Tag Archives: 1972

An Interview with Adrian Bourgeois

I interview musician Adrian Bourgeois, who has released an ambitious 24-song double album, Pop/Art. Joseph Arellano

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Pop Art

Did you and Lady Gaga get together to coordinate your new album titles, as your double album is called Pop/Art and her latest release is Artpop?

Oh, yeah, “Steph” and I are total BFFs. We coordinate everything together from what we call our albums to what we wear.

“Pop/Art” is a term usually used to describe visual art, but I’ve always used it to describe my music. My goal has been to create music that on the one hand is universal, accessible and memorable, and on the other artistic, challenging and thought-provoking. I just like the title and feel like it fits this music well.

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Your album, with 24 tracks, is diverse and sprawling; it might be called Adrian Bourgeois’s White Album. Do you agree with this, or would you describe it another way?

There are few albums, if any, that have influenced me as much as the White Album. What amazes me about that album is just the stylistic spectrum they go through from song to song – from heavy rock, to ragtime, to folk, to chamber pop and everything in between. What’s even more amazing is that the songwriting remains spectacular across the board. So I guess with Pop/Art I wanted to make sure that if I were going to record a double album, I would feel great about every song on there. There could be no throwaways.

If anything, it’s my All Things Must Pass album. I’ve had all these songs building over the years without much chance to record them.

The album has excellent stereo separation, which also calls to mind the late ’60s and early ’70s. Is this because you wanted the release to have a retro sound, or is this simply reflective of what you heard in your head?

I just go for what seems to be best for each particular song. Naturally, what I came up with ends up being strongly influenced by what I listen to. On “Jonah,” I recorded two identical drum parts and piano parts and had Andy Freeman pan one of each pretty hard to the left and to the right. I put a flanger on one of the drum parts, too. I did a totally different session with legendary engineer David Bianco. He taught me this harmony trick of tripling each part and then panning one to the left, one to the right, and one down the center, so I used that too, mainly on “Celebrate the News.”

In listening to Pop/Art, I would think that you were influenced by The Beatles (especially Paul McCartney), Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren, Elton John, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. Are there others you would like to mention or acknowledge?

All of the above are definitely big influences. Probably the biggest one not mentioned is Elvis Costello, whom I’d call the greatest solo singer/songwriter. Simon and Garfunkel, the Velvet Underground, U2, Ben Folds, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, The Rascals, Tom Waits, Roy Orbison, Eisley, Hanson, Rufus Wainwright, Jeff Lynne, Big Star, Elliot Smith, George Gershwin, Chuck Berry, and others have influenced and inspired me.

I would consider my best friend Ricky Berger as big a musical influence on me as anyone else.

Speaking of Mr. Rundgren, you have a song “Everybody Knows It Was Me,” that sounds as though it might have been included on Todd’s Something/Anything? album from 1972. It’s a good commercial song. What can you tell us about it?

Maybe commercial for 1972! But thanks.

Yes, Something/Anything? was definitely another big influence on this record as Todd recorded it mainly at home and played most of the instruments himself as I did. “Everybody Knows It Was Me” is probably the most reflective of that album. I don’t know what it was about. I refer to these kinds of songs as “template songs,” where you just come up with a template or concept like, “It could have been this, it could have been that, but everybody knows it was me…” and then you just fill in the blanks.

Another interesting track is “Time Can’t Fly A Plane.” What’s the back story on the song and its lyrics?

“Time Can’t Fly A Plane” was actually the one song on the album from a different set of sessions. I remember when I wrote it feeling like it was a step forward for me. I think it speaks to a universal experience of being in your twenties and feeling the need to outrun the onslaught of time and all the things dragging you away from the innocence of youth.

A lot of songs I write are letters of advice to a part of myself that’s struggling with something from a part of myself that knows better.

Interestingly, one word that I heard repeatedly in your lyrics is “poison.” Is there a reason for its use?

Sometimes it just comes down to a word having a good sound. The word poison sounds good when sung. It’s not a conscious thing. When I write a song, I usually start by singing nonsensical syllables that sound good with that particular melody and then I start associating the sounds with similar words and go from there.

