4. A Full Schedule
1. Take Me With You When You Go (Sutliff)
2. As The Crows Fly (Sanchez)
3. It’s Alright With Me (Langan – Miller)
4. My Own Skin (Sutliff)
5. Small Circles (Sanchez)
6. Restless Nights, Many Dreams (Sutliff)
7. Cardboard Army (Sanchez – Tek – Miller)
8. Manager Of Time (Sanchez)
9. Morningside Dream (Sutliff)
10. Red Wing Spy (Sanchez)
11. Fulcrum (Sutliff)
12. In Search Of Connie Companion (Sanchez)
13. Your Number (Langan) *album bonus track
As is often the case, there are multiple projects underway at GLEA. Deniz started work on a new Deniz Tek Group album a year ago. We recorded two songs in Billings with Steve and Bob Brown. It appeared that we would be working on this record through out the year, but a nasty neck injury stopped all work for several months. When Deniz was again fit, we turned our focus to the Soul Movers Tour EP. A tour of Spain followed, and then he continued on to Australia.
Deniz was in town for our New Years Eve party. He also joined me on the radio on Friday afternoon. We had discussed doing a little work towards his new songs. On Saturday, we managed to cut five simple guitar demos. I sorted out the drum loops while Deniz played. There are four or five tracks in the can, including the two from Billings. The next step is to organize a session with Ric Parnell. Deniz asked me to look at my calendar for the month. I suspect we’ll finish cutting the Brain tracks before we start on Deniz’ material.
Colter was also over for the dinner party. He’s got four or five songs he’s ready to record. This is the final piece of that puzzle. I’ve just finished arranging a new one and there is promise of one more from Bobby Sutliff. That could put as many as 26 on the table for the new Donovan’s Brain album. I suspect at some point we will divide them into two albums. There is a chance this record will be released on vinyl as well as CD. The plan then would be to have at least a couple of tracks unique to each format. In the meantime, there is plenty of material to keep us busy through the summer.
Just a few days after making plans, Colter showed up with four new songs and the missing pieces for a fifth. When we did the DJ’s movie soundtrack, several of Colter’s songs meant for Fires Which Burnt Brightly were used. For the film we stripped them down to the basic elements. I’ve already rebuilt one based on the original demo. Moose #1 is now titled Republic and the deleted sections have been restored. The tracks we cut for the film were good, so they have become the framework for the album versions.
We only had time to cut the guide tracks for two others, Scatter Gun and Going Back To California. Both should work well for a Donovan’s Brain album. We will attack the remaining two next week in anticipation of the next drum session which is booked for the weekend of the 16th.
Colter was back with one more song. Again, his new ideas are very interesting. I’ve put bass on all four tracks and moved them over to Digital Performer in anticipation of this weekend’s drum session. There was one more idea, but Colter hadn’t fully worked it out. We will try to return to it before we are done with the drum sessions. Ric will be around to work on Deniz’ album, so we can put the touch on him then. I had a couple of other ideas which I never finished. I may have one more look before calling it good. That’s not to say there won’t be any more new songs.
Jan 15 – 22
Ric was in the studio on two successive weekends. Eleven tracks were completed for both the new album, and Shambaholic. Once again the sessions moved along quickly with good results. Deniz had the five songs he’d demoed on New Years Day. These were cut live, with Deniz playing along with Ric. In one instance, Ric thought it might be best if he played along with the demo, but decided the song needed to be played at a slightly faster tempo. Once he found the correct tempo everything fell into place. Deniz will be back in the studio when he returns from Australia in May. The plan is to record at least five more tracks for his album.
After the exhausting series of sessions, it was time to take a break before returning to work. The first song that needed attention was Sad Eyes. We only had drums, so guitar and bass were added to the track. This one is the odd one of the bunch. Rather than play along with a demo, Ric recorded his drums playing to a live recording by Terry And The Pirates. It was an a brave experiment, as this was the arrangement I wanted to use. After playing through once, Ric pointed out the track sped up a little in the first verse. This was even more apparent when I started adding the bass and guitar. It was a simple matter of replacing the verse with part of the second verse section. The wonders of digital recording.
