Friday, May 29, 2020

NEW MUSIC: Jump With Johnny

And if you don't know what it's all about
Come to me and I'll show you how
We'll do it fast, we'll do it slow
Then you'll know the walk everywhere you go.

- Jimmy McCracklin, The Walk

I'm proud to announce an exciting new release by Johnny Boyd backed up by his Genuine Gentlemen Band,  Jump With Johnny, a six song EP  guaranteed to get your toes a-tapping and your body shakin' with a fresh breath of old rock 'n roll.  A autographed  cd copy and a couple of track previews is available HERE.  Can't wait?  You can get an mp3 download NOW.  Co-produced and mixed with great aplomb and love by Yours Truly.

The musicians:

Johnny Boyd - lead vocals
Ji Tanzer - drums and percussion, background vocals, production assistance
Allen Hunter - upright bass
Mike Elson - piano, backing vocals
A.G. Donatella - electric guitar, backing vocals
Willie Matheis - tenor saxophone
Rusty Blake - pedal steel guitar
Roberto Medina - congas
Keith Brush - backing vocals
Patti King - backing vocals

Production credits:

Produced by Oz Fritz and Johnny Boyd
Executive Producer: Angela Strand
Recorded by Larry Crane at Jackpot Recording Studio, Portland, OR
Mixed by Oz Fritz at Ancient Wave Studios, Nevada City, CA
Mastered by Jett Galindo at The Bakery, Los Angeles, CA
Album photography by Nina Johnson
Album design by Craig Ferroggiaro at Willamette Valley Color, Portland, OR

This project warmed the cockles of my heart from inception to completion and timely release now, in the worst planetary crisis of most of our lives when the collective mood of the world could use a little quantum jumping to a different outlook.  

The songs:

1. The Walk - classic boogie shuffle with old-school saxophone riffs and solo supporting Johnny's James Dean-like swaggering cool invitation to dance.

2. You're So Square (Baby, I Don't Care) - a rockabilly romantic ode of devotion

3. Bad Bad Whiskey - the blackest of blues; Johnny captures the existential despair of a ruined life but with an air of defiance as if to say: "I made it through the night and I'm hear to sing my song." Brilliant anguished guitar embellishments and solo. 

4. So Many Pretty Women -  a straight, fast-paced, old rock n roller about the temptations for a star devoted to his muse, his one love, and heading on home. Smokin' piano and guitar solos underline the urgency.

5. Get Back - rock n roll slightly slower and funkier with a greasy saxophone hook; more romantic adventures and misadventures on the other side of town.

6. Some Things Never Change - a gut wrenching, tear jerker 50's style ballad; the emotion in Johnny's voice will rip your heart out.  True love changes its forms of expression but always speaks with the same voice.

From the label:  NEW RELEASE! Johnny rekindles his long-time love affair with 50’s rock ’n roll with this rollicking new throwback EP! Includes six driving tracks, two original songs (penned by Johnny himself) and the ever-stellar Genuine Gentlemen Band. LET’S JUMP!!

From Johnny:  My music has always been optimistic and hopeful and Jump With Johnny is no exception. I was planning to release this collection later this year, but I realized that many of the people I care about could really use some lifting NOW more than ever, so I’m pleased to report that TODAY will be the day for lifting :)

I hope you can pick it up, spin it vigorously and remember that you are not alone. I believe that things WILL get better! Dance! 

 I plan to play some live shows to support the release after the fog clears, but for now, we will stay connected through the magic of recorded music. Until then, thank you for your love and support. I hope you like the new music. I miss you all very much. 



To find out more about Johnny Boyd, visit his website.

* * * * * * 

"The idea is to do pre-Elvis rock 'n roll capturing the sound and spirit of that time while giving it a contemporary presentation.  This is an artistic project, we're going for art, I'm don't care if it's commercial."  I'm paraphrasing the initial concept Johnny told me for this project.  I immediately saw the possibilities for a fun and completely different, non-standard creative recording endeavor.

Apart from being a high calibre solo artist, songwriter, and bandleader, Johnny is an amazing interpreter of songs, breathing new life into the clay of tunes gone by.  He is a real singer, a singer like Frank or Tony.  There are very few real singers in the genres of pop/rock/country/blues.  For male singers we find Freddie Mercury, Meat Loaf, and Johnny Boyd.  Only one of these has incredible new music to hear right now!

