I’m a dinosaur. With the encouragement of my computer savvy Sil, I bought into Apple’s Pro Logic X and starting recording on it immediately with a trial and error approach. I impressed myself at the learning curve I demanded of myself. You see my worst characteristic is a lack of patience. Well, I learned patience with a 21st century recording technology and man it was fun. And I discovered that this system worked with my organized mind set like nothing I’d ever experienced before in the business. I was on to something this late in my career. Let’s admit it, the twi-lite of my wonderful and storied career that has enabled my participation in people’s lives in an expressive and positive way all along the long road of sharing…

I’ve often said I’ve made a musical living from other artist’s material, but I’ve made a musical life, from my own.

 

and the chase begins…

 

(1) The Chase has its origins in the original and only meaning of life that matters and is.
Boy meets girl, and the chase begins. It was the first recording of a song where I felt I was advanced sufficiently to present competently and compete happily for ‘ear time’. However, I recalled my memories from a later time in life. Later than most when speaking of “boy meets girl”. The song opens with straight acoustic flat picking in the moody chord of A-minor and evolves to an enlightened chorus that celebrates the ‘meaning’ of life. The song has a nice progressive layering to it. Listen for the BASS making its appearance and the electric piano. My influences in this song are Chris de Burgh and Peter Gabriel (not written with influential intention, but the results speak of those influences). I kept the mix fairly simple with not much imaging for the audiophile, save some vocal and guitar panning. I was so happy with this song I sent it off to an old friend of mine that I worked with at Sportchek as I knew he would associate with the story of this song - first hand. So happy in fact I chose it immediately upon completion as the album’s title track. My favourite line is “….where the fire would ignite, where the only thing that mattered was saying good night with the morning light….”

 

(2) The Long Road of Sharing has its origins in the acoustic album of the same name that only those who own my Career’s Collection, can own this album, as it is a ‘give’ and indeed a sharing on that long road. When I first started laying the song structure out, I was simply duplicating it’s arrangement but adding drums and all else. I could not get it to work. So I decided to completely revisit this song with a renewed intention to make it better. So that’s what I did. I came up with the opening acoustic guitar lic and new tempo and I was on my way to a reprise version of the story of my musical life on the long road of sharing. Much more imaging in this track. The BGV (back ground vocals) are panned, the guitars are panned both rhythm and lead (I love the lead in this song, so much so that I doubled it’s length in the instrumental after hearing the first mix as a single lead). The big FYI in this song is the KICK DRUM. There are two panned left and right and really who does this? I wanted a ‘BIG’ sound on this track and I achieved it. MY favourite line is: “music requires no faith no promise, the reward is in the exchange”.

 

(3) Niagara was the second song I recorded way back in early 2018 when I was experimenting still with Logic Pro X. I later applied my gained experience to this track with the result being the clearest and crispest sounding track on the album. The vamped up guitar panned to one side that opens the song is an immediate hook (haunting as one pre release reviewer has mentioned), although I do not write with ‘hooks’ in mind. It just happens… This song sort of relinquishes the sadness I had for my Dad growing up at his frustration with the “big smelly city”. He always wanted to make his way back to the bush and Mother Nature.This song was a way of my Dad’s memory living vicariously through me. I translated my “getting out” as a way of giving my Dad kudos for hanging in and making that sacrifice to enable our enriched lives. So really it’s a generational story with profound meaning that has had a life long influence on me. This song has only 11 tracks but results in a definitive sound of clarity. I love my new home. I love spectacular Niagara. In moving here I already had an extended family so the transition was seamless. My favourite line is: “I had to fulfil a dream my Dad never did check outta the industrial wasteland, 30 miles east was this beautiful woman reaching out with
extended hands, organic thoughts and extended hands.”

 

(4) For Us was written a few months after Susan and I became a couple which was January 07, 2012. It was recorded on my first HD recording studio in Hamilton at 203. There is a video on my youTube channel of this song and it is the 2nd in seniority on The Chase. I love this song. I wanted a big sounding acoustic and I have 2 parts panned left and right. I love the occasional squeal from the strings and I recorded it purposely in E major to attain that big strong acoustic timbre. I find the PAN FLUTE an unsuspecting lead instrument that is key to the song’s structure. The lyrics in this song are of the metaphoric style and to encourage the music intellectual to interpret. My favourite line is: “hanging on a lifeline of soul’s discovery, when you whispered the one, it’s now or never a heart is true….” One might ask well wasn’t it too early to be writing a love song only a few months into the relationship, well, not ‘for us’ and still falling madly in love with her 7 years later…

 

