- June 2013 (1)
- May 2013 (5)
- April 2013 (1)
- March 2013 (1)
- February 2013 (6)
- January 2013 (3)
- December 2012 (4)
- November 2012 (6)
- October 2012 (2)
- September 2012 (3)
- August 2012 (4)
- July 2012 (3)
- May 2012 (2)
- April 2012 (2)
- March 2012 (5)
- February 2012 (4)
- January 2012 (9)
- December 2011 (6)
- November 2011 (4)
- October 2011 (4)
- September 2011 (1)
- August 2011 (5)
- July 2011 (1)
- June 2011 (7)
- May 2011 (7)
- April 2011 (9)
- March 2011 (7)
- February 2011 (9)
- January 2011 (2)
- December 2010 (3)
- November 2010 (2)
Just because you miss a few notes every time you sing doesn’t mean you can’t be a singer and a very successful singer to boot. If you listen to the judges on American Idol praising some of the contestants they believe can become big stars, you might hear them say, “You were a little pitchy in a couple of spots. But that’s OK, because I believed your performance.” What they’re really saying is, “You look like a star, and you move like a star and don’t worry about your notes, because we can fix that in the studio. We’ve got machines that can tune you up.”
Years ago, back in 1989, I had gospel singer Andrae Crouch demonstrate for me the magical pitch correcting power of synthesizers. He was also showing how the synthesizers can provide the voices of singers who aren’t at the concert and hit the notes for stars who may be to breathless from dancing to sing their full songs. This was just after Andrae and his choir had provided the background vocals for Madonna’s hit record, “Like A Prayer.”
To put the synthesizer to the full test I had Andrae record me saying four words, that’s right speaking not singing the words. Now this was pushing the machines to the limit but he made a song out of it, even if it wasn’t very musical on my part. This was before auto tuning came along to regularly turn people’s speeches into songs. I thought this story had been lost to history and the tapes erased, but I found it last night. And now with almost all records going through pitch correction before they are released it seemed timely to show how for many singers today, being close to on key is good enough. Music and horseshoes, points for being close, who would have thought.
I shoot a lot of video and have for years. I was even shooting video before there was video. When I began filming, it was actually on film. A lot of the filming I’ve done is for work, but most of the time when I pick up a camera, it’s for myself. From the time I was a young kid I’ve been making home movies or documenting scenes from life as it happens around me. Technically what I do can’t be called making home movies, because the word movie implies a finished product that people can watch with a story line that tells them what it is they are watching. Most of what I’ve shot sits unedited on reels or on video tapes in boxes and on shelves waiting for the day when I finally edit the raw material and turn it into a movie. My family jokes whenever I break out a camera, that by the time they see any of the pictures they will be so much older they won’t even recognize themselves.
I bring this up because I’m forced to sit at home for a couple of weeks while I recover from rotator cuff surgery. With my right arm in a sling, I can’t pick up a camera and shoot anything new, but I can sit at the computer and do some one handed editing, so no more excuses, it’s time to edit some of those old tapes. I began with something I shot last spring in L.A. One night a group of friends and I were hanging out at the home of gospel singer and songwriter, Andrae Crouch, just like we did twenty years ago. And like twenty years ago, Andrae was at the piano playing and singing, making up new songs when we would challenge him with a title to see if he could create lyrics and a melody on the spot. I previously posted one of those songs on my web page and on my you tube channel. It was a funny little tune Andrae made up about me and how he wanted me to loan him some money.
But Andrae was also singing some of the gospel songs he’s written. On this evening he played one of his more recent hymns or choruses called, “Let the Church Say Amen.” The lyrics are simple and the melody has the kind of easy catchy hook that makes it instantly familiar like you’ve heard it all your life, a key element of successful songwriting. As Andrae is singing some of the ladies in the room soon join in creating a spontaneous gospel performance.
As I often do, I had my cameras with me and recorded the moment. And now I’ve taken advantage of my recovery time to edit the video. I put it together for my own enjoyment and for the other people who were at Andrae’s house that night, but after listening to the song, I’ve decided there may be some fans of gospel music or Andrae Crouch who would enjoy this home movie as well.
Andrae Crouch is one of the greatest songwriters of the past fifty years. The music seems to just flow from his body. When he walks you expect to see a trail of dancing notes leaving a wake as he passes. Every day he sits at the piano creating new melodies, most of which are never written down, lost to a moment in time. For anyone else this would probably produce a panicked response, “Oh what was that song I was playing yesterday, I can’t remember it and it was so good, I’ll never have anything that good again.” And then we would spend the next several months in writer’s block trying to reproduce what we had done before, but never capturing it and also not able to move on to anything new.
