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Saturday morning I was Fuzzy Wuzzy bear and after dropping Mark and Guy off at Longniddry station I had a few hours before my last vocal sessions before the break.
I really wasn’t sure if we would rack up the last 2 songs to give us a full album’s first comp vocals that afternoon as “The Leaving”, the final one written but never played, was going to be a test and needed a full “mapping” as I had only sung a basic guide vocal on the demo which was mostly just Foss playing.
Before we had attempted “All Loved Up” I had another quick run at “Blind to the Beautiful” which already had a good first comp with a couple of missing phrases to correct. As the vocal is so exposed on this song it’s imperative to trap a great overall performance and if I am to beat the new comp then I will be ecstatic as what we have already is a really great version.
” All Loved Up” was next up and despite my reticence at approaching a rock song early doors down the mike after a session with “Mad Jack” there was a good energy available!
The new edited arrangement suggested by Calum took me a couple of takes to recognise my path as it was slightly different and shorter than the version we played on the UK tour. It sounds a lot heavier and more groovy now and leaner for the edits. Calum got enough takes from me to create a damn good first comp and the ideas we have for tracking other vocal parts should really make it special!
“The Leaving” is mainly made up of different musical themes being re engaged with slightly different arrangements. The lyric was the last to be completed and although I knew it fitted the music and I already knew the melodies to some degree as these were in previous songs in the suite, the performance map was very different. It was a tricky start but a suggestion from Calum to use a spoken vocal across 4 lines just after a sung vocal at the front of the song made sense and opened the door to the rest of the track. We pieced it together section by section and by the end of the day we had a really good comp which I can listen to this week and see if I can come up with other melodic ideas and dynamics in my performance.
We finished vocal takes around 7pm and I was spent and knackered but overjoyed that we had managed to complete all the first comp vocals in a week. I now have copies of all the songs with vocals to listen to this week and get to grips with how they can be bettered and improved. I get the chance to look at deliveries ( are they too strong ? Too weak, too laid back or not grooving and swinging enough?), the melodies ( can they move more and be more intricate in places?) and how my performances sit with the music overall. I have 7 days to prepare for the big sessions both mentally and vocally. last week was the warm up for the final and this break is perfect !
I had been buoyed earlier by a message from Robin Boult. Robin had signed up for the writing and the May UK tour but had been very open with me and said that he wasn’t sure if he could play the Autumn European tour. He has a lot of other work commitments and he told me he wouldn’t know until mid July if he could play with us in September. The prospect of finding another guitarist between now and September was going to put a huge new mountain in my way and I have to admit Steve Vantsis, Foss, Gavin and I were nervous. Not only did we have to find a guitarist to learn all the material from scratch but we had to find one that would be able to learn and play all Robin’s guitar parts on “Feast” and that would be a huge demand on anyone as Robin has most definitely made his mark on this album with some outstanding playing! The news that Robin was on board drew a massive sigh of relief from us all and I am really happy that this band line up is intact as we were finding a very special chemistry on the UK tour.
I now have a relatively clear run at the September tour and with everyone knowing the material from the recording sessions rehearsal time is a lot shorter than it would have been with a new line up. It gives me more time to set the album promotion up and a less stressful existence at least on that count!
By the time Calum had packed up on Saturday, I’d watered the parched garden ( it hit 34 degrees at one point on the external greenhouse thermometer !), cooked the kippers that had been intended for breakfast and cleaned up it was 10pm and I was bushed! I’d racked up 6 days of vocals involving around 25 hours of singing on 11 songs ! I’d been invited to a good friend’s retirement party in Berwick upon Tweed that night but I already knew that I would never be able to make it never mind stay awake for long and had resigned myself to meltdown at home.
The plug was pulled and I was in bed at midnight and passed out until 1pm next day. I was completely lost all day with no studio commitments and a drive down to North Berwick to drop off some studio notes to Calum didn’t help matters. Seeing him at his home and not here was slightly confusing as it was outside the routine I was now used to for over a month. I took the chance to visit my parents as with the Open on at Muirfield on this week the entire county is under siege from golfers and the roads around the coast by Gullane and North Berwick have been turned into a glorious one way system to accommodate the traffic. I’ve never seen so many “no parking” bollards on the roads around here. With some houses being rented at prices of £20k a week and over, restaurants and bars chocka and every bed taken in hotels and B and B’s it’s a massive event bringing in a fortune to East Lothian. It’ll be a pain in the ass moving around this week but the fact that the council have filled in a landscape of potholes and tarted up the roads is a good swap longterm!
It’s a good week to hole up at home and deal with all the stuff that’s been left untouched during the recording sessions.
Sunday ended with a solo roast chicken dinner and TV blob out! ( “Top Side of the Lake” – intriguing first episode drew me in. Could be special and glad it’s not another 12 parter! “Field of Dreams” – one of my favourite all time films, revisited and still had me choking! )
Today is album credits and the booklet foreword for Mark Wilkinson. I am now close to his deadline for finishing the artwork and I know he is now getting nervous as it’s a huge chunk of work for him and Julie putting this all together to hit production times.
I can listen to the comps while writing and with an empty house at my disposal I can relax slightly and look forward to some pottering around later. I’m sure there’s enough to keep me occupied and it wouldn’t be me if there isn’t some minor drama lurking just over the near horizon!