Something New 2010 – 2013
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
August 22, 2011
Now that Donovan’s Brain seem to have finished recording tracks for the new album, the focus in now on finish work. This has meant finalizing lyrics and working out melodies.
The final tally looks something like this – Thirty five songs have been recorded for the new Donovan’s record. Bobby Sutliff will probably reclaim a few of his, and the Dylan cover for a solo album. The twelve songs which make up the Shambaholic album were the recipient of new drum tracks. Five other vintage Brain bits were also updated with Ric Parnell drum overdubs. At the last session the original version of No Cops, Haul Ass was pulled off the shelf for a makeover. For good measure, two Armchair Explorers soundtrack pieces were dusted off for the drum treatment. A grand total of 52 songs were worked on over the course of a little more than a year. Add to this, 14 songs for the Deniz Tek album. One of these, originally recorded with the Brain for the abandoned second Angie Pepper album. Hana Tek recorded a new lead vocal, so this has been set aside for a proposed single.
Sixty six tracks in just 13 months, an impressive effort. In the past we were happy to have an extra song or two at the end of the project. Only the marathon Tiny Crustacean – Great Leap sessions can match the current productivity.
There has been much thought and discussion as to what the new album might look like. The 16 songs on the Album 1 list will most likely appear on the finished release. There are a few others also under consideration, but lack lyrics at this point. Anything not used for the first release will probably become a part of the follow up. There is always the possibility of more new songs being written and recorded. In the past, songs have appeared at the very last minute which made it on to the album.
The next six months will see non-stop work, with emphasis on the new album tracks. It will be hard to resist looking at some of the other songs. Adding drums to the two Armchair Explorers’ tracks has restarted work on that long dormant project. I reviewed the work I had done a few years ago, and decided to rebuild some of the pieces. There are some good elements and a few completed songs. I’ve not taken inventory to see where it stands today. I’m also considering further work on the Central Services remix I did for the Bridger ski films. Don’t be surprised if this surfaces in the future.
13 Sept, 2011
Just as I feared, more songs are being written. A few weeks back, I had a dream, which I transcribed as a some lines of lyrics. My original intention was to sketch some ideas for Cardboard Army. I thought these new lyrics could be an alternate idea. Last week the music for this new bit came to me, the general shape anyway. I fussed with a bit of Ric’s drums and created some loops. The verse came pretty easily. I figured this one would be something Bobby would have some ideas for. Rather than send him a finished idea, I just roughed out the verse and a mock up chorus with a hint of the bridge. I’ve sent these rough ideas over to him to have a go at.
With that out of my hands I returned to Cardboard Army. The basic track was really just a one chord idea, with a chorus. I wanted to record it because I knew if the drums were right, I could do anything with it. Deniz and I just jammed to a tambourine loop. Later I cut it up into an arrangement for the drum overdub. The first try at a proper bass track was way too busy, so I tried again. I still wasn’t happy. Last night I got the idea I could strip off the most of the guitar and the bass and open it up a little. With that in mind, I’ve filled the long verses with some simple organ chords, just so I can count out the verse sections. The drums are great, so now it’s just a matter of working out how the vocals might work. Tomorrow will be dedicated to this experiment.
10 October, 2011
Attention to the new album has been the priority the last week or so. The first task was to try and made some sense of Cardboard Army. Extensive overdubs were committed and a guide vocal sung. A full flight of overdubs have also been added to Bobby’s song, My Own Skin.
We have found ourselves in the awkward position of having to decide what to do about Colter’s migration to the Seattle coast. A year after cutting four new songs, he had never made it back over to sing on any of them. At least two were on the short list for the album. I’d talked to Tony Miller some time ago about helping us out on the new record. I figured he might be able to come up with some ideas for Colter’s four unfinished songs. Tony had contributed backing vocals on two songs on Fires. Having him on board again has always been part of the plan.
It was Cardboard Army that first caught Tony’s attention. I agreed to hand the tracks over to him to sing on. There was the matter of the chorus, which I hadn’t written yet. With lyrics in hand, I instructed Tony to see if he had any ideas that would fit with the concept. The first draft he returned was soundly approved. We are both excited to have another contributor to the album, and expect he’ll take up the task of the unfinished tracks and other chores to be determined.
