Plunder and Pillage

Liner Notes

January 2002

I’ve heard it said that artistic projects are never really finished only abandoned. Still there is something wonderful about completing a lengthy work such as it is. Every recording presents a new set of challenges and this is certainly no exception. I had originally planned to make the second CD an all acoustic recording but then again as they say ‘best laid plans’. The more I worked on this CD the more it developed into a kind of showcase for all the musical styles I enjoy. There is no doubt that the recording will receive little air time since the material is so diverse that it clearly does not fall into a broadcast ‘format’.

Probably the most difficult thing about recording for me is the constant reminder to sing out. I can see why the big, famous stars employ a vocal coach as part of the recording budget. Musicians are busy trying to keep the notes ringing true. It can really impact the power and clarity of the singing if the chording of a song is particularly intricate. And then of course there is always the temptation to be become distracted. I rather think having some one else in the studio helps you focus.

The Careful Song arose out of the numerous rhythmic admonishments we all hear as a culture nearly every day. This song is a collection of cautionary phrases we apply as self management techniques. The song keeps expanding. I wrote the core concept and a few lines while having a cool down walk after a brisk jog, something I do everyday. I now have at least one added verse which does not appear on the recording. I wanted to put a little harmonica on the album and this was a great place for a solo since it is basically a bluesy shuffle. This is one of the first acoustic tunes I’ve written in many years and I re-discovered how much fun it is.

In Twenty five Words or Less was written by the Labounty/Freeland song writing team. I heard it many years ago on a live radio broadcast featuring another great performer named Michael Johnson. I was immediately attracted to the walking base line and the clever lyrics. The song also displays an innocence that is lacking in the tunes of today.

Follow Me was penned by John Denver some 35 years ago. I of course learned it when it was new! There has been a kind of resurgence in the popularity of his music. Nearly every time it is performed some one will want to know from where it came. It has a familiarity that rings as distant memory and is one of my own personal favorites. It is still a basic, simple folk song with a timeless sentiment and I do not believe it could be improved upon with technology of any kind.

Rap Guitar is another tune written by me. It started out as a humorous take on the state of pop music that we know is playing right now on MTV though it is all too dreadful for us to listen. Then I realized that there has always been some other style of music to dominate the charts rather excluding those of us who prefer the more simple and heartfelt sound of actual musicianship. I jokingly thought it would really be something if someone wrote a rap song for the solo acoustic guitar. The song eventually evolved into the current diatribe you hear and is humorous only because it is true

When Sunny Gets Blue is no doubt familiar to the many lovers of romantic music from the ‘50’s. I first learned this song from my very old friend Kelton who at the time was a fair Jazz guitarist. The song was so far over my head musically that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to perform it… of course this was in the early eighties. Several years later I heard it performed by Kenny Rankin and became enthralled with his take on it. I hope you like the way I’ve presented it here.

In the Name of Love was initially recorded by Kenny Rankin as well, one of my long time heroes of the recording industry. It was written by him and Estelle Leavitt first appearing on the vinyl album ‘Silver Morning’. I had never heard anything like it before. I was entranced and set off to find out how to do it. Since then I’ve come to be very fond of this singing style known as ‘vocal scat’. I once performed this song on WBFS radio for the ‘King Paul Monarch Dodge’ show way back in 1983. The host was shocked and speechless which I took as a good sign of things to come!

Mood for a Day is from the ‘Yes’ fragile album. This album was on 8 track when I listened to it my 1968 Pontiac LeMans! It took a lot of listening to garner this song since it was in the early seventies and my skills were terribly unrefined. I have come to think of it as two songs being played simultaneously… one on the upper strings and one on the lower. Steve Howe is one of the finest rock musicians of the genre and I hope to have done justice to his composition for the benefit of new generations.

Our Love The melody and chord changes in this song are so moving. When combined with the touching lyrics it was too much for me to resist. It was recorded by Al Jarreau and ably written by himself as well as Tom Canning and Jay Graydon. Again, I think this is reminiscent of the love ballads from the ‘50’s. It has quite a vocal range and I don’t mind saying it was tough to record.

Nassau in the Rear View Mirror needs very little explanation. Both the Majesty and the Sovereign of the Seas dock in the port of Nassau , Bahamas twice a week. Nassau is a curious dichotomy. I wanted to put things into the lyric that would create some memorable imagery for the many guests that sail in weekly. The seaplane, Paradise Island , and Market Street are all familiar to visitors. Since it is a seaport I thought the song should also have a kind of ‘whistle ability’. Again this is the type of construct that will alter over time as new discoveries fit into the lyrical fabric.

What can be said about the work of Paul Simon and his composition Still Crazy after All These Years.  I’ve invested thousands of hours to acquire musical skills and then to see someone make it look this easy can be very frustrating. As in all great compositions the music and the lyrics collide to achieve emotional impact. I always felt this song was somewhat underplayed. The public has a low tolerance for such plaintive ness.

Lush Life was first recorded by Nat ‘King’ Cole and subsequently by daughter Natalie. It was stunningly composed in 1949 by a sixteen year old boy named Billy Strayhorn. I felt it was a very remarkable song in that the lyrics and chord structure are so incredibly sophisticated even for a road weary adult. It is a difficult song for me to perform which only adds to the wonder associated with such a young composer. I hope the song can be enjoyed by all. It is pretty introspective and most people don’t want to examine a circumstance too closely.

Jesu: Joy of Mans Desiring is the quintessential work for the guitar from JS Bach. I admit to a certain fascination with the mechanics of baroque counterpoint and did in fact make a recording of the ‘Bourees’ from JS Bach on an earlier album ‘Sandy Clams’. To provide the fullest acoustic tonality I have retuned the instrument to ‘D’ tuning. This allows for a large number of open strings and permits them to ring out.

The cover photo for ‘Plunder and Pillage’ was chosen from the endless archives of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. It is a large and appealing photo of the Hawaiian Island of Mokoli (some call it ‘China Hat’ though I don’t know why). I cropped it and shrunk it and added text and find it thoroughly provocative.

Steve D

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