A general introduction to "Archives of Ages to Come" (2005)
This CD has been about two years in the creation, and is really our second full-length studio CD ("Bending Tradition" being our first, in 2000). Our intent was to focus on original songs, pulling in mythic themes and a variety of moods. We find that each song has its own life and its own speed of development, no matter what we may WANT to happen "Dagger of the Moon" has been evolving since before 1998, and "Three More Drops" since 2001, while "For Blodeuwedd" came together in less than a week, and "We Come From Monkeys" in about three months.
We feel that Emerald Rose is changing its style from a Celtic folk style into more of an "art rock" sound with Celtic roots. Listeners may find this compilation to be a bit more in line with groups like Great Big Sea, and you may hear some classic rock influences from Jethro Tull to ZZ Top here and there. We've had several instrumentation changes in the last couple of years as well: Logan has introduced the mandola in more tracks and experimented on guitar with "Nashville" and other tunings, Larry has been developing on low whistle and Uilleann pipes, and we're using more percussion based around the Roland HandSonic, often with a more of a "drumkit" rock feel.
In 2004, when we had the good fortune to play for the "Return of the King" Oscars party in Hollywood, we felt it was important to have a new promotional CD for that event. We made a mad scramble to put together what new songs we had developed, along with some "classics" from previous albums, and the result was "Songs for the Night Sky" (2004). The response from fans was tremendous, and helped to reassure us that we were on the right track. This was intended from the start to be a limited release, and we always knew these songs (Urania Sings, Come To The Dance, Gwydion's Song, and Take Me Down) would appear on a full-length CD. The versions here have been remixed, enhanced, and professionally mastered.
Finally, we've included three songs drawn from Celtic tradition: Andy M. Stewart's "Queen of Argyll" (one of our favorites from the Silly Wizard days), "Irish Heartbeat" from Van Morrison and the Chieftains, and an adaptation of an old folk song "Wheel of Fortune" with some Tarot-inspired lyrics from Arthur.
The development of a CD is a roller-coaster ride, with moments of sheer delight, periods of screaming frustration, and long hours of grueling, carpal-tunnel-destructive work. We hope the end result is worth it! We'd love to hear what you think. Please join our forum at www.emeraldrose.com/forum and leave some comments!
-EMERALD ROSE, August 2005
Come To The Dance
This song was written in early 2004, and appeared on our promotional release "Songs for the Night Sky." Arthur's lyrics on this song invoke a coming together for a bonfire celebration, possibly around the visit of a "gypsy wagon" to a village. There's a gypsy feel to this track, with mandola and drum/tamborine setting a foundation and the whistle riding on top. We wanted a song which began slowly and gradually accelerated into a frenzy. The music from this track was selected by the producers of the 2005 movie "Ringers: Lord of the Fans" as a part of the soundtrack which was selected by Sony for international distribution.
Before The Twilight Falls (For Blodeuwedd)
This is one of our newer songs (2005). Arthur brought this in as a poem inspired by the figure of Blodeuwedd from Welsh mythology (The Mabinogion). Logan provided much of the tune structure using mandola, and Larry and Clyde developed whistle and bass tracks around that, along with the harmonies. There is a bittersweet, sad yet hopeful tone to this song. The story goes: Lleu Llaw Gyffes, the great hero (often associated with the sun) is cursed to marry no human woman. So a woman (Blodeuwedd, "Flower Face") is created from the grasses and flowers of the fields to be his bride. But after many happy years, she chooses to betray him for another, and plots with her new love to kill Lleu. Lleu knows in some manner his doom approaches this very evening, and that Blodeuwedd will be its instrument but in this song, he chooses to love fully in the moment they are given.
Take Me Down (To Her Water)
Arthur claims to be a quadruple Pisces, and that might account for his fascination with water and its healing power. This song (2004) celebrates water in its many forms and its connection with life and spirit. There's a breezy, ocean feel to the song, maybe just a little reminiscent of Jimmy Buffett.
Four Doors to Elfland
Jamming in the studio one night, we came up with a spooky little E-minor guitar and whistle jazz duet which eventually became the first of these jigs. Larry had been playing the "Happy Jigs" (Harvest Home and Going to the Well for a Drink of Water) for some time, but we agreed they were just a little too similar to work well back-to-back. Logan created a Fonnmor-inspired drone guitar riff, and Larry came up with a melody for the third jig, and we developed the whole thing into a strange conglomeration which we originally called "the Bad Pizza set." After some discussion, we figured "Four Doors to Elfland" might be a better long-term name.
