Monday, June 16, 2014

Sand Island (1984)

Sand Island (1984) (mp3) (pdf)

Back in April 2008 (that's a long time ago in Blog Years) I posted a recording of one of my oldest tunes, "Sand Island." It was a then-recent recording made at Patrice Pakiz's house in Minneapolis by Contratopia (minus Patrice) while fooling around on a Saturday morning. We have played this tune in Contratopia throughout the life of the band, we keep moving it around from set to set because it "plays well with others" in the context of medleys of dance tunes.

This morning, while working on one of my instruments, I was listening to old recordings from 1984 and this early version of the tune caught my ear. This comes from the same cassette tape that I produced in my apartment with my old Fostex 4-track machine and that I talked about at some length back in a post from Oct. 12, 2013. If you haven't read that one you might enjoy some of my ramblings about future rock and pop stars who lived and played in my old Bloomington, Indiana neighborhood in those days.

Today's recording is notable to me because it begins with a flourish from a long-forgotten 12-string guitar that I used to own. I had an awful acoustic Kent 12-string in the mid-60s when I was just learning to play. (It was great for strengthening my hand although I was never able to exert enough force to sound all 12 strings while playing an F major bar chord at the 1st fret.) I also, for a few weeks, had an electric Hagstrom 12-string (a Rickenbacker was out of the question financially) but it fell apart under the strain of being tuned to pitch and played with teenage energy. It was returned for the Hagstrom 6-string that is still here with me. Finally, I purchased a Takamine 12-string in the early 80s that I kept for a few years. This, I think, is the guitar on this tape.

The recording has me playing the tune first on mandolin (my old Gibson, also here with me in the room today), then on my Flatiron octave (also still here), then with both instruments together. Then I play improvised choruses on each instrument, followed by a closing statement of the melody. (I was thinking in jazz even though the tune is a simple reel.) Somewhere in there I also added an electric bass track.

My recollection is that I didn't do lots of takes of the solos. I settled for what came out the first or second time, so they have a certain rough quality. Charming if you are being kind, sloppy if you take the other approach.

In any event, here's another step back in time. It's fun to hear my old self going at it. I've got a few more from this era that I'll post eventually.

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