48 hours from the time Ed and I stood watching our pet recording project metaphorically careening down a darkened alley, Bill Ray had emerged from his personal studio in the shadows of Washington’s Cascade mountains and recorded, mixed, and sent us back the multitrack drum files for five of the album’s 12 songs.We were back in business.
It almost doesn’t seem fair that I would have such unfettered access to a busy world-class musician like Bill, but this album has always been about friendship and I’m very proud to say that as with Ed, https://billraydrums.com, and I have been as thick as thieves since the ’90s.
I must say, though, that Bill’s particular setup has…evolved. I mean, he now has a five-camera setup that changes shots at intervals while he’s recording his incredible performances. It was almost like being a guest on a talk show where the host sits behind a drum-kit instead of a desk. He can even hit rim shots for his own punchlines!
The working method between Bill and myself has been forged over a great many sessions together. It’s a routine based upon communication, nonverbal and otherwise. Bill and I usually listen through it first, but invariably he will begin to find a feel that suits the song’s arrangement and starts to play along. At this stage, I try to alternate between availability and invisibility. Bill stops, asks a couple of questions, plays a bit more, then says, “Alright man, let’s take this.” And we’re off, as the song says, to the rodeo.
As with so many elements within this project, we didn’t really do it that way this time.
Readers of previous chapters of this story may remember that we had the AI versions. Those demos were all at the right tempos and in right keys, so Bill just made his way into his studio with his big ol’ cup o’ joe and just ripped into those songs throughout the morning, seemingly pushing and pulling the feel like taffy and creating a series of “performances” that we could use to fortify this foundation and build an entire album upon it.
Which is exactly what we did. Just, like I said…not like before.
We were still facing scheduling issues that can be part and parcel to working with such in-demand musicians, but after hearing the brightness and energy in Bill’s parts, it was quickly decided these players could tackle the bass and keyboard parts in separate sessions and still retain the great feel that we were looking for from these tracks.
Paul Denton is another longtime friend. We even went to high school together, but he still denies knowing me. Anyway, he played his Rickenbacker bass and Fender Rumble amp, which I recorded directly from an XLR jack at the back of the amp. The tone from the combination of the bass and the amp is dark, but with an upper midrange snarl that gives the entire album a dangerous grit when he digs in, which he does thrillingly throughout.
Keyboardist Casey Gee (whom I produced with his band, Crash Carter some years ago) brought his KORG SV-1 (it’s got a bitchin’ little tube in it!) and in one single epic session, he piled bales of raw musical talent through a spectrum of emotive, sensitive, and passionately fiery stylistic turns. He smiled the whole time and so did I!
Meanwhile, back at the computer…
Here we are, making a saxophonist’s record with a decidedly unexpected set of covers, featuring the unique talents of 10 San Diego guitarists as guest soloists, with a sound that comes from some other time.
We are sometimes doing so piece by painstaking piece and often out of order.
This is not the conventional formula.
And yet, it’s somehow working…Damn!
To hear Ed Croft’s wonderful melodic gifts wrap around these songs, reinventing and re-presenting a whole genre of music along the way, is in a word: exhilarating. My personal goals have already been met, because Ed and company have made the music we both heard in our heads and heart
Within the next week, I should (lol!) have the final three guest solos recorded and will have been mixing and balancing things in the meantime. Which means we just might finish it within the deadline!
Cool. Of course, there are still photos, artwork, bios, press releases, and other promo materials to prepare. One way or another, this music is happening! We can’t wait to share it with you.
After all, we’re all friends here.