Queen of Argyll
Although we like many tunes from Andy M. Stewart (best known from his days with the Scottish group Silly Wizard), this is probably the collective favorite. We have a somewhat more "rocked-up" version than the original, and the harmonies are our own; but this stays pretty true to the song as written.
Three More Drops
This song is a quirky retelling of the legend of the great bard Taliesin from Welsh mythology. Larry brought this in about three years ago as a basic simple folk tune (somewhat like an old spiritual), and we've played around with tweaking the arrangement numerous times. Though few of the lyrics have changed, we ended up moving around the choruses until the verses were grouped into threes, and varying the tune between verses. The most recent additions were the "world beat" drums interlinked with the trap kit, and the "gimme three drops" vocal break towards the end. With these additions, we all felt the song had finally come together into an interesting, funky blend that marries the ancient myth with a modern sound.
Autumn in Asheville
In October of 2004, the band was invited to play for a week at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. Playing three sets per day on an outdoor stage to light mid-week crowds gave us a great opportunity to work out songs in the evenings (we were staying the week at a lovely rental cabin nearby). The majority of this instrumental came out of that time, so naturally we called it "Autumn in Asheville." The bridge was a progression that Arthur had "in the pocket" for years, and we decided it was a good fit. The overall feel reminds us of an old Allman Brothers tune.
Gwydion's Song to Lleu
In some ways, this song is a sequel to "Twilight Falls." Continuing the story of Lleu Llaw Gyffes - he is betrayed and struck by a magical spear. Rather than dying, he transforms into an eagle and flies away, mortally wounded. His foster father Gwydion ap Don hears the cry, knows it as his son, and sets out to find him. His quest leads him into the land of Shadow, where he follows a great sow to the base of the great Oak tree. At the top of the tree he sees the eagle with the spear in its side. Each time the wind blows, bits of the eagle's flesh fall to the ground to be devoured by the sow. Gwydion sings this song of bardic verse to regain his son. The first verse lures the eagle to the middle branch of the tree, the second to the lowest branch, and with the final verse the eagle falls into Gwydion's arms. Gwydion speaks a single word and the eagle is transformed again into Lleu Llaw Gyffes.
The verses are sung once in the original Welsh, then again in an English translation.
The Uilleann pipes (Irish pipes) on the track are some early experiments by Larry; over time we expect to include some more tracks using this instrument.
Wheel of Fortune
One of Arthur's songs, this was derived from an old traditional ballad; the lyrics have been altered and added to, putting more of a Tarot slant on the song.
This song is about the archetype of the seasonal "Jacks" in British mythology: Jack Frost, Jack Green, Jack Corn, and Jack O'Lantern. Beyond being a "wheel of the year" song, it speaks to our connection (especially as men) to these archetypes, and how we can draw courage and sustenance from them. This song was our first real attempt to bring more of a "rock drums" sound into our stage show, so it represents a real departure from our earlier material.
Among the strong influences for our band are the great "Celtic fusion" albums, where the Irish and Scottish traditional music overflows its banks and blends with other styles. Van Morrison and the Chieftains paired up in 1988 to produce "Irish Heartbeat" with this as the title track. This is truly a song of the heart, both the heart of the Irish experience and the heart of the blues. We hope our interpretation adds something special while staying true to the "roots."
Dagger of the Moon
This is one of Arthur's that has been around for quite a while. An early version of this tune appeared on our 1998 demo CD, "Emerald Rose." This new version blends whistle and electric guitar against an acoustic backdrop and Arthur's spooky, mystical vocals. An interesting note: shortly after we joined MP3.com back around 2000, we added this song to the "Goth" category, rather as a lark. Much to our surprise, it hit the "top 10" almost immediately! We hadn't actually thought of ourselves as a "Goth band" but it pays to keep an open mind
Of all the songs we've ever tackled, this one probably represents the greatest total effort in hours spent. A lot of that was tied up in producing our band's first video, filmed and edited by our friend Wade Berlin here at Starbridge. The current track is somewhat enhanced from the version that appeared on "Songs for the Night Sky." The lyrics speak of a man obsessed with the Muse of astronomy and the night sky, whom the Greeks called Urania. The song tends to resonate well with amateur astronomers, who often understand this calling to be wide awake at 2AM looking deep into the sky!
