New Song: Who Speaks on Your Behalf

At last! We finally left the house one day last week. Jeannie was bored being pent up at home, so we took a day trip out to Montauk at the very end of Long Island. It was a lovely day for a ride, and when we got there it was a great time just hiking around the beaches and cliffs and rocks for a few hours. There were some other people there but the parking lot was mostly empty and it was easy to keep one’s distance. And believe it or not, passing thru Queens at rush hour on a Wednesday, there was virtually no traffic.

But the main point of this post is music. I started in on what will hopefully become the fourth Buzzy Tonic album at the beginning of the year. I’m close to done on two new tracks in my home studio. One is Who Speaks on Your Behalf, which is pretty much there, just the mastering to go. The other is The Story Lies, which is close behind, so I’ll talk about that one next post.

You can hear the song here:


Who Speaks on Your Behalf was originally written by The Cheshire Cat, the best band to come out of Buffalo in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Maybe even better better than my own group jazz fusion group Event Horizon. There really was a lot of great music at that time and place.

The Cat consisted of John Massé on vocals and keys, Joe Q on vocals and bass, Ryan Boyle on vocals and drums, and Mike McLaughlin on guitar. They had alot of talent, with three strong singers at both lead and backing, with different style voices and great harmonies. They were all excellent musicians, and everyone in the group wrote. Their sound was sort of pop-prog, a blend of synthesizers and guitars, often heavy, sometimes funky or atmospheric, with influences of Rush, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Faith No More, Grand Funk Railroad, King’s X and the Chili Peppers, to name a few.

They had a bunch of great songs, but Who Speaks on Your Behalf was my favorite. It has a lot going on musically, and moves from mood to mood, heavy to sunny and back, with a big build section. Structurally, motivically, lyrically and harmonically everything is tightly related. Almost a pocket symphony on the level of Strawberry Fields Forever or Good Vibrations. Plus it has a great lyric and a great vocal delivery.

I figured the song out on piano many years ago when the Cat were playing it live regularly. For this version I went back and listened to the record to make sure I had the form and the chords right. I ended up spending most of the time on the track programming the drums and practicing the opening riff on bass. Everything else went down pretty quickly. I was happily surprised at how easy it was to get a great teak on my vocals.

My lead guitar skills are pretty limited so I didn’t even attempt the guitar part. Instead I put on some synthesizers and a horn section consisting of a soprano and a tenor sax. I think it came out well. The sound of my version is somewhere in the neighborhood of Steely Dan, 80’s Sting with a dash of Pepperland. The guys in Cheshire Cat liked it too, and seem really flattered that someone remembers their song and cares enough to do a new interpretation after all this time. It was worth it, it’s a great song.

Sea of Time

What is it now, week ten? Even less has happened than last time I updated my blog. The kids are almost done with school. Spring and the nice weather have finally arrived. I got sick, got better. Not the plague, thanks for asking.

I’ve been trying to get in shape for spring. In my regular home workout I’ve gone up in weight on both dumbbells and bench press, and have added some new leg exercises. I’ve also gone out biking a few times, which is refreshing and lots of fun. I haven’t gone to the Nature Study Woods yet because the trails there are narrow so it may be hard to keep distance form other people. Instead I’ve been going around the neighborhood streets, which is still a good workout cuz it’s pretty hilly all over. I’ve gotten as far as downtown Bronxville and back. I haven’t been on my skates yet this spring because my street is so laden with potholes it’s useless. I need to find a nice smooth place to skate.

I spent Saturday catching up on yardwork that I’d normally do in April, and spent some time out in the sunshine. I took the Mustang out for the second time this season too. I suppose we ought to wash the cars at some point, but we’re literally not driving anywhere. Last time I put gas in the tank was in February.

In the recoding studio I’m well into mixing my songs, getting pretty close to done. I’m at the listening back and tweaking phase. Tonight I went in to EQ the bass on one of my tracks, but I ended up EQing the guitar instead, scooping out alot of low and accentuating the high treble. Suddenly the bass has alot more space and everything is clearer.

I’m thinking about what songs to do next. Whatever I pick, there’s going to be a phase of laying down basic tracks, working out keys, tempos and song structures, and programming the drum parts before I can get into actually tracking and arranging. It’s Raining Frogs is the new working title of the next song up. It’s a long and complicated song so this phase will take some time and effort. I liked working on two songs in parallel this time around, so I think I’m gonna keep that going and pick another song or two. I have a few half written rock/pop songs that I could develop, but I’m holding out hope that eventually the quarantine will end my nascent new rock group will return, and then I’ll have some material to use for that.

So my other idea is to polish off some of my jazz demos and work them up into some kind of computer jazz thing, like I did with Sun of the Son. I have three originals completely worked up from the jazz group that we never recorded and probably never will. I have two more from our set that I want to rework with a new approach, and I two or three others that have the core idea and they could jam out any number of ways. I think I might do the first three of these. I have a feeling they’ll go down pretty quickly.

Oh, and my Charlie Parker Omnibook in Bb arrived, so I’m woodshedding Donna Lee and Confirmation, trying to work out when I should go up the octave. An the Patterns book I’m to pattern 98 and they’ve finally introduced dominant 7th chords.

Lastly, spinning of from Jeannie’s weekend Zoom call with her family, I’ve started a new weekly D&D campaign with Michelle and Lou and most of my nieces and nephews. This time the campaign includes Denis’s kids Carrie and Anna, who are 15 and 11 and really having fun. We’re doing the whole thing online now. TSR has a web site that automates character sheets including spells, HP, XP, weapons and attacks, really everything, and that’s super helpful. I haven’t yet found good mapping software so for now we’re using the whiteboard built into Zoom.

We’re playing the classic module Keep on the Borderlands, adapted for 5th edition, and with some extra monsters, and trying to give a bit of a plot beyond hack and slash with a backstory and some hidden magic items among the treasure. The party is pretty and very diverse. There are alot of Elves, some Druids, Witches and Sorcerers, plus a Barbarian (Katy), a Monk (Michelle) and a Rogue (Addie). Lou, as is his way, is a Dwarven fighter. It’s a pretty sprawling dungeon, but that’s a good thing cuz we could be stuck inside a long time.