Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Tonight I have an interesting gig. I’m playing for a group of teens called Ambassadors For Unity. There are 16 kids from Cleveland and 16 kids from Beit Shean, Israel, Cleveland’s sister city. They are Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews (their ranks may include Reconstructionist and secular as well, I’m not sure). They visit each other’s cities at different times during the year, but I don’t know if they visit more than once.

(Here’s an article from a previous year.)

I’ll post the rest of this blog in Noah’s Attic so I can get back to the recording here.

So, recording with the Prayer Warriors…On Saturday, March 11, Herb Thomas shows up with four of the Prayer Warriors. There are about 25, I think, in the group, but obviously, we couldn’t get all of them. However, these four shook the rafters all by themselves.

Herb is an interesting guy. He’s an award-winning television journalist and videographer and works as a camera operator for one of the local network affiliates here in Cleveland. I guess his title with the PWs, aside from “founder,” is Artistic Director. He plays congas with them, but doesn’t sing and is not the Musical Director. Anyway, he sat in the booth with us while we sent them into the studio to sing. More about that in a minute.

After all of the introductions and business matters were out of the way, we got down to the business of making music. First, we played the version of the song as we had it recorded with my truly crappy scratch vocal. I told them that I wanted them to put their mark on it; that I didn’t have charts or anything for them (it’s a pretty simple, repetitive song), I just wanted them to listen and sing what they felt. Then we’d start picking and choosing and honing. (See: "Picking Up," 6th paragraph down)

I really didn’t know what to do with the song. I knew generally how I wanted it to sound: Gospel. But I had no idea about structure or who would or could sing what. I wanted it to grow organically. It did.

First, we gathered around the piano and found some parts and put together some “ooohhhs” for the background. (When I say “we,” I mean “they.”) Then we recorded all of the “ooohhhs” on all of the verses. Then, we went to the end of the song, the play-out, or fadeout, and we had them do all kinds of gospel-y improvisation. They were standing in a semi-circle, all four around one microphone. These are people with big, fat, rich gospel voices. I didn’t know how big. That is, until I stood next to them. We had done a couple of takes and weren’t quite getting it (you know…”it”) when Herb said, “they seem a little intimidated.” So I said I’d go in and sing one with them. Like I was going to teach them something about gospel singing. The track started, we all took a breath, we all opened our mouths, and out came this gorgeous, big, fat, rich gospel sound. Only, nothing was coming out of my mouth. Talk about intimidation. I stood there with my mouth hanging open and no sound coming out. When the take was over I said, “Uh, that was great. Gimme more like that,” and I turned to leave the studio. They said, “But you didn’t sing!’ I told them they didn’t need me. And they didn’t. We were all laughing at that point and on the next few takes they really delivered.

At one point, Herb turned to me and said, “Watch this.” Then he pushed the “talk” button so they could hear him in their headphones. “Gimme some LOVE, Elma!” On the next take, Elma held this one, soaring high note for a long, long time. It was perfect. You’ll hear it on the record.

We had Elma solo a couple of verses, Gloria, who was scared and unsure of herself, gave us one really cool take on a verse (she’s got this great tenor voice) and Ron, who sounds like Preacher (Amen!) sang the bridges.

I got the ultimate compliment (once they sang it and heard how it could sound with the right voices.) They told me how much they liked the song. It was unsolicited and genuine. That made my day. They all hugged me as they left.

Then, I went into the vocal booth to record my parts for the song. Man, the vibe in there was awesome! I sang well. I was comfortable. It felt easy. Just before we left for the day, I asked if I could, or should, re-sing the vocal for “Blessing.” It was OK, but I just wasn’t happy with it. I could tell that David and Jimmy didn’t really think it was necessary, but I said I wanted to. I wanted to do it while “the spirit” was still in that booth. I did one take all the way through. For the most part, that’s the take you’ll probably hear on the record. I made one lyric mistake (which I didn’t even notice until a couple of weeks of listening to it) but it was a good take. It just felt right. And it still feels right when I listen to it. It just has the right “vibe.”

Sometimes you just have to be open to receive.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Writing About What I Plan to Write About

Well, there’s not much going on studio-wise these days. At least not for me. I listen to the rough mixes until I can’t stand them and then I put them away for a few days. Then I email the engineers some more notes about how to edit the tracks. And then I don’t hear back from them. I have no idea at what stage the recording is in at this point. I guess it’s time to hound them by phone for a while. I’d like to set some deadlines and a release date but I want to be realistic (Ha! Manishtana halila hazeh mikol haleilot?)

I do owe you some blogs. These are the things I plan to write about… a) soon b) someday c) whenever:

  • Recording with the Prayer Warriors.
  • What’s happening with the song “Light.”
  • I’ve got an artist with pieces showing all over the world to do the cover art.
  • I have a graphic designer, a wonderful friend from high school and college, to do the layout.
  • More about the business of recording. I’ll even share my prospectus and budget that I wrote.
  • And more about songwriting in the “Noah’s Notes” blog spot.

