Sunday, December 16, 2007
The Entire SILVERGIRL Album. Free. Now.
NOW! With additional song and album artwork!!!
So: two years ago. I had it in my mind to write and record a group of songs as sort of a love letter to the country-flecked "canyon rock" I was listening to at the time (y'know, Flying Burrito Brothers, The Byrds-circa-"Notorious Byrds Brothers," and most importantly THE MONKEES, the group that has perhaps loomed largest over my life, and country-rock pioneers whether you wanna admit it or not -- as well as 70s stuff like Bread and America that generally sends critics into paroxysms of agony).
I wrote and played the whole thing myself, for the most part -- the guitars, basses, drums, keyboards, and whatever other nib-nobs you hear in there are most likely me. I was helped by the fabulous Michael Gray of Minneapolis electro-rockers Mercurial Rage (on low harmonies) and of course Diablo Cody (on high harmonies), who made it sound less like I was a giant chorus of clones.
I had always intended to put together a band to record these songs, but instead joined the Autumn Leaves for one last hurrah before moving out to Los Angeles. Two of them are gonna appear on the forthcoming (and awesome) Autumn Leaves record in entirely superior form, so watch for that -- these are really demos. And now they've been supplanted by an entirely new group of somewhat more lyrically relevant songs (ha!) which I think are even better than these in a lotta ways (less deliberately derivative, certainly), and the chances that the Silvergirl album is ever gonna make it in front of people is slim to none.
So here you go. I'm even including a couple outtakes from the "sessions" -- including a nasty, stomping, Mud-like cover of The Archies' "S.K.O.O.B.Y. D.O.O."
Peace Like A River
I wanted to open the album Brian Wilson-style with a little snippet of an old Presbyterian hymn that I used to sing in choir. I'm also kinda deliberately aping the a capella countriness of the Dillards on "Wheatstraw Suite," where they start with a lovely version of "I'll Fly Away," an equally reverent little hymn.
Feels Like Rain / The Melancholy Train Whistle Blows
The first half of this omnibus opener is "Feels Like Rain," which is a cross between the Monkees and the ever-present Dillards, sung in my very best twang. The little cascading "raindrops" in the chorus make me especially happy. Again: watch for an even better version on the forthcoming Autumn Leaves record. The second half is a song called "The Melancholy Train Whistle Blows." Its kind of a "Notorious Byrds Brothers" David Crosby-esque little thing. I've always loved "train songs" -- written a scad of 'em in my time even though I've ridden a total of one train. And I've always loved Crosby's cool droney modal tunes that broke into gorgeous country choruses. Go Cros.
Okay, this one is pure Nez -- Michael Nesmith has always been one of my very favorite songwriters, and I think he's never really given his due as a country rock pioneer -- some of the stuff he did on the first couple Monkees records is as Cosmic and American as anything Gram Parsons ever mustered. Kind of a silly lyric, but again, written in kind of the light-hearted song-storyin' favored by Mr. Wool Cap.
This song is about, to be very oblique, two girls who have always been incredibly important to me, in different ways at different times. Very oblique, eh? At the time I wrote this, one of them was in Los Angeles and one of them was in New York, and I missed them both -- and they happened to share a name, kind of, so I wrote a very Stones-circa-'66 madrigal ballad with harpsichord and mellotron strings for them. Michelle #1 takes vs. 1, and Michele #2 takes vs. 2, and the chorus covers 'em both. THEY know who they are.
Laurel Canyon Drive
I've always been obsessed with Laurel Canyon, as any Los Angeles-in-the-sixties fan oughta be. There's something so cool about the juxtaposition of this rustic setting and the hustle-and-bustle of West Hollywood, and I used to take comfort in thinking about it. This jazzy song rips off both Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" and, yes, another song by the Dillards which shall remain nameless. It also, as many songs on the album do, has a certain Crosbyness to it.
A cover of the amazing Carole King's "Spaceship Races," a surprisingly rocking tune found on her first solo album, "Writer." I figured: if the Monkees did Carole so well ("Pleasant Valley Sunday," which I think we can all agree is one of the finest moments in pop history) then why not me? You'll forgive me the fake horns -- I tried re-doing them with real ones and I actually liked the sort of muddy mass-horn-section-sounding sound of the synth. Weird.
My daughter's favorite song. Ironically: not one of mine.
Another Monkees-style tune -- you could slip this sucker onto "Headquarters" quite neatly and nobody'd ever notice any difference. That jangle-guitar riff up atop is one of my favorite things I've ever written.
What country album would be complete without a boozy, swingy, whiskey soaked song about a breakup? The real star of this song is the harmonies -- Mike in left channel and Diablo's Emmylou Harris-like soprano in right. And the word "ass" sung with deliberate emphasis always makes for a good laff.
Summer Sunshine Girl
Okay, this sucker is pure Bread -- by way of Glen Campbell if that makes any sense (it's those tuned-down vibrato licks during the riff! Jim Webb would be proud). You'll see this one on the Autumn Leaves record transformed into a Hollies-esque pop tune, but in its original form it was very much a Canyon Rock tune in its purest form. I think its my favorite song on the album, probably.
Waltz For Diablo
Pretty self-explanatory. Worth mentioning, however, that there was not at the time, nor has there ever been, an actual fireplace at the house -- it's called poetic license. That sort of bugged the song's subject somewhat, but, y'know, "by the glow of the ugly lamp in the living room" doesn't sound as cool.
Girl From Wyoming
This song is a sort of prescient tune about people changing, and about trying to get back to a beautiful time that's just a memory, but never being able to quite do it. It's based around a one-chord organ drone, with an awesome Roger McGuinn-ish backwards guitar solo, and listen all the way to the end, okay? There's kind of a special surprise there. Another one I've always been really proud of.
Before I wrote "Summer Sunshine Girl," I was kind of reaching for one more perfect pop tune that would complete the album. So I wrote this little ditty in tribute to Degrassi hottie Ellie Nash, played by the awesome Stacey Farber (yeah -- I watch Degrassi. Wanna make something of it?). It sounds a lot (too much!) like "The Girl That I Knew Somewhere," and the verse melody is ripped off WHOLESALE from a song called "Going Nowhere" by my Shatterproof compatriot Jay Hurley that appeared as a b-side on a single we put out. So he shares songwriting credit on this one, as its almost an exact lift.
Feel So Fine (S.K.O.O.B.Y.D.O.O.)
At one point just after the album's recording, I became obsessed with the music of the Archies. Rightly so -- the amazing Jeff Barry (whom Diablo just met -- jellus) penned for them an astonishing collection of songs that should be heralded as pop classics. This was their first single, if I'm not mistaken, and I've sort of morphed it into a neo-glam rocker that sounds halfway to Mud or Slade or something. I always intended to record an entire album, or at least EP, of Archies covers, but like most of my projects, I never really get around to it.
So there you go, folks. Enjoy. Trade amongst your friends.