December 16, 2014. That’s the day we officially released what would be the last full-length TGA record until just this past week, when we finally got around to delivering ‘Ten & 2’ to the masses. Sure, we offered up an EP of covers, Kenny & I’s The Die Youngs project, and my slightly left-of-center solo record in the intervening years, but we had previously adhered to a semi-rigid schedule of annual album drops (2009’s S/T, 2010’s Ricky took the wheels.., 2011’s Happy Ender, and 2013’s 4) that; for whatever reason, we lost our handle on maintaining.
I can’t say as I’m exactly sure what the primary contributor to this sudden irregularity in our standard operations might be. We’d weathered lineup changes previously without so much as a hiccup in our stride. Maybe it was the addition of Kenny; who in addition to adding a second lead voice to the proceedings, brought with him another creative perspective, and a strong hand in the writing department.
Granted, we got a lot busier on the road once he joined, and even more so after Henry bowed out and Matt returned to the fold on bass. Obviously, there was some woodshedding required to get our reconstituted selves up to speed on 50+ songs, since we were covering 5 records-worth of material, AND a smattering of key selections from the fORMER canon we’d adopted when that band was permanently put out to pasture, along with a handful of covers we’d use on occasion to pad the long nights.
Whatever the case, we somehow lost our way, and it was a solid two years or more before we really began to discuss in earnest the idea of investing ourselves(and our money) in a new LP. I can’t speak for my associates, but I was eager to empty the grab-bag of tunes I’d accumulated in the meantime. I’d given away several things for various projects outside the band, but they were mostly songs I felt wouldn’t have fit within the scope of what we do, or numbers that would’ve left us wringing our hands over how to reproduce them live.
You see, some of my favorite tracks from ‘Dream In Stereo’ were scrubbed from the set list after one or two attempts(if even), because we’d added so many bells & whistles to them in the studio that four pairs of hands could simply not recreate the sound to our satisfaction. With that in mind, I REALLY wanted an album that we could perform on stage front-to-back, without the aid of auxiliary players or backing tracks. Yeah, I know it’s old-fashioned to eschew technology, but if we show up tired and half-assed, chances are we’re gonna SOUND tired and half-assed. I’m afraid that’s just Rock N’ Roll, people, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So we went into this with a plan to follow a ‘Destroyer’ with a ‘Rock N’ Roll Over’ :
LOTS of electric guitar.
LESS acoustic guitar.
ONE ballad.(Lead vocal by the drummer, of course)
We tracked most of the record with our guru Michael Saint-Leon at The Switchyard, some guitars, bass, and keys at Pastry Park Audio Confectionery(my home studio), and all our Piano and Hammond B3 at Maestro Mike Webb’s place in Sylvan Park. It took us a few months to squeeze in the sessions between gigs that were subsidizing our progress, but eventually we emerged with 14 songs, one of which, “Last Good Memory(Revisited)” ended up a bonus track, making the album technically 11-deep, but we ditched three, and otherwise managed to stick to the plan.
We settled on a name: ‘Like Stone’, after throwing around a handful of other ideas and cover art mockups that went along with these various contenders. Soon though, Kivel Records came to the table and suggested a title change. “Like Stone” became just another track on the record and ‘Ten & 2’ was born. Out the window went the Pink Floyd-ian image that we’d been haggling over behind closed doors, in favor of a slightly more Mr. Big-ish treatment for the facade. In retrospect, that was unquestionably the right move.
But that’s just the how, here’s the what…
…track by track, ‘Ten & 2’ breaks down a little something like this..
“What You Get Is Gone”
The riff was born at rehearsal, just me noodling with a capo on. I was going for Aerosmith, but hearing Skid Row, and I could tell Patrick wasn’t feeling the inner Snake Sabo as we started kicking it around. I took it home and had the whole thing together by the time we reconvened. I still thought it was too “heavy” for us, but everyone else seems to think it sounds like Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, so it ended up the first single. What do I know?
