In The Studio: Aug/Sep/Oct 2014

Satch Kerans is mixing another great collection of songs.  Telamor is already at work on LP3.  Mary Lou Lord is this close to finishing her next record.  Kenny Chambers and the Electric Ears have finished their debut LP and sent it out for mastering. Pocket Tanya is keeping it unreal. Renee and Joe are warming our hearts out. The A-Train Orchestra are getting there fast. Susan Waller transferred tapes taped at the legendary Cameron’s. Pray for Mojo had their prayers answered. Mike Francis of Soul Rebel Project did some extracurricular overdubs for Mr. Babson. Scout did tracks on his own. Alien Psychology featuring Scout are working on tracks together. Jason Carpenter worked on his mixing skills. Chelsea Berry is recording her “living room” record. Megan McKenzie is making SAFETY happen. Jon Butcher is teaching us a thing or two about tone!

And then, right in the cracks between “In The Studio: July 2014” and “In The Studio: Aug/Sep/Oct 2014“, came this guy: Linwood “Woody” Becker Goddess.  We’re happy to have him!

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A Simple Sequence for The Beach Boys’ “SMiLE”

Dear Y’all,

I hope it’s okay to use my studio blog to publish a recent discovery about what was certainly the greatest studio recording of its time, The Beach Boys “SMiLE”.

A few months back someone sent me this link from Aquarium Drunkard to Brian Wilson discussing air pollution as recorded in May 1967 during one of the final SMiLE sessions.

Listening was a revelation, this quote in particular:

“Air pollution is something that has become increasingly more of a threat to all of us over the last ten years, especially in the last five years since the growing industry demands……and when I hear things like that it makes me want to get involved in this thing in some way, do my best. Ok. We, the way we can help is to make a record, and more or less present the facts in some interesting manner, not boring but in some way that people can retain these facts, and to sort of set up in their minds a goal to get rid of this shit! Because I’ll tell ya something, if it doesn’t subside I’m gonna call the cops!”

smileWhat is most striking, besides Brian’s humor, is his statement that SMiLE was intended to “present the facts.” For decades there was so little factual information about SMiLE that Brian’s intent to use SMiLE to “present the facts” is painfully ironic. It was a myth-shrouded, unreleased album which its very participants were unwilling to discuss, and when they did so, they often obfuscated. As the recordings slowly trickled out, they were bewildering in their obscure historical and musical references, and repeating lyrical and musical motifs. It was rumored to be a concept album, but the concept was abandoned, assumed incomplete. 2004’s brilliant “Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE” showed American history, the cycle of life, and the environment to be the major themes of the record, but they were presented as discrete movements. However, in light of the discovery of Brian’s statement of purpose, I would like to humbly suggest that the most logical way to “present the facts” would be to arrange the songs into a chronology. Doing so makes SMiLE come alive as a fable about the effects of the American century on the environment and our souls.

Side 1:

Prayer

Good Vibrations, the first song written for SMiLE, instantly introduces the album’s overarching theme of enlightenment, and the light and air symbolism that will be used throughout the lyrics and artwork.

“I love the colorful clothes she wears and the way the sunlight plays upon her hair/ I hear the sound of a gentle word on the wind that lifts her perfume through the air / I’m picking up good vibrations”

Heroes and Villains Pt.1 starts the story in the American West, our narrator on the run as he introduces himself and quickly flashes back to the beginning.

Wonderful, Do You Like Worms, I’m In Great Shape, Cabin Essence and Vega-Tables presents a broad history of The United States from the Native American Garden of Eden to the great California migration.

Side 2:

LOOK!, Holidays, Wind Chimes, Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow, Love to Say Dada, Child is the Father of the Man and The Old Master Painter take the trip from Kansas to the West ending in heartbreak over the effects of America’s progress.

Heroes and Villains Pt. 2 concludes the story with our narrator’s farewell address, signing off in hope that we’ve gained wisdom from his tale.

Surf’s Up is SMiLE encapsulated in one song. The moral of the story. One man’s enlightenment told through a sweeping history of civilization.

SMiLE was completely baffling to listeners in the decades after its non-release due to its radical production techniques and decidedly non-Beach Boys lyrical content, but it was actually very simple all along. Brian was at the vanguard of the “back to the garden” movement and SMiLE was his attempt to enlighten the masses.

“The lyrics present the listener with the challenge of taking them at face value or exploring them at deeper levels of meaning.” –Van Dyke Parks

SMiLE became an obsession for so many because it required the listener to explore those deeper levels of meaning if they wished to imagine the album had it been released in 1967.  “Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE” was so satisfying because Brian and Van Dyke were able to continue modulating SMiLE to reflect their present perspectives. There are a wealth of amazing websites (Arkhonia, Good Humor Smile), books (Domenic Priorie’s “Look! Listen! Vibrate! SMiLE!”) and official liner notes that attest to SMiLE’s ability to satisfy nearly any level of analysis, but this sequence makes SMiLE as easy to comprehend as grade school history.

