Two low-pressure areas merge into a large flow of warm air from the south, a blast of cold from the north, and moisture feeding from the Gulf Stream, simultaneously. That’s a perfect storm, a disastrous confluence of individually innocuous events. It’s rare but when it happens, the negative consequences are magnified, like when Billy Bob Thornton hooked up with Angelina Jolie. Hard to believe such things can happen. But they do, and when they do, the results are. . . unpleasant. But what if a series of discrete events could add up to something positive? Something greater than the sum of its parts? It happened once right here in the Way Back Studios. I knew there was a series of songs I could link with similar sound effects, like rainstorms, and thunder, and crashing waves. I was tempted by the Who’s Quadrophenia. But I resisted. Same with the Doors. “Riders on the Storm” would work, but it was too obvious. .
Then, in the South Side of the Sky I could see it. The Storm at Sunup. And a figure, a man named Gino Vannelli, in a white shirt, unbuttoned to reveal copious and, apparently combed, chest hair staring out from the album cover. In the background, a woman, languid in a slip with the strap slipping down her right shoulder. Staring out the window, chin in hand, elbow on knee, knee deep in ennui. Her profile seems to be saying, love me now. Fragile? Yes. Certainly, though not obvious at first. Still, the two records came together like a perfect storm to create a one of our finest batches of All Hand Mixed Vinyl. Two tracks each from two albums, re-imagined in seven parts as if originally conceived that way. And then, because it fit so nicely, we added a little Spirit at the end with the great sax-man Ernie Watts sitting in on the track “Stoney Night” from Spirit’s album Farther Along. But first, “We Have Heaven.”
|We Have Heaven
|Storm at Sunup (part 1)
|South Side of the Sky (part 1)
|Storm at Sunup (part 2)
|South Side of the Sky (part 2)
|Love Me Now
|South Side of the Sky (part 3)
|We Have Heaven (reprise)
You can call that what you will, but that’s what I call transitional shenanigans. We spent the first twenty minutes of that set going back and forth between a couple of tracks each from Gino Vannelli’s third album, Storm at Sunup and the fourth album from Yes, simply called “Fragile.” The set opened with “We Have Heaven” which, at the end, slips into some storm sound effects and segues into “South Side of the Sky.” But, unwilling as we are to leave well enough alone, we slipped into the storm sound effects at the start of Gino’s “Storm at Sunup,” a song that begins as a melodramatic ballad, transitions into a furious bit of jazz rock fusion, before returning to the melodrama and ending on a sustained synthesizer note that segues into “Love Me Now.” During those transitions, we mixed in and out of “South Side of the Sky.” What’s really cool about it is that you never have to lift a needle on either album. The two records play like a handshake with the sound effects and other transitional elements presenting themselves as if by design. .
Some say it was pure dumb luck, others talk about instinct. Either way, it turns out you can mix back and forth between the movements of the four songs, playing them in exactly the order they appear on their respective records, with nothing left out. But when all was said and done, we were still a few minutes shy of a full set. So I pulled two more records from the shelf: one, an old sound effects album with storm sound effects, and the other, Spirit’s under-appreciated L.P. Farther Along. We used storm effects to transition from “South Side of the Sky” into “Stoney Night” which opens with a few claps of thunder and the great sax work of Ernie Watts. Then, bringing the whole thing full circle, we flipped Fragile over and closed with the very end of side two. At the end of “Heart of the Sunrise”, you hear the sound effect of a door opening followed by a reprise of “We Have Heaven.” Bringing us right back where we started. And now we’re where we end. Thanks for joining us. In the Way Back Studios, I’m Bill Fitzhugh and I’ll have another batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl soon enough, right here in the Deep Tracks.