Monday, February 1, 2010

Chapter 9: Can I Fly Away with You?

This song starts with a smooth soft-touch Jazz guitar line that [you guessed it…probably] was one of those plug-in test patterns—to which faithful readers of the "…Mμne-Pi" blog must be well-accustomed by now.  What distinguishes this particular plug-in is that it was a freebie [I say was because, though the guitar pattern began with freeware, I bolstered it with a Vir2® "Guitar Legends"® acoustic guitar and I believe it was an NI Kontackt® 3 guitar sound along with it]…IK's Sampletank®-I demo.  I now own the “real” non-demo plug-in.

The drum pattern is a product of my frustrated drummer-id jamming again.  With the groove intact, I falsetto-ed a melody glossolalia (which remained intact note-for-note—and phonetically syllable-for-syllable in the lyrics’ construction).  As soon as I listened through the first time, I knew this was a song made for my longtime (almost longest time) go to lead singer: Rodney (Hoskins).

Rodney is another one of my P-Funk Labs (read: UNITED SOUNDS SYSTEMS)-contacts.  Rodney went to USS to find his fame and fortune in the music industry at what was currently back then in 1989 the most successful and connected facility in Metro Detroit (read: MOTOWN-city).

It had been about two years since I had left USS to resume my own audio production pursuits.  I had connected with a client there who was employed with the advertising agency Young & Rubicon.  She'd come to USS on behalf of a relative who owned a dairy products franchise and wanted a jingle produced.  At that time I was the creative department at the studio—and I'd been burned on two previous projects I'd done there.  The most painful of which was a K-Mart radio-ad for car stereos—where I used a Prophet Five to electronically aurally personify a frustrated speaker-impotent auto sound system (which I may post someday onsite).  After completing this one, I left on vacation.  I returned chagrinned to hear that K-Mart liked the ad; however it had been turned in too late, and therefore was not used.

Not willing to allow another “Fool me once, shame-on-me” moment to occur, I resigned my post at USS—leaving the door open for said client to trace the breadcrumbs and find me at my own facility.  Everything worked out, and I produced my first jingle—featuring the vocals of one the best vocalists you’ll ever be graced to hear sing.  I remember it like it was just yesterday. [cue whole-tone harp arpegio].

There in my studio, one morning I received a referral phone call from USS telling me that they were sending a singer my way who needed songs produced for a demo.  Amicably, I had become a symbiotic go-to vendor (after pre-producing projects, I would take them into USS to print and master).  It was just past noon…a pleasant sunny spring day.  I had stepped out for a bit of fresh air, and was nearing the sidewalk in front of my home-studio premises when a white Grand Prix with wine interior pulled up.  An unassuming (and in all candor) quite unimpressive average Joe exited and approached me.

"Are you Sidney?" he asked, compelled to inquire based on my fixed glance upon him and proximity to the address he had written on a slip of paper.
"Rodney, right?" I reciprocated.

We entered my studio where I showed him what I had in equipment, explained to him my fees, and handed to him an application requiring everything short of fingerprints and DNA.  Dutifully he filled in the blank spaces and returned it to me. With my back to him, as I filed his application, I asked him to sing for me.

The world then stopped.  I heard what then I maintain today is one of the most beautiful full voices I have heard ever in my lifetime [The many who still to this day have tried to steal him from me is a firm testament to that].  Imagine the fullness and warmth exceeding greatly that of Luther Vandross and Peabo Bryson coupled with the combined projection and fluidity of *Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin [*Rodney told me that he would study female vocalists more often than male vocalists because with the latter he found no challenge…no brag; just fact].  I have recordings of him covering a Chaka Khan performance of "In Love We Grow" and affecting Aretha on a collaboration titled "Slap in the Face" […a song written on the spot as a response to Stevie ? (not even Wonder) being considered over him at a record label to remain unnamed].

Opposed to "Settled and Due" where I—the fatherly producer/mad scientist—endeavored to stretch my protégé neo-operatically, on "Can I Fly Away with You", Rodney is totally within his idiomatic element.  This song is one I've been looking forward to hearing completed with Rodney's vocals for over four years now. …since counter-intuitively Motown proved too much for the man, and conversely let him ride away on that midnight train to L.A.

There have been times—back here in the Metro-D—where I’ve wondered if I should have asked Rod the musical question in question.

No comments: