My first album, "Debut of a Lifetime" is a combination of songs and types of songs I have sung over the past 45 years. It contains songs I have either sung for a very long time and songs I have always wanted to sing.
Over the years, I have sung for churches, performed in theatrical productions, concerts, festivals and just about every other kind of setting one can imagine. My genres have ranged anywhere from classical music to rock and roll although I have never sung country or rap music. This leads me to a humorous story.
In June 2013 I pre-released my original song, "Something Beautiful in Me" as a download only single. Everything went fine except Google Music decided I was in the same music genre as Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and George Strait. Yeah right, I really have a lot in common with George Strait. It wasn't until I released the full album in September they seemed to realize my musical style was more in the tradition of Josh Groban and Johnny Mathis than with Willie Nelson and the rest. "Something Beautiful in Me" does use a steel string guitar groove in it but I wouldn't classify it as country music. They still have me linked to Johnny Cash and have also added Reba McEntire which I'm totally cool with. I think Reba's great.
Picking songs for an album I found out is a pretty daunting task. I originally considered about twenty songs, then settled on twelve but then in 2012, I threw out four songs which I felt didn't really fit in with the rest of this particular album with the way it was shaping up after recording the first eight tracks. The last four songs, "I Look to You", "Bring Him Home", "New World Coming" and "Softly as I Leave You" came as an afterthought but I felt they added a nice touch and brought the album to a nice finality.
I have always loved the song "Come in from the Rain". The first time I heard the song was in 1977 by the Captain and Tennille on their album entitled "Come in from the Rain". The only thing I didn't like about the Captain and Tennille version was that little trickle of water at the beginning of it which I guess was supposed to be rain but it sounded more like a little brook. The reason why I never liked the little trickle was because it always made me go to the restroom whenever I heard it. That said, instead of using water sounds on my album, I decided to create an orchestral storm and then resolve the storm by going into the song. In early recordings of the song, it was usually sung at an extremely slow pace but I decided to give it a bit more rhythm.
"Days of Plenty" is an extremely emotional ballad from the musical "Little Women". In 2009, I sang this song in tribute to the memory of my friend, Sean Hegarty, on the 20th anniversary of his death. I was recording the song in December of 2010 just two months after the passing of my step-father, Edgar Charles Anderson, Jr. It was just before Christmas and I was feeling pretty much like crap. I think working on this song gave me an outlet for my grief instead of just sitting around moping and possibly contemplating stomping the Christmas tree in the front yard. Listening to the performance now, I can hear just how upset I was. I'm glad something good came out of that time. It was a bitch getting through it believe me.
Now that I think of it, I have one thing in common with Willie Nelson; that is we both recorded "Over the Rainbow". I almost recorded "Sing a Rainbow" which was from one of my long time favorite Andy Williams album "The Wonderful World of Andy Williams". I even thought about doing both of them but decided one rainbow song on the album was enough. In future releases, I may record a rendition of "Sing a Rainbow", we'll see. I created an original musical introduction for "Over the Rainbow" and even used the rarely sung lyric, "When all the world is a hopeless jumble and the raindrops tumble all around...". Most other artists, including Judy Garland, always had a tearful and emotional ending. I decided to make mine a hopeful ending thus changing the tone of the ending from hopelessness. So instead of a sad "why of why can't I?", I turned it into a determined "WHY OR WHY CAN'T I?"
"This Is the Moment" was quite a moment for me because creating the orchestration tracks for this song was hard as hell. This was one of my earlier attempts in orchestrating music and it grew up in quality as I became more experienced in using the recording tools of the trade. I don't know how many iterations of this song I created until I had the one I liked the best. While recording the song, the biggest challenge was holding that very long note at the end and keeping my energy up all the way through it.
Who are all those other people singing with me on "Oh Happy Day"? They are all me...about six tracks of me singing with different voices blended together. Some might think singing and harmonizing with yourself is easy, but it's not easy at all.
In 2002 while I was rehearsing for "Dracula: The Musical?" at Showtimers in Roanoke, the director, Denis Deane, turned me onto the musical "The Secret Garden". I ordered a copy of the original soundtrack and fell in love with the song "Wick". I love the imagery in "Wick" where something may look dead on the outside but is actually bursting with life internally. That internal spark will eventually show itself when the time is right. I can more than identify with that idea.
Over the years I've kept seeing these copies of Barbra Streisand's album "Higher Ground" floating around the congregation of MCC of the Blue Ridge. "At the Same Time" was my favorite track from that album. I have always loved the unifying message of the song which basically says we may be different but in many ways we are the same. I almost worked up the song "Higher Ground" but "At the Same Time" kept calling to me.
My mother, Miss Mama, has asked me several times where the idea for "Something Beautiful in Me" came from. Lots of times she starts inquiring about the song when it's very late at night and the only thing on my mind is to go to bed. My intellectual depth gets a big shallow when I'm sleepy and many times I just shrug her off saying something like, "it came from me staring at a blank computer screen." Actually I wrote the song in 2006. I was in a pretty bad place at the time and I was thinking how much better I would feel if I fell in love. This compounded with the enormous job responsibility I had at the time made me think, with all my toils, would I have time for love? The opening lyric came out from something I said to myself when I was staring at that blank computer screen. With a heavy, desperate sigh I merely said to myself, "Sometimes I feel like I'm getting nowhere. Sometimes I feel there's no point to care." <DING>...I had my opening lyric.
During the development of this album, I read the book, "Remembering Whitney" by Cissy Houston. I was so moved by Cissy Houston's narrative of her early years in New Jersey and the birth, career and death of her daughter, Whitney Houston. I decided to include "I Look to You" in my selections.
I used to sing "Bring Him Home" when I was in my twenties when I was actually too young to sing the song. I didn't care, I would belt it out anyway. I also sang the song for my audition for "Dracula: The Musical?" at Showtimers in 2002. I originally wasn't going to include this song since I was afraid the album was getting too "show tune heavy". After I put the song in, I thought it added a nice warm feeling as the album started to close.
One of my very early musical influences was Cass Elliot. I'm not talking of the Mama Cass in "The Mamas and the Papas". I'm talking about Cass Elliot's solo career when she was singing songs like "Don't Call Me Mama Anymore". That's the Cass Elliot I grew to love. "New World Coming" was always an uplifting song for me and I would just get warm all over whenever I heard Cass Elliot sing it. Such a simple little tune with such a powerful message. Of course during the 70's I'm sure it was meant to support the Women's Liberation Movement but it also works for today's social activism as well.
I mentioned earlier the Andy Williams album "The Wonderful World of Andy Williams". This was one of the earliest albums I used to listen to when I was just old enough to put a needle onto a record on my little monaural record player I had when I was a very small boy. I decided to close the album with "Softly as I Leave You" which was also the final cut on the Andy Williams album. It still works as a great closer.
I'm always telling people I'm going to be a bit more "thematic" in my future releases. The purpose of this album was to demonstrate where I came from and now future releases will be more where I am going. People seemed to enjoy the eclectic blend of "Debut of a Lifetime" and I've only heard nice comments from people so far.
November 12, 2013