With Andrae, the music flows like water from one of those faucets with the motion sensor. He just goes to the sink, or piano, waves his hands over the keys and the melodies come pouring out. Obviously his songs are not all instant classics, although some are, but others he works on and plays day after day making changes in the chords, melody and adding lyrics. What’s so amazing though is even his throw-away songs start from a higher place than where many songwriters finish.
Recently I was with a group of friends who used to hang out with Andrae when we all got together for an impromptu reunion at his house. Just like the old days Andrae sat at the piano and started played. Bill Maxwell, his former producer and drummer, decided to challenge Andrae. He said, “Andrae, write a new song on the spot like you used to do and make it a song about seeing Boyd again.” Boyd is of course me, Boyd Matson and not really much of a subject of inspiration for a song.
Andrae though about it for maybe five second and then started playing a new tune. He worked out a melody, seemingly without thinking, and then started with the lyrics, which were not the usual rhyming suspects. The man has still got it. His voice isn’t the powerful instrument it once was, but he is still a creative songwriting genius.
This video is that instant song, Andrae’s “Song 4 Boyd” as it was created in real time.
Boy was I surprised today. I found an unlabeled video tape and stuck it in the player to see what was on it. It turned out to be a dub of some old 16mm film shot in the 70′s while I was working for the NBC TV station in Ft. Worth, Texas. In addition to all the pictures of me decked out in bellbottoms and flowered shirts, there was some rare footage I shot of Andrae Crouch and the Disciples in 1971.
I filmed their sound check before a concert at a local church for a story about the group on the evening news. The song was, “Satisfied.” I’m sure I had them sing it two or three times to get all the angles I needed, but I don’t know where all that film is or what happened to the cut story. I was thrilled and very surprised to find this one uncut take of, “Satisfied”. I was sure it no longer existed.
Forty years sitting in a box has taken its toll on the sound, which isn’t quite up to the correct speed at the beginning. Also I only had one mic on the camera to record the audio so the mix is not the best, but footage of Andrae and the Disciples singing in the early 70′s is so rare I think this is worth posting.
Fans of the group will notice this was done before Andrae added the band featuring Bill Maxwell, Hadley Hockensmith, Harlan Rogers, and Fletch Wilcy, and unfortunately this angle doesn’t show Bili Thetford although you can hear him singing and playing bass.
It’s an oldie but goodie and a fun trip down memory lane.
I think this is a first, Andrae Crouch playing the blues. Recently when Andrae and the original Disciples got together for an informal reunion, I was there with cameras to capture this reuniting of one of the most influential groups in contemporary gosel music. Two of the band members from the heyday of the disciples were also there, Bill Maxwell on drums and Hadley Hockensmith on guitar. I first heard Bill & Hadley when we were all still teenagers. I was in college in Oklahoma City, and considered going to hear the guys in “The Third Avenue Blues Band,” an essential component of my course work.
As a favor to me, they agreed to do a couple of impromptu blues numbers after we finished recording the Disciples songs. Great bass player and friend Abraham Laboriel was there to add his magic to the mix. Bili Thetford did the singing and Andrae, as best as we can remember, played keyboards on a blues jam for the first time ever. Without a rehearsal here are the guys doing their version of, “Going to Chicago”
Apparently it’s Andrae Crouch week on my web page. I just can’t help myself, every night this week I’ve been editing video I shot with Andrae last month. Hearing the group together again for the first time in more than 35 years was filled with so many great moments that I just keep wanting to hear more. Which means I just keep putting together more videos and then posting them for everyone to hear.
Not only did original Disciples members Sandra Crouch, Perry Morgan, and Bili Thedford show up for the afternoon jam session, but two members of Andrae’s old backup band were also present, Bill Maxwell on drums and Hadley Hockensmith on guitar. And as an added bonus the legendary bass play Abraham Laboriel dropped by to play on a couple of numbers. This video of, “I Don’t Know Why” near the end of the song has a couple of awesome solos from Hadley and Abe. Another reminder of why Andrae & the Disciples were so far ahead of everyone else in Gospel music at the time.
Also on this video Andrae had Sue, one of the singers from his church, join in on the vocals. Enjoy.
Gospel music legend Andrae Crouch is such a gifted songwriter that music seems to effortlessly flow from his fingers whenever he sits down at a keyboard. Last month I spend a couple of days with Andrae, my friend of more than forty years, and in the short time we were together I think he wrote the better part of five new songs. And I mean good tunes, memorable, infectious melodies. After one song that he recognized as having potential to be developed into something special, he quickly started playing another new tune with the words, “Don’t lose it or I can’t use it.” It was a musical reminder for me to hold on to the tapes or his new composition would just drift off into the ether to be lost forever, since the next day his mind would already be filled with other notes and other music.
But after he played me some of the new material he’s working on, I asked Andrae if he remembered the first song he ever wrote. He did and no wonder, it was a good one. He was 14 years old at the time. This video is of him singing that first song and telling me the story of how he came to write it.