(5) Still Tryin’ was originally on a 1993 album called The Good Life. So it ranks as #1 seniority on this album. I re-recorded it because it is very much relevant at this stage of my career. I mean, I’m still tryin’. I became so excited about the possibilities of my new recording studio it was the first song I thought of that I could present in a refreshed and enhanced version and at this stage it might even have more impact and relevance. There are 17 tracks on this song and I added a violin that I just love as it suits the near country feel of this song. The harmonica is strong and influential through out the entire track. It’s a feel good track and a hyway song headed out into the great unknown. My favourite line is: “he talked of a god and his only son and of me who they yet hadn’t found, he cued up the band and said get to your knees, I guess he didn’t see me on the ground, I was on the ground.”

 

(6) Guns and Gods was born of the continuing tragedies taking place in the USA.
It’s the shortest song I’ve ever written. But certainly it is long enough to tell it like it is. The structure of this song and the contributing instruments make it an angry proclamation of the truth. When I was writing it I thought about Jackson Browne’s album Lives in the Balance that focused on political atrocities, and that sold very little. I admired him for his conviction. He indeed was my influence in Guns and Gods. My favourite line is: “Guns and gods are the face of the Nation, both sewn in the fabric of the nest, one is blind faith the other pointed in your face, a liaison of misery loves company at best”.

 

(7) The Seeds I’ve Sown was born of the idea of writing a Tom Petty styled song. A FB friend posted a live version of I Won’t Back Down and I was just blown away with the sound. It was only the second time saying that I wanted to sound like that and have that feel of another artist. The first time was Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty where I wrote This Thing I Do to honour. The Seeds I’ve Sown is the most commercially accessible song I’ve written. It is the first time I have used tremolo guitar and upon first listen I fell in love with this song. The raunchy lead guitar is perfect for the mood of this song, and the bass line sets everything up right off the top. The lyrics of this song were inspired by my standards and moral fibre and how I was raised in a ‘Boomers’ world, set against the politically correct era, paired with a meeting with St Catharines’ Liberal Rep Chris Bittle to discuss removing the word ‘God’ from our National Anthem and the real motive for legalizing ‘weed’ which of course is the tax dollar gained (certainly not the better health of our citizenry), for which he was 10 minutes late, offering no explanation or apology. When I questioned him on it (by saying “Chris if I was here to donate a large sum of money to the Liberal cause, you would’ve been on time….), 5 minutes later he refused to speak with me, walked away and turned his back to me and terminated the meeting. A no class moron. My favourite line is: “we’re being pushed aside behind closed doors, while they tally up the numbers keeping their own score”.

 

(8) In The Struggle was written by 8:30am after a get together the evening before at Rico’s place for a ‘cigar night’. There were 4 of us discussing how things have changed, and not for the better… How the current generation - the millennials - are an unaccountable bunch feeling entitled and wanting instant gratification. The song was recorded in the following 5 days and produced the strongest ‘chorus’ I have ever written. The song has 3 layers. The verses are very funky with a sarcastic critical feel with the octave spread vocals. The vamps as I call them leading up to the chorus, elevate the song in another direction that takes the listener to the infectious chorus. Although the chorus’ lyrical content is serious, the melody is light and approachable and warrants the listener to sing a long, tap their toes or dance and shake about. There is a definite 70s feel to this production, especially when the ‘acid guitar’ plays its part. The guitar enhances the sardonic feel of this song. Note that the DRUM track is unique and fits perfectly with the paired fun and catchy BASS track. The ‘narration’ approach to the final verse is critical to the message this song delivers. This song breathes well. Very well. I’ll let you figure out what I mean by that… It is the ‘coolest’ production on this album. My favourite line is: “this generation’s no idea no awareness of the gravity of the moment”

 

(9) On That Night is a re-write from a song that was on the acoustic album The Long Road of Sharing. Originally it was a simple ballad with a finger picking styled guitar piece. I first tried recording it like this, but experienced a whole lot of angst and frustration cause nothing worked. So, again, I allowed myself my artist licence, freed myself up from the chains of first writes and just let it go. I had so much fun re-writing this song and it is of an ilk that I had never focused on writing before - the blues. It is not a traditional blues song because I wanted to make it my own and that’s exactly the result. There isn’t a chorus to this song. It’s a one line final line “on that night” that confirms the title. The lead and rhythm guitars are acoustic but are more than suffice to create that bluesy feel. The growl added to the 2 rhythm guitars panned left and right create a ‘live’ bar feel. I put subtle echo in my vocals to also create that bluesy bar feel. My vocal performance is commensurate to the subject matter of the song. My favourite line is: “on that night we gave in, all my resistance helplessly caved in”

