The seven songs which make up the album Random Acts of Beauty were all recorded and mixed between June 2009 and June 2010. Obviously this album would not have happened were it not for my friend Andrew Latimer’s guidance, encouragement, and extraordinary musicianship; my son Justin’s brilliant guitar work; and my brother-in-law Guy’s expert drumming and state of the art mixing studio. Nor would there have been the motivation to take the time to create it without all of you and your wonderful support!
1) Masquerade: This is the one that started it all. In January of 2009, I was speaking with Andy Latimer for the first time in quite awhile. During this conversation he encouraged me to record a new album and I promised him I would. Masquerade was the first song I began recording for the project after getting my new studio set up. I sent a copy of the basic track to Andy in July 2009 to get his opinion and that is when he kindly offered to play on the song. Hearing my piano, harpsichord, mellotron, cello, oboe, bass, and vocal parts combined with his beautiful guitars and vocals for the first time was simply indescribable. It’s an experience I will never forget. Thank you, Andy!
2) Chambermaid: This was the 2nd song recorded for the album – a recently penned almost nine minute epic that didn’t turn out at all how I had expected. A possible reason could be because it’s the only song on the album that’s guitar based. All the others started out with a piano track, but not so with this one. Dual acoustic 12 strings were laid down first and everything else was piled on top, including the kitchen sink. In fact there were so many instruments used on this one that we had to adjust the Pro Tools parameters in order to accommodate all the extra tracks. This was the first song that my 20 year old son Justin recorded guitar leads for and as soon as he began, things took a magical turn. I thought Steve Hackett had dropped by! From that moment I knew we were going to be good to go. I was particularly happy with my moog solo about seven minutes in – it was recorded in a single take with no studio trickery or editing. Being that I knew this would be the most lyric intensive song on the album, I really took my time writing the words. I love the lines: A jigsaw portrait hangs in shame along the hallway of disgrace. A missing piece where your heart should be. A puzzled look upon your face. Ian Anderson, move over!
3) Storming The Castle: As the first of three instrumentals to appear on the album, this was the 3rd track to be recorded. It was a new song that I figured might raise a few eyebrows. People who know me are aware that I write very few ‘uptempo’ songs but when I do, I usually try to go for broke. Inspired by Rick Wakeman’s Out There album, I wanted to do something where the keyboards and guitars took turns playing the leads. Justin’s guitar solos on this song simply blew me away and frankly put my moog leads to shame. The song was recorded in two parts with the same themes recurring in both sections albeit with different instruments. The first two minutes are ‘typical Dave’ featuring a peaceful symphony of pianos, harpsichords, flutes, oboes, and mellotrons, but then… the invaders suddenly show up and the stormin’ begins! I wanted to put this track up near the front of the CD to throw everyone off so they wouldn’t know what to expect from the remainder of the album. Originally titled Panic Attack, the name was changed at the last minute in order to better tie in with Michael Leadingham’s brilliant cover art.
4) Blue Rain: This was the 4th song recorded for the album and dates back to the year 2000. After the success of So Far From Home, a track I had written for the film The Joyriders, I quickly wrote and demoed four or five additional pop songs at the request of a publisher who was showing some interest in my writing. One of the songs was Blue Rain, which frankly was the least commercial of the batch. When it came time to do this album, I knew I wanted to record this song properly as it had a certain magical quality about it. And after first hearing back the guitar leads that my son recorded for the track, I got the same rush I had gotten as a kid the first time I heard the album Blue Jays by Justin Hayward and John Lodge. In the weeks that followed, I simply couldn’t stop listening to this song. I then went ahead and asked The Moody Blues' booking agent Robert, who I knew, if Justin Hayward might be interested in doing the vocals on the track. Robert kindly forwarded the track over to him in Europe. Although he was quite busy, Justin took the time to listen to it. He seemed to really like the song and he thought my voice which I had recorded as a reference for him was quite good. In fact, to him, it was good enough already. His attitude was ‘if it’s not broken, why fix it?’ Maybe I should have sung a bit more off key!
5) Frozen In Time: This instrumental epic was the 7th and final song recorded for the album and has a rather chaotic history; with its composition spanning a number of decades. Much of it was part of an epic progressive piece I wrote back in 1978 but never got around to recording. In 1981, when it came time to choose material for my Tales of Heroes LP, another longer piece called Soldier of the Mind won out over this one. As a result, this poor untitled track was cast adrift and forgotten about… until now. When Justin and I began working on the track’s arrangement, it quickly became clear that some pieces he had recently composed would slot in quite nicely. And so we combined our efforts and the result was this sprawling 15 minute monstrosity. I had given the track the working title of I Thought She Was A Sandwich when we began work on it, which was a throwaway line from the Beatles movie Help! (it’s in the scene where Ringo gets his hand stuck in a sandwich dispenser), but thought better of it once the track neared completion. I think I made the right choice and after all, it really was ‘frozen in time’ for quite awhile. Anyway, a song whose writing spans 30 years has got to be some kind of record (no pun intended), doesn’t it?
6) Summer’s End: This was the 6th track recorded and was a last-minute addition to the album written after the recording sessions were already under way; replacing a song I wasn’t too keen about. At first I was a bit concerned that maybe the track was going to sound too similar to either Blue Rain or Masquerade, but then I didn’t really care the more I played it. I was hooked. I liked the idea of having a wordless chorus – where the guitar actually ‘sings’ the melody. Whether this song was going to ultimately work or not came down to the recording of the guitar lead… and Justin nailed it. The dynamics, the emotions, the mellotrons, the vocals – everything just seemed to click. More than any other track on the album, this one represents most closely what I’m all about. I can imagine this song having quite an impact live…
7) Dark Waters: The album’s 3rd and final instrumental was the 5th track recorded for the album and is an extended reworking of a short classical piece titled Vampyre written way back in 1979 which appeared on my first LP Tales of Heroes and Lovers in 1984. The original version featured all kinds of spooky sound effects and was designed to invoke the stately image of the Count from the old Universal or Hammer films. This new version drops all the scary stuff, and subsequently doesn’t have quite the same effect. So a name change seemed to be in order. And besides, I didn’t want to be accused of trying to cash in on the Twilight craze! Once again it’s Justin’s guitar leads that provide this closing track with its haunting power.
There were two other songs which were considered for inclusion on the album at one point, but were ultimately shelved. The first was a short, catchy uptempo waltz called Room with Dark Corners that had been written around the same time as Blue Rain. It’s a good song and could very well appear on a future album, but our attempts at recording it this time around never really gelled. The other was a short piece that was suggested at the last minute by Andy Latimer. Entitled The Final Frame, it was to have featured lead vocals from Andy and would have likely closed the album, but unfortunately it never got past the demo stage. But don’t worry – 3 of the album’s tracks (Masquerade, Frozen In Time, and Summer’s End) all ended up with running times much, much longer than originally anticipated, so there’s no need to feel cheated!
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