My webmaster wants me to remind and encourage you to use the “comments” feature available for each post. There’s a little grey number (all zeros at this point, except for this one because I’ve posted an example) next to the post title. Just click on that and you can write a response and post it. I think it’s a moderated forum so don’t look for it right away. Leon will let you through when he’s good and ready. He’ll also make sure your comments are appropriate. So don’t leave anything stupid or linguistically unsuitable. And you know who you are.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Kvetch, kvetch, kvetch

So, OK. I haven't blogged in a few days. So, Robbi Sherwin sends me an email kvetching that I haven't blogged in a few days. Who knew anybody was actually reading? I mean besides my mother.

I'm at work right now. It's Friday, Shabbos. And I've got to go and bake some challah and lead a Shabbos sing-a-long. See -- wouldn't YOU like to live at Stone Gardens?

But, I just want you to know that I have blogged. I blogged in Noah's Notes. I've started blogging about songwriting. So go there. Now you'll have to keep checking both blogs. All -- I think my readership is up to six now -- six of you.

What? Kvetch. Complain. Now I have to add a Yiddish dictionary?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Sweating the Small Stuff

Saturday, I worked an administrative day at Stone Gardens. It was a relatively short day for an administrative day. Only 11 hours. Sunday, I worked at Temple in the morning and then worked on some detail stuff at home in the afternoon regarding the recording which I’ll share with you shortly. I’m going to post some of the things I was working on in lieu of writing about them for lack of time. I think it might be interesting anyway. At least to you die hard Metaphor blog fans. Both of you.

I’m not sure I’ve blogged all I can or will about our studio time, but we’re into the editing and mixing phase now. As I’ve stated so often in past posts, it’s all about the details. The other day I was thinking about these stress management workshops that I do with the residents at Stone Gardens. I’ve taught them the phrase “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” and it struck me that recording is all about the small stuff. It’s all small stuff. In the last three or four days, I’ve spoken to a couple of duplication companies about things like bar codes, Universal Product Code, the Uniform Code Council, top spine, glass masters, and graphic design features and costs; I’ve spoken to a friend and respected musician about different duplication companies and the difference he’s heard from master to finished product – compression, tonal shift, etc.; David and I have gone back and forth about song order – a little thought about (by the consumer), but very important aspect of the overall product. (Soon will come the discussion about how many seconds, or fractions of seconds, to put between each song. It’s a little different between each song. It depends on song order and how one song ends and the next one begins…)

On March 12th , our last day in the studio, we came home with the rough mix of all the songs in their potential order (which will likely change). We’ve been listening to them and taking notes. At the studio, they are working on the editing, a process I can’t even go into here. Talk about minutia. They will get the tracks clean and close to a mix that could be final, then David and I will go back into the studio to tweak and render the final mix. What I’ll post here are our combined first round of notes to help the engineers get the songs to a point where David and I can work on the next phase. This will give you some idea about nature of detail in this process. Remember, these are the big notes, the general ones, the ones that are NOT so specific.


Font = David
Font = Noah

Some basic notes, starting from where everything was on the pre-preliminary mix of Sunday, March 12 (and not addressing reverb and any other effects – these are mostly about structure, not sound):

In general: Noah’s guitar should be up a little from where it is.


Sang wrong lyric in vs. 3. “May our journey…” should be “May their journey…”

The word “bless” in the second vs., right where the strings come in at about 1:27, is it OK? It has no discernable pitch to me.

Edge of the Ocean

Strings, on the first chorus only, should come in 2 ½ measures (or 6 beats) later. Strings could come down a little all the way through.

Piano, should come in on the 2nd verse, but out for 1st half of 3rd verse.

Every Step a Prayer

David’s single-string guitar part, that comes in on the 2nd verse (?), should be up a little.

Does my buzzing guitar bother anybody else?

Love the delay and the placement of the vocals.


My favorite track on the record so far.

Listen to the cello at the end of the third vs. just after the word “fabric” at about 2:55. There is a note that sounds funky to me. The intonation is not right or something.


This is my other favorite track on the record.

At the end of the second vs., after the word “dance” there is an audible breath, like “haahhh.” Is it something to take out, or leave in as one of those things that you don’t really notice but becomes part of the landscape of the song in a subliminal kind of way?

Let It Burn

Lead guitar needs to be trimmed a bit – out in spots; maybe out for whole bridge, etc.
Horns should come down a little throughout. Can they be made to sound brighter and/or harder-edged? And in the last measure of the song, can we use the horn part from earlier in the song, where the figure descends, rather than ascends (in other words, the top line now goes: Bb-A-Bb, but should go: Bb-A-G)?

Also, another alternative for the horns on the guitar break: right now for the first time through, it’s the horn part from the second verse, and for the second time through, it’s the part from the third verse. Another possibility is: on the first time though, no horns; second time through, the part from the second verse.

Also, didn’t Ed record an organ part? Is it there at all? Do we need it? I don’t think we’ll use any of the organ solo on the break.