To get the sound of how they recorded rock 'n roll back in the mid 1950s I called up my friend Jimmi Accardi, another talented musician, songwriter, engineer and producer, who knows more about the history of rock 'n roll than anyone I know.  He broadcast a two hour show on KVMR, the local radio station called Rock n Roll Party every Monday afternoon for over 20 years; I figured he would know how they recorded and I was right.  

Jimmi directed me to the classic New Orleans engineer, Cosimo Matassa who recorded Fats Domino, Little Richard and a host of other early rock 'n roll artists.  He gave me the low down on how Cosimo recorded, 8 tracks maximum, all recorded live in one big room; because of all the inevitable bleed, the musicians have to get the balance with each other acoustically in the room.  No one had headphones and there weren't studio speakers to monitor with, the musicians had to position themselves to hear what they needed to hear.  It was all about performance.

The micing for Jumping With Johnny was done with that aesthetic in mind, keeping it more minimal than usual.  Larry Crane was engineering at his studio Jackpot in Portland and also knew how Cosimo worked.  He set up a single large diaphram mic over the drums and another one in front of the kick not positioned too close.  He also had a great ribbon mic for a mono room sound across from the drums and piano and another stereo room pair further back.  Everyone played in the same room, the uprite bass player was in another booth, but we kept the door open; also the door isolating the guitar amp was open a crack.  Johnny sang a guide and viscerally felt out the arrangements, fine tuning and honing them as they progressed. Everyone had live contact as the music went down, a group performance captured in the moment.

Recording this was a lot of fun.  The core group of musicians and the production team had worked together for over five years, most notably on the sensational album of crooner tunes by Johnny Boyd, Someday Dreams of You.  Most of the musicians comprise Johnny's regular touring band and sax player Willie Matheis has sat in multiple times.

Jackpot Recording in Portland is a power spot for me. By that, I mean it acts a portal for what Idries Shah called the Inner Circle of Humanity. For the music, it means that forces inevitably come through, not only from the synergy of the musicians' performances and technicians' recordings, but from the conjunction and synergy of that group in this particular place, at this specific spot on the Earth.  The entire atmosphere at the point of creation gets recorded along with the audio, they are interconnected, and becomes translated as mood.  For the involved listener, it gets received as spiritual nourishment.

Here is some evidence.  In days of yore, shopkeepers would hang a shingle outside their establishment to indicate the nature of their business. This is a shingle on the building just outside Jackpot's door:

Obviously a Sufi signifier, no explanation needed.

Another power spot for me in Portland is my place of residence in the guest room at Casa Boyd located atop a hill in King's Heights overlooking the city.  The hospitality provided by Angela and Johnny rivals the Sufis, I feel like a King or a Noble Ambassador when staying there.  Four double hung windows provide a panorama view of Portland, the Williamette River, and five distant surrounding mountains.  After retiring, I'll write or read something like Crowley, Deleuze or Pynchon, or listen to music, keeping the blinds open to glance up and watch the flickering electric lights from the city illuminate the night.  The ever-changing traffic in motion, flowing like blood through the arteries of the city, reminds me that every individual in that stream thinks they are the center of the Universe, and they're right!

The view faces south and east so I leave the blinds open all night to greet the morning light.  If I am lucky, I will have observed the sun as it arose across the sky from the horizon to gain ascendency in the new day.  After leaving Mount Olympus to make our way back to Jackpot, we'll have an informal production meeting to plot strategy on the drive down.  For this album, Johnny turned me on to the artist J.D. McPherson who has a similar old school, rock 'n roll aesthetic but with a modern sound.  We discussed what we liked and didn't like about their production.

Then arriving back at Jackpot, it was like going straight from the dojo where you contemplate, pray, eat, rest and rejuvenate to the dojo where you work.  The kind of work, from the occult point of view, represented by this sign in the studio's entrance chamber:

When it came time to mix, I took it to Ancient Wave Studios, another power spot, to take advantage of their Trident TSM vintage desk.  Another album I was referencing for the sound of Jump With Johnny was  Blue and Lonesome by The Rolling Stones which had recently come out.  Unlike all  their albums since Exile On Main Street, this one had a gritty, slightly dirty, live feel.   It sounded like an older record yet with the clarity of modern production.  The sound was compact, more mono than usual, giving them an intimate sound in a small room.  This was the aesthetic I was shooting for.

