DISCOGRAPHY - "ACTUAL SIGHS"
I once wrote a tune called "Home Again" where I questioned the old adage "you can't go home again." On a certain level it's true. Returning to the past is not possible. Not that I really want to -- I enjoy the present and look forward to the future. And yet...there is a way in the form of a song to glance back and reminisce, recollect, maybe even reconsider. This album, for me, was a chance to recapture a period of time and music that had slipped away.
I would like to thank the members of the Actual Sighs Ensemble, who sat or stood patiently in our bedroom/studio (also known as the Kit Factory) and bowed beautiful sounds on their violins, viola and cello (Meryl, Spiff, Marla and Julia) and blew into reeds and mouthpieces on their saxophone, trumpet, flute and trombone (Jim, Spiff, Laurie and James).
I'd like to thank some good friends and relatives who generously lent their instruments for this project -- Joey Blackstone for the splendid vintage Stratocaster, Russell Kaplan for the keyboard and Meryl Danzinger for the doumbek. Thanks to my two old Plainfield pals, Vicki Blasucci and Gary Toresco, for their assistance with the photo shoot; to Don Brockway for his promotional skills and enthusiasm; and to Laura Ponce and Joe Quigley for the use of their cars when I had to shlep out to Tony's studio in Sayreville, New Jersey. Sincere thanks to Elinore Heyman, Helen Goldberg, Sol Goldberg and to all my family for their love and support.
Back in high school in the 60's, I knew of this already legendary guitarist from Green Brook, the next town over from Plainfield, New Jersey. Ed Stasium was the first cat around who developed an interest and expertise in the recording process. One day he asked me to bring my drums over to his house to lay down some tracks. I'm proud to say I'm the first guy Ed recorded. Since then, Ed has had an illustrious career as a producer/engineer, and so it is fitting on this lost debut album to come full circle and have him mix several of these tunes.
Tony "Hello Hello Hello" Lewis mixed many of the songs as well. Tony is a super talented producer/musician with whom I've had the privilege of working on my last four releases. I've benefited greatly from the excellent ears, skills and humor of Kurt Reil, who engineered all the drums at his home studio.
A special thanks to my wife Nancy, the person most responsible for the quality of sound and performance on this album, who engineered all the instruments and vocals, and had the chops and musical know-how to make the final judgment on every note played and sung. Without her hard work and dedication, I could not even come close to the end result of this disc.
So maybe this once I can quietly sneak back - at least in my head - to the garage on Kenyon Avenue in Plainfield, where I had my big upright piano, Ludwig gold sparkle drum set and a couple guitars and amps, and regenerate some actual sighs...RXH, NYC
AUDIO AND LYRICS
All In The Way You Found Me
Hung Up Like A Martyr
Mr. Murphy’s Son
Twelve Bars And I Still Have The Blues
In A Boxcar
A Fine Line
Without True Love
Written All Over My Face
Can’t Keep Me From Talkin’
The Gazing Moon
I’m That Kind Of Man
When Giants Fall
Actual Sighs Song-By-Song
Kenyon Walls was originally a piano instrumental written way back in '69 in the garage of the house I grew up in located at 1015 Kenyon Avenue, Plainfield, NJ. I added lyrics in the mid 70's. The song is more about a longing for the old house than a romantic relationship. '69 was the year my family moved from Kenyon Avenue and that house held special memories for me. Nancy's cousin Meryl Danzinger - a concert violinist now teaching music - agreed to play on a couple of songs, including Kenyon Walls. She is overdubbed six times, creating a whole violin section, with each part exquisitely performed. Our friend Laurie Brand Blackstone contributes a flute part to the main riff.
Stockpile is a last resort kind of song. A throw-my-hands-up-in-the-air, I've-had-enough, burn-out, melt-down implosion. It could have easily been written today, but I was feeling those state-of-the-world frustrations in the 70's when I wrote the song. I wanted to put a harmonica solo on the track, but I didn't have one in the right key, so I impatiently tried to play harp-like riffs on the electric guitar. You could call this my anti-activism song.
All In The Way You Found Me dates back to the early 80's. I was thinking about how the relationship I was in was built on a fragile foundation. Sometimes the circumstances of how you meet someone end up being the basis for staying together. But of course that can only last for so long and then it hits you - there's really nothing there.
Winter Blue is based on an arpeggiated guitar riff and a harmony riff. Thanks to Joey Blackstone for lending me his vintage Stratocaster on this one. The recording features Spiff Wiegand and Meryl Danzinger on violin and Laurie Brand Blackstone on flute. I especially like the ending, where a lone violin solos on the left with the flute harmonizing on the right. The percussion is a doumbek lent to me by Meryl. I'm also playing the triangle, which is my favorite instrument - ding! ding! ding! I love those great albums by Traffic, and this has a little of that flavor.
Hung Up Like A Martyr is a song I used to play live all the time in the late 70's and early 80's. I can remember playing it many times at CBGB and other New York City clubs that no longer exist. There are several songs on Actual Sighs that I would describe more as straight-ahead rock than pop. This is certainly one of them.
Mr. Murphy's Son - the son can never live up to the father's expectations, especially if the father is Murphy's Law. That's a harmonium on the left and a Rickenbacker 360 12-string on the right. Ed Stasium mixed this track with great flair, especially on the phased breakdown chorus at the end.
Twelve Bars And I Still Have The Blues - somebody had to write that line eventually. I have been a blues lover since the mid 60's. Actually, hearing it first through the British Invasion groups like the Stones, the Yardbirds, Bluesbreakers and the American Paul Butterfield Blues Band, I then investigated the sources - Freddy, Albert and B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters. At the last minute I changed the drum pattern from a straight 2/4 to a New Orleans type of thing, featuring the bell of the ride cymbal. These lyrics originally went to a country-flavored song I wrote, then I put them to an Americana rootsy kind of thing. But in the end, I realized this is a blues and so here you have it.
In A Boxcar is a train song that has nothing to do with trains - though I did overdub a locomotive rhythm on the right side using brushes on a snare drum.
A Fine Line is another lyric that seems to apply to the current insanity but is actually quite an oldie. I won't denythe Dylan influence. Like Mr. Murphy's Son, the track features the harmonium/Rick-12 combo.
Written All Over My Face is one of my real early songs. It's a sort of take on the Tracks Of My Tears theme, but more on the unrequited love aspect than the post break-up stoicism. That's my Fender Telecaster heard on the fills and solo on the left, through a Fender Champ amp.
Without True Love is one of my first songs, written in a Mersey Beat style. This recording features the viola and violin played beautifully by Marla Hansen.
Love In The First Person Blues is another blues rave-up. Love itself addresses the reality of many a failed romance. I found it cathartic screaming my head off on this vocal.
Can't Keep Me From Talkin' has a rootsy Americana feel to it. Again the Telecaster is featured on the solos with the Rick-12 on the main riff.
The Gazing Moon is a tale of woe from the moon's vantage point. Julia Kent played the mournful somber riffs on the cello, while Marla and Meryl played the viola and violin, adding to the melancholy feeling. The guitars are a Martin acoustic, a Yamaha 12-string acoustic and a Neptune baritone electric spanning three octaves.Now, the six original Actual Size songs…
I'm That Kind Of Man is a 70's song. It's one of the first songs I wrote built around a guitar riff.
Hoosier was composed while I was on the rebound from a long time relationship in the mid 70's. I was very honored to have Peter Noone record a version of this song.
When Giants Fall comes from a period of writing I did while working at a head shop on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village in the early 80's. There's a deferential nod to the Byrds although I resisted using the Rick-12 - that would have been too much!
The Gallery is the only song I wrote while in a dream. As I woke up in the middle of the night from the dream, I remembered the song and crawled out of bed to the keyboard in the living room. I actually heard the whole finished version in the dream and recorded the keyboard part and vocals onto a Walkman before they could evaporate. What do the lyrics mean? Beats me. But who am I to argue with a dream? I figured they must have some meaning on a subconscious level.
Masquerader Man is another 70's piano song that deals with alienation, lost love and other fun stuff.
Special Love holds a dear spot in my heart because it is Nancy's favorite song. I wrote it on acoustic guitar, sitting in the back seat of my Opal Cadet in '74. At least that car was good for something. The Yamaha acoustic 12-string and the Strat are playing in unison on the main riffs.