No, this song was not written about Larry's impending demise! This is another of Arthur's compositions, and he imagined an old traveling ceilidh musician looking back as he neared the end of his days, and looking forward to joining his love in the afterlife. Naturally, it needed a whistle part, which Larry worked out over a couple of weeks. This one has been performed a fair amount on stage since 2001, but hasn't made it onto a CD until now.
Dance of the Rats
This quirky little humor piece (a warning against leaving your kitchen too messy?) was written by Arthur on the back of an America West barf bag with some lyrical ideas added by Larry . Once we began working on the music, we found it sounding a bit like early Jethro Tull, so we went with that. The "rats countoff" at the start came from Arthur's insistence that his count was "part of the song" (probably because he'd listened to it eight hundred times during editing) and Larry's compromise suggestion that if it was left in, it had to sound like rats.
We Come From Monkeys
Finally we get to this one. Logan's had the idea of writing this song for over fifteen years, but it never quite manifested. Larry & Logan collaborated on getting this one finished, with a lot of lines brainstormed and researched (thanks to Discover, National Geographic, and the venerable Jared Diamond for information) before being assembled into verses and bridge. [For you science purists, yes, we considered the title "We Come From Genetic Precursors To Monkeys" but it was rejected on artistic grounds.] The tune started out very David Byrne and evolved more towards a rock sound as we went along, with more of an art-rock bridge. It's much more straight-ahead rock and roll than our typical songs.
We find ourselves "defenders of evolution" more by accident than original intent. We never expected the subject to become this controversial again, after the resolution of the Scopes monkey trials. It turns out some people have a strong capacity to ignore solid evidence, established theory, and reason in favor of a perspective that makes them feel better. We, on the other hand, are scratching our vestigial head-hair in puzzlement, for what could be better than a theory that states that we are evolving on an upward spiral towards greater intelligence and connection to the Cosmic All? Perhaps we prefer to be considered Rising Monkeys rather than Fallen Angels. Anyway, whatever your own beliefs and opinions on the subject, we hope you enjoy our homage to the mighty monkey.
Sometimes we find that people, usually musicians, sound engineers and other odd types, are interested in the instruments we play and the gear we use in recording our music. We have a small home studio where we recorded and mixed all the tracks. We use a PC computer running Nuendo software. We have an Echo Layla model digital converter and a RNC dual channel compressor. We use a Carvin Studio Mate twelve channel mixer.
We only used three different microphones to record the vocals and instruments. We use a MXL V93M large diagphram mic for all of our vocals and to capture certain acoustic guitar, mandola and pennywhistle sounds. We use an Oktava condensor mic and a Shure 57 for capturing electric guitars and amplified acoustic guitars. All amplified guitars were miked through a Line 6 Flextone digital modeling amp, circa 2001.
Bass tracks were recorded through a Sans Bass preamp, and Clyde played a custom Carvin B4 Swamp Ash bass guitar. Acoustic guitars and the mandola were recorded by a combination of a large diagphram microphone signal blended with a signal from the guitar's pickup, boosted and equalized with an LR Baggs Paracoustic DI box (which we LOVE and use on stage as well). Arthur used his trusty Takamine EG 140SBC acoustic-electric for recording his guitar parts. Logan used a whole buffet of guitars for this project. He used a 1999 Gibson EC-10 Emerald Forest model acoustic-electric as his main studio guitar, with additions being added using an Ovation Celebrity. Mandola tracks were recorded with a Trinity College model, tuned to DGDA to give it a ringing drone sound. Electric guitars were recorded using a Burns Brian May model electric, run through a Line 6 Flextone and slight compression.
Drums tracks were created using a Roland HandSonic and any handy conga, doumbek or percussion device we could lay our hands on. Clyde plays a variety of wooden spoons while Arthur plays a tunable bodhran made by Michael Vignoles. Larry's pipes were made by Vignoles and Duve'. Larry uses mostly Susato and Generation pennywhistles on this cd.