Blue Bolero album is kind of a cinematic journey that documents
my personal life from when I was a kid living in the English
countryside until the time I made the big move to Los Angeles
California. The album didn't start out that way, but when
I got a little more analytical about it, and the more I wrote
each piece, the more apparent it became that it was a personal
journey through time. For the first time ever, each of the
titles on this album were actually written in the order that
they appear on the record. It's all very indulgent I know,
but there we are. So let's dig in a little to each song shall
I suppose, represents my early childhood years and all its crazy directions.
The piece is a little over eight minutes long and has three distinct sections.
A long intro build up, a swing jazz section with a solo and a final piece
that kind of cements all the sections together. At first I was messing
around with orchestral string samples and thought it might be wildly different
for me to approach composition from this perspective. Less of a 'songwriting'
stance and more of an experimental compositional one I think. I certainly
didn't want to restrict myself in any way creatively and I definitely
wasn't thinking commercially. This first piece set the tone for the album
and I thought, either this is a one off, or it might develop into a whole
CD. It turns out the latter was the case.
writing and recording the Overture demo I kept hearing the word 'Bolero'
in my head. I don't actually know why. This Overture certainly wasn't
a Bolero, but something kept niggling away in my brain telling me that
I should write a Bolero. Aside from Ravel's Bolero, I wasn't even that
knowledgeable about the bolero rhythm, and I wasn't totally sure how to
approach writing something like it. When I took a listen to Ravel's Bolero,
I thought I should maybe take the snare drum rhythm pretty much exactly,
and see what came out when I wrote something. I knew also that I wanted
the piece to build dynamically, so by the end of the song, there would
be this grandiose musical climax.
title track was the first on the album that featured a minor chord with
a major seventh added to it, a particularly dark sounding chord, and one
that film composers like to pull out from time to time due to its cinematic
qualities. This chord became something that unified the album by the end.
In my early teens, I would come home from school and my mother would pour
us all a cup of tea and then have her 'Beethoven hour", or in other
words, '40 winks', a little nap whilst listening to her favourite classical
music. I got to know Beethoven's symphonies quite well back then. This
title track is a little memory of that time. Not that this title in any
way has any resemblance to anything Beethoven ever wrote, but it is somewhat
classical in nature.
Mind The Gap
up on a farm in the English countryside was a different kind of experience.
We lived far from anywhere it seemed. Not quite an island existence but
we certainly lived a good eleven miles away from the nearest town and
only three buses a day would take us there.
have two brothers and a sister and my two brothers and I are roughly a
year apart in age. My sister is a good six years younger. As we got in
our teens, it became more and more exciting for us brothers to take trips
into London on our own, without the aid of our parents. We felt quite
grown up, aged 13, 14 and 15, taking the train from Aylesbury to Marylebone
in London. Then we would ride around on the London underground (the tube
as it is called over there). I remember that we had very little we wanted
to do (aside from feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square) but it felt
exciting to know that we could get around on the tube on our own. It was
often at certain tube stations you would hear over the loudspeaker
"Please mind the gap!" This was so folks wouldn't
step off the train and fall down onto the train tracks. Many
years later I remember riding around on the tube and hearing
over the loudspeaker "Mind the gap!" It appeared
that they no longer included the word 'please'. I wonder if
they felt that it was more effective to make it an order and
not a request. Perhaps passengers had previously thought it
optional to step onto the platform or not. Anyway, this song
harks back to those exciting and liberating times when we
saw the world from a teenager's point of view. Katisse Buckingham
plays just the most beautiful alto flute in the last section
of this song.
a jazz guitarist who favors playing an archtop jazz guitar with a clean
sound, playing with upright bass and swishing brushes is just heaven to
me. The main reason is that when a band is playing softly, the jazz guitar
can speak and express the full dynamics of the instrument without struggling
to keep up. On my past more funky albums I have certainly learned how
to keep up but often at a cost. Playing a song like this one really enables
the instrument to breathe and I can take time and space to make the instrument
sing. It's a subtlety that one favors with age and experience I think.
song featured another unifying musical motif which was the minor 3rd movement
from one chord down to another. In this case it was the opening chord
of Ebm11 going down to Cm11, then to my Blue Bolero chord of Fm9 (maj7).