There are still a few songs that lack lyrics. I decided to see what I could do with the track Sounds Of ’73. The original set of lyrics weren’t going to work for this album. When we re-recorded this for Great Leap Forward, I wrote a new set of words, but they were intentionally nonsense, which is part of the reason we never used that take. We were out skiing the week after Deniz was here. While cruising around the Bar B Ranch, I started putting some ideas together. It only took a little work to fit them to the track, and create a new melody line. I need to write one more verse, but with what I’ve written so far, it should be a simple matter.
Now that my calendar is clear, it should be full speed ahead…
18 Feb 2011
When Deniz was last here, we spent some time exploring an idea I had. There is a folder of old demos which I review every time we do an album, to see if there is anything that I can use. I learned one of those bits and showed it to Den, explaining the feel I was after. We just jammed on the changes for about 20 minutes and left it there. I figured I should see what we had captured. After a few hours work, I’d managed to assemble a tidy little track. Since we were learning as we played, each “verse” had a different feel. I found the best bits and assembled an arrangement. There were solo bits too, which I dropped onto the rhythm track. Don’t know if anything will come of it, but it was a good exercise to distill our spontaneous creations.
Now that the wheels have started moving, I’ll turn my attention to the Shambaholic tracks for a couple of days. I figured mixing one of the tracks would be a good idea. Make A Noise Quietly has been around for a long while. It’s one we played live a few times. Ric’s drums sound fantastic. The real drums have pointed out a few loose bits of timing, mostly on the bass track. I spent some time cleaning up the worst of the problems. There are a couple of things I might add; harpsichord and my own vocal part which didn’t survive the original 8 track recording. All the while, I’m working on the mix. Once I dial in the drum sounds, we should be able to work with that for most all the material we are working on.
16 March 2011
Much to my surprise, it’s a month later, and I’ve only just finished a mix of Make A Noise. I spent a week adding a bit of vocals and some more string sounds. Getting my head back into mix mode always takes a while. This exercise was an effort to move the process up a little. The results were more than satisfactory. With that done, it’s back to work. I spend an evening preparing files to send to Bobby Sutliff. With the drum sound sorted out, it was a simple matter to assemble rough mixes. Bob’s own songs were sent to us as submixed “stems”. I am sending back his tracks with a stereo drum mix in the folder. Everything else has been mixed in some fashion so he can easily drop the songs into his computer and add ideas.
Before I could finish this task, Bob sent over another new song and promises yet another. This inspired a new idea of my own. The concept is in my head, and I’ve banged down a few lyrics. I should have this worked out over the weekend. It’s very clear that there are now nearly two albums in the works. I don’t think we’ll release them all in one go. That would be far too much work. At some point in the next few months, we will have to decide what the first album will be. I’m not complaining. This wealth of material only means Donovan’s Brain will around for a few more years.
18 March 2011
I dug into the files to poach the drum loops from one of the film songs to use on the new songs I’ve written. Upon listening, I decided I could use the whole track. With some editing, I’ve assembled the first verse. I’ll have to write the bridge and then decide what else it needs. I always knew that there was a song hidden in this short theme. While digging around the lyrics folder, I found something I’d written the other day, but quickly forgotten. I know where that one will go. Jason Lytle visited my radio show a few weeks back. We discussed this very same thing; using every good idea. At this point we’ve reclaimed three songs from the Where The DJ’s Roam sound track, and another from the ski films. The current goal is to make some progress in the next six weeks. Deniz will be back to Montana on May 1st and will be ready to get back to work.
5 April 2011
Progress on A Break In The Weather slowed down to a crawl, due to a problem opening the old file in a newer version of Logic. All is better now, and the track has been sorted out. Only the intro survives from the original piece, but it really wasn’t more than that. The first try seemed to run too slow, so the tempo was increased. The verse and middle bit worked out well. Words for both. I decided the song would need a second verse. The transition from the middle back to the verse took some time to sort out, and the original ending was scrapped.
Colter is hoping to make time this weekend to record guide vocals for his new songs. This will help give me an idea of what we are working with. I reviewed all the tracks the other day while preparing them for Bob Sutliff. Colter’s all sound promising. Once vocals are added we can start work on fleshing out the tracks.
