Sandy Clams

Liner Notes

February 2000

I originally started recording this CD to offer on board different cruise ships where I performed. In general, this variety of styles doesn't quite fit into a genre and, owing to it's unique nature, escapes the 'slick' feeling of a major label release.

I had been visiting Karaoke sites with some friends. They would always want me to get up and sing 'Mack the Knife'. I was attracted to the big band swing factor and developed a true fondness for 'Mack' after a few weeks. It took me 10 days to record the backing tracks. There are a lot of horn parts and it was quite difficult for me to phrase. It was finished just in time to leave for the Viking Serenade, a ship cruising out of San Pedro, CA. And I mean just in time. The Super Shuttle van was waiting for me and the gear was still pretty hot when I turned it over to the baggage handlers.

'Shame and Scandal' is a very old Caribbean tune. I've heard it done with a number of differing verses. Some have the child going off to a monastery unable to find a suitable wife. I most remember a Filipino quartet on one ship called the Rosario Strings. These were the guys that strolled through the dining rooms at dinner and played brief songs from table to table. They would often pass my lounge and ask for that tune. Then one day I was surprised during dinner when they performed for an adjacent table and played the very same arrangement! It sounds a bit different with a Filipino accent!

On one ship I was quite taken with the five- piece 'B' band. This 'B' band status means that they play in the 'B' showroom. In fact, they sometimes have to share the stage with a five-piece show band and alternate sets. This particular group was known as the Voytech Sindler Quintet. All were from Czechoslovakia and really talented players. Eventually I got up to sing with them, everything from 'Polka Dots and Moonbeams' and 'As Time Goes By' to ' I Left My Heart in San Francisco'. I liked the latter so well that I decided to put it on the CD. In fact, I want to credit Voytech with turning me onto this great arrangement!

What can you say about 'Yellowbird'? This song has been around for a really long while. Each time it's sung I can't help but think of the toucan. My friends insist that this a tune for 'old folks'. I say 'Hey, all my tunes are for old folks!' I even put in a few birdcalls.

Bob Marley is legendary around the world. I once played for a crowd that was truly distant. They were waiting for the casino to open and gave me no response whatsoever. They'd all been there done that and bought the T-shirt…the thrill was most definitely gone. Well, I had nothing to lose. I always play the newest tune I've learned at these times and on this day it happened to be 'Waiting in Vain'. Well, the entire room got up and flocked to the dance floor. I was shocked! I thought the song was so obscure, and there was NO way I could play any similar song to follow. Any tune getting that kind of response belongs on 'Sandy Clams'.

This is another very old, traditional, Caribbean standard. There are standards in every style of music and 'Sugar Bum Bum' may be all but forgotten. I was attracted to the bass line and to the funny lyrics. I've heard some groups perform it with a huge horn section. Too much production takes the innocent quality away and I rather like it simple. I don't always sing 'Audry', by the way. Any girls' name is likely to be substituted on a moment.

Eric Clapton is another living legend. I am often asked to play many different songs from him. I do 'Layla' on a regular basis. Almost without missing a beat people would ask for 'Wonderful Tonight', so I added it to the play list. I always liked the tune, but not the slow groove. One advantage of working in the Caribbean is that they redo everything in their own style… and accept it. That’s what I did. This song almost always fills the dance floor. I frequently will save it till the last song of the night, or even of the cruise. I created the slide guitar sound and it lives in the cyber confines of my studio. Hear the wolf whistle?

For the millenium voyage I wanted a really good party song to play at midnight. Everyone said to do '1999' from Prince but that was too generic and not really my style. I wanted it all to be familiar though uncommon. I decided to do 'La Cucharacha'. Everyone has heard it before but not regularly. When I finished the song it was too short. Then I thought I'd do a medley and decided to include 'The Mexican Hat Dance'. Those are both familiar and fairly uncommon tunes, but it was still too short. Lastly I decided to weave in 'The Can-Can', hence 'La Can Dance'. You can plainly hear all three melodies interwoven and folding back onto one another. It was fun and kind of reminds me of the 'Macarena'.

I have a healthy catalog of originals, none of which has never been published…till now. 'Walkin' Halls' is one. For some reason the groove reminds me of endless corridors. There is a melody line missing from the recording. There were so many cables, and one was working only intermittently. Still it was a lot of effort.

My first love of music is the guitar itself. I made a living seated upon a stool and singing along with my guitar many years before programming technology was invented. I still perform a great deal of acoustic music from Kenny Rankin and Al Jarreau among others, as well as many tunes from James Taylor including 'Carolina in my Mind'. I played my classical guitar here mainly because it was set up to do the next track. I don't often use this guitar because it's difficult to keep tuned. Still, it sounds good recorded. One artist performing live and unplugged is still the best.

This last song was one of the first and most difficult pieces I'd ever learned. I confess to being absolutely fascinated with counterpoint guitar and could not make a recording of myself without it. I once played 'The Bourees' for my guitar teacher and he afterwards said: 'It just goes to show that you can make a car with square wheels roll if you push it hard enough!'

So there you have it… so far. I'm working on the next recording and feel that I can improve a bit on the work I've done. One certain thing, this is a great place to begin!

Steve D

PS - The photo on the cover is from the NOAA web site… thanks guys! The photo on the CD itself was taken at a hotel called Las Ventanas de Paraiso in Cabo San Lucas , Baja California , Mexico . I performed there on New Years Eve a couple years back. The courtyard area is actually a very beautiful hummingbird aviary.

 

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