Contemplation? Well as a child I spent many many hours up
in my room practicing the guitar, often torturously, wondering
whether I would ever get it all together. The fact that I
did probably led me to believe that contemplating might actually
be a good idea. I certainly do live in my head, so I suspect
I won't be changing anytime soon.
track almost didn't make the album. I wasn't sure whether it was stylistically
too close to something I might have recorded on previous albums. But the
more I worked on it and listened to it, the more I thought that it might
be a good idea. I love playing over distant chord changes where you have
to really think about the notes you choose. It's that delicate balance
of mind and emotion. I played my Fender Strat on this song and got to
play a nice expressive solo. Dewayne Smitty Smith added a real nice Fender
bass part to it and when I heard the final version, I stepped up to the
plate, orchestrated it more with strings, and there was no way this wasn't
going to make the cut
farm we lived on as kids was called Tetchwick and like any other family,
we all got to earn a little money working on the farm during the summer
school holidays. When I say 'a little money' I certainly mean it. Of course
back in the day those little pennies were worth a little more, but we
certainly put in the hours driving tractors, bringing in the corn from
the summer harvest in order to build up our little piggy banks.
you can imagine, the weather was often harsh. I remember one day cutting
down bushes with my younger brother Justin on the most freezing icy cold
day. When I got back home later I had to thaw out my hands in a sink of
hot water for a good 15 minutes.
was never a mystery to us, trust me. We were certainly used to being drenched
to the bone on many occasions. All good character building though. This
little musical interlude 'Regarding Tetchwick' is reminiscent of me practicing
my classical guitar in my room with the rain beating down outside, something
that became all too familiar.
Train To Everywhere
it became apparent, I think to most of us kids, that farming was not really
for us. None of us seemed drawn to it and I think it fair to say that
most of us were confused by anyone that was. With this in mind we all
felt like the big city might be the answer. Personally it was more a question
of getting on a train and telling the driver to just drive, and frankly
it didn't matter where! Not that we had unhappy childhoods, far from it,
but there was an inner drive in all of us to see much more of the world.
This song certainly feels like you are on a train.
1980 I took a year off from school and spent a year in Los Angeles getting
very musically inspired. I worked in a little sandwich shop in Northridge
to make ends meet.
about eight months in LA I returned to the UK and went to the London College
of Music to do a three year fellowship studying classical guitar. A few
years later I realized that my earlier introduction to California got
under my skin and I started to take little reconnaissance trips once a
year to see if there were any professional opportunities for me.
year I came over to LA with a finished master album that I had paid for
myself. I was confident I could score a record deal, be welcomed into
the LA music scene, and have an official reason to come back. Well nothing
could have been further from the truth. That particular trip knocked me
album I had made was called "Maincourse" (now available for
sale on my website) and was kind of a fusiony, somewhat self indulgent
guitar record. I had some interest but couldn't clinch a record deal.
I even heard from one A&R guy who said "It's good Chris but nothing
to get in bed about!" Charming I thought. Perhaps he knew something
I returned to London that year extremely dejected and thought, maybe Los
Angeles was not for me after all. On second thoughts perhaps I should
just stay in London and keep my silly ambitions to myself. It was a real
knock for me.
this little musical interlude represents that time. One thing I soon learned
about myself is that I'm not a quitter and even though I didn't come back
to LA the following year, I think I made one more trip the year after
that, and things were very different.
is good news and bad news about living on a farm in England. The good
news is that you live a pretty healthy life and despite all the hardships
that family often faces, we were pretty close and well adjusted. The bad
news is that working on a farm requires early hours.
I should at this point present to you that farming was absolutely not
for me. In fact, all members of my family would tell you that I was a
bloody awful farmer, and I would be hard pressed to defend myself. Except
for the fact that I was absolutely the best bale stacker of all three
boys. Without a doubt! Now they would tell you I was delusional, but I
say no. I am holding to this truth. This is my story and I am sticking
to it! Now what I was not great at was closing field gates after I had
fed the sheep
several occasions I was woken up by my father around 4:00am, who would
burst into my room shouting, "Chris you have let the f****** sheep
out again and they are all over the sodding village! Get up lad it's time
to go get them! (These unfortunate times did however instill new words
into our ever growing vocabulary!) And so we jumped into the car with
our sheepdog (thank god for him!) and off we went to rescue the sheep
who were walking up the main road through the village. Luckily sheep being
'sheep-like' tend to stick very closely together making it fairly easy
to round them up and bring them back home. There's nothing like causing
a traffic jam on the A40. Clearly I was a professional at it.
a footnote to this little story, I must add that there is nothing remotely
interesting about a sheep. Nothing at all. They all look pretty much alike,
they all behave exactly alike and they are all completely incontinent!