I’m not sure what to do with this one. I don’t quite like it yet. It’s not sounding “folky” or “PPM” enough for me.

First, try taking the drum out of the intro completely. Let it come in on the 1st vs. It’s nice and light there. I don’t know about the choruses. Do we need it at all on the track?

I don’t know if I like the sax at all. I might like it not as a solo instrument, just under words. Is there another instrument that can take the break, or do we need the break at all? I don’t know if it’s a strong enough song to sustain itself for that long. It made the cut originally because it’s a new, easy to sing, somewhat catchy Chanukah song. It needs to be more accessible to the general song leader/music teacher community.


Intro: Should we bring the drum kit in one measure earlier? Lengthen the whole percussion intro?

Lead vocal needs to be up in the mix.

Love the fade on the outro.

Reason To Believe

Possibly trim out some of the lead guitar throughout.

David’s piano part on the intro and between verses, and outro could come up a little, just so it has a little bit more presence amid everything else that’s going on.

This is my other favorite track.

Maybe we should lengthen the intro, double it, with just my guitar, David’s piano, bass and percussion 1st time through, add elec. Guit., organ 2nd time through. The piano could start lower in the mix the 1st time and build.

My backing vocal on the bridge can be up a little.

Silent Son

Noah’s guitar should be a little higher than 2nd guitar. First accordion part (chords) should come in later, in between 1st and 2nd verses, and should be a little lower throughout. Second accordion part should be lower as well.

Take Me Back

My humming at the beginning could be lower in the mix or even out completely or partially.

Background vocals may be able to come up throughout, especially on the
a capella verse.

Is the outro too “busy” with both of those takes together? We might be able to trim a little out of each of them and use them together. Or that might be hard since they sang around one mic.

Does it bother anybody that I don’t pronounce the “K” in the word back in that last verse?

She Knows God

Bring mandolin in on bridge.

Is the first verse (a capella) strong enough, in tune enough?

Please fix my guitar hesitation at around 0:40.

The piano might be able to stay out longer, too. It can come in right before the bridge after “she knows God” at the end of the 2nd vs. when he plays those 3 ascending chords that mimic the mandolin. The mandolin can come in on the 2nd half of the bridge or in the 3rd vs.

Carry That Rock

We’ll get to this when we get to it.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Not much time to write this weekend. But I did finish this. Here is the musical personelle on each track:


Noah Budin – guitar, vocal

Edward Ridley, Jr. – piano

Sarah McElravy – violin

Sarah Ludwig – violin

Kimberly Patterson – cello

David Budin – string arrangement

Edge of the Ocean

Noah Budin – guitar, vocal

Celia Hollander Lewis – 12-string guitar

David Budin – bass, string arrangement

Rob Ticherich – percussion

Sarah McElravy – violin

Sarah Ludwig – violin

Kimberly Patterson – cello

Every Step a Prayer

Noah Budin – guitar, vocals

Celia Hollander Lewis – 12-string guitar, vocals

David Budin – bass, guitar

Edward Ridley, Jr. – piano, synthesizer

Rob Ticherich – percussion

Mark Freiman – flugelhorn


Noah Budin – guitar, vocal

David Budin – bass, cello arrangement

Edward Ridley, Jr. - piano

Kimberly Patterson – cello


Noah Budin – guitar, vocals

Celia Hollander Lewis – 12-string guitar

David Budin – bass

Edward Ridley, Jr. – piano, synthesizer

Rob Ticherich – percussion

Norm Tischler – saxophone

Let it Burn

Noah Budin – guitar, vocal

Sam Getz – electric guitar

Derek Poindexter – bass

Edward Ridley, Jr. – organ

Rob Ticherich – percussion

Mark Freiman – trumpets


Noah Budin – guitar, vocal

Charlie Lewis – guitar

Celia Hollander Lewis – 12-string guitar

David Budin – bass, backing vocals

Rob Ticherich – percussion

Norm Tischler - saxophone


Noah Budin – guitar, vocal

Sam Getz – electric guitar

David Budin – bass, guitar, backing vocal

Edward Ridley, Jr. – organ

Rob Ticherich – percussion

Celia Hollander Lewis – backing vocal

Charlie Lewis – backing vocal

Reason To Believe

Noah Budin – guitar, vocals

David Budin – guitar, keyboard

Sam Getz – electric guitar

Derek Poindexter – bass

Edward Ridley, Jr. – organ

Rob Ticherich – percussion

Silent Son

Noah Budin – guitar, vocal

David Budin – guitar

Rob Ticherich – percussion

Walt Mahovlich – accordion

Take Me Back

Noah Budin – guitar, vocal

Elma A. Flemister, Ron Ferebee, Gloria Ferebee, Sharon E. Chalklett (of the Prayer Warriors) – vocals

David Budin – bass

Edward Ridley, Jr. – organ, synthesizer

Celia Hollander Lewis – banjo

Charlie Lewis - autoharp

Rob Ticherich - pecussion

She Knows God

Noah Budin – guitar, vocal

Edward Ridley, Jr. – piano

Rob Ticherich – percussion

Charlie Lewis – mandolin

Carry That Rock

Noah Budin – guitar, vocal

David Budin – bass

Edward Ridley, Jr. – piano

Michael Seifert - drums

Celia Hollander Lewis – banjo

Charlie Lewis – mandolin

Friday, March 17, 2006

Picking Up

OK. Here's the missing text, new and improved!

