Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It's A Laugh

Well, that was fun and entertaining. I just finished up three days of rehearsals with Hall and Oates in preparation for a short East Coast tour. Daryl and John decided to add a string section to augment the band on this run, and they went through about 30 songs worth of new arrangements, now featuring a string quartet of two violins, a viola and a cello. We had a similar lineup for the Christmas shows on both coasts, and the fabulous Lorenza Ponce is again the first chair violin and section leader.

Everything went smoothly, and we had an opportunity to bring some fresh sounds to John's guitar rig, or maybe vintage sounds that are fresh again. We added the Line 6 Delay Modeler and the Modulation Modeler to his pedalboard. The delay pedal does faithful digital reproductions of tube Echoplexes, analog Boss stompboxes, digital delays, etc. If it sounds like an echo, there is a model of it in the Line 6 box. The modulation modeler recreates the classic phasers, flangers, tremolos, chorus and vibratos from the Golden Age of guitar effects, the mid '70's to the mid '80's.

We dialed up a nice analog chorus patch, a Leslie rotating speaker simulation, and a funky phase shifter that sounded like something The Isley Brothers or Sly Stone might approve of. Big fun.

One of my favorite H&O songs, "It's A Laugh" got played a few times. I always thought that song had a really nice marriage of melody and lyric. The chord changes and the melody really reinforce the message of the lyric, and the tasteful production really lets the song shine.

(Words & Music by Daryl Hall)

You must be thinking something
But you ain't saying nothing
You remember me, I used to be your boyfriend
There ain't no point in reason
It only gets defensive
And why should we ruin the purity of the moment

It's a Laugh
What a laugh
It's so stupid I gotta laugh
And the funny thing is that everyone thought we were special

Maybe I should feel guilty
Is that the American way
But I just look at myself
As if I were above me
You must be thinking something
But you ain't saying nothing
You remember me, I have been here always
I am here forever
I remember feeling that way a few times about old girlfriends back in the day. The chorus chord progression is a little Beatle-y in it's A , A+5, A6th, A7th harmony as the melody climbs optimistically upward and give the repeated line "it's a laugh" more and more urgency until the whole premise gradually turns absurd for the singer. But we know he is whistling in the graveyard.

The unusual technique of avoiding the E chord (the "5" chord) until the very end, gives a restless, unsettled feel to the verse/chorus progression, which gives the lyric a plaintive and hopeful feeling. It feels like he relationship is not really over until the "E" chord sets up the ultimate tonic "A" cord, definitively ending the song... and the singer's chances of a reconciliation with his ex-lover.

At least that's what the song means for me. This is a fun job, I gotta admit. Hall and Oates sound great, the band is top-notch and the setlist is a potent collection of Great American Pop, with soulful vocals and clever songwriting across the board. Kind of a catchier version of another of my favorites bands, Steely Dan...who, if they are not actually soulful, do indeed sing about people who have Soul...like Daryl and John.

Check your local listings to see if we are headed your way...well worth the trip.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Techs On Film

My D'Addario Video

I did this in the Summer of 2006, it was shot on stage at Jones Beach, New York.