Wednesday, April 8, 2009

SUNDAY, JUNE 22, 2008


The other songs on "WORKING" are "DON'T THINK TWICE IT'S ALRIGHT" by Bob Dylan, "AIN'T THAT LOVIN YOU BABY" by Jimmy Reed, "SINGIN THE BLUES" by Melvin Endsley, "NORWEGIAN WOOD" by Lennon and McCartney, "I'LL BE YOUR BABY TONIGHT" by Bob Dylan, and "THE WEIGHT" by Robbie Robertson. These 6 songs plus the 4 previously mentioned, Gentle On My Mind by John Hartford and Palo Alto, Bout Bein Young and Broken Windows by me, make up the 10 songs of the album. As I said before these songs were songs I used to play at the piano by myself. They weren't just songs I picked out of nowhere. Many of the songs I have written were just written and demo'd or recorded and that was that.

Each of these songs were things I played over and over so they had a performance history in my life. The trouble with this, where the album was concerned, was that I learned to play these songs the way I played them not the way they were written. So when it came time to record these particular songs the players would tend to play them in the meter or tempo that they believed was correct. I on the other hand had developed a live performance tempo and meter that was at odds with the musicians reading of the songs for the basic tracks.

One of the drummers, JIM TROXELL who ended up not on the album and I had a pretty good fight in the studio about this. Jim, who I'd recorded with before, refused to alter his meter to my way of doing the songs. He kept telling me not to tell him how to play and I kept telling him to play what I was doing as opposed to telling me how to do it. This was the first time I'd ever stood my ground with musicians I'd always considered to be better than I was. It so offended TROXELL that he packed his stuff and left. TOXI FRENCH then became the drummer on everything.

No one else seemed to think this was a reason to quit and it was a small but significant victory for me in that I refused to have the meter changed for the sake of perfection. I was more interested in the recordings sounding real as opposed to perfect. I have played with some incredibly gifted people, but studio players have a tendency to almost be too good. THE BAND and CRAZY HOSRSE would be two examples of play it for real not for perfection, the perfection comes from the "real." This subject of tempo and or meter presented ongoing problems in constructing the basic tracks or musical tracks for the album.

Every time we'd get into playing the tracks prior to cutting them I'd notice that the tempo was changing and the songs were sounding different than the way I wanted to play them. All my vocal inflection would have to change to suit the tracks rather than the tracks supporting the way I sang the songs. In "COLOR HIM IN" I allowed this to happen and was never satisfied with the final results. In other words the songs ended up not being the song I had written but a version of the song I had written.

On "WORKING" I was bound and determined to sing the songs the way I sang them, not sing them the way they were played. Many would say that the album suffered because of this but I would disagree. The arrangements on a number of the songs were not to my liking, but the vocals on a number of the songs are dead on for my purposes. Had I been able to have more time constructing all of the elements to enhance each other, the album would have been markedly better, but at the time the goddamn money clock kept running and I was limited to doing the best I could.

My way of solving the meter problem once and for all was to play all the songs on the piano, by myself, and record them. Once that was accomplished the arrangers, there were 3 of them, and musicians could do their stuff to what I had done rather than visa versa. This was completely ass backwards, but the more it was discussed the more everybody seemed to think it could be done. Fortunately most of the players had played with me before and were willing to go the extra mile to get it right. Jimmy Burton, who played Dobro guitar on the session had never played with me before, but was willing to go along with everybody else.

The "WORKING" sessions in 1968 were the first time JERRY SCHEFF and JAMES BURTON had ever played together, this later resulted in Burton contacting Scheff to play bass In ELVIS PRESLEY'S Las Vegas show band, which Burton put together. Another first timer for me in those sessions was the legendary Steel guitar player RED RHODES who did some incredible work with James Burton on "THE WEIGHT" and "BROKEN WINDOWS".

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