After Johnny heard the first few mixes he basically thought they were too tame.  Everything was too properly in its place, the vocals were sitting a little too on top for him.  There was a classic conversation which I wished I recorded where he iterated and reiterated the idea that I should go wild and crazy with it.  "I want it to sound like it's coming through a broken piece of equipment on the verge of completely dying and shattering the fabric of time and space."  I found myself both disappointed and elated.  Disappointed, because I really liked the sound of those first mixes, I felt they captured the concept I was going for; elated because no one gives me that license to push it to the limit since I worked with Tom Waits, usually it's the opposite and I end up reeling the craziness in.

To achieve this, I pushed the TSM mixer as far as it could go, I used the summing bus on that as my stereo compressor, and didn't use anything else across the stereo bus.  I also took advantage of the Tridents mic pres to blend in parallel some overdriven stress and light distortion.  Larry recorded JB with the two microphone set-up we have found works so well on this voice consisting of a RCA 77 Ribbon and a large diaphram tube condenser, one providing classic vintage warmth, the other more clarity in the upper mids and highs.  Sonically, they gave me the old and the new to blend as I wished.

You can only go so far with planning and premeditating wildness, so to keep the chaotic x factor I mixed all the songs live.  That is, I relied very little on automation.  After getting the sounds, I might have applied some very basic automated moves in Pro Tools, but I mixed it riding and moving faders on the fly.  Some times it might take me 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 passes to get it.  Sometimes, I would do a pass I liked, keep it, then try for a better one.  I did take advantage of the fact that I could punch in sections of the mix.  If I got halfway through really well, then messed up, I could keep the beginning and go on from there.

Johnny immediately liked this new approach.  I'm very proud and happy with the way the sound came out, it has a unique quality that speaks for itself.  I consider this a legacy project.

Jett Galindo of The Bakery was brought onboard for the final stage of mastering the mixes for release.  Jett had apprenticed under the late, great Doug Sax at The Mastering Lab, one of my all time favorite mastering engineers.  Galindo skillfully added the final polish to the mixes without compromising the integrity of the sound Johnny and I had achieved.  She deftly balanced and placed all the energy, rawness and wildness of this early rock 'n roll musical experiment in the context of a contemporary release.

The timing is perfect to listen to this, dance with this and feel good despite the darkness of the moment.  Jump With Johnny will help things change.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 7, 2020


The debut album by Maitreya Wolf is now OUT!

Available for preview and download HERE.

The music is shamanic and invocational.  Every recording session had the contemplative focus found in a sacred Temple.  The space was always cleansed and consecrated beforehand clearing the way for the descent of the music. Maitreya reaches deep into her Being to express her Truth through these songs with some assistance from a small circle of close friends.  The music will touch and resonate with anyone on the path of gnothi seauton, Self-discovery.

Hypnotic, ego-dissolving, trance-inducing, primal, delicate, passionate, pastoral, joyful are just a few descriptors that map out the wealth of atmospheric territory found in these sparse, intimate arrangements.  

Alpha and omega, I had the honor and pleasure of engineering this production from beginning to end.  One story gives an example of the sanctuary space found on this album.  I was digging around behind the console in one studio wiring something up when I heard a crash behind me.  I had accidentally knocked over a tall, delicate, wood totem that looked liked it had been hand carved in the South Seas.  It split in half.  I took the two pieces outside to avoid further damage.  A few minutes later as I was still furtively running about getting the session up, I noticed Maitreya doing healing passes over the damaged statue praying for its living spirit.  All the music on Fertile Darkness expresses different forms of that aesthetic, that healing awareness. 

Here is what Maitreya wrote to describe the music:

There is an initiation woven into the fibers of every persons life.  We may or may not recognize it when it comes to shake our world to its foundations, but it always comes.  Life demands of us our greatest beauty, strength, heart and soul, and will stop at nothing to forge us into the greatest possible expression of our souls unique being.  I was drawn into my initiation unexpectedly and with great force and have dedicated my whole being to walking that path well ever since.  These songs are the fruits of that journey.  I have harvested the medicine from my time in the fertile darkness of my own being and I offer it to you now as a gift and a blessing for your journey of Life.

Beauty feeds the soul.  May you be well nourished on your singular odyssey