Conversely, lamb shank is one of my favorite restaurant dishes. So sunrise
was not unfamiliar to us, hence the song. Good times.
got to play a good amount of nylon string guitar on this album, something
that I haven't done at all on past records. However, I thought it appropriate
on this album, particularly as I spent my entire childhood trying to hack
through Bach preludes and fugues. I also haven't recorded any Latin influenced
music before, save perhaps one track on my Love & Paragraphs album.
Bossa Nova can be quite an intoxicating rhythm and I saw no reason to
neglect anything I wanted to try on this record. Bossa Blue is also the
radio single from the album. The little vocal hook in the chorus is me
singing with enough effects on my voice to make it sound acceptable.
drummer David Karasony was recording most of the drum parts at his own
studio when I suddenly started to compose this piece. When I finished
writing this track I immediately knew I wanted to put it on the record
and sent it over to my drummer as an extra song for him to play on. It
is almost entirely an orchestral piece, only really featuring my guitar
as an after thought. The piece has probably the most cinematic feel of
all the songs on this record and has quite a dark and somewhat mysterious
quality about it, quite 'film noir' if you like.
I eventually took the final plunge and made the commitment to move to
America, I did so in no uncertain terms. I had decided that, in order
to make the move to California, I would need to cut off all possible ways
to return to the UK, provided things should take a turn for the worst,
and of course they did. However, I had sold my car, given up my little
flat near Camden Town, sold every single piece of musical equipment I
owned, even sold my stereo system to my Dad! So when things went bad,
I knew that I had to get it together here in LA, 'cos it would be the
same if I returned home. I also told myself that things would probably
get lonely on my focused path. And indeed they did, but I was prepared.
This song 'Lost In Angels', truly represents that time when I had to deal
with those early dark times in Los Angeles.
Of The Bowler Hats
piece is a somewhat frenetic tune featuring the very gifted
keyboard skills of Mitch Forman. I remember going back to
visit the UK quite some time ago, probably fairly recently
after I moved to LA and driving over Tower Bridge. My memory
of this is somewhat blurry as I honestly can't remember whether
I was living in London at the time or not, but I suspect I
was just visiting. So I was driving over Tower Bridge early
one morning (why I was up that early is a complete mystery
to me!) and on the sidewalk to the left of us were all these
businessmen wearing suits, holding umbrellas and wearing bowler
hats. It was really quite a sight to see, even back then.
I had no idea so many London businessmen really dressed like
that. Do they still? I have no idea. It was really quite Monty
Python-esque. This song is nothing more than a memory of that
The End Of The Day
am a sucker for ballads. I would do a whole album of them if I thought
I could get away with it. My whole journey from growing up on the farm,
to moving to London and then finally the big move to California was now
complete. If I knew back then what it took to realize my wildly ambitious
dreams, would I do it again? I certainly don't know, but I do know that
I am glad I ended up where I did, and the fact that I don't have to do
it over is quite comforting.
has been a long ambitious journey. Sometimes I wonder if life is easier
when one has fewer ambitions. Perhaps there is less disappointment and
smelling the roses is a little easier. But when I look back, at the end
of the day, I know I made all the right moves.
I lived in London it confused me that many of my friends were extremely
successful and I wasn't. I assumed I would be too and it was only a matter
of time. But I was wrong, London and England was not for me. I had to
figure it all out by moving away.
thing I have realized is that we are all on our own paths. Every one of
us has our own unique journey and what works for one, as sure as dammit,
will not for another. There are no rules, we make our own, and that is
the wonderful thing about life. People are as unique as their personal
the final piece on this album I wanted to tie it all together somehow
musically, so I thought, what if I took a melody from the original Bolero
theme and did something different with it. So I changed the key, took
the tempo up and made it into a jazz waltz. This last piece is a celebration
of life, where the true climax of the song happens in the last section
of the guitar solo before the melody comes around again.
there it is. Another album completed. I think this one is
probably the most honest I have recorded so far, and this
is possibly because for the first time I undertook the entire
process alone. For the first time I didn't care about commercial
constraints, I didn't care about having special guest performers
on the album for the sake of creating a sales and marketing
perception. Everyone who performed on this CD was there because
I felt they were the absolute best I could find to help realize
this album. If I have shot myself in the foot then so be it.
I am very proud of this album and I hope you enjoy it too.
Chris Standring's 2010 Blue Bolero album here: