Title: Wooden Music Impact: Crosby, Stills, Nash &Young
The title is the term I believe they used when describing their music to the huge crowd at Woodstock. I never got to hear these guys live, but I was a big fan. "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" was one of my favorites, so naturally, that's one of the major influences in this track, along with "Helplessly Hopeless". I loved the way their voices meshed, the positive beauty of their choruses. In order to simulate that approach, I layered guitars in the same way as maybe Brian May would, another big influence. A little of the sound in the chorus is actually vocals with no lyrics, since I couldn't get that celebratory feeling any other way. I remember listening to Crosby, Stills, and Nash with my friend and agreeing that they must be geniuses. That's quite a mark to make on a teenager, who mostly listened to guitar players.
Title: Where are you? Impact: The Who
I was lucky enough to see The Who play at the time that my favorite song was "Can't Explain" by them. In fact, our garage band had done an afternoon gig at the same club where I got to see them that same year. Then, when "Tommy" came out, I saw them play the whole thing live. I liked the free drumming, the regal guitar rhythm riffs of Pete Townshend, the aggressive bass parts, vocals, well, everything. Later, when Pete started using synths, I thought it was pretty cool, which is why this track starts and ends with his signature modulating filter sound.
Title: Errol Smith Impact: Aerosmith
Over the years, this group made a huge following. For me, it was hearing "Walk this Way" way back when, as well as "Sweet Emotion". I ended having a family connection with their promotion organization and saw them live several times, and they really sounded great. Joe's solo in "Walk this Way" had an extra appeal to me, since I already loved lyrical soloing. In this track you can easily spot the feel of "Walk...", "Love in an Elevator", and at the end, "Sweet Emotion".
Title: Cool Wind, Green Hills Impact: Celtic Ballad
I had heard her sing "Sail Away" on the radio. But it wasn't till my friends Tony and Jan played me her " Watermark" CD that I got blown away. Enya had the most powerful ballad presentation I had ever heard: a mixture of pure beauty of voice, warm reverb, and perfectly mixed, rich synthesizer accompaniment. I had always loved the Celtic phrasing in her previous group, Clannad, and other Irish groups such as the Bothy Band and, of course, the Chieftains. In the second part of this tune, the percussion starts in with a stately march that builds, little by little, to a full sound. This approach of layering one small change each time around a repetitive melody is something that I loved about Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" and is another major influence.
Title: Organically Grown Impact: ELP
I saw these guys play live a lot. On our Deep Purple tour of part of the USA, we got to hear them every night. "Tarkus" is an obvious influence in this track, with the 5/4 time signatures and the busy left hand organ intro. Keith Emerson freaked everybody out when he did stuff like that live, playing melodies and solos with the other hand, while keeping such an angular left hand going. Obviously, they didn't double parts like the Moog synthesizer lines with guitar, but what the heck, I'm a guitar player. Actually, it's pretty hard to make a guitar sound like Keith Emerson, which is why I used the B3 samples to help the mood along.
Title: 12 strings on Carnaby St. Impact: The Yardbirds, Brit Pop
Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page both were veterans of the Yardbirds, so this was a natural influence for me. The Yardbirds did some slightly off the wall stuff, notably the middle section of "Little Games" which freaked me out when I heard it. It sounded like a cello playing with a distorted guitar. When the solo took off over that middle riff, it hit me hard. So, there's a line in this track played on a more distorted guitar that is like that solo part, by the way. The track that I've done also has the electric 12 string playing the sort of role that I always loved about some of the Brit Pop bands such as the Hollies. The 12 string plays some simple melody lines to contrast the more midrangy electric stuff. The chorus is very pop, and maybe with the string bends might have a little country influence to some, but it reminds me in some way of the upbeat Brit pop sound. The end fades out with flanging, like the really cool middle of "Itchycoo Park".
Title: Zig Zags Impact: ZZ Topp
In the early Dixie Dregs, our road manager, Twiggs, loved to play the blues. Unfortunately, at that time, we were doing mostly intense, weird stuff only, so he was always trying to get us to play a little blues. This track is one that I think Twiggs would have loved since I am going for that relaxed Billy Gibbons feel which everyone loves. His guitar always sounds super thick and has the type of tone that I imagine would only be gotten by playing with fingers instead of a pick. Even though I saw them play, even opened a few shows for them, I honestly never got close enough to really see what he was doing. So, I played it mostly with fingers, especially the slide guitar stuff.
