Reflections

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Reflections

Marmalade

The other day, Beth and I heard “Reflections of My Life” by Marmalade, a 60’s Scottish band.  Marmalade was another underrated band that mostly got lost in the shuffle.   “Reflections of My Life” was a pop masterpiece,  however.  It merges a great song with superb production, making it a true powerhouse that sold over two million records.  Even if that was their only record, that was enough for me.

Starting out as The Gaylords (named after a post-WWII Chicago street gang) in 1961, the band’s name eventually evolved into  Marmalade.  After years of struggling for a hit, they became the first Scottish band to hit #1 in the UK with their remake of the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di,Ob-La-Da” in January 1969.  Later that year, they switched record labels and “Reflections of My Life”  became the first recording they made for Decca.  It features great arrangement and  dynamics, a backward guitar solo made by physically turning over the eight-track tape (explained in this article),  and great heartfelt vocals.  Who could ask for more?

Although they still survive in name, Marmalade began splitting up in the mid-70’s, the last original member (Graham Knight) leaving in 2010.  Their former lead singer, Dean Ford, released a splendid newer version of “Reflections of My Life” in 2014.   Marmalade also recorded the original version of “Lovin Things”,  a song covered later quite successfully by the Grassroots (virtually note-for-note!).   If you aren’t familiar with Marmalade, check out their greatest hits here.   If  “Reflections of My Life”, doesn’t move you, I don’t know what will.

Self-Reflection

Finally, a little self-reflection took place this past weekend.  It was just a little over a year ago I decided to start making videos for my music-mainly out of necessity.  It was a whole lot of trial and error and, believe me, there is still a lot to learn.

There is a new channel on Roku–  Peachflicks – that has graciously added two Skyypilot video albums- “Klondike- Remixed-Remastered” and “Songs In The Night” for their subscribers.   Peachflicks features videos and films originating in Georgia and I am honored to be included.  If you have Roku, please add the channel and check them out.  You can also subscribe online. – Peachflicks.com

It’s a new day!

©  2018  J. Mark Witters     Skyypilot.com

Light at the End of the Tunnel

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Light at the End of the Tunnel

Digging out

Beth and I are digging out  after two months of remodeling.  We finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  It will be nice to write and record without the unending construction interruptions and the physical barriers cluttering the studio!   This our second 8-week stretch in the last three years, so thank God it’s over!

We were blessed with very skilled and professional craftsmen.   I just held my breath and did what I could when I could musically and bided my time.  This has only strengthened my resolve!

Scattered, Smothered, and Covered…

Just like the Waffle House hash browns, we’ve been scattered, smothered, and covered.   Everything’s down to immediate priorities.  Whatever else that comes up can easily overwhelm.  One must step back and regroup.

I spent the last couple of months finally admitting I was trapped in an analytic maze that could not be fought.  Play by the rules, get a pat on the head, then be discriminated against because you’re a conservative Christian producing non-categorical music.  After being throttled-down on social media, I pulled it all off.  Good learning experience, but I clearly wasn’t welcome.

They collect and sell ALL of your data, then play fast and loose with your right to free speech.  Intimidation runs rampant.  When you shut down a  channel or page without warning, that’s  unacceptable.  (It wasn’t my  page or channel, by the way, but no matter.)  I can’t dwell with the antithesis of my beliefs.

New Day

But a new day has dawned.  Every setback happens for a reason.  I’m not yet sure about all of this.  I’m not God, but my trust is always with Him.  There is always something to be learned.

The light at the end of the tunnel?

“We’ll understand it, all by and by”.    – Lyrics to “Farther Along“.

© 2018 J. Mark Witters     Skyypilot.com

The “Recording Artist”

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The “Recording Artist”

It’s All About Semantics

Semantics  DO matter.  Most introductions for a live recording proclaim:       “(record label) recording artist (name)”.    What many don’t understand is that they are performance artists.   Outside the improvisation (artistic),  you’re hearing a copy of their original recording (maybe artistic, maybe not).  I’m not slighting the skills of the performer.  They have great skills to do what they do.  The question remains: who is a  “recording artist”?

It can be argued that the at present, creation of most recorded music is left to the producer.  This has not always been the case.  The Beatles were true recording artists and had an artistic producer (George Martin) as well.  Why?  They took chances on sounds never before put on record added to masterful songwriting.  There are but few instances of that now, mostly due to economic and political forces.

For the most part, in music today (I’m talking pop music),  we have recordings made largely by matching mediocre (or even rotten) homogenized “songs” with “cookie-cutter”  producers.    Safe, boring ground and because you can market anything to sell, sell it will.  Nothing like hearing that “Millennial Whoop” again!

A work of art must make the rules: rules do not make a work of art...I tell people I am not a musician; I work with rhythms, frequencies and intensities...tunes are merely the gossips of music. - Edgard Varese

Edgard Varese

I first heard of Edgard Varese  from Frank Zappa (one of my major influences).  Turns out, Varese was his biggest influence. This, of course, led me to his music.  It is difficult to listen to.  Varese said, “to stubbornly conditioned ears, anything new in music has always been called noise”.   He only had about three hours worth of music published in his lifetime.

Despite lack of  “commercial success”, Varese founded the International Composers’ Guild in 1921 and the Pan-American Association of Composers in 1926.  He has been referred to as the “father of electronic music” for his addition of newly invented electronic instruments such as the ondes Martenot and Theremin , even inventing them himself.

I will cover Frank Zappa at a later date because he deserves his own blog post.  Varese’s influence is all over  Zappa’s music.  They were both true artists and were not shy about blazing trails.

The Road Least Traveled

Being a true recording artist is definitely the road least traveled.  It’s very lonely.  Everyone yearns for acceptance, so it’s totally against the grain to go it alone.  But face it, you are on your own.  Hours and hours spent thrashing things out that you know will probably not even get listened to because it’s different from everything else.  You get to the point that, good or bad, you just want people to hear what you’re doing.

When growing up, I  wanted to be part of a band.  It didn’t work out for me, so I just  wrote and produced the music myself.  I  became a recording artist, spending  90% of my adult life toiling in blue-collar jobs so I would have the artistic license to do music my own way, warts and all.  I learned a lot from my mistakes (Lord knows I made a ton of them).  The fact I am an old white male Christian conservative who doesn’t mince words has certainly had an effect as well.  Reality can suck.  Oh well…

I don’t play live.  It’s not me.  The studio is my instrument.   I use whatever tools are available to get the sounds  to complete my current vision;  fresh every day.   That’s it.  No apologies.  I’m no better, and certainly no worse than anyone else.  I can live with what I’m doing.  How many can look in the mirror and say that?

My motto: “Live to record another day! “

© 2018  J. Mark  Witters   Skyypilot.com