6 May 2011
We are still waiting on Colter, but the time has been well spent. Another new song appeared a couple of weeks ago and is now pretty well worked out. Instant songs are always the best, and Crows is no exception. The idea was just a simple observation out the back window. When I sat down to work it out, the ideas flowed freely. In the end, I transposed the guitar shapes to organ. Once that started, the song wrote itself. Ric will be here in one week. He’ll have at least five new songs to beat up. Five more from the archive will be offered up. There is one more idea on the front of the table to sort out for this session… more to come.
10 May 2011
Final preparations for the next session with Ric are underway. A late addition to the list is a cover of the Terry Dolan song Into The Wind. This would be the second time the Brain has recorded this tune. A primitive attempt was recorded for the Peer Pressure League cassette. I think we can do it better this time.
14 May 2011
The first day’s work was very productive. Bob Sutliff delivered his newest song You Should Have Known Better at the last possible moment. We tracked drums on this one, and two of my new ones, Break In The Weather and Crows. There is one more new one on the list. Cardboard Army will take a little more thought, as it is only the slimmest of ideas. I was able to assemble a basic track for Into The Wind, a Terry Dolan song I thought we should record. Ric attacked this with enthusiasm. The fifth song for the day was the last of the Shambaholic tracks. We had worked on this one a few years ago when we were preparing songs for Dream Magazine. The results were satisfactory, but it seemed a good idea to have a consistent sound across the whole of the remade Shambaholic.
With five songs completed, we called it day and walked down to the Emerson for an art opening. Colter was in attendance, and finally met Ric. Dinner took longer than expected, so we never returned to the studio. We will start fresh today, Saturday.
15 May 2011
We started the second day with the least developed of the new ideas. Cardboard Army started with a simple set of chord changes I found in my demo folder. I played it for Deniz, and he agreed it could be used. We spent some time just playing the chords and trying ideas. I recorded the session and later edited the best bits together. This is what Ric heard. He was given the instructions to create something, knowing we would expand on his contribution. By the time he sat down, had an idea.
The rest of the day would be spent on some older things from the archive. Jim Kehoe’s song Cary Grant originally appeared on the Butterfly Wheel cassette. This seemed like a good time to resolve the drum issue. Seth Lyon had given it a try a few years ago, but the results missed the mark. Ric heard more Ramones than Stones, which was the original concept. I let him run with this. After completing the first take, Ric asked for a break for lunch. When we returned, he suggested he had a better one. It took a few times. The furious tempo made this one particularly challenging. By the time he nailed it, he had fine tuned the performances. There was enough Stones feel to satisfy me, and plenty of power to please Ric.
After that demanding effort, I figured the next one on the list should be something completely different. Row Out is the final track on the original Shambaholic album. It appeared as a hidden track on the Tiny Crustacean album. All this one would need is a little bit of color. Ric, of course, took it a bit further. And now all the Shambaholic tracks have real drum. Seventeen years after the fact, this album is now the record I imagined when we started work on it in the early 90’s. In typical Brain fashion; in the midst of our most creative period ever, we would take this project on. It’s tempting to put the new album aside to complete the mixes of this older material. I think I’ll concentrate on the new album for now, but that won’t stop me from working on the cover for this archival release.
50,000,000 Years Before My Time is often considered the first “real” Donovan’s Brain song. After writing this one, I knew the direction all future Brain recordings would take. I wrote this one one section at a time, words and music. The arrangement is a little odd, but not so much to make it impossible for Ric to suss out. This song has been around the block a few times. It first appeared on Butterfly Wheel, then the Get Hip single, and finally on Carelessly Restored Art. I think it got some new vocals for the latter.
The other very old song on the list was another Butterfly Wheel song, Beautiful Enigma. It’s a long rambling piece with lots of guitars. The new drums give it a solid beat, which was missing from the original. Butterfly Wheel is the only one of the cassette releases I feel is of sufficient quality to be heard. 50,000,000 Years and Follow The Shining Path were released on Carelessly Restored Art. Underdose and House Of Edward Devotion were re-recorded and appear on Eclipse And Debris and Tiny Crustacean Light Show. Pioneers Of The West has been re-recorded but never released. Jim’s two songs from the Egg sessions have been handed back to him for his own use. That only leaves Sorry The Swamp Thing Ever Got Out and Wreck.