Well, we sort of left off at Friday, March 10th. I talked a lot about some of the business details. I’ll talk more about that later, but let’s get back to recording.

Friday, we brought Ed Ridley back into the studio to finish up his keyboard parts. Ed is one of the best keyboard players around. David, who’s been in the music business since the 1960’s, in NY and LA among other places (check out David’s bio), says he is the best keyboard player he’s ever worked with. As I listen to the roughs, I love listening to Haruach for two or three reasons. One is Norm’s sax part. But the main thing is Ed’s keyboard parts. On Friday he added a synth part to the front of the song. It’s kind of the old Vox Humama sound that James Taylor used on the Walking Man record. “Vox Humana” literally means Human Voice and it’s got this eerie, windy, sparkly quality (words don’t do it justice). Windy is one of the qualities I wanted to fit in the whole “ruach” thing. (My standard concert intro to Haruach: The word Ruach means “spirit.” And the word Ruach means “wind.” As in the breath of God.) As we were searching for the right sound (Ed was pushing little buttons on his Roland keyboard and playing with different combinations) and came up with the one you’ll hear on the record, Ed said, “Yeah. This one sounds like the moment right before creation.” I knew it was the right sound.

But it’s his piano solo in Haruach that gets me every time. In fact, we added an instrumental verse so he could take a solo. Haruach was the last song I thought we’d add a verse to because it’s so monotonous. And I mean that in the best possible way. It’s built mostly on two chords, the I and the VI, and then the V is thrown in there at the end of the verse, and the melody line is built around one note. (I don’t recommend beginning songwriters do this. You’ve got to have some experience and know about structures and how they work. I’ll say more about songwriting in another blog some day.) There are four verses and no chorus (I have a habit of writing songs without choruses). Thankfully, there is a bridge. And the bridge is strong. Right after the bridge is Ed’s solo. It’s only a single line. No big chords or flourishes or arpeggios. It’s not impressively speedy. Nothing particularly fancy. But it is perfect. It’s perfect in its simple eloquence. All in that one line, it is smooth and silky and gorgeous. It builds in tension and expectation without being brash, and almost resolves, leading you right into the next verse, hungry for more. That’s where Norm’s sax come in and takes over. It’s a perfect climax.

And that’s Ed’s genius. He can do whatever you need, but he can give you exactly what you need, with nothing extra, nothing superfluous. It’s all usable. He captured all that in a single line of piano. It’s great just to watch him work. He becomes the music. He listens to it, take after take, and his eyes close and he sways. He breathes the music. He tastes the music. It becomes a part of him. He knows when to stop and try something new. Each take gets better and better. There’s very little punching with Ed.

This goes to my philosophy of hiring musicians. I don’t want people who can just read a chart. I want people who will make connections and leave their personal imprint on the sound. I encourage spontaneity and creativity. I’m purposefully vague, especially at the start of the session. I’ll have them listen through the song once or twice, talk a little about it, and let them have at it. When we start getting something we like, then we can begin to hone and pick and choose. Most of the musicians were able to do that and come through, most notably, Ed, Norm, Derek, and the Prayer Warriors.

Ah, the Prayer Warriors. That’s another blog for another day. They were everything I’d hoped.

We spent the rest of that Friday working on my vocals. It took, on average, about an hour to get a good vocal for one song. We fell into a pretty good pattern. I’d sing all the way through the song a few times, recording and keeping each take. Eventually we’d come up with one complete take that we liked. Then we’d go back and listen through that one punching in the spots that weren’t right – a missed word, a stumble, bad intonation, funny pronunciation, ahead of or behind the beat, etc. We’d end up with one really good take with a few alternate vocal tracks from which to pick and choose. You always hear something later, with fresh ears, that you didn’t catch at that moment. We got all the vocals done except for Take Me Back. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with that song, but I had the Prayer Warriors coming in on Saturday, and I was hoping they were going to bring what I needed, even though none of us knew what that was.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Missing Text

I'm having some blogging difficulties. I just published one but it was missing some text (I'm trying to find it...behind the couch? No. Under the bed? No. Floating around in Cyberspace? Maybe...) so I unpublished it. I'll republish when I find (or rewrite) the missing text.

It's 5:36 PM right now. I started this blog at 8:00 AM. I'm still at work and will be until 9:00 PM (it's Bingo night). I tried to intersperse work with blogging. Multitasking is proving to be too taxing.

