Friday, September 23, 2016

Weekend Mix: Sonic Bloom


When Sir John rang me up he was in bad shape. Obviously drunk.

"I'm fucked, mate," was all he could say at first, then, "I can't finish me bloody album for fuck's sake!" He always sounds Irish when he's drinking.
"It's the Irish talking", he'll say, pointing at the word on the bottle above "Whiskey"

He was working on a solo album after giving most of his adult musical life to the band. They'd all quit and now the bass player hates him, apparently.
After the second blown deadline, his label insisted on an outside producer, and he'd rejected everyone they'd suggested.

I got the next flight to London and by tea time the following day I was in beautiful downtown Swindon, dodging hipsters. I had a schwarma at Mamoun's, a Tiger brew or two at the Splash and Spasm, and thusly fortified, hired a car and rode out to his country estate. I never count on being fed out there. The cook is still mad at me for making a rude joke concerning "bangers and mash".

I felt a fair amount of trepidation as we turned off the A419, halfway to Cirencester, onto the long drive into the property, and rode past the empty zoo cages, now somewhat overgrown, and signalling disrepair. A family of hedgehogs it's sole captives.
The maid indicated he was out by the pool, where I found him shut in the cabana. With much cajoling he appeared, dressed in a rumpled terry cloth robe, a V-neck T-shirt, lightly dusted with bisquit crumbs, pink sunglasses, and matching plastic flipflops. He looked terrible. Worse for wear than the topiary animals out by the zoo.

"I need you to be my producer, mate," he said, sheepishly.

With that, he handed me a thumb drive with over 160 songs on it.

"I'll see what I can do," I said.

"I'm sure you'll make it right as rain," he said managing a smile, as I wondered about the metaphor. How could rain be "Right"?

"I get to play GOD, er Todd," I thought, and pondered that troubled history. A masterpiece and a thirty year grudge.

We locked ourselves in the former garden shed, now studio, lit a phatty, and got to work.
I was dumbstruck by the overall quality of the material.
Although there were plenty of throwaway tunes, and self-indulgent experiments, it was obvious there was a great album in there (A double as it turned out).
The first thing I did was get rid of everything that hearing once was enough.
I avoided the overly familiar material made famous by the band.

"WWTD" (What Would Todd Do?), I wondered. He'd roll up the sleeves and do some heavy lifting, while not being too concerned about stepping on any toes. Who has time for that? In other words, beat the thing into shape.

I rolled up my sleeves and dove in. Once the basic tracks were selected, I got fairly intrusive (Sir John's words, paraphrased without expletives), giving about half the songs tighter intros. Many were too long. "Little Lighthouse" was marred by almost a minute of noise it didn't need at the end. I gave it a proper one. Through brutality, I made room for more music.

"My Land Is Burning" required no such attention. A perfectly rendered closer if I ever heard one.

Sir John Johns is a great songwriter, fine vocalist, and nifty guitarist. I like his version of "Shake You Donkey Up" about 100 times more than what ended up on that, to my ears, unlistenable album, by the band. I hate the drum programming, but somehow his use of canned drums here doesn't bother me.
Perhaps because Sir John otherwise sounds so fresh. Nothing like first takes without band politics as a backdrop.
After spending so much time with this material, the band's versions can sound somewhat overworked.

I'm not sure how he feels about "our" record, as he hasn't returned my calls. I will someday get even for the "gift" he left in my suitcase.
The uniformed guys with guns weren’t amused.

I think it's a terrific personal statement, and after this experience,
probably the only solo album we'll ever get out of him.

Put it on again, indeed!


Sonic Bloom

Sonic Bloom Too

Enjoy!
-BBJ

12 comments:

snakeboy said...

Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant Brilliant. randy

Shriner said...

Nice idea! I always hope he's got another album in him somewhere...

Anonymous said...

Now thats what I call bullshit.

snakeboy said...

Loved your story. You want to re-post it on April 1st.

Anonymous said...

First can I say I enjoy your playlists, I find them wonderfully left of field. I supect you know there is a however coming and here it is.
Is there any possibility that you could take time to tag your tracks. I suspect that you load directly from the discs and the problem is that when I download them the track listing is all over the place.
Sonic Boom is loaded by apple as an eight disc set. The track listing is allover the place as well. This happens every week and it takes quite a while to sort it all out.
I have held back from saying anything, as I don't want to offend you as I really appreciate the gift of your comps every week.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Thanks!

buzzbabyjesus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buzzbabyjesus said...

The files come from a variety of sources, these all downloaded, not from discs.
They get retitled etc and burned to a mp3 cd in iTunes, those get dragged into a folder and then get filtered through Sound Forge, making everything match, volume-wise. Those get zipped and uploaded.

When I download and drop back into iTunes, album titles, and everything is as intended.
When I dump into my phone-same.

Am I missing something?

Sal Nunziato said...

The tracks do not upload (import) as an album. Nothing is sequenced they way you intended on the back cover. I had to reimport to playback as you intended.

buzzbabyjesus said...

When you download and extract, My folder "Sonic Bloom" goes where you store music. The folder contains all the files. They should be in order and the titles have numbers on them. At the bottom are the jpegs.
When I make the artwork I copy and paste the titles from there so I don't have to type any numbers.
They should set the order when you load into a playlist.

Just now I loaded the original mp3 cd I zipped into my old laptop, which is not part of any network.
It comes up in iTunes scrambled, but otherwise Sir John Johns, Sonic Bloom, and any other info I included is intact.
I click on the little triangle next to "Name" two or three times and everything is sequenced correctly. And from then on the playlist just plays.

What should I do different? Is "tagging" different than my process.

Bulletins From Mars Hill said...

BBJ, What happens at my end is that the tracks sometimes have their original track number, so you can have for example three track 1's, or two track Six's etc. Then there are the tracks that are not numbered at all. Also you can have tracks that will be marked CD 2 or CD 3. This week there were eight CD's listed. So one would assume that you used up to eight sources for your compilation.
To fix this I have to go through all the tracks and reorder them using your sleeve notes and deleteing all references to more than one CD.