While preparing for this session I pulled the 8 track reels off the shelf to transfer to hard drive. Sadly the time SMPTE time code on Swamp Thing was corrupt and I wasn’t able to salvage that track. Apparently Jason McKnight attempted to put drums on Wreck during the Tiny Crust sessions. The results were not satisfactory, but at least we had that one on 16 track with all the drums and click printed. Ric was more than happy to have a go at it, but part way through the first take, the power in our neighborhood went out, and we had to call it a night.
16 May 2011
Sunday was meant to be a free day, with a trip over the hill to Livingston planned. I was able to leave work early, so we were back from our drive earlier than expected. Ric was happy to complete work on Wreck, which only took a couple of passes. While setting that one up, I realized that Ric was now on all but two of the 28 tracks under consideration for the next album. Your Number was one of four songs Colter wrote for Great Leap while he was living in Boise. Following Orders was used for Great Leap, but the other two we had worked on didn’t make the cut. I Saw Your Light and the idea which became Carefully Considered Answers can be heard on Fires Which Burnt Brightly. I thought it would be a good idea to redo the drums on Your Number so it would match the others with Ric’s drumming. We have done some work on this one in anticipation of it appearing on one of the new albums. Deniz replaced my harpsichord solo with a nice bit of guitar. Bob Sutliff has been assigned the task of fixing the 12 string, and Colter will redo the vocals.
Ric thought the original drum track was fine, but understood my goals, and did a very nice job of it. The results have a much better feel, and a bit of swing missing on the original. With that, most of the work on basic tracks is now complete. There is still one more Bobby had submitted, but he’s not supplied the tracks as of yet. There will be time to address this later this summer when Deniz returns to work on his new album.
24 May 2011
In the week since Ric was here, things haven’t slowed down. I sent Bobby the drum track for You Should Have Known Better. He has continued working on this new songs. A rough mix was sent on to Bob’s friend, Mitch Easter, who pronounced it “awesome”.
Before work would resume here, there was the matter of completing a Roy Loney track for the next Hit The Hay compilation. How Would I Know was a song Deniz and I had expected to appear on Roy’s album, Shake It Or Leave It. We were determined to see it released in the future. Jerker Emmanuelson asked if we had a song for release. Roy was agreeable, but nothing moved forward until late last year. It was simply a matter of finding the time to get this song into shape. I wanted to recreate some ideas Scott McCughey had offered, but never delivered. Bob added new acoustic guitars, a solo and an organ track. With the new parts in hand, the mix fell into place quickly. This release is a continuation of a long relationship with Jerker, and Sound Asleep Records. The first Donovan’s Brain release was on the debut edition of Hit The Hay. Bobby Sutliff and the Young Fresh Fellows also had songs on the album.
Work on the Brain album will resume this week. One of the first goals will be to develop a priorities list. 28 songs is a daunting task, but not impossible. So far there has been no effort to create a track lists for the two potential albums.
29 May 2011
The last three days have been spent working through my songs to see where I left off. Lyrics for Crows and Managers Of Time are now completed and scratch vocals have been recorded. I was surprised to find out what I had sung over the Sounds Of ’73 track. It’ll have a new title when I decided what direction to take this. Currently there is only one verse and one chorus written. I spun off quick rough mixes so I can share these with the rest of the band.
Today I returned to Connie Companion. When Ric was last here, I asked him to have another go at the drums. He was fond of the original take, but the feeling was it needed a strong backbeat to hold this swirling concoction together. After we got a good take, Ric asked to hear it with the mallet toms from the original. Ah, the best of both worlds. We were very pleased with the possibilities. When I listened closer today, I did find a couple of spots where things didn’t quite line up. It was an easy fix. The results are probably what I had hoped for when we first approached this one. It seems like there are two verses and one chorus written. I’ll have to sit down and figure out how to resolve this one. It’s just another dream transcribed and sung.