Sunday, January 9, 2022

Carmen Gomes Inc. - Ray! (January 2022)

"We started working on Ray! in the unencumbered period before the adversity of Covid 19 came upon us. In the darkest period of lockdowns, we left it alone, and recorded 'Up Jumped the Devil' which somehow was more in sync with the life we were living in that period. When the restrictions were lifted, it felt just like Ray’s song ‘the Sun is Gonna Shine Again’; everything seemed possible. We recorded the last part of the album this summer. And a long and beautiful summer it was, a summer which made one feel grateful for all that seemed so self-evident before. Mixing and mastering was finished just before the sky clouded over and another wave came upon us.

But I still have faith. Together we are strong and we have music to get us through this. Because "Music is about the only thing left that people don't fight over" as Ray Charles used to say. To me this album represents a ray of light in the midst of the darkness and I hope it can be that for you as well." Carmen Gomes

"We quickly realized that we did not want to make a tribute album. Rather we would pay our respects to Ray by following the advice Ray gave to Willie Nelson at a recording session; “Don’t think about how anybody else does it, just do it the way that YOU feel it”. So we took the songs back to their bare essentials, tried to hear them as if they had just been written and in so doing making them our own. It is of course impossible to completely reject the sound of the originals, here and there a small citation did creep in. Listen to the last bar of ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ and you’ll hear what I mean. Carmen Gomes Inc. is a band: 4 musicians all having their say in how a song is being shaped in the moment it is being played. The key to this approach is trusting each other, keeping up a musical dialogue while respecting the framework of the song. Let me offer three songs from the album as an example on how we went to work on Ray’s music.

The Sun is Gonna Shine Again. The song is kept to an absolute minimum with only the double bass commentating on the lyrics with small melodic motifs. The lyrics are so typical of Ray Charles’ eternal optimism and at the same time they sum up the hope we all have in these troubled times that the sun is gonna shine again. The song was actually the working title for the album but our highly regarded head of marketing over at DSD Native; Floor Van Der Holst, suggested that Ray! would be more to the point and fit Milan Bjørnild’s beautiful cover photo perfectly.

Next up is CC Rider. Here Tettero’s guitar is the 2nd protagonist in this story of a love affair taking a wrong turn. The guitar is of equal importance to Gomes’ voice, it’s the CC Rider Carmen is singing about. Listen how they keep on challenging each other yet never get in each other's way. That kind of communication and musical empathy is a rare find in music. It is a chemistry that only years of playing together can achieve.
In Drown In My Own Tears, the guitar and bass take a step back, creating space in order to let drummer Bert Kamsteeg take on the role of 2nd main character in the small tragic play this song is. Here Kamsteeg treats his drums more like a bunch of percussion instruments than a drum kit in order to emphasize the intense sadness of the lyrics." Peter Bjørnild

The 2 most important engineers in Ray Charles' oeuvre were Tom Dowd and his protégé Al Schmitt. The story goes that before Ray Charles, Tom Dowd and Al Schmitt started working together, tape recording levels were kept safely way below the limit. But Charles, Dowd and Schmitt realized that by carefully getting close to the limit, a beautiful light colorization of the upper harmonics took place. In tribute to the 2 engineers I decided to use an analog signal chain to master the DXD recording to a Studer A80 reel to reel tape recorder in order to get that little bit of "tape saturation" that Ray Charles liked so much, keeping in mind Tom’s and Al’s love for minimalistic equalization and very little compression. The various reverb techniques used on the album were inspired by Al Schmitt's work. I have added a bit of depth to the beautiful natural ambience captured in the hall by carefully chaining reverb units at minimal settings. This technique helped the sound of the album become more coherent despite the different recording techniques applied, following the rules of the Arch Manifesto".

1. Worried Mind Prologue 00:57
2. The Sun Is Gonna Shine Again 03:01
3. CC Rider 05:09
4. Let The Good Times Roll 03:30
5. Drown In My Own Tears 04:14
6. Georgia On My Mind 06:06
7. Willow Weep For Me 03:31
8. Don't You Know Baby 03:14
9. Them That Got 03:29
10. But On The Other Hand Babe 04:28
11. Let's Go Get Stoned 03:50
12. Makin Whoopee 03:34
13. Worried Mind Epilogue 01:14

Carmen Gomes - vocal
Folker Tettero - guitar
Peter Bjørnild - double-bass / electric bass
Bert Kamsteeg - drums

Recording, mixing and mastering by Frans de Rond.
Produced by Peter Bjørnild.
Music arranged by Peter Bjørnild with lots of help from Carmen, Folker and Bert.
Recorded at MCO, Studio 2, Hilversum, The Netherlands, on the 12th of May and the 24th of August 2019.
Original recording format DXD 352,8 kHz
The original recording is analog mixed and mastered to tape using a Studer A80.
All other formats are converted versions of the original.