Pieces of the Sun
Tony Levin's new CD on Narada Records

 
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The Musicians:

I was very happy to assemble the same band I've toured with for the last two years:

Jerry Marotta on drums (and vocals, percussion, some sax, and a little Omnichord)
Jesse Gress on electric and acoustic guitars (and some vocals)
Larry Fast on synthesizer (and, yes, we coaxed a small vocal from Larry on one song!)
Tony Levin (me) on basses and Stick.
and...
A special guest appearance by the California Guitar Trio on acoustic guitars.

 

 


The Music: (links are to mp3 excerpts)

This time I wanted to write more progressive music than on my last outing (Waters of Eden.) Partly because I'm missing that type of playing, and partly because when we toured last year, the excitement of the band live (and of doing some Peter Gabriel, Genesis, Crimson and Synergy material) was something I didn't want to give up.

So I wrote with Jerry, Larry and Jesse in mind - and I indulged myself in some more complex forms than I'd done before, and more non-4/4/ time signatures. (The result is that there are some pretty long pieces - 7, 8 and 9 minutes long, and there is a lot of material on the CD - about 67 minutes last time I added it up.)

For one piece, Apollo, I asked my friends in the California Guitar Trio to play a middle section, where their pristine sound contrasts nicely with the heavy band work that's come before. (Here's a second Apollo sample.)

Other adventures were: remaking an old Peter Gabriel track, Dog One with Jesse, Jerry and me sharing the minimal vocal duties. It's a piece that I'd recorded with Peter (so did Jerry and Larry) oh... 20 years ago! Peter's version was never released, to my knowledge, and I always liked the song, so I asked Peter's permission and did an update of it.

One of Larry Fast's Synergy compositions, Phobos, has always been a favorite of mine. Larry consented to our re-doing that piece, with my Stick, Jerry's drumming, and Jesse's guitar solo added to the already impressive synthesizer composition. (What sounds like drum machine on the track is a combination of Larry's loops, done on early Moog!)

One day, while bicycling, an idea came to me to do a very strange version of Tequila, where the listener hardly realizes what song he's listening to, until the famous one word lyric comes up. I did the vocal the first time around, but we couldn't resist having the whole band join in on the second one.

Pieces of the Sun is the music we "marched" in with on most of our live shows last tour. Sometimes we finished shows by leaving to it too - now there's a middle section with some Funk Fingered bass.

There is a lot of Stick playing on the record - but on The Fifth Man I moved in a direction I've been wanting to go it for some time - lead Stick playing, in conjuction with lead guitar playing. So on this piece, after a solo Stick counterpoint intro, the band comes in with Jesse's guitar playing melody. Then the Stick joins in harmony, they each take a solo, and then there's a harmonized duet with some furious playing by both Jesse and me.

There's a Crimson style piece, Geronimo, with a simple form, and guitar and Stick interweaving for the lead voices.

Ever the Sun Will Rise, one of the multi-section compositions, starts with Stick playing in the cello style, backing up a lone piano melody. The band enters and the music gradually builds from (symbolically) a dark pre-dawn to a massive sounding sunrise.

Silhouette, the last piece on the cd, is a reminder of the mellower, fretless playing lead, style of Waters of Eden.

 

 


The Recording:

We found a studio right near home, in Woodstock NY, that had the size and ambience I was looking for. Named Applehead, it's a newly built barn, with plenty of room for the big ambient drum sound we wanted, as well as side rooms for all my bass amps, and a large band-friendly control room. That made the recordings fun, since we spent a lot of hours there getting the pieces right. As is often the case nowadays, the keys and guitars went to ProTools, but drums and bass went to analog tape, so we could get the benefit of that sound coloration. Robert Frazza, who has done and will continue to do the band's sound on tour, did the engineering.

Family visits (including dogs), Woodstock-style takeout food, videotaping of takes, and late night jams enlivened the sessions. I, of course, brought one of my espresso machines to the barn so that we could work in civilized conditions! In the end we wished we'd have had more time in the studio, not because we needed it to get the music right, but because there was such a good feeling to the work, the place, and the people.

For mixing, I like to have an outside source for objectivity. Well known engineer Kevin Killen (Peter Gabriel, U2, and much more) kindly fit me into his schedule, and we mixed at the New York studio he's used to using, named Shelter Island.

When it came to mastering, I opted for Trevor Sadler, who has an in-house studio at Narada Records in Milwaukee. I had liked the work he did on Waters of Eden, and this time, there being more music and much more complexity, we spent two days on the mastering there.

 

 


What's being said about the album:

Well, the fact is, it's very new, and there are no quotes yet! But if I didn't lay out this section of the page, I'd be too busy to do it in a few weeks, when there are review quotes!

Ah... at last.. here are a couple:

From Amazon.com editorial reviews (Kim Hughes)
 "...Tony Levin is a musician's musician whose collaborations sparkle... but it's his solo stuff that really sails off the chart. ...he uses each new recording as a way of further juxtaposing his primary instruments (bass and Chapman stick) against the weirdest, most challenging stuff he can score. Consequently, Pieces of the Sun is, predictably, wholly unpredictable, with Levin and his 2001 touring band lighting into a set of headphone-melting instrumentals best described as pulsing prog-rock built on the kind of awesome playing that, in a concert setting, attracts packs of drooling amateurs to the stage to watch the musician's hands. "

And, in an e-mail from an early buyer of the cd:
 "Hey man, I'm SUNBURNED!"

 

 


Getting it:

Pieces of the Sun should be in record stores now (in the U.S. and Canada)

Also in Japan

Europe - various territories at different times this Spring.

Papabear Records will offer it online, but not for the next two months.

Amazon.com has it now.

 

 


Other info:

Will there be a tour? Of course! With Larry Fast, Jesse Gress, Jerry Marotta & Tony Levin (see main page for dates.)

Will the CD be sold at shows? Yes - and we'll sign afterward whenever possible, whether you get it there or bring one.

Live album coming? Yes, we'll record some shows on this tour, and within a year, release a live cd.

How does Tony feel about the release?
"I think it's my best writing yet. Listeners who particularly liked the mellow side of Waters of Eden might be put off by the heavier material overall on this CD, but I let the writing cover quite a wide range of playing. My favorite aspect is that the players are each featured, and you have a sense of the individuals while you're listening, but there is an overall band feel which captures some of the history we've had together as musicians."

The cover and package graphics?
They're from NASA images of the sun.

 

 
Back to the main page

Buy the CD from Papabear Records