The Sad Sack EP [The Random Hubiak with Adam Silverstein] Coming Soon! (reposted from Facebook)
Making this EP was truly a delight, and right now you can preview one of the seven tracks on reverbnation, but iTunes pre-sales begin January 1, 2015, for our January 29 release date. If you want a HARD COPY of the album, private message me, and I'll PayPal bill you and get you something by Christmas!
But now a little bit about each of the seven tracks.
1. Sad Sack (Rock Radio Edit). Really, this is just an edited down (4 minutes, although when you subtract out the intro and the soloing at thee end, you've got three minutes of song, and one minute for DJs to yammer and jabber to their hearts' delight) version of track 2. I will say that  for the rock versions, I altered the lyrics to avoid any offense to radio listeners and  so glad that opening bass note was part of this recording! That's one fat, sexy bitch of a note!
2. Sad Sack (Extended Rock Playout Version). We decided to do something nobody does anymore: Record live. Rather than record the song track by track, we played live in the studio for all the basics -- piano, lead vocal, bass, drums, lead guitar, rhythm guitar. So there we all were in Steve Jankowski's studio in Wall, NJ: me, Paul Galiszewski (of China White and Josh Zuckerman Band), Jacque Jobes (former touring guitarist for Miley Cyrus and one-time member of The Roots), Tom Briant (of Taylor Tote Band), and Tyler Carbin (of Ivy League). I had my requisite salt & vinegar chips for my throat and nasal passages and, of course, my flask of cognac to lubricate my vocal cords! We jettisoned the click track and played from the heart, beginning to end, about five times. Of course, we DID keep screwing up the end, so once we were certain we had nailed the rest of the track, Steve had us play JUST the end (the slow denouement) and later sewed them together. Likewise, my backing harmonies and the guitar solos were added afterward -- Tom and Tyler traded licks four times over the good take of the song, and then we picked the ones we liked best and included them. And Steve actually said that we had to leave in one of my piano takes as a piano solo; that was such a compliment to me, because normally I don't consider my piano playing good enough to warrant being front and center! But there's so much I love about this recording: Having the bass and drums front and center with the vocal for most of the track; the warm tones on piano and guitar; Jacque's big fat bass and the way he makes it tell its own story (it's NOT just a rhythm instrument!); the propulsive drums that belie the melancholy lyrics so desperately clinging to hope. Seriously, if this song doesn't move you, you are a robot! But not a Cylon... Cylons actually have feelings!
3. Sad Sack (Big Band Version). We used Adam Silverstein's tracks as a base for this version from the MEMOIRS OF A MANWHORE album sessions, but ramped up the tempo. Paul and I were in the studio for HOURS on this one to get the drums right -- the right balance of Gene Krupa crazy ass drumming during the instrumental sections with that sly disco beat to carry us through the vocal sections. Steve Jankwoski then added some live brass to Adam's horn arrangements and I composed a part for clarinet, which Doug DeHays came in and played in the studio. I wish I could have been there for Doug's sessions! He did a great job, and I owe him a big, personal thanks. Finally, Adam Silverstein (of Karl and the Marx Brothers) added those Caribbean vibes based on a composition I sketched out for him. This track really sets the tone for the rest of the EP. It's pretty much exactly what I heard in my head for it when I first wrote the song back in 2008 in the Detroit airport coming back from visiting Adam and his wife, Christine. But for the EP, I envisioned a collection of songs that would complement THAT sound, something that would sound like a swanky 1940s night club orchestra's fare, or something from a film noir. Jacque's bass was just about the last thing to be added, and he did the bass for this number (as well as tracks four through seven) all in my home studio in one night. We've also got a take with Jacque playing a straight up disco beat which we'll save for some future date as a bonus track elsewhere, removing perhaps the vibes & clarinet and adding strings to really up that disco ante. But for this take, Jacque played a swing walk to counterbalance the disco beat and make the song feel more like something from my grandparents' younger lives than my parents' younger lives.
4. Snarky Kiss Off Song. My inspiration for this song came from reading an article, or a rather a review, that derided Ben Folds as an artist who pretty much only dealt in snarky kiss-off songs. Ben is one of my favourite songwriters today, Josh Ritter perhaps being the only contemporary songwriter I hold on a higher pedestal, so I didn't find the assessment fair. But I thought, "What if I wrote a frantic, piano-driven break-up song and simply called it 'Snarky Kiss Off Song'?" So I did! This was another track that was mostly just me and Paul in the studio, Paul working himself into a frenzy over these Gene Krupa drum rolls that I was insistent on. Paul's ability to play in the studio never ceases to amaze me, especially given that often he is brought in AFTER I've recorded the piano and vocals to an apple loop, and it's up to him to add texture and levels and variety. A little finishing flourish in Jankland studios was the crazy overlapping backing vocals at the end, three different vocal lines, some of which had multiple harmonies. Because I'm an inconsistent singer (I don't tend to sing things the same way each time), Steve had to stand outside the both and cue my lengths based on visual clues on the recording to help me keep the timing perfect, but we nailed it really fast — probably in under twenty minutes. Jacque recorded the bass at my house. I'm pretty sure he had a blast with this one: The bass sounds like it's on steroids and adrenaline and maybe a few illicit substances as well. Then Tom came in a day or two later to add the little smatterings of wah-wah guitar you hear. I still felt that the song could use a little more oomph in places and asked Steve whether he would be able to do a horn section if I composed one for him using synth horns that he would later recreate and/or emulate on the actual instruments. He was amenable. So we have these softer New Orleans or Klezmer style horns as flourishes in the verses, and these large brass sections in the choruses and interludes. Bravo, Steve! Bravo!