“Trippin’ Over Me”
This one came together pretty quickly. I knew we wanted riffs this time around, but I still write 90% of my stuff on an acoustic guitar, which doesn’t always translate once we plug in. Luckily this one did, and we were able to work it up and get it into the live set to see if we were really cooking with gas. I heard it as a Cheap Trick/Enuff Z’Nuff kinda thing, so I tailored all the weird outro keys and vocals to be as ‘Trick-y as possible.
I had planned on this making my next solo record; if such a thing ever materializes, but Kenny and Matt took a shine to the demo, so we spent some time figuring out a way to put the TGA stamp on it. If there’s anything overdub-wise on the record that I’m afraid we may have overindulged in, this would be it. I have no idea how we’re gonna pull this off live. We might HAVE to become a 5-piece.
I brought this one in pretty well assembled, but I’m listening to my iPhone “memo demo” as I type this, and noting the little things that got changed that I’d totally forgotten were in the original version. This was almost late to the party, but I’m glad it made the cut, particularly after Kenny suggested Michael Webb add his “Kashmir”-style keyboard embellishments. Those parts are the MVP of the tune for me.
Patrick brought the riff in, after bouncing it off Kenny, who’d worked up a lyric treatment for it that I’m not even sure I heard until months later. One of the first ideas we jammed on, and played live before we’d even cut the basic tracks. I guess it made the grade, ‘cause here we are. Some tasty B3 on it too.
“Back To Boston”
Single #2, and a co-lead vocal from Kenny & I. No, it’s not about the city of Boston. I’ve never even been to Boston, although I hear it’s lovely. This one features our girl Leslie Needleman on backing vocals, and one of my favorite Patrick J. Miller guitar solos.
“Learn To Let Go”
I heard the demo of this, cut at our buddy Joshua Ketchmark’s Black Gold Speakeasy a couple of years back, and fell in love with the lyric and melody. If we were gonna include a ballad, this was a no-brainer….plus, I got to use an eBow on it, and Dave Webb slapped down some tasty fretless bass for us.
Sorry, Beth, but Peter Criss ain’t got nothin’ on Kenny Wright. Just sayin’.
“Hands Off The Wheel”
Another tune I’d demoed for possible use on a solo project, it got cherry-picked when I shared some of that stuff with the guys to see if they thought there might be something I was holding onto that might suit our needs. I’m glad they plucked this one out, because it’s become a live staple, and it fills a slot on the record that nothing else on deck would’ve qualified for. Lots of weird little overdubs in the mix…percussion, keys, loops, oddball guitar bits…I don’t think we’ve ever had another song quite like it.
“Take The Ride”
Somebody told me the other day that this sounded like vintage KISS in the verses, with a Rick Springfield chorus. Mission accomplished. ’Nuff said.
p.s. Patrick’s outro slide parts are bitchin’ too, I don’t care who you voted for.
“The Day I Let You Go”
I had this demo sitting around for the longest time, fully produced and ready to go. One problem: no verse. I thought the chorus was pretty happenin’, and I really dug all the guitar stuff going on, but I couldn’t come up with a verse melody I liked or a single lyric that didn’t make me cringe. Luckily, I happened to play it for Kenny, who came back with the missing pieces, so we decided to do an old-school trade off, with him taking the lead in the verses, and me taking the chorus….but wait, there’s more, THEN we trade-off choruses at the end. That’s innovation, people!
“Last Good Memory(Revisited)”
Some of you might remember the original version of this batting cleanup on the ”Ricky took the wheels..” album. We’d been playing it live a bunch the last few years, and it started taking on a new life, so we decided to re-cut it, adding some additional instrumentation and a few small flourishes that weren’t present on the more sparse first take. This wasn’t meant to be part of the record, and we’d released it as a digital single several months ago…kind of a time-buyer while we finished the album….but it just made sense to include it when all was said and done, since it seemed kinda orphaned out there in iTunes no man’s land, without an LP to call home.
There you have it, if you made it all the way to the end of that long-winded and likely unnecessary ramble through the birthing process. I don’t think I gave anything away, but I always like knowing at least some of the minutiae and a little bit of a new album’s back story, so I figured I’d peck this out for anyone else who might share the sentiment.