Crap. That reminds me. It's almost April.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Purim's Over, Life Goes On

Sorry for my absence from the blogsphere these past few days. I should have a chance to write more tonight. I’m still trying to adjust to getting back into the real world, and it was Purim on top of that. Not that Purim is anything like the real world. Check out my photo gallery for me in my Purim costume. Gives a whole new meaning to the title “Queen” Esther.

Things should be settling down a bit now. I’ve been doing nothing but working and listening to the rough mixes to the point where I can’t stand them any more. Time to give it a break. I don’t know how the editing is going, but I’m looking forward to getting in there to do the final mix. At Temple, we’re just beginning the process of recording Rock My Soul Shabbat. So, here we go again.

Just a reminder: If you are new the blogsphere and are confused trying to follow this, you need to know that the most recent blog is posted on top. To catch up, or read the posts in chronological order, scroll down, or click on the archives and start from the bottom up. I started this blog back in January of 2006 to chronicle the recording process and progress. I’ll be back later to fill you in on the last few sessions.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Email From Mom

Short blog tonight. Much more forthcoming.

It was a weird day. We had our Purim carnival at Temple, so I started the day in drag. (if you are uninitiated in the ways of Purim…well, don’t ask. I’ll have pics up soon in the photo gallery.) Then I went into the studio for a couple of hours and worked on the rough mixes. (I have all 13 songs now on a disk. We put them in their potential order to see how it works. More about that later.) Then I led a Laughter Workshop at a birthday party. (I’m a Certified Laugh Leader. More about that sometime, too – in another section of the site. Check out
www.worldlaughtertour.com. ) Then I went to play Mahjong. Sunday is my Mahj night.

Now I’m home. It’s late. I’ve been working on the not-so-exciting producer stuff, like musicians’ fees, etc. I have to be back at the real job tomorrow morning. No, it’s already this morning.

Can’t wait to tell you about the Prayer Warriors’ session. The track Take Me Back went from being my least favorite to my most favorite. Although, it’s hard to say that. It’s sort of like choosing which one of your children you love best.

Don't forget about the glossary. I try to remember to create a link when I use a technical word you may not know. It'll take you to the glossary Like this.

I’ll close tonight (this morning) with this. I got an email from my mother the other day. At least I know somebody’s reading this thing. And her perceptions are so good. Here it is:

Can't wait to hear what you and David are producing - I am reading your blogs everyday (do you think anybody else is?) - I think it is fascinating and you are both geniuses - all this from an unbiased source, your mother.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Prayer Warriors

Saturday, March 11th is our last session (putting down tracks -- we'll be editing and mixing as mentioned). I promise I'll fill you in on what happened these last couple of days, but I wanted to let you know about the Prayer Warriors. We finally booked some of them to come in for a session to record vocals on Take Me Back. They are an amazing Ceveland group rooted in Gospel but pushing all kinds of boundaries. I'm reprinting this description that I found at
Here is what it says:

Blending the power of gospel music with the modern sounds of pop, rock and R&B, Prayer Warriors - as many as 25-voices, backed by the Thunder Band (piano, bass, drums and percussion) - perform what they call "inspirational groove - music with a message."

This unusual group, which has been in existence for more than a decade, crosses musical boundaries and stretches limits to deliver a message of brotherhood, peace and understanding. Although rooted in the musical traditions of the church, Prayer Warriors speak a contemporary language in non-traditional places - nightclubs, festivals and fairs. Their approach is fresh and inspired, taking a cue from their obvious mentors The Staples Singers, who rose to fame in the 1960s, bringing their similar message out of the church and to the general population.

Prayer Warriors' ability to capture the attention of diverse audiences is no doubt due to the group's concept and broad musical base Always fresh, their repertoire runs the gamut from the traditional "Amazing Grace," to the O'Jay's "Love Train," to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall." Gospel music is the foundation of their show, but the music - gospel or not - aims to stir souls, with a rich blend of harmonies and inspired solos.

While an essential element of the music, harmony is also an essential message of Prayer Warriors. "We never go out preaching but we do want to share a positive message through our music," founder Herb Thomas says, "We want to remind people that we can all do a better job of living and working if we do it together. That we need to be there for each other. That we can be better people, better parents. We can make life better in the world we live in."

It's easy to see the power these self-dubbed messenger angels have to move an audience. "When we can stand on stage and do everything from "Amazing Grace" to Pink Floyd, and have people in tears, coming up to us after the show and telling us, 'I really wasn't expecting that,' that's a great feeling," says Thomas.

Now an award-winning television journalist and videographer, Thomas' love of gospel music was fostered in the church. As a child, growing up in Alabama, he embraced the music and decided early on that he wanted to share his love for it. He began by creating and directing multi-media stage productions featuring gospel music. He first realized his Prayer Warriors vision in 1989, when he assembled a group for one of his gospel productions. The program was so successful, Thomas decided to establish the group. In the beginning, his company (H-Factor Productions) would present the concerts. However, it wasn't long before Prayer Warriors reputation took hold and they were getting bookings for festivals and special events throughout the region.