Although this is a “solo album,” you had help from about 19 of your musical friends – including your father, Brent Bourgeois, right?

Sometimes the one-man band was the vibe I wanted, but I also employed the help of my extremely talented pool of friends. The two other voices you hear most on this album, other than my own, are Ricky Berger and Paige Lewis, both incredible artists in their own right (Paige and I have a band called See How They Run). There’s probably no element of a recording more important than vocal harmonies.

One person I was very excited to have on the album was Probyn Gregory from Brian Wilson’s band. He plays about a million instruments and performed a gorgeous French horn part on “New December.” Caitlin Bellah, who sings the chorus vocal on “Don’t Look Away,” was my girlfriend for four and a half years. We recorded her vocal a few weeks after we’d broken up.

Gina Belliveau is a very talented singer/songwriter from Tacoma who I became friends with. She played glockenspiel on “Parachutes.” I was happy to have cousin Pete – an acclaimed New Orleans jazz musician – play an incredible flugelhorn solo on “Touch” that added the right sound to that recording. And, yes, I did get my dad to sing on “Celebrate the News.” Vince DiFiore from Cake played trumpet on that song.

Everyone who played on the album was awesome and made the album so much better because of their participation.

If you had to select a song to record a cover version of – a song that you did not write – which song would you select?

That’s a good question. One that I’ve always wanted to record is a song called “Tommy’s Coming Home” that was co-written by Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello. They wrote a number of songs together in the ’80s and this is probably the best one but they never released it. The only recording that exists of it is a crude acoustic demo. I think it would be awesome to record and release the first official version of that!

How can music fans purchase Pop/Art?

The album is currently available at adrianbourgeois.bandcamp.com
and at any show of mine. Before this year is over it will be available in more places.

This interview was originally published by the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/an-interview-with-adrian-bourgeois/

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Day After Day

Music Review: Badfinger – ‘Timeless… The Musical Legacy’

Is Timeless a fitting introduction to the music of Badfinger?

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If you were not around in the ’60s and’70s, or simply did not listen to music then, Apple Records has released a compilation to introduce you to the band Badfinger, Timeless. The Musical Legacy contains 16 tracks, 14 of which were originally recorded for Apple and two for Warner. I will not revisit the sad personal story of the band as it’s well covered in Dan Matinova’s definitive book, Without You: The Tragic Story of Badfinger (Revised Edition; 2000).

Let’s take a look at the songs on Timeless so that you can decide whether it should be in your collection. (All comments about recording sessions and band member quotes are sourced from Matinova’s book.)

Beatles Yellow Submarine

Badfinger B&W

[Look-alikes, The Beatles and Badfinger.]

Timeless opens with “Day After Day” from Straight Up, Badfinger’s masterpiece. George Harrison handled the production and played the lead guitar with Pete Ham. Harrison’s friend Leon Russell was brought in to play the piano. This remastered version allows you to hear the beautiful piano work as well as the harmony vocals.

“Without You” is the original version by the band, later covered and made into a smash single by Harry Nilsson. Badfinger’s version is understated compared to Nilsson’s dramatic take, but there’s a nice Procol Harum-style organ line that carries the song along. Ham said this about Nilsson’s version, “We knew that was the way we wanted to do it, but never had the nerve.”

Tom Evans intended “Rock of All Ages” to be a screamer in the style of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” but as recorded – with Pete Ham and Mike Gibbins – it came off like a variation on The Beatles’ “I’m Down.” This was especially true as Paul McCartney played piano on the track, which he also produced. A great live number (I saw Badfinger in Berkeley in 1972), the fine remaster allows you to hear the background vocals. “Dear Angie” was a track from the days when Badfinger was known as The Iveys. It’s a pleasant song sung by Ron Griffiths, the band’s original bass player. The tune has nice stereo sound effects, but it is far from essential.

McCartney was also involved in the song that made Badfinger famous, “Come and Get It,” which he wrote and produced. The sound is great here and McCartney proved to the doubting band members that he could fashion a hit single using sparse instrumentation: bass, drums, tambourine, and piano. It worked.