Listen to the record, read the lyrics and study the artwork.   Follow the symbolism and explore the metaphors. Research the cultural and historical references. Read the wealth of Brian and Van Dyke quotes. When arranged as a history, every note, lyric, image, allusion and quotation within SMiLE has purpose and place. From “over and over the crow cries uncover the cornfield” to “columnated ruins domino” it all adds up to a fable intended to engender the enlightenment Brian Wilson had found.

In The Studio: June 2014

Tom Hauck and Telamor are wrapping up LP 2.  Jon Butcher is overdubbing on masters and demos.  Mary Lou Lord is kicking her Kickstarter album.  Kenny Chambers and the Electric Ears are rocking and popping throughout their first record together.  Ken Steiner is recording upright for Robert Allen down in FLA.  Renee & Joe are growing another album. Satch Kerans is wrapping up another batch of hits.

In The Studio: May 2014

Telamor is overdubbing LP2.  Renee and Joe are mixing their latest home recorded masterpieces.  Willie Loco Alexander and the Raztones finished the first studio document of their collective magic.  Henri Smith transferred some live recordings.  Anna Rae hosted a listening party for her new EP and videoSAFETY are rehearsing for the summer season in Studio B.  Harhay is overdubbing in Studio B. Satch Kerans is overdubbing his latest batch of excellent tunes.

In The Studio: Feb/Mar/Apr 2014

Dear Y’all,

With all the snowfall I didn’t even realize I hadn’t let you know what’s been going on at Bang-A-Song the past few months so here goes:

Willie “Loco” Alexander and the Raztones have finished tracking and begin mixing their new record this Friday!  Renee & Joe mixed another great song “Steal You Flowers” which was made available for Valentine’s Day.  Mike Francis from Soul Rebel Project and Mile 21 laid down vocals and guitars for many upcoming projects.  The Instinct laid down enough tracks to start their first full length.  Jon Butcher is cutting tracks for his latest (first?) theater production.  Daniel Dye and the Miller Road Band came in again from Ohio to start their next LP at Bang-A-Song.  Anna Rae used Bang-A-Song to film a Q&A with the engineers/mixers involved with her upcoming release.  Tom Hauck finished his new album “Valentine to the Future”, released it under the new band name TELAMOR and is now reworking his previous solo tracks with his new group.  Satch Kerans had a great session with Timo Shanko on bass and Leo Ciaramitaro on drums.  Pocket Tanya is this close to finishing the new EP.  Lisa Manning sequenced and mastered her new LP.  Tony and Warren cut tracks on spec for future use in Polish laundry detergent ads. Mara Bettencourt finished mastering and released her new album “Eclectic Soul”.  Alien Psychology achieved the rare feat of shredding their vocal chords with melody for their latest two tracks.  Sonic Euphoria came in from the cold after a many month lay off.  Watts held court at Bang-A-Song for the David Robinson 65th birthday surprise party afterparty.

The Goddesses on Lieber and Stoller Tribute

No one has better taste than our pals in Brussels at 62TV Records, so when they asked us to contribute to an album of Leiber & Stoller tunes, we couldn’t say no, and we didn’t say no!  (Anyone who has seen The Goddesses perform in the last five years knows that “I’m A Hog (For Ya Baby)” is one of our staple tunes, too.)

“I Can’t Get You Out of My Mind: A Tribute To Leiber & Stoller” (Benefit for the Waama Village School in Tanzania) can be found here on Facebook, and features tracks from Okay Monday, Mujeres, Kanoba, Francoiz Breut, Johnwayneshotme, Young Rival, Malibu Stacy, Bed Rugs, Lucy Lucy, Dog Bowl, Hong Kong Dong, The Tellers, Vaporellas, The Experimental Tropic Blues Band and Dez Mona, and The Goddesses.

A track a day will be posted on YouTube, so check ‘em all out, starting with this one:

Silver Ages / Goddesses on The Key (and Fleetwood Mac)

Thanks to Maureen Walsh for the nice review of the Silver Ages / The Goddesses performance in Philadelphia a few days ago, and for capturing some great photos and great videos!

You can read/see the full story here.

“The highlight of the evening was a version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Save Me a Place,” performed by the Goddesses, the Silver Ages, and Buried Beds’ Eliza Jones. It encompassed everything Pat Berkery enthused about in his introduction: a love of music, a sense of community, and making beautiful harmonies together.”

In The Studio: January 2014

Jon Butcher is overdubbing on tracks he cut with our friends at Q Division.  Tom Hauck is rounding the corner on his third solo record.  Pocket Tanya is keeping it kray.  Willie Loco and the Razdans cut/are dubbing an 11 hour session of upright, sax and traps.  Brian King is demoing “Spy”.  Transona 5 transferred DAT’s.  Satch Kerans is mixing.  The Electric Ears are capturing lightning in a vaporizer.  Lisa Manning is wrapping her third  Bang-A-Song record.  Mara Bettencourt is mastering.

The Goddesses join The Silver Ages in Philly

The Goddesses are thrilled to be joining The Silver Ages for their 7th Annual Holiday Performance at the Ethical Humanist Society of Philadelphia  at Rittenhouse Square on Saturday night, January 18th starting at 8pm.  The show is a guaranteed sellout, so get your tickets here.

Silver Ages (2014, Jan 18th)