The group's performances have included some thrilling moments in the spotlight, including being asked to perform back-up vocals for the Foreigner music video, "I Want To Know What Love Is." The invitation came after delivering a performance at the 1993 National Rib Cook Off, doing back-up vocals for the rock group. "They gave me chills," singer Lou Gramm said afterward. They got the call for the video, which was shot a few months later. Other career highlights include providing vocal support for a Diana Ross Cleveland concert performance in 1995; opening a Cain Park concert for gospel recording artist Lynette Hawkins Stephens; and an unlikely but successful pairing as the opening act for a Buckwheat Zydeco show at Peabody's DownUnder.

In between working full-time for the Cleveland Fox Network affiliate TV 8, running his own video production company, and producing Prayer Warriors and other concerts, the ultra-driven Thomas composes and writes lyrics for the group. He is also their percussionist.

Prayer Warriors Musical Director since 1983, keyboardist and arranger (along with Thomas) Clifton Beasley has served as musical director for a number of churches in Cleveland. He is an accomplished composer and lyricist, whose original songs are often featured in the group's repertoire.

Whether their performance is inside a church, at a festival in a park, or in a smoke-filled saloon, Thomas Beasley and their Prayer Warriors make events memorable for their audience. Thomas remarks, "'It's satisfying when see that we've touched someone. If we can calm a troubled soul, lift someone's spirit, touch their heart, or get them to sing along, even for a moment, then we've accomplished something."

Check out this site too:

Friday, March 10, 2006

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Today is Friday. My children have all had colds and I woke up with a sore throat. Damn.

BTW, this has really been an extraordinarily short period of time to produce a full blown recording. I was lucky enough to be able to take two full weeks off of work (you know, that real job thing) and put in eight hour days at the studio almost every day. There are still hours and hours of editing and cleaning and mixing to do. But after Sunday we’ll have all of the raw tracks down, and some of the rough mixes I’m coming home with sound pretty darn good.

I called my (real job) supervisor the other day and she said “I can’t believe you’re calling me on your vacation!” To which I said, “Vacation? I can’t wait to get back to work so I can get some rest.”

Some bigger name artists who do have this luxury of time, may take more time to produce their recording. They may have the backing of a label. And some may spend the same amount of hours as I will have in the studio, but they need to spread it out over weeks or months due to schedule.

Also, I do have another luxury. I have a backer, an executive producer. Doug Furth, an investment banker (or something like that) with an interest in producing family quality entertainment (he produced the movie “Come Away Home”) became interested in my music and agreed to back this CD. Having all of the money up front is a tremendous luxury for small independent artists. I constructed a fairly conservative budget for this project which came in at around $15,500.00. I’m already a little over budget for musicians’ fees – I underestimated the number of musicians and their time in studio and their inherent value to the overall recording. But I’ll find other places to cut (perhaps in the artwork department) and luckily I built in a “Misc.” line in the budget; funds for undetermined use. I’m glad I did that but I didn’t want to use it all up in the beginning because I know that something else unforeseen will come up. It always does.

Well, I didn’t post much about the actual recording going on in the studio, and there is some pretty cool stuff. But I’ve got to get down to the studio now, so I’ll write more later and fill you in.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Past the Tipping Point

Tuesday, March 7. My horns came in. (Insert tacky and tasteless ethnic joke here).

Started the day with Norm Tischler. If you know Norm, you know that’s a helluva way to start the day. He’s a ball of energy…or something. I kid. I’m not saying anything here that I wouldn’t say directly to Norm. He is a great guy and one absolutely terrific horn player.

David wrote a horn arrangement for Let it Burn and needed a low horn, like a trombone. Norm had not played trombone for years, but he borrowed one (a huge thank you to Academy Music. Sorry, no web site to point you to.) and came in ready to read the chart. He did pretty well. Sax is his main instrument and he’s the kind of player that can hear a piece once and know what to do. He’ll also give you what you want. You can say “give me a little David Sanborn” or “play it like Clarence Clemence” and he’ll give it to you. It took him about an hour to get the charts right for Let it Burn (that comes down to about a minute and a half’s worth of music) but he nailed the two sax solos in about two takes each. We’ve got sax solos in Light and Haruach. We just let him have at them and he was awesome.

Then Norm hung around for no apparent reason and ate our pizza.

Just kidding.

He ate the garlic bread.

(Which he bought.)

Just giving Norm a hard time. He loves it.

Time for an Ed Ridley session. He came in at 1:00 and was only available until 3:00. It was a little frustrating because we were having some technical problems with the keyboard and the interface (or some technical word like that. It has to do with how the electric keyboard was reacting, or not reacting, to the computer program). We lost about an hour of Ed’s time, and Ed’s time is so valuable (to me) because it’s so limited and he’s so good. We only had him booked for one more hour and a half session, but he graciously agreed to come on Friday from 10 – 3. We should be able to finish up with him then. Thank you Ed.