With these two major projects accomplished, I have now moved on to another nagging issue. The song known as Sun Goes began as one of Bobby’s demos. I liked the chorus bit and suggested he rewrite it as such. Bob, in response, told me to see what I could do with that idea. The track I assembled used a bit of Bob’s original track as a place holder. This resulted in a jarring transition. After listening for a year to this track, I was convinced that my arrangement had two extra bars in the first section. It took a couple of tries to determine which two bars to cut, but the final edit is seamless. After a couple of days working on this, I heard a new idea for the bit which was Bob’s original inspiration. Now to see if I can play it.
Some major revisions have now been carried out. I’ve passed it back to Bobby for further work. Time to move on to something else.
11 Oct, 2011
Before I sent a mix of Sun Goes to Bob, I needed to add one more bit of organ. Songs are usually demoed in Logic, and then moved over to Digital Performer for major work. Logic is great for banging out ideas quickly and there are some nice software instruments offered. I dropped a rough mix back in to Logic to complete the organ overdubs.
Before I could move on, I needed to have a look at my Fender Vibro Champ Amp. This had been a favorite on the last record, but it developed a fault, and started to give a nasty shock and buzz. It was apparent there was a ground issue. I’ve been avoiding this task for a while, but today would be the day I’d get it sorted out. The power connections looked ok. I needed to get a continuity checker to see where the break was. Turned out the problem was on the plug end of the power lead. Had it fixed in 15 minutes. Good to have this back in the arsenal.
The next song I wanted to work on is another of Bob’s, Morning Side Dream. Both Ric and myself thought this was a strong one and a major piece on the new album. We added drums at one of the later sessions. The song could be considered done as it stands, though I think Bob intends to redo the vocal. I needed to add some small bits of color to put the Brain stamp on it. In the end, just some touches of mellotron were all that were needed.
I’m not sure what will be next up. I have some lyrics I may try to graft onto Colter’s track Okay. We shall see…
15 Oct 2011
Bob Sutliff and I had a long talk on Thursday. My goal was to get Bob to organize the files I need from his studio. Bob, on the other hand, has been trying to get me to pin down the list of tracks we will focus on. With Colter’s four songs in question, we discussed what we might do to fill the gap. One possibility is for us to finish work on at least one of those. A while back, we had moved some of Bob’s songs into a solo album folder. It was suggested we reclaim A Great Divide for the Brain album. I honestly didn’t remember adding drums to this one. Once I found the files, and listened I had to agree this was a good one and suitable for our needs.
This would put six of Bobby’s songs on the A list, plus the collaboration. I’m going to keep Colter’s song Okay on the list for now as I think I can come up with something. Tony Miller has said he will give a listen once he’s done working on ideas for Cardboard Army. If Tony is going to sing one, he might as well find a second one to give him more than a “guest” presence on the album. I’m sure there will plenty of backing vocals for Tony to do before we are done. It now feels like we have moved past the writing phase and are on the path to completion.
18 Oct 2011
First files from Bob arrived and have been successfully inserted into the song. Morning Side Dream was one of three songs which drums were added to a rough mix. These weren’t in the usual format. There are various methods for synchronizing files for transfer, none of which were applied here. I figured it shouldn’t be a big problem as there were several cues which, in theory, would make it easy to line everything up. In the end, I used the vocal track Bob sent and listened for the delay between this and the rough mix. Once I was sure things were sounding about right, I then soloed the bass against the drums. It locked right in. That is good enough for me. I probably won’t feel secure until all these “wild sync” tracks have been reassembled.
29 Oct 2011
I had time over the last few days to learn and try some overdubs on Colter’s song Okay. I tweaked the arrangement a little. The second verse was missing an 8 bar section. I’m sure Colter had a good reason for that, but I figured it would make room for a guitar solo. I added another guitar, redid the organ and worked out a string arrangement. It all seems to work. I’ve thrown it back at Colter to see if he’ll have any ideas. He does have the facilities to record at home. Not sure if he’ll follow through, but I had to ask before we more on our own.
