As my birthday was approaching recently, thoughts about how I would like to celebrate the day settled on taking pictures of our dogs and recording “I Can See Clearly” My thinking was clear, you can never have enough good pictures of your dogs, and it was time to record this song.
You can hear/download the track on my SoundCloud account “Tom Yeiser”. Here is a link: Sound Cloud, Tom Yeiser, I Can See Clearly Now.
About the song
Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” is and has been a favorite song. It helped introduce Reggae to the U.S. in 1972 and is one of those iconic vocals that is hard to forget. The chord changes in the bridge were pretty cool and the use of accordion and hand percussion (bongos I’m guessing) introduced my ears to world music after a steady diet of two guitars a bass and drums.
Rambling production notes
With the number of years piling up I wanted to take inventory of where my skills are today. Even though I’ve played the song for years I spent the time to learn the bass part and drum part the way I used to learn songs when I was playing in cover bands in the 70’s and 80’s. I’m probably quite a bit better now than I was back then, so that is something to be thankful for. I love how this bass line locked with the kick drum. It is hard for a song to groove without the groove.
I realize that picking a song to cover that Johnny Nash sang is probably a bad idea. I am happy to report that auto-tunish pitch correction type of software played no part in this recording and digital intervention was kept to a minimum. It is a pretty old fashioned recording in many respects. All in all I like the vocal, despite age taking it’s toll it’s real and it’s where I’m at.
I played my friend Greg Mongolds’ Mossman guitar which was built in 1972. I hadn’t realized until a moment ago that the guitar was built the year this song was on the radio. I guess I can feel like there has been some synchronicity at work here. I think the guitar and the solo sit in the track pretty well, even though the Mossman’s voice would have have liked a new set of strings. Pop song scholars will note that I added the solo and repeated the bridge.
I’m not sure if it is a quirk or a foible, but I’m not fond of pop song fade outs like Johnny Nash’s version has so I worked out a clean end. It didn’t take long to see clearly how that messed up the song. So I let this track fade out too.
The synthesizer horn part in the bridge was the thing that was shocking to my ears back in 72. It reminds me of the first synthesizer I got to play with. It was an Arp Odyssey that Conrad and Sons Music loaned to New Albany High School in 1975 for our production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”. I played bass guitar in the production. We were the second High School in the U.S. put the show on, and I’m pretty sure the high school received some grant money from the National Endowment for the Arts. My sincere thanks to that generation of parents who paid taxes and enriched the lives of kids at my High School. Also my thanks to a music department that could put on something that was kind of a reach. Incorporating a rock and roll ensemble into the pit band and doing the Andrew Loyd Weber play about Jesus were both kind of controversial at the time. Well done.
I’ll will eventually get back on the topic, but I was amazed when my High School Year book came out and even though there were lots of pictures of the show, there was not one photo of the band included. The B3, the Arp, the Steinway, the Bassman amp, the telecatser. the showman amp, the strings and horns, and a dozen or highschool musicians who really stepped up were left out.
Returning to “I Can See Clearly Now” the synthesizer part now seems a bit too prominent. While it was far out at the time it sounds a bit dated and the incredible vocals are kind of too far back in the mix in my opinion.
Bringing this to a close
I hope Beth and I will get around to doing another photo shoot of our dogs, because I know I will treasure those as long as I live. What I learned spending time with this song, the process of recording, and producing something I like to hear was a good way to mark a birthday.
Finally I saw some press about Johnny Nash last year, he was alive (I hope he still is) and doing some studio work. This song was kind of a departure from his earlier work, which I don’t know very well, if at all. But this song was interesting to me. Let’s see Nixon won re-election in 72, Vietnam and Watergate were dominating the news, I spent the summer in Bloomington.