Monday, July 29, 2013

Zep No More?

I started trying to lay down vocals for Zep over the weekend. There's temp bass and a temp guitar solo. The former because I'm still wanting Pauly C to lay down bass for me, and the latter because I, flat out, can do better.

Ultimately, I think I have to change the name of the song. While the inspiration is still very much Zeppelin, it's strongly apparent that I will not be able to pull off a Robert Plant-style vocal line. I feel no shame over this, I mean, there are very, very few people who can sing anything like Robert Plant. I also simply can't play drums like Bonzo, and, yet again, few can. The track also simply doesn't have the improvisational feel of most Zeppelin stuff. That's just the nature of how I'm recording...I have to plan out arrangements and structure.

The influence is still felt. I had lyrics jotted down to work from, and as I worked with them, I felt that I had fallen into the same trap I often do. Too literal. Not in terms of content, so much as that I tend to approach lyrics in a much too linear way. I want to tell a story, I want each line to lead logically to the next. Which I find starts nudging me closer and closer to "moon, june, croon" bullshit.

Zeppelin had a wonderful sense of imagery over story, and I've been re-working the verses, pushing more in that direction. The chorus already seems to work, and it's almost literally nonsense words. Of course, I'm so hook-oriented when it comes to a chorus. Into how the rhythm of the words falls off the tongue, more than anything else, I've always had an easier time saying, "makes no sense - screw it, it's catchy."

All that aside, the material is proceeding well. A pattern is forming, where I lay in the drums, then get paranoid that they're "off," then, as I start putting the other material over what's there, the whole thing tightens up. It's exciting, honestly. The drumming is rudimentary, at best, but I love the "human" element of it. There's no doubt in my mind that moving on from the drum machine has been the single best decision I've made, in regards to long-term creativity, as far as music goes.

I am so excited to move on to the next few tracks, which are more straight-ahead rockers. Shorter, less forethought required. I'm hoping I can put them to bed quickly. The tally stands at 3 completed tracks, one "in process" (but closer to done than not), and 4 more or less written, and ready to go. That gives me 8 tracks total, I usually aim for 12, but I may cut back. I'd rather put out something shorter than pull 4 tracks out of my ass. There was a lot of that on Where Have All the Heroes Gone? and I think it was pretty obvious. That said, I have a couple of riffs I've been messing with that could evolve in time to be included. We'll see what shakes out.

In other music talk, I downloaded the debut, self-titled album from The Winery Dogs. Another in the recent spate of "supergroups," it features Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theatre, Flying Colors) on drums, Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, ex-David Lee Roth Band)on bass, and Richie Kotzen (who, in addition to his solo career, had brief runs as a replacement guitarist in both Mr. Big and Poison) on guitar and vocals.

The cops on display are monstrous. All of these guys are top, top flight players. The album is, without a doubt, a bit of a shredfest, and I can dig that. As a player, I love listening and watching players who are simply some of the best in the world. However, I'm also acutely aware that great playing does not make a great song. All the notes in the world, no matter how fast you play them, can't make a great song without feel and melody.

I was prepared for the shred on The Winery Dogs, what was pleasantly surprising is how catchy and tuneful this deeply blues-based set is. I was a little worried while listening to the opening seconds of the first track, Elevate, which is good, but busy. It brushes right up against overdoing it, but when you hit the incredibly catchy chorus, all feels well.

It's definitely a hard-rock, blues-based album. If you're not into that, I'd pass by, but there is tons of great stuff here if you are. With tracks that are just on fire with musicianship, and others that lay back and allow texture and feel to win the day. Kotzen's voice is also compelling, reminding me a lot of Chris Cornell. As I listened, I couldn't help but think that The Winery Dogs is, fairly effortlessly, what Black Country Communion expended a lot of effort to reach.

If what I've written makes you curious, I'd recommend checking the album out on Spotify. You may dig it. 

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