I had never been to a studio let alone been invited to be an “audience” member during a live recording. So when Lee Raeden of They Know invited me, I could not pass up the opportunity.
I got there a little early and went in. There were Christmas lights zigzagged across the ceiling and a hand painted mural hung across the back wall – two colorful fish facing each other. It was a recent acquisition of the group and adorned several of their recent live performances in the area.
One half of the studio was all equipment, wires, a drum set and microphones. The other half had two couches, some comfy chairs and pillows on the floor. Smiling at the idea of watching these talented musicians while lounging on the floor, I picked this as my 'spot” for the show.
Daniel Ehart was tuning up and Carolyn “Cat” Burbage was checking out her drums. I was introduced to Cat, her husband and several other people there to participate. Many of the others I already knew. Shortly, Lee came in and checked his keyboard.
“I'm hoping, if this works out,” said Bowers. “To make this an ongoing series of recording sessions with an audience.”
Alan himself is a musician, having sat in as percussionist for quite a few groups from the local Milford area down to the St. Bart's. He is also a member of the famous Parrotbeach group, the “hardest working Buffet Band” around.
As they were about to begin, Dan told us, the audience, how things were going to go. They would announce the song and we were to applaud “as enthusiastically” as we could. He said they might have to redo a song or two in case there were some problems, either technically or musically. It was a recording session, after all, and they wanted to make sure they had the best version possible. Of course we all agreed.
As the group began their first song, “Weeds Grow Wild”, the enthusiasm was not faked, as many of us already knew and loved this song. Its a very folksy song about life passing by and remembering our past and thinking about our future. As the song says “Back in time we stoked the fires, stood and watched the flames go higher. Try to hold onto what we got, but stare at a vacant lot. Watching weeds grow wild.” After the song, we didn't need to be reminded to applaud.
Next up was a new song, “In Spiral Staircase”, which is a cool jazz-inspired tune. It easily transports the listener to some hip NYC or Philly jazz hot spot, like the old City Lights club in the heart of Philadelphia. Even though it took three tries to get this song perfect, none of us minded as the song is incredible.
Following up on this was “Beautiful Thing”, “I See You Watching” (a 60's psychedelic romp) And “The Great Chain” with Lee taking the lead.
“This is our jam band song,” Lee explained.
“They're all jam band songs,” Dan joked back.
“Yea,” Lee responded. “But this one has a different vibe.” Which, of course, it did.
Whether listening to “When the Blue Chips are Down” or “Together in This” it was a truly great set from these three excellent musicians and songwriters.
Among the songs performed were “There's Something Out There” (which was a country song but the group joked was their “punk polka song”), “City of Dreams” (an Indian guide song), “No Twitters” (a song about social media and spiritual journeying and had an outrageous guitar solo), “Ride the Vision” (which had a very Steppenwolf-ish sound), “The Louvers of Love” (a “sexy strut”, as Lee called it) and “Love Today” (which had a real Wings/Beatles/Bread texture to it).
Over the course of the next few hours, amidst some musical faux paus and a few technical glitches, the music, the intimate feeling of a concert just for a select few, everyone had a great time. I know I did.
Afterward, Bowers said he was going to upgrade a few things with his system – some minor equipment changes and some memory upgrades – in order to be ready for the next “session” he was hoping would come to fruition. Even as a test run, I'd say his plans on doing more of these “live” recording sessions were a smashing success. And as for They Know, it was a another successful outing.
Given the chance to attend more of these intimate concerts / recording sessions, I will certainly jump at it. If you ever find yourself invited to one of these, I would highly recommend it. It was fun, not just because you get to hear a music group for free but also to get a chance to see something most outsiders don't get to see in the music industry.
Charles B Reynolds is an author, songwriter and journalist, who also performs and records under the name Charlie Reynolds. * Disclaimer – No monetary gain or other considerations were received from the Mudcut Recording Studios, They Know, Facebook, Reverbnation or anyone associated with this article.