 

(10) Hand it to My Heart was the first song I wrote after my heart attack and gaining control of my left hand enabling my guitar playing ability. In that original acoustic version I can say that it had its moment of impact and live success. When I tried to re-record it as it was originally written, again, it just didn’t work. My view of this song had evolved after 3 years of live performances. Originally it was a monotone production. I wanted to expand its potential and out-reach. This song now enters the party/celebration/dance category. The ‘real’ heart beat intro and exit is impacting with its message and leaves the listener with a self awareness of his/her own vulnerability and mortality… The opening dual guitar track panned left and right is intended to extend the motif of the opening ‘heart beat’. You can feel the song building and building to a celebration of a chorus that relieves the listener to his/her own expression. The organ I added in here is reminiscent of a song from the 60s called California Sun by The Rivieras. The instrumental piece was an intention to emulate the 70s Moog Synthesizer sound. I love it. It works. The BASS and DRUM tracks keep this song’s intensity at a high level. The song has a lot of good energy complimented with an impassioned vocal track. My favourite line is: “like two good friends drift apart by default my heart shakes my hand once again - I gotta hand it to my heart!”

 

(11) Back in The Day is another import from the acoustic The Long Road of Sharing that I attempted to record as originally written, but again, it just didn’t work. The song was crying out to me to make it more energetic, more approachable, more commercially accessible, more fun. I did some lyrical rewriting, completely changed the chorus structure and added a melodic identity that could be considered a ‘hook’. It was a very difficult vocal track for me to put down comfortably. But I did it with wonderful results after I learned to relax during the performance. The subject matter is certainly not of the metaphoric styling. It’s an in your face accurate comparison of ‘then and now’. The beauty of this production comes with the addition of the two HORN tracks. They take the song to such a nostalgic level. To a happy place. To a soothing place. I love the outro on this song. It just doesn’t wanna leave your ears. My favourite line is: “and don’t tell me I have to accept a softened world view, respect is earned not bought with votes in the world where I grew”

 

(12) One Life to Live is the collaboration of two different songs. It first started out as another import from The Long Road of Sharing - Life Embracing a Quiz. And then I pulled off the back burner of my song writing ‘range’ an idea for a song that was waiting for an invitation to go on record. This is song writing departure for me. The chorus fairly quickly evolved out of the verse’s mode and into its own key signature and reggae stying. The verses have a wicked percussive track well defined in the mix and the interlude instrumental between verses is another example of a song ‘breathing’ during its presentation. The BGVs in the chorus invite the listener to embrace the chorus and its meaning. Pristine really… It is a self embracing song that encourages the listener to live life in the moment, be an independent, to be ‘life engaged’. It is the longest song on the album and is intended to encourage the music intellect in the listener to embrace ‘the one within’. My favourite line is: “life is your invitation, show up it’s a one off event.”

 

(13) Life Engaged was the final song I wrote and recorded for The Chase. It is the only song in my 45 year writing career where I wrote the music and song structure first. The lyrics came after the entire song was musically performed. During its production I simply used a melody of “la la la de das” to give me an idea of instrumentation allocation and design. The song is loosely based on a Neil Diamond influence. Some weeks earlier I had watched a N.D. concert Another Hot August Night? and loved all the horns and celebration and fun in his lyrics.
Further to this, I drew my lyrics from a conversation I had with Susan a few months earlier regarding my life span and it’s ability to reach as far as my Dad did (88). And I said to her that maybe just maybe I might have 20 years left. It was a disquieting moment for us both and I can say that Susan did not want to hear it put that way. I said to her that I wasn’t afraid to die right now, but that I didn’t want to, because I felt that there was so much more to accomplish and just then she put it all into perspective by saying “I know what you mean, we’re not done having fun yet”. That was it, right there, that I knew I would use that line in a song somewhere in my future 20 years… It’s a personal song but it can apply itself for me and you at many levels. The audiophile will enjoy the ‘imaging’ in this song. When the STRINGS enter the production in the second verse, my heart goes ‘boom boom boom’. I love the arrangement of this song. And the HORNS take the listener to that Neil Diamond arena that is endearing. The problem for me with this song was that it was by far the most difficult song to sing. It took take after take after take. The song is in G major, not my optimum range. I couldn’t just whale away. However, in the end I know I pulled it off. It is the smoothest delivery of a vocal performance in my songs of songs. It took me days to secure under different circumstances, different throat conditions, different times of the day and so on. This song has potential on ‘Easy FM’ styled radio. Just like Neil Diamond eh. My favourite line is: “ Still I feel like there’s so much more, we ain’t done with the fun that’s for sure”

