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"Life is about rhythm. We vibrate, our hearts are pumping blood, we are a rhythm machine, that's what we are." - Mickey Hart (Grateful Dead)
I was back at Cloud9 Recording on September 6th to finish recording rhythm tracks for my upcoming CD. Joe Chirco was back playing drums, Al Improta was back playing bass, and I was playing guitar. The session goal was to complete the remaining four songs, and I had selected a fifth song to try if we had time. At the end of the day we had completed the rhythm tracks for all five songs. All nine songs for the next CD are now ready for vocals, additional guitars, and keyboards where needed. Throughout these early sessions I've been pleased to note that after every take we have always been in agreement regarding the quality of what we just played. We all knew if it was THE take, and if it was not THE take we all knew what needed attention. Musicians have egos like everyone else, so it is always a treat to work with players who consistently put the music first. In this case not only were we putting the music first, but we all seemed to be recognizing where it needed to go, and doing our best to get it there.
The primary guitar for today's rhythm tracks was the 1958 Gibson Les Paul Historic Re-issue that I also played on "Follow the Money" and "Nobody's Friend". The amp I used was the 1960's Fender Vibrolux that was also used on those songs. Aside from one exception that I will elaborate on later, I did not use any effects pedals. In case I haven't mentioned it yet, most of the guitars and all of the amps used for this project are from the Cloud9 collection.
"Sacred Place" is a song I had recorded a few years ago. I liked that performance, but not the recording quality. I also think "Sacred Place" will be a strong song to play live; it has a ragged Stones or Crazy Horse feel about it. I also thought it fit in well with the rest of the new material. I experimented with a new stomp box from Cloud9 Audio for the rhythm guitar track, as I wanted the guitar to sound a bit grittier than the Vibrolux was providing. Rather than switch to a different amp, Jack Napoli suggested trying out this distortion/overdrive pedal he recently designed. The pedal is actually two pedals in one. One function allows you to set an overdrive that is similar to Pete Townshend's sound in The Who, and you can vary it from his late 60's sound to his 70's sound. The other pedal function is more of a fuzz, and this is designed to sound like the Hendrix sound, and can also be varied from a soft break up to singing, gobs of sustain, heavy fuzz. The Townshend overdrive with a mid setting was perfect for the sound I was after. Thankfully my guitar retained its sound and expressiveness with this pedal. Many guitar pedals are personality vacuums - everything sounds the same coming out of them. I really liked that the guitar and amp retained their characters with this pedal - with the setting I used it was almost as if the amp had an extra pre-amp gain that I turned up. It sounded that natural.
I knew "Rise and Shine" would be challenging. The verses need to be slightly slower then the choruses, and they vary dynamically as well as with tempo. The verses of the song are mainly acoustic guitar and voice, the full band kicks in on the chorus. Al again played some very soulful fretless bass, conjuring the ghost of Jaco as he accompanied the acoustic guitar and lead vocal in the second verse. Joe Napoli worked his magic with Pro Tools, making sure the song's different sections segued nicely. Once again, the final performance was excellent.
The fifth song I had selected, "Sympathetic", was what I consider a straight-forward groove song - no breaks, no weird changes, just get into a groove, follow the chords and play. Joe and Al were ready to give it a try before ending the day so we played it down twice. Both were good takes, but the second take was better. This is the kind of song where the groove itself just makes me feel good. Its going to be fun to play a guitar solo on this. For the rhythm track I played Jack Napoli's Taylor acoustic plugged into the Vibrolux amp. It sounded quite good, so it may be a keeper; but I will probably record another acoustic rhythm track with my Lowden as well.
It was a very successful session. I'll write again as the sessions continue with vocals & additional instrumental overdubs.