McCartney told Badfinger that “Maybe Tomorrow” was bound to be a hit single. That was not to be and today it sounds like an ornate song from the Bee Gees 1st album. “No Matter What” was a great, chunky-sounding single that reached number eight on the Billboard singles chart in 1970. It segues quite well into “Baby Blue,” the band’s best-ever, Beatles-quality single. Matinova called it “a superb showcase of Badfinger’s classic chemistry.” The version included on Timeless is the American stereo single release, which included an added snare drum. It’s snappy but the sound is fuller and richer on the Straight Up mix.

“Believe Me” is one of the best songs from No Dice. It is followed by a track from Straight Up, “Name of the Game.” The drumming gives it a “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude” feel. This version comes off as a bit dull compared to the earlier version, with horns, that’s a bonus track on the remastered Straight Up CD. “I’ll Be The One” was recorded for, but dropped from, Straight Up. It should have been a single as it sounds like the Beatles doing country rock.

“Apple of My Eye” was Ham’s bittersweet tribute to Apple Records. “Suitcase” is included and it’s the right take. This is the early “Pusher, pusher on the run” version recorded before the modified “Butcher, butcher…” take found on Straight Up. It’s a heavier version and reflects what the band sounded like live. As Molland said, “The original ‘Suitcase’ was more of what Badfinger was.”

The title track “Timeless” is a good song that, unfortunately, goes on too long, dissolving into a type of Baroque Traffic jam. At 7:40 it is needlessly longer than “Hey Jude.”

“Dennis” is another non-essential track, but it’s interesting because of a few Brian Wilson-like touches. The compilation concludes with “Love Is Gonna Come At Last,” a nice, airy, pleasant pop song written by Molland that sounds like Badfinger crossed with America. This may be an alternate take from the 1979 Airwaves sessions since Matinova writes that the album version was “tepid and slow.”

Longtime Badfinger fans will have all or most of this music in their physical or digital collections. But the compilation will work for those who would like a decent sampler. Keep in mind, however, that if you want to hear Badfinger at their very best you should consider acquiring either Straight Up or No Dice (or both).

Well recommended, for its intended audience.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by Apple Records.

This article was originally posted on the Blogcritics site:

http://blogcritics.org/music-review-badfinger-timeless-the-musical-legacy/

It was also used by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper site:

http://m.seattlepi.com/lifestyle/blogcritics/article/Music-Review-Badfinger-Timeless-The-Musical-5144246.php

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Talking Book Revisited

Talking Book, a review of the cover album by Macy Gray (429 Records, $15.99)

It has often been said (and frequently on the TV show American Idol) that Stevie Wonder’s songs seem deceptively simple, yet they are actually complex and difficult to sing.   Thus, it may seem odd that Macy Gary, with her raspy voice and somewhat narrow range, has elected to not only cover a Stevie Wonder song, but an entire album of Stevie Wonder.   Talking Book – the first of her albums that I’ve listened to – is a re-working of Wonder’s classic 1972 release, and Gray covers all 10 of the original tracks in order.

Surprising though it may be, the results show that Gray’s judgment is just fine and she generally adds some energy and unique flavors to Wonder’s sometimes understated original versions.   (In college, I often listened to Talking Book and felt it was filled with great songs.   But his recordings seemed like preliminary, unfinished versions.)

“You Are the Sunshine of My Life” now comes off as nice and breezy and jazzy, with a few Brasil ’66 touches.   It would be the perfect song for a Sunday drive in a top-down convertible in southern California.

With “You and I (We Can Conquer the World),” Gray adds a sense of joy and hopefulness to the romantic tome.   “Blame It on the Sun,” one of Wonder’s almost-lost classics, is now brought back to life.   The sorrow for a love, once here, now gone, lies just on the edge of Macy’s voice.   “Tuesday Heartbreak” sounds like a track from a romantic movie soundtrack (hint, hint).   And the essential song, “Superstition,” is now spooky and moody, but awfully nice.   Gray presents the listener with a seemingly daydreamed version of Stevie Wonder’s simply great original.