Title: Abracadab Impact: Genesis
This title is a play on their own title, "ABACAB", which simply described the form of the song on someone's written chart in the group, I imagine. I saw them play in the Peter Gabriel days and enjoyed it, of course. But the song ABACAB really made me a fan of their music. The stark and quirky keyboard parts, the unusual guitar parts, and the insistent rhythm were some of things that I tried to put in this tune. The angular line that they played in the middle becomes the turning point of this track, leading to some more lyrical overdubs.
Title: Tri County Barn Dance Impact: Country/Bluegrass
I loved the melodies and the energy of Bluegrass. This track combines Bluegrass feel along with some of the simple Country and Western approach, which is why the beginning sounds like it could be the music behind a Western film or square dance. Dave's solo is amazing, as always, and during it, Van is actually playing his own stomach with hand slaps to get that percussion. This is just supposed to be a happy song that is fun to listen to, the way I remember this kind of music.
Title: Air on a 6 String Impact: Bach
This is a partita, or solo invention in the style that I thought Bach might have done for electric guitar with a plectrum. The first time that I realized I had to learn to read music was when I came across a book of Bach's violin partitas, or solo pieces that he wrote. I was young, but not so young that I couldn't tell that he came up with beauty that would come across any instrument that played his notes. When I learned the notes very slowly, they often made no sense until I was able to speed up the phrases and hear the way he would add tension and chordal movement with a single note at a time being played. So, this one is my own partita, or practice composition in his style. The sections where there is a slow sort of counterpoint, and everywhere else, actually is only one note played at a time, such as he might have to write for a solo instrument. He often wrote with a steady, repeating bass note while the implied chords changed above that.
Title: Motor City Spirit Impact: Spirit, Purple, Nugent
One of the strangest stories the guys in Purple told me was a very brief moment when Randy California from Spirit played guitar for them due to odd circumstances. I saw Spirit play live at a very large festival in Atlanta around the Woodstock days. I loved their albums and especially the way Randy would harmonize his guitar lines and his rich, smooth, distorted sound. So, that's the first part you hear in this track, followed by a fast picking melody that could only be influenced by Ritchie Blackmore's solo from "Highway Star". After that goes around a few times, there comes some quotes from Ted Nugent, the first being from a solo that he played with the Amboy Dukes. Later in the solo, some short, very easy to digest phrases are heard. This was a big influence for me, very similar to his solo in "Migration" where he was the first one that I had heard of do those 2 bar phrases that were so easy to listen to. For a guy like me starting to play guitar near Detroit, the influence of Ted Nugent, ("The Motor City Madman") was undeniable.
Title: Ghost of the Bayou Impact: Cajun
I never met the man. He was my Grandfather and he played the fiddle, but died at an early age by today's standards. When I was a child, my Mom heard Doug Kershaw playing some Cajun tune on TV and remarked that her Dad used to play music like that. So, by genetic transfer, or suggestion to a young boy, this came to appeal to me. I still have his fiddle, which I used on this track to saw away some of the rhythm chords, too. I love the way that Cajun music feels so good and makes you smile just hearing it.
Title: Leonard's Best Impact: Lynyrd Skynyrd
Dave and Dale Rossington helped changed my direction in the music business. At the time I was slipping away from doing music as my day job, Gary called and invited me to record a couple live tracks with his band and Lynyrd Skynyrd the same night. It felt great, and I ended up traveling to several shows to jam with them and enjoy their music. During one show I went out front and saw the vintage live video of "Free Bird" with the original band, and loved the energy that they had at the end of that tune, as well as the nice mix of guitar sounds all playing at once. So, this tune has a bit of the end of "Free Bird" and "Sweet Home Alabama", another of my favorites. I tried to get the guitar sounds to change the way they did when they handed off the solos to one another.
released February 24, 2004
Steve Morse: guitars, keyboard, various extraneous instruments
Dave LaRue: All bass guitars.
Van Romain: All drums and percussion.