Here’s a little more behind the scenes with the piano problem. (I want to keep this blog relatively positive and upbeat while still touching on the realities of tedium, frustrations and setbacks while trying to create a beautiful, seamless product. It is not my intention to cast doubt or blame on any company or individual. Everyone’s been great). There is a beautiful baby grand in the studio. That is our preference to use for acoustic piano parts. However, while it’s not badly out of tune, we’ve been waiting for the piano tuner to call back. We didn’t want to start piano sessions until the piano had been tuned (perfection, remember?). So, with Ed in the studio, and the piano not tuned, we went to plan B – the electric, weighted keyboard (weighted keys that react like real piano keys to the touch) with some kind of MIDI software. It wasn’t working properly. Something to do with the polyphony. (I checked. Polyphony is legal in Ohio). Anyway, we went to the baby grand. It has a great sound and was not too out of tune to our ears. Recording technology, specifically the software, is completely amazing these days. Within this software, called Pro Tools, there is something called an auto tuner. You can put it on any track and it will tune all of the pitches to where they are supposed to be. Even on a vocal track. (Now you know how people who can’t and don’t sing well and shouldn’t be famous except that they look good get where they are. (I won’t mention any names, but the initials that come to mind are Brittany Spears. Oops (I did it again). I hope I don’t get sued. But I’ll challenge them to play a raw vocal track in court.) What I’m getting at, however, is, we’ll put the auto tuner on the piano once it’s all recorded to insure that its pitch is perfect. I don’t think it’s cheating. Ed plays so beautifully. It’s just like tuning the piano, but after the fact.

We worked on some of the lead vocals until Mark Freiman came in and did some trumpet parts. He, as always, was terrific, both his playing and to work with.

We are almost done with all of the instrumental tracks! Vocals remain and I’m still trying to line up some vocalists. More about vocals next blog.

Yes, Virginia, there are songs there.

Monday, March 6. Day whatever.

Charlie and Celia, Charlie and Celia, Charlie and Celia…hm, I suddenly feel like singing Hava Nagila.

C & S were back in the studio. Charlie put down a sweet little mandolin part on She Knows God. He’s practically never played the mandolin before but, musician that he is, came through with flying colors (whatever those are). The part is sweet and nice and pretty and well played. Thank you, Charlie.

At the end of the day, Celia, Charlie and David put down some beautiful backing vocals for Metaphor, and Celia did some solo backing vocals for Every Step a Prayer.

Ed Ridley came in for a session first thing in the morning to start his keyboard parts. Ed is one of the best keyboard players anywhere. He just finished a run of “Love, Janis” at the Hanna Theater. He’s played with Aretha Franklin. We started putting down organ parts on some songs. When I say “organ,” think Wallflowers, not Bach. The studio has a Hammond C3 with a Leslie speaker. Ed did a great little part on Metaphor. That one’s just about done except for the keeper vocal.

The middle of the day was fun. It probably the first time I really had fun in the studio. We recorded the bonus track. Yes, you heard it here first: there will be a bonus track. That makes 13 songs for the price of twelve! And we did it live. Just like the old days. Like in the days of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. We all set up live in the studio and recorded “Carry That Rock.” I played guitar and sang, Celia played banjo, Charlie played mandolin, Ed played piano, David played bass and Michael Seifert sat in on drums. It’s an old-timey kind of song. Sort of a sequel to Hallelujah Land (the song).

I came away from the day very excited and with a rough mix of three of the songs. Troy Dexter, producer, arranger, engineer and musician on Hallelujah Land, gave me some advice as I was leaving California with a rough mix of the record in my hands. He said, “Don’t fall in love with the rough mix.” Troy was left to do the final mix by himself and did a masterful, wonderful job. But I listened to the rough mix so much and so often that I did “fall in love” with it. That is, I got used to it. The final mix sounded strange to me. Now, of course, It’s just about perfect, but there was a reacquaintance period. This time I’ll be much more involved with final mix.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes

Friday and the weekend. March 3 – 5. So much has happened. So many changes.

Derek was not able to get back in, but that’s OK. We got what we need. Of the five tracks he recorded, we’ll probably end up using three of them. His playing on Reason to Believe was really hot. Or very cool. I can never remember the difference.

Rob was in again and finished all of the percussion parts. Then we went out for Dim Sum, but that’s another story for another section of the website. Let’s just say that I’ve never seen “fish lips” on a menu before.

While Rob and I were out, David recorded pretty much all of his guitar and bass parts. Layering, layering, layering, it’s all about layering. Celia, a fine musician whom we’ll get to in a minute, said that it’s like building with tiny bricks.

On Saturday we had a string trio come in. Two violins and a cello. They were three young women from CIM (the Cleveland Institute of Music) and they were fabulous. David wrote beautiful arrangements for Blessing, Edge of the Ocean, and a solo cello for Fire, and they executed it perfectly. This was a short but exciting session.

