On the last leg of making an album you need to finalise the artwork for the CD Cover.
Remember that I love to read your comments so feel free to comment in the box below this post.
CD manufacturers usually have a page on their website with templates for artwork. You can have a look at some examples here to get some idea. The company we’re using makes the actual CDs and produces and prints the artwork. So the things we needed to design were the cd label, the cd booklet (which slots into the front of the jewel case to act as the album cover, and the tray liner, which acts as the back of the album when holding the CD box. The shorter the booklet, the cheaper the total price.
An old friend Graham Black, who is now the Art Director for the Economist magazine’ More Intelligent Life amazingly agreed to help design the artwork. He managed to squeeze all my content into an eight page booklet. Once we decided what the cover was, I had to choose what I would put in it. Some artists print the song lyrics. As all the songs are well known and easily available on the web, I decided not to do this. I had emailed David Newton asking him for a paragraph – I actually meant for him to write a CV about himself. Instead he wrote very kindly about the actual working process. This made me decide to tell a little of the story of how this CD came about and more importantly for me, I tried to explain my concept and aims: explaining why we had recorded the songs in one take.
Now he’s finished the layout it’s up to me to spot final typos and mistakes. I keep leaving it and coming back for another look and every time I do, I spot something new. It’s amazing – the brain’s capability for filling in missing words and correcting things – you just don’t see them!
Before I sent the final draft to Graham, I asked a few friends to work as proof readers (thanks especially to the Thomas family!) I re-wrote it many times trying to cut down my verbose writing style as much as I could. Then I had to do a short version of my CV – after over 20 years in the business that was very difficult. David managed his brilliantly – but then it was announced that he has been awarded Best Pianist at the British Jazz Awards for the TENTH time, so we had to amend the ‘final’ version at the last minute!
Then it was the track list with timings and details of the composers and lyicists and finally the ‘thank you’ list. I certainly enjoyed that bit but it’s secret for now!
So here are our cd comments:
When it came to choosing my favourite eighteen from the fifty-four tracks that we recorded over two days, I had to do rather a lot of listening and the more I listened, the more I realised what an incredible singer Heather is. It was one marvelous take after another. To be frank, if it wasn’t for me dropping clangers here and there, this could have been a boxed set.
The songs on the album were all written by people who knew exactly what they were doing and so effectively, that most of the hard work was already done. All we had to do was a bit of interpretation and personalisation to bring it all to life.
Heather also, I discover, has a very rare quality when it comes to phrasing. She has a Sinatra-like ability to hold a note for ages and then finish the line without having to take an extra breath. For me that’s sheer technical artistry and that kind of attention to detail is just one more reason for you to enjoy her marvelous singing.
One of the many wonderful attributes of the Great American Songbook is the flexibility most of the songs have. One can completely re-harmonise and bury the melody so that the listener has to dig deep to find it, or as in our case, celebrate the composers’ art but add a few surprises so that you don’t quite know what’s coming next.
“During a recent gig at Steyning Jazz Club, I had to announce that we had three different CDs for sale during the interval. They featured, in turn, the pianist, the bass player and the drummer. Despite many years as a professional singer, I had never made a solo album. A good friend and loyal supporter, Tom Chapman, was in the audience that night and a week later he announced that if it was just a matter of money that was stopping me, then he would like to pay for me to make that album.
Once I’d got over the shock of such a generous offer, I realised that after years of dreaming about exactly what I would record, I had to make a choice and get to work. The year before I’d had an idea for a lavish production, which would involve many of my talented colleagues. Now, with the actual means to go ahead, I realised that I wanted to do something much simpler: to record a collection of my favourite love songs. The nagging question at the back of my mind was – how could I do better than all the many wonderful versions by the great artists?
The answer was that I probably couldn’t. I could only try to sing them as honestly as possible, drawing from all the years of vocal and life experience that I had: to sing them as me.
This personal approach was really important as I spend my professional singing life creating and recreating very specific styles and sounds to order. I have made a career as a sort of vocal chameleon, a voice for hire. I work in an industry where advances in technology mean that music is recorded and spliced together to deliver performances that seem absolutely perfect. It’s very hard to find a singer who can reproduce, in a live situation, the sound that the producers can manufacture in the studio.