On the other side, Deniz has asked for two of the tracks we recorded for the Bridger Bowl ski films. His Song For Dave is good as it stands. I imagine he’ll want to add some more bits before we are done. The other is one of mine, which has Deniz on guitar. I extended the arrangement and suggested Den write some words. We shall see what happens with that. We will add drums to both next month. Bobby has also sent over a new song which we can also add Ric to. I may have one more to round out the session.
Again the question of what to do with so much material has come up. Deniz has already suggested a double album. I was reluctant until now.
31 October 2011
The power of suggestion. Colter and Tony are now working together on Okay. Colter has promised to send over a scratch vocal with his ideas, and has expressed interest in anything Tony can come up with. Tony is also working a idea for Bobby’s “New Piece”. Safety in numbers I always say. Good to start mixing up ideas. I will now start working on a progress chart and assigning tasks to all involved
7 November 2011
Overdubs are the main focus here now. This is the fun part. Applying bits of color. I’m walking around with these songs in my head, looking for answers to the puzzle we have created. As The Crows Fly has been on the front burner this week. Not all is adding new material, there is some sculpting, with chunks of marble being removed to find the form underneath. Another day is planned for tomorrow. Guitars next.
25 November 2011
There was extensive work done on Crows. Several guitar parts have been added, electric and acoustic. I’ve sent this one over to Tony to add his voice. His vocal tracks for Cardboard Army have now been added to the master. I was surprised at the complexity of the arrangement. Very nice. Bobby has a new song with we want to complete. He initially suggested I write words for it. When we talked last week he said he’s now got the bridge, but hasn’t had any luck with the verse. I suggested he talk to Tony and see if they can put something together. Bob was agreeable. I’m waiting to hear back from them.
I decided to turn my attention to a song that seems to have at least three titles. It might be called “All My Friends”, or “Sunshine Days”. It is also is known as “Clouds Will Clear”. I will have to make a decision soon or risk losing track of this one. I’m still struggling with the lyrics and phrasing. The chorus has never felt right to me. It’s easy enough to create a new version, which I did. Everything except the drums were muted in the section under review. Several guitar ideas were tried before I decided to have a go at an organ part. The new part I worked out is the same chords as the original. The variation gives the section a much better feel.
This basis for this song dates back to 1992. I recorded three demos at the time, but put it aside. In 1998-9 we recorded a much different version, and played it live at least once. That recording wasn’t used for Great Leap, and once again was shelved. The current version is built on top of the third demo. A few elements from the original survive. There is always the concern that one can over work a song and make things worse. A quick review shows that this one is coming along fine. A new vocal track will be needed and some work on the lyrics to improve the phrasing.
26 November 2011
I spent the day fussing with lyrics and singing a few takes. Not a keeper, but a much better guide track to work with. A few ideas for additional vocals appeared in the process and will be pursued. There are a couple of guitar bits which I need to work out. That will be the next task before I move on to the next song.
20 December 2011
As the year winds down, finding time to work has been a problem. In the interim, Bobby sent over all the tracks for two more of his songs. I had done extensive overdubs on My Own Skin. Restless Nights – Many Dreams was rescued from and abandoned Windbreakers reunion. Bob’s remake is just lacking the end solo which we hope Deniz will take care of. I’ll have to find something to add if I want to be a part of this one. I sent Bob tracks for Your Number. He will need to redo the 12 string part. Colter did the original take, and I did some repairs to that. It’s never sounded right. I realized that it needed an end solo, which he’s been asked to do as well.
Last week, I had the melody to All Our Friends running through my head. The new lyrics didn’t seem quite the same as my original idea. It was a simple matter of adding a few more bits to get it to flow. With that sorted out, I decided another guitar part might put it right. I’ve got the tone I want, but the part hasn’t quite jelled. I hate to get too distracted by this song, for fear of hitting a dead end again. When I stopped the other night, I had made a list of ideas to try. I may or may not return to this before New Year’s.
Meanwhile, Deniz has not had much luck getting into the studio with Andy Newman. I suspect we’ll be busy here and in Billings when he returns. The slow pace has me concerned that we might not meet our deadlines for the Fall release.