Break It Up, an excellent unheard album by Merchants of Soul

In 2004, I holed up in the basement of a window factory in New Jersey with my friend Jay Russell. Two years later, we had recorded Break It Up (playable below). We never released it, but his untimely death at 48 years old has sparked interest in it among his friends and family. I spent the last 3 weeks re-mixing the songs and set up a Bandcamp account with which to publish it.

I feel honored to have worked with Jay; he put an abundance of trust in me when I had way more ambition than understanding of how the heck to produce and engineer a proper album. He was extremely talented, funny, and a great pleasure to work with; these songs represent Replacements-style classic rock, with blues, punk, and R&B influences and an enormous guitar presence throughout.

Please have a listen and, if you are so compelled, share it and send a few bucks to his family.

Production and Engineering Notes

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Song: American Dream

The peculiarity and variety of peoples’ perspective on America interests me. This song represents one of a few different snapshots of my own impressions, originally penned in the 1990s. It plays with the idea of what one does with the responsibility of carrying a message about your nation. I delicately tweaked two lyrical lines to more closely resemble my current thoughts. I recorded this song several times until arriving back to the basics of folk rock instrumentation (including the two chords I know on the mandolin!). There is a Phil Lesh-inspired emphasis on bass guitar celebrating the awesome Ampeg rig I recently acquired.

Listen on SoundCloud:

Song: Quarter

Saying goodbye to something can be difficult, even if the thing you’re leaving is damaging you. This song was inspired by 7 months’ alcohol free. The instrumentation is particularly sparse, which left room for some detailed production work. It also features a melodica solo. This reedy instrument can impart melancholy better than no other in my own repertoire of musicianship.

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Song: Thought Cop 2084

Being the enforcer of speech codes can be lonely in my not-yet-fully-imagined futuristic Orwellian musical. In this song, I assume the role of a police officer charged with finding and eradicating non-state-sponsored materials littering the landscape of communication. Enthusiasm in the first half turns to gripes about the daily grind of destroying samizdat. Thanks to my daughter for lending her voice talent by uttering on of her favorite phrases, “Shut up!”

Listen on SoundCloud