I decided I would try to record the songs in one take: one complete performance, recorded in the same room as the pianist, so that the musical connection between us was complete. Scarily, this would leave no room for correction afterwards. We would both have to deliver something special at the same time.
This, of course, is the way the great singers we all know and love would have recorded when the songs were originally written. There are a few albums I cherish which I wanted to emulate: The Intimate Ella with Ella Fitzgerald and Paul Smith, Duet with Doris Day and André Previn and Together & Together Again with Tony Bennett and Bill Evans.
I once had the privilege of singing on a Christmas album with Tony Bennett. Unusually, the orchestra and small group of backing singers were all together in Abbey Road, Studio 1, with Mr. Bennett placed in the middle – no screens or separation. Any mistakes he might make would be very expensive. We rehearsed each song a couple of times and then the producer announced, “We’re ready for you Mr. Bennett”. He stood up and delivered a perfect performance. The conductor corrected a few things and we went for another pass. This take was completely different from Tony and equally as perfect. It was a glorious lesson from an artist in total command of his instrument, style and interpretation – a lesson that has stayed with me.
My choice to record in this way meant that I needed a pianist who would be open to that challenge. David Newton was the obvious choice. We had worked together on a concert of his Jazz Song Cycle Portrait Of A Woman and on other gigs, but we had never recorded together.
I rang Dave and explained my idea and he seemed really interested in what I wanted to do. He suggested we recorded at the pianist Ronnie Smith’s house, where he had recently made a trio recording engineered by the excellent bass player, Andrew Cleyndert, who had produced a piano sound that Dave really liked. Against the odds, we managed to find two days together when we were all free. With fewer than two weeks to prepare, I was thrown into a flurry of activity, choosing songs and preparing charts for Dave to use as a starting point.
I wanted to include songs that I had sung for years, which held special memories and meaning for me. David asked me if I knew the song “Where do you start?” He knew Shirley Horn’s version. I was surprised and thrilled. About ten years ago, I had been wandering through a record store in Paris when I heard a song playing which made me stand still and listen. I used my limited French to ask who the artist was. The assistant told me that it was Kenny Rankin who is an American singer-songwriter. I bought the album on the strength of that song and taught myself to play it on the guitar. I had no idea that the song had become a jazz standard.
The unaccompanied start to I’m Old Fashioned is a tribute to the version by Swedish Soprano Margareta Bengtson, who has an album of the same name. I met her many years ago whilst she was a member of the Swedish a cappella quintet, The Real Group, and I was a member of the Swingle Singers. Margareta’s soprano voice has an extraordinary quality which sounds both innocent and sensual. The three key changes we used in The nearness of you are the same as those on the James Taylor/Michael Brecker album. For me, the moment when James sings ‘Oh yeah’ in your ear, you sigh and know that everything will be alright; I couldn’t imagine it any other way. Everything else was my response in the moment to the beautiful canvas created by David’s playing.
As Ella Fitzgerald famously said, “I stole everything I ever heard, but mostly I stole from the horns”. Our performance is hopefully an amalgamation of everything we have ever heard and loved.
I hoped that we would manage to record twelve songs during the two days – an ambitious goal but we could always schedule other days later if we didn’t manage it. On day one I only listened back to a couple of phrases to check for balance. I was determined not to micromanage my singing as I didn’t want to lose the spontaneity of the performance. By the evening, we had managed to record seven songs. The next day we were flying. We recorded another eleven and even went back to the first song to do an alternative version in a different key. I was enjoying myself so much that I could have carried on for hours and my voice wasn’t tired at all.
A few days later Andrew sent me three CDs with fifty-four versions of the eighteen songs to choose from. As I listened, I wrote down the track number and made notes. Surprisingly, making the choice was a simple task. I was listening carefully to the overall vocal and piano performance but also trying to find the most honest interpretation. A few days later Dave called me to compare our choices. Amazingly, he had chosen exactly the same versions. The hardest task was to decide which songs not to include!
So here it is, at last. I hope you will enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed recording it.”
As always, if you enjoyed this blog and would like to know when I write a new article, or bring out the new CD, don’t forget to add your email address to the VIP box on the top right hand of this page. Then click on the link in the email which you receive to confirm your interest. Your email address is completely confidential.