“Big Brother” is more upbeat than the original recording.   In a word, it’s sweet.   Three of the songs, “Maybe Your Baby,” “You’ve Got It Bad Girl,” and “Lookin’ for Another Love,” are perhaps too true, too close to the original versions, but with Stevie that’s not such a bad thing.   And Talking Book closes on the bright spot “I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever).”   Here Wonder’s romantic anthem is presented in an arrangement that makes it sound as if two songs were merged into a medley.   A sense of joyfulness returns with traces of Johnny Nash-style sound (“I Can See Clearly Now”) heard in the background.

As a concept, attempting to recreate (and perhaps improve upon) one of Wonder’s better albums seemed far from promising.   It was, after all, forty years ago that the vinyl album arrived in record stores.   But Macy Gray holds her own and, strangely enough, her world-weary voice presents just the opposite message – that she loves life and the music of Stevie Wonder.

I have the feeling that Stevie Wonder will be quite pleased with this audio valentine; something that may also be true for a number of music purchasers.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

Stevie Wonder’s album Talking Book was released on October 28, 1972.   Macy Gray’s cover version was released on October 30, 2012.   A review copy was provided by a publicist.

This review originally appeared on the Blogcritics Music site:  http://blogcritics.org/music/article/music-review-macy-gray-talking-book/ .

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Coming Up Next…

A music review!   We take a look at Macy Gray’s album Talking Book, a complete cover of Stevie Wonder’s wonderful 1972 release.

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Positively 14th Street

What It Was: A Derek Strange Novel by George Pelecanos (Reagan Arthur/Back Bay Books, $9.99, 272 pages)

I live a block off 14th Street, the setting for much of George Pelecano’s gritty crime novel, What It Was.   Set in 1972, it’s a fascinating read for anyone who likes books set in the Washington “beyond the monuments.”   Watergate is briefly touched on, but this book contains no Senators, no wacky Masonic conspiracy theories and hardly any politics at all.

What It Was concerns the lives of real people, mostly cops and criminals, in a city scarred by riots.   The popular conception of 14th Street is that it was a wasteland, from the disturbances of 1968 to the start of gentrification in the 1980s.   But life went on.   Pimps, drug dealers and hustlers of all kinds moved in.   And for a lot of them, and the cops that pursued them, it was a hell of a time, even a good one.

Red Fury wants to make a name for himself and is going on a crime spree across the city.   He wants to be remembered.   Hunting him is Frank Vaughn, a dinosaur in the evolving era, someone not afraid to bend the rules to get the job done.   Also mixed up in the case is his friend Derek Strange, a cop who has left the force to become a private eye.

Pelecanos has a great eye for the details of the time, from the tricked-out cars to the soul music of the 1970s.   He also resurrects a lot of old DC haunts, legendary bars and restaurants that are long gone in this gentrified city.   His knowledge of the city is encylopedic.   For example, Red hides out in Burrville, a neighborhood I didn’t even know existed.

I wrote my own crime novel about the city, Murder in Ocean Hall.   It’s set in many of the 14th Street neighborhoods of What It Was but during a time of rapid change.

What It Was is a fast, involving read.   Pelecano’s style is muscular, alternating perspectives as it advances towards an inevitably violent conclusion.   Interestingly, the novel is available on the Kindle for only 99 cents.   It’s a limited-time offer designed to generate new readers for this crime novelist.   Forward-thinking publishers are experimenting with new strategies and promotions to adapt to the world of e-readers.

What It Was is also the first book I’ve read on my iPad.   Using the Kindle app, set to sepia, it was a comfortable reading experience – though not as easy on the eyes as using an e-ink reader like the Kindle.   But the 99 cent strategy worked for me.   After dipping into the gritty crime world of What It Was, I’m primed to read the rest of Pelecano’s work.   Well recommended.

Joe Flood

 Joe Flood is the author of two novels, Don’t Mess Up My Block and Murder in Ocean Hall.   He is also a photographer and web content manager.   You can see more of  his writing – and his photographs – at: http://joeflood.com/ .

What It Was is available as a Kindle Edition or Nook Book download for $4.99.

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