“Tony r clef – Tuesday afternoon” was recorded in August 2010 on three very wet rainy days at a small studio in Sanford, Maine where I met Parma producer Bob Lord and engineer Shaun Michaud and who displayed all the grace and patience necessary to work with a first-time recording artist.
At the end of day one, I felt as if a small truck had run me over. My dinner that evening consisted of a Dairy Queen Blizzzard or whatever they call that giant calorie-rich monstrosity that served its purpose so well. But over the next two days I started feeling a lot better about myself. I took as consolation a remark I remember hearing Alison Krauss make in an interview about how the recording studio can be a very humbling experience. Yup, it sure is that.
Here’s a few notes about each song on the record that may be of interest.
Me, O Ye Gods (Henry Purcell)
“Me, O Ye Gods” is a lament originally scored for countertenor/tenor duet and included in English composer Henry Purcell’s ca. 1686 cantata called “If Ever I More Riches Did Desire”. I learned it from a lovely old Nonesuch LP called “Airs and Duets of Henry Purcell” recorded by Jeffrey Dooley and Howard Crook which I first heard when I had a part-time radio engineer internship at WVPR. I’ve been obsessed with this melody ever since. As with a number of Purcell’s compositions, I find the harmonies here strikingly modern – stark dissonances and unexpected resolutions abound.
The words are:
Me, O ye Gods, on earth or else so near,
That I no fall to earth may fear,
And, O ye Gods, at a good distance seat,
From the long ruins of the great.
Here wrapt in the arms of quiet let me lie
Quiet companion of Obscurity.
This version is transposed to D minor from the original C minor. My inspiration for placing this first on the disk comes from the typical practice in recitals where the earliest music is sometimes played first. Later on on the disk there is no adhering to this idea, but I thought it a good starting point. Also since the meaning of the song is so bleak, the experience can only get lighter as the cd progresses, right?
Pure Imagination (Anthony Newley, Leslie Bricusse)
A wistful little song from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. This version is revised and expanded from the version I posted on YouTube several years back. I’ve tried to correct some harmonies, flesh out some chords and I added a bit of the introductory and bridging material as well.
Out of My Dreams (Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II)
When I finally saw the film version of “Oklahoma!” for the first time recently, I went back and watched the scene that featured this song about 40 times through. Something about these chords kept pulling me back to make sure I’d really heard what I thought I’d heard. Bewitching music.
Melodia Sentimental (Heitor Villa-Lobos)
I made this version of Villa-Lobos’ beautiful song, originally included in his secular oratorio “Floresta da Amazonas”, from listening to a recording called “Teca Calazans sings Villa-Lobos”. If I had to choose 10 “desert-island disks”, that would be a strong contender for inclusion. Not only for the sheer richness of the material and her haunting voice, but also for the perfect balance she finds between the popular music approach and the essentially classical music material she’s working with.
In my arrangement, there are also nods to the lovely versions of João Bosco and Zizi Possi.
When I'm 64 (Lennon/McCartney)
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” certainly needs no introduction. However, something I didn’t know about this song until quite recently is that it was largely already written by a teenage Paul McCartney well before meeting John and founding the, um, what was the name of that group they were in?
A Felicidade (Antonio Carlos Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes)
A song included in the soundtrack to Marcel Camus’ 1959 film “Orfeu Negro” (Black Orpheus) and one of the first written by the team of song writers who would go on to pen so many of the classic, best-known bossa novas. “A Felicidade” (which translates to “Happiness”) is actually
a song that’s more about the despair of every day life in the slums of Rio being alleviated just once a year by the illusion of Carnaval. Maybe it’s wise to consider we all have such illusions, no? The refrain of the song says “Tristeza não tem fim, Felicidade sim” (Sadness has no end, but happiness does).
Clube da Esquina #2 (Lô Borges, Márcio Borges, Milton Nascimento)
This is a favorite song of mine from the generation of writers who came along immediately after the generation of writers represented by the previous song. Young people who came of age in Brazil right at the most brutal period of the dictatorship that inaugurated the notorious laws known as the AI5 which abolished habeas corpus and extended police power, secret courts, censorship, disappearances, exiles, torture, et cetera which lasted from 1968 until the AI5 was officially terminated in 1978. Brothers Lô and Márcio Borges and childhood friend Milton Nascimento grew up in Belo Horizonte, Brazil and had only just begun writing songs in these years and one of their first was a song called “Clube da Esquina”.
This song (#2) is its follow-up. Not overtly political, the lyrics do however speak of a group of friends who stick together, ‘even in the midst of tear gas they remain calm.’ (Em meio a tantos gases lacrimogêneos ficam calmos, calmos, calmos). Perhaps the beauty and sort of spacey, psychedelic, hippy peacefulness of the melody and arrangement helped it pass the ears of any state watchdogs. Beautiful, lush and ultra-groovy song that has been covered by Milton Nascimento, Nana Caymmi and many others but my favorite version will always be that of Lô Borges on his marvelous album “A Via Lactea”.
Moontime (Dudley Moore)
This is from the soundtrack to the great Stanley Donen film "Bedazzled" written by Peter Cook and starring Cook and Dudley Moore.
Dudley wrote all the music. An album of the entire soundtrack was a bit of a holy grail for a while for me. Then it came out on cd though it appears to be somewhat hard to find again. Then finally the film was released on dvd as well. An absolute favorite of mine. This piece would be easy to miss in the film if your weren't listening for it. It plays in the background when Stanley (Dud's character) is being put to bed by George aka Lucifer himself (played by Pete). In the morning, Stanley is awoken by Lilian Lust, the babe with the bust (played by Raquel Welch) but that's another story.
Valse “Chemins de L'amour” (Francis Poulenc)
One of Poulenc's most famous pieces covered in its vocal version by numerous artists. I learned it in this key on a disk on Naxos (Poulenc's Complete Chamber Music volume 5) where it is played by Alexandre Tharaud et al and sung by the beautiful French actress Danielle Darrieux. Poulenc wrote this around 1940 for the beautiful singer/actress Yvonne Printemps to sing in a stage production of Jean Anouilh's play "Léocadia".
Sunny Afternoon (Ray Davies)
One of the Kink's inimitable hits given a sort of old-timey rag-like treatment. One of the tricky bits in this kind of song is scoring the vocal in the same register as where a number of accompanying notes are or would be. Calls for tricks and changes, adaptations and
moves. But I think this almost works.
Tuesday Afternoon (Justin Hayward)
A very different kind of afternoon song rounds out the set. Where Davies' song is recited by a realist looking at his less-than-wonderful life, Hayward's song is the song of the perpetual dreamer who hears the mystic voices of the trees calling to him. I guess I'm a little of both.