5. Fuse I. Here's my nod to the Threepenny Opera and all of that dark, Brechtian Broadway. I originally wrote the melody last February as a sort of lullabye but didn't have a libretto for it. Then I got this image in my head of something out of Boxing Helena: Some creepy captor singing to his victim how she could never get away, so why not accept it and go to sleep? I've always found broken personalities to be far more fascinating that healthy ones (for artistic purposes only! keep the crazies away from me in real life!), so I began to tell the tale of somebody who was utterly cruel and sociopathic but charming enough to fool everybody who is fortunate enough to be kept at an arm's distance. But woe unto those who are welcomed in for a hug! I wasn't happy with my own piano playing on this one, so Adam Silverstein recorded the piano parts in England and added some gorgeous strings to boot. Paul's main issue playing this one was a drummer's typical dilemma -- how to use percussion in something that is not particularly propulsive! The solution, by and large, was to use the drums as dressing: He basically stuck to colouring the number. This track was also Jacque's final contribution in the studio (obviously, we didn't record in sequence!), so I think he barely survived the session. He had been playing bass nonstop in my studio for about five hours by the time we began this one, and everybody was EXHAUSTED, Jacque especially. We had hoped to use the upright for this one but couldn't get the sound right and had to resort to electric; it still sounds great. But this one probably required more takes from Jacque than anything else, and he really struggled with that switch at the end of the song from the 3/4 (hmmm... technically, it was more like a 6/8) to 4/4, and Paul told him to treat that first measure of four and the final 3 of the 6/8 as one measure of 7/8. That seemed to do the trick! The other issue of course was HOW to treat the bass throughout, and for that, my non-technical vocabulary told him the bass was THE guy in the song; he creeps around and behaves properly when he's being observed; but he gets really aggressive and subversive when he's got you alone. (Technically, I think I gave him that advice when we recording Fuse II, which we recorded third that night in my studio -- Sad Sack, Snarky, Fuse II, La Casa, Fuse I.)
6. Fuse II. Companion piece to Fuse I, obviously. The guy is a collector, right? He seeks and destroys. The initial recording was me and Paul in the studio. After that, I sent the tracks to England for Adam to add piano and horns (which Steve Jankowski added live counterparts to), and then Jacque put in his bass. I have to say: I'm impressed by how well this recording perfectly fits the vision I had for the number in my head! That instrumental in the middle would be so amazing to play live with a full jazz/swing orchestra and horns! Couldn't you hear this being done by the Rat Pack sixty years ago? Or Harry Connick Jr. now? Paul's playing on this is just fantastic. Those cymbal crashes are just perfect, and the song is melodic yet terrifying.
7. La Casa Azul. I have my middle school best friend, Ivan Chan, to thank for this one. I composed the main melody (verses and chorus) and needed a libretto. I tweeted for suggestions. I wanted something historical with political implications but grounded in romantic love. He suggested that I research the love affair between Frida Kahlo and Leo Trotsky. What a profoundly serendipitous suggestion! So, yes, this is written from Trotsky's point of view. Another opportunity to REALLY push Paul... Please play in a 6/8 jazz beat. But keep it subdued. LOL! And once again, I sent the tracks to England, where Adam Silverstein added some lovely strings in a very short period of time.
Once again, thank you to everybody who worked on this album. You were all AMAZING. Steve Jankowski, you did a spectacular job of engineering, mixing, mastering, coaching, coaxing, instructing, and hobo-wrangling! Paul, you are up there with the best recorded drummers of the last century. Tom, you have an incredible ear for arranging and soloing! Adam, you are a true friend and a remarkable musician -- you manage to provide the perfect string & horn arrangements with just one instrument. Jacque, your bass gives me a woody.
Also, as a form of reciprocation for all of Adam's work on this EP, I'm providing some backing vocals for Karl and the Marx Brothers on a few tracks from their next album. Those of my fans unfamiliar with their work should check out their existing album, ANGRY FOLK, on CDBaby or iTunes! (Or order directly from the band.) And just another reminder that iTunes preorders for the January 29 release date begin on January 1!