Magnetic Eyes, an album I composed, performed, and recorded in 1985, was done on a Tascam Portastudio 244 in one of the bedrooms in my house at the time. The equipment consisted of a Fender Rhodes suitcase electric piano, a Roland SH-101 monophonic synthesizer, an Elka piano/clavinet, an early Boss drum machine, a Radio Shack stereo microphone, an alto sax, and my sister's flute. During the project I added a Korg Poly 800 synthesizer, one of the 1st affordable synths capable of playing 8 voices at once (or 4 if layered). It was used on about half of the songs. I also had words for one song (On The Corner) that were written by my wife, Paula, as well as a great poem (Wrong Space, Wrong Time) written by Vicki Anderson (Reece) that I adapted to a song of the same name.
You can now hear clips of the album at http://www.myspace.com/magneticeyes
Late in the project, I met a teenage singer named Antoinette Marie Pugh who had a voice so amazing, I wrote two songs specifically for her to be included on the album. Although I've since worked with several talented singers over the years, each with their own special qualities, I didn't realize that I would never again (so far, anyway) meet anyone who could so naturally and effortlessly bring life to my sometimes non-traditional musical ideas and chord structures. And come up with flawless and imaginative background harmonies. And sound phenomenal without any type of effects, corrections, or enhancements to her voice. Working with her, I began to believe I was some kind of musical genius - later in life I realized that I was much closer to actually being a genius only when she was doing the singing. I've worked a lot harder since then trying to fit my music to other singers, with somewhat uneven results. It's hell to peak so early in life and not realize it....
The lack of processing on Antoinette's voice wasn't by design - I was so new to actual music production and so unfamiliar with standard recording techniques, I'm embarrassed to say that I was unaware of reverb, delays, compressors, listening on different sets of speakers, etc. You know, the types of things that a real studio engineer would have addressed without blinking. The same types of things that I've since used for years in the various incarnations of my home studio which now includes everything from half a dozen keyboards to soft synths to Pro Tools HD running on a Mac. I was blissfully unaware of any of this back then - I was just sooooo excited about having multitrack capability for my various instruments, I thought I had simply gone to heaven. I do know that Antoinette sounded really exceptional to my ears, and remarkably, the songs, the recording, and, specifically, her voice hold up well after all these years.
Of course, the quality of the recording is limited by a few things such as:
1) it was recorded entirely on a 4-track cassette (!!) - OK, it was running at double normal cassette speed which helped with noise reduction (but still!!)
2) there were multiple tracks bounced and combined which locked the "mix" forever
3) I used a cheap Radio Shack stereo microphone
4) I transferred it to "stereo" on a rented 2-track reel-to-reel using the same cheap (and as it turned out, broken) speakers I recorded with
5) not one effect was used at any stage of the production (I use the term "production" loosely)
5) everything had to be played in real time, track-by-track (nowadays we're lazy and cut and paste with MIDI and/or audio files)
6) that had to be the cheapest drum machine in history (I was very good at programming within its limits, however)
7) Ultimately, it was put to vinyl so it will never sound as clear and noise-free as today's digital recordings
All of the above are the main reasons I hadn't listened to "Magnetic Eyes" in years until I was contacted by a couple of vinyl collectors/DJs (Ari Leichtman, Rob Sevier) wanting to talk to me about the album and see if I had any left. Three houses and 20+ years later, I still had the same home number that was put on the album cover, so I guess it was pretty easy to for them to find me. There were also some internet sites in different parts of the world that referenced it, and some had actually posted song snippets. I found this pretty amazing considering that our efforts at marketing the album back then were certainly enthusiastic, but suffered from a lack of actual knowledge of the music business. In time, we all just kind of "moved on" with our llves like so many creative types that didn't understand the business side of music during the '80s. We sold several hundred, maybe close to 1,000 albums locally, but I have no idea how anyone in Europe, or even how Ari and Rob got their hands on copies of the album.
Oh, when I say "we", I'm referring to a small company I set up back then called Engineered For Sound, Inc. Some friends of mine (some of whom were neighbors at the time) were excited about the music I was coming up with. I admit that I was very flattered by their unexpected interest. Although most were not musicians, and were not associated with the music business, they liked what they heard and wanted to get involved and help promote the album. In retrospect, they were probably mostly fascinated with the idea that some random nuclear engineer that lived on their street could actually create complete music tracks from scratch in a spare bedroom. Technology today makes this pretty commonplace - almost the norm - but back in 1985, it was still fairly novel.
Even though we weren't particularly successful as a record company, it was a pretty fun time for Ron Tribble, Clifton "Danny" Jordan, Terry Roberson, Jim Anderson, James Davis, Marcel Miner, my wife Paula, and of course, myself. Also, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the wonderful cover concept and artwork by Garry Hollie, a Houston-based artist. (I haven't heard from Ron, Danny, Garry, or Antoinette in years - I hope they contact me if they see this site.) They worked really hard arranging album signings, appearances, performances, selling tickets, and trying to get radio and DJ airplay. Unbeknownst to us, however, we were working with a flawed recording, a hard-to-define musical style, and a general lack of industry knowledge. It took me years to really think through all of this and come to an understanding of what really occurred back then. If there is any good news, it's that there were/are people who liked (and apparently still like) my music, even if the recording was subpar.
All-in-all, I'm really surprised when I listen today and I can still hear all the parts pretty clearly. So I must have done a decent job preserving the balance among the many layered parts even though I had no prior recording experience. I recently found a set of master reel-to-reel stereo tapes living in my 3rd attic since the 80's. I took them to a commercial studio to find out if they could be salvaged and - SURPRISE! - they played perfectly and are now in digital format. Even better, the tapes were apparently from a belated attempt to remix the original album in a studio, and with reverb and a few other enhancements, the music sounds much better than the original mixdown at my house. For what it's worth, this is the best it has ever sounded since vinyl has been bypassed completely. This is straight from the master tape to digital, so there are no pops, clicks, etc. that are inherent in going from vinyl to digital.
You can hear clips of this version at http://www.myspace.com/magneticeyes
Please use this site to check out the other music projects I've worked on over the years. And feel free to contact me @ email@example.com.