• “Old LP” set to a picture of the housing album cover. Thanks to that dog. – Topic.
“Utterly perfect Cerebral Pop from the USA”
Closing track on their fourth album “Old LP” released in October, 2019.
I have over 100 tracks in the queue for a blog post but this one, discovered only yesterday, is simply too good to wait 4 months in line.
25 years after I gave them a perfect ten for “One Summer Night”, here I am again dishing out my (rarely given) highest accolade. Isn’t music amazing? Anna Waronker (guitar, vocals), Rachel Haden (bass, vocals) and Tony Maxwell (drums) remain in place from the 90s line-up; busy violinst Petra Haden was the only one not to join in with the latest phase of the group.
One listen to “An Old LP” is all that’s required to know that you’re listening to an affecting masterpiece carrying, as it does, all the melodic sweetness of “Denis”, the complex grace of “Eleanor Rigby” and the emotional resonance of “Perfect Day”. The song, a few years in the making, is borne of the sad reality of the loss of Rachel’s father, jazz musician Charlie Haden, who died in 2014, aged 76, and the fact that he’s still alive in endless time and enless art when you listen to his old LPs, especially the well recorded ones adopting a close microphone technique. Watching and listening to Anna and Rachel duet in the documentary is incredibly moving; talk about sung from the heart.
The extensive supporting cast (in alphabetical order) on the title-track are: Lauren Baba (viola), Melia Badalian (French horn), Erin Barnes (bass drum), Gordon Bash (contrabass), Paul Cartwright (violin), Elizabeth Chorley (violin), Rob Covacevich (flute), Brandon Encinas (viola), Sean Franz (clarinet), Steve Gregoropolous (conductor), Leah Harmon (accordion), Erik Hughes (trombone), Petri Korpela (timpani), Nate Laguzza (cymbals), Danny Levin (flugel horn), Luis Mascaro (violin), Bianca McClure (violin), Fuzzbee Morse (flute), Kate Nockels (bassoon), Ken Oak (cello), Corrine Olsen (viola), Neil Rosengarden (French horn), Maya Rudolph (vocals), Jacob Szekely (cello), Andres Trujillo (tuba), Joey Waronker (drums) and Kaitlin Wolfberg (violin).
It was thought that 1997’s “Retreat from the Sun” would be the group’s end marker, but they re-united in 2011 for a comeback tour and the seeds were duly sown for a fourth record, now fully matured like a fine wine. This excellent mini-documentary sheds some light on the making of this stunning piece:
Speaking to Consequence of Sound, Anna spoke at length about the album’s incredible finale:
“Old LP” is the title track for a reason. Writing the song was powerful and recording it was even more so. I wrote the song after attending a memorial service for Rachel’s father, Charlie Haden. They played a recording of a song that he sang and I couldn’t believe how clear and personal and beautiful it sounded. And it made me think about how when we listen to music we hear someone or a group of people captured in a moment. And then I thought about how Rachel and I come from musical families and how interesting it is that there are these moments captured where we can feel some presence of someone that isn’t here anymore. I came home and wrote the song. And thought that it was a perfect opportunity for Rachel and I to sing a proper duet, something we had never done before.
When it came time to figure out the direction for the song, I wanted to experiment with instrumentation. I wrote the string arrangement thinking it would compliment our regular band set up of guitars, bass and drums. But as the arrangement grew, I realized that I wanted to try to do more of a broad orchestral arrangement. But I didn’t totally grasp horns and woodwinds and wanted to figure out how I could use them. Coming from a musical family, I have had the great fortune of being around some other musicians and have a close relationship with the great Randy Newman. He and my father have grown up together and recorded many albums together. He’s the closet thing to an uncle that I have. He has taken an interest in my writing and recordings over the years and, this is something I’ve never done before and if you knew me you would know that I would never do, I asked him to sit down with me and my arrangement and help me figure out how to incorporate these other instruments. We had a great afternoon at his piano listening and brainstorming. And I walked away with a richer knowledge of arranging and what I needed to finish my arrangement.
The recording of this song was a whole other experience I treasure. We were all excited with the arrangement for this song, but we needed to be able to hire an orchestra. We hadn’t been working and didn’t have any financial backing, so we turned to our loyal fans and did a Kickstarter campaign. We met our goal and set up the recording session. Kaitlin did the contracting and we were on our way. We recorded at The Evergreen Stage in Los Angeles, where Barbra Streisand used to record (and I’m guessing recorded “Evergreen”, one of my favorite Babs’ songs). I had my father, who is an amazing record producer, come to the studio, also something I’ve never done before, to make sure I didn’t screw anything up. I had never recorded that many people or with that many instruments. The energy was celebratory. The recording went very well and I’m still a little elated from that day.
Get it at Bandcamp.