I’m starting to look forward to the final mixing process which, ironically, is more hours and hours of tedium. But that’s where we put all of the parts in their places and make the songs sound the way you’ll finally hear them. It’s hard to explain the mixing process to the uninitiated, but basically it’s where each track gets its own level (sorta like volume) – that is, how much of it you hear in relation to all of the other tracks – and effects, like reverb. With today’s technology the possibilities are literally infinite. You can get five different producers to mix the same tracks and end up with five completely different sounding songs. It’s an important step in the process. More about that when we get to it.

Sunday was a long busy day in the studio. Celia and Charlie came in from Athens (Ohio) to lend their talents to the recording. Celia used to be in my band (The Promised Band) when they lived up here. She’s a phenomenal talent (so is Charlie, her husband, but I haven’t worked with him as much. They play together and have a couple of CDs out. Check them out here). Among the instruments she plays is the hammer (or is it hammered?) dulcimer, banjo, harp, and 12-string (or is it stringed?) guitar. She also has a beautiful voice and perfect pitch. She and Charlie put down some guitar and banjo parts and will do some vocals on Monday. It was a pleasure and an honor to have them in the studio.

We put a third guitar part down on Silent Son but we may end up not using it. It’s a nice part, but the song is starting to sound too jaunty. I think the message of the lyric may become lost. It needs to be a little more sparse in the final mix. Sometimes less is more.

Jimmy Weaver, the engineer (who is also a fine musician we hear) got a friend of his to come in and do some electric guitar work for us. Sam Getz is all of 22 years old and is absolutely phenomenal. One of those natural talents. Never took a lesson. Doesn’t read (music). But he can hear a song once and then do anything you want. He played on three songs and I can’t wait for you to hear is scorching guitar solo on Let it Burn. He also played on Metaphor and Reason to Believe. He added a whole terrific layer to this record.

Monday we start the keyboards and Tuesday we lay down the horns. After that, it’s pretty much time for vocals.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Are there songs in there somewhere?

Thursday, March 02. Day 4. Long, long day.

Big News. The accordion player called. We booked him and he came in today. We’ve done the accordion session. What’s the difference between an onion and an accordion? Nobody cries when you chop up the accordion. Kidding. It can actually have a very sweet sound – if you put it in the right song, get the player not to sound like he’s playing “Lady of Spain” and burry it appropriately in the mix.

Actually, it won’t be all that buried. We used it on “The Silent Son.” (One of these days I’ll write about each of these songs in the “Noah’s Notes” section.) The arrangement is relatively sparse, yet really very lush. It will end up being 3 guitars, one of them a 12 string, (all playing in different capoed positions), some very light percussion, and the accordion. When we finally played this one back, I could hear a song beginning to emerge.

It is beginning to sound like there are actually songs there. After Monday of this coming week – that would be in four days – it will really start coming together. This first part is just so tedious (have I mentioned that before?) I am not a fan of tedium. All of that exacting guitar work – picking it apart note by note, strum by strum, beat by beat. Percussion – “Which drumstick do you like? This one…or this one?” What? “This one (bang, bang, bang) or this one (bang, bang, bang)” Um…

But, it’s beginning to sound like there might actually be songs in there. I can hear it starting to come together. I can hear the potential. I need to redo a couple of guitar tracks, but overall, it’s beginning to sound…well, you know.

Today we had Rob in the studio all day doing percussion (aside from the accordion break). I didn’t need to go into the studio today. I got to sit in the producer’s chair (figuratively. Literally, it’s the same chair I’ve been sitting in while in the control room). I got to sit there all day and tell other people what to do and make decisions (like, um, which drumstick to use). It made for a very long day.

Tomorrow is a short day in the studio. David and I have to leave at 4:30 for Rock My Soul Shabbat at the Temple. Rob will be back. We need to get my couple of guitar tracks. And David needs to start putting his stuff down (bass and guitar).

Saturday – strings!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bass Fishing

Wednesday, March 1. Day 3. Derek is amazing.

Derek told me that once when he went to audition for a band, he tuned up with his electronic tuner before he went in. When he got in and set up, they asked him if he'd like to tune up. Derek stopped dead in his tracks, opened his eyes wide and said, "You guys tune?" He said it was worth the looks on their faces.

We put down bass part for the four songs Derek is playing on. Actually, we added one, so it's five songs. He's quick, versatile, and more than talented with his instrument of choice. He's back in on Friday. I'm not sure there's much more he can do, but he and Rob will have an opportunity to play together to establish that "groove" they keep talking about.

The engineers spent the morning editing the drum tracks - smoothing them out, aligning beats, etc. After listening back to the drums we decided we needed to make some changes. No, Rob, you're not fired. We are scrapping the current percussion track for Reason to Believe. It just didn't get it. We're going to try some other types of percussion for it, like congas. Rob's back in tomorrow.

Michael was back, looking a little fat-cheeked but claiming to feel better than he did before the teeth were pulled. And he hadn't had a pain killer since 6PM the night before. Get me the name of that dentist!

We put down the last two guitar tracks, Blessing and She Knows God, and the reference vocals.

Still no accordion player. I guess I should call his cell phone.