 

(14) My Love Song (for you) I wrote for Susan’s 60th birthday. I have a video on youTube. I have been covering Elton John’s Your Song for 40 years. The one line from that song is “my gift is my song and this one’s for you”. Profound. I’ve always thought, to have the ability to write a song about and for someone is special indeed. My first love song written in this relationship was the aforementioned For Us (track 4) revealing my thoughts for the relationship’s short term success and my expression of “falling madly in love with you”. That’s why this song has bracketed, for you. It draws on the Bernie Taupin lyric and confirms in no uncertain terms that this song is for her. This song is not guilty of specific isolated lyrics though. Any man can sing or dedicate this song to their special woman. The song was designed to have a lullaby feel. Simple, endearing and memorable. In this recording I re did the BASS line from the original and enhanced the mix as well. The song appropriately follows Life Engaged. My favourite line is: “I am as committed to you as gravity is to the Universe.”

 

(15) When The Last Band Plays is also an import from The Long Road of Sharing. The first version was really…. nondescript. I styled this version after a 50s/60s feel, meaning ‘swing’. After all these were the days of rock and roll’s birth. I had so much fun in trying to emulate that feel. It all started with the ‘swing’ BASS line. The BGVs’ “ooh I wanna be there” captures the innocence of those early days of rock. The HORN line in this song is second to none in capturing that nostalgic feel the song is based on. The idea for the song came to me after seeing Steve Miller at Art Park in Lewiston. It suddenly occurred to me that probably in my life time the last remaining original band or artist from the classic 70s era would take the stage for the last time - ever! My favourite line is: “It won’t matter where the venue sadly, plays host to rock’s last band standing, I want to be there in celebration, and take it to my grave on the day when the last band plays.”

 

(BT) We Are All Poets was a song that I wrote and recorded in 1977 at Grant Ave Studio with Daniel Lanois as owner of that studio and him playing lead guitar on the song. This song was a finalist in the CHUM-FM Super Sessions Songwriting ‘Contest’ where we had the opportunity to record it in a make shift studio at the CNE grounds. John Capac was assigned as the producer for that session, whereas Ed Roth was the producer at the Grant Ave. sessions. For 40 years the song lay dormant until I decided to resurrect it for this project and add it as a Bonus Track on the CD only. The reason being I wanted the owner of The Chase to understand that I have been writing and recording meaningful, thoughtful songs for some 40 odd years and that these songs were able to stand the test of time. This song is about self discovery and awarding the self as the designer of their own destiny. Daniel Lanois’ guitar contribution took this song to another level from where it was presented as a completely acoustic song. My favourite line is: “and we fly through the windows in the sky, blind and searchin’ for its eyes, and slowly we feel the freedom of vision, we see ourselves, it’s we that have risen.”


In Summation:

I listen to music totally differently than most listeners. Most of you listen to the sum of the parts, whereas, I listen to the parts of the sum. Everything needs to fit. All the parts have to get along. Every part has to know its place. This is my first project where that has happened in a very unifying way for this ‘solo’ artist/singer/songwriter. The ‘Cassettes’ brought their ‘A’ game performances for The Chase.

Most of these songs were established with a strong solid BASS line first. That was the most challenging part of the project for me as I am not a BASS player. However, no BASS no good. I am so proud of the songs’ BASS lines, all of which hold everything together, all the time. This was indeed the most rewarding part of the project.

A unique detail in the structure of all these songs is that none of them start with the chorus. Many of my previous songs do. I didn’t realize that until I started writing my diary of The Chase.

Another unique detail is that this album contains the first song ever that I have written with an ‘outro’ that fades out. It was planned that way. That aspect of song writing does not occur in my song writing catalogue.

Of The Chase’s sonic and fidelity quality, I would place this against anything out there. The production is well defined in all its aspects at all levels. But to appreciate this aspect, one must be interested and not just hear, but rather, listen… Apple’s Logic Pro X designers are brilliant and I’m so happy to have been resurrected from my ‘dinosaur’ status…

I’m not into and have never been into ‘small talk’ and that translates into my album’s content. There are several elements to song writing but my priority element is THE LYRICS. This album is not background music. It has something to say of meaningful and thoughtful content and character.

Today’s generation is all about instant gratification. This album is everything not about that. I know that it often takes several listens to - get used to - understand - associate and identify with - get it - with new musical listens. The Chase has a thoughtful interest in being good company for you somewhere and often down the long road of sharing…

and thank you! for your company!

 

 

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