July 2017

As my birthday was approaching, 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: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 introduced my ears to world music.

Rambling production notes

I wanted to take inventory of where my music skills are today. I spent some time learning the bass part and drum part the way I used to learn songs when I was playing in bands in the 70’s and 80’s. I think I’ve continued getting better at figuring things out, 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.

It is probably a bad idea to pick a song to cover with a vocal that is as stylized and perfect as this one is. I am not a great singer, although I am happy to report that auto-tunish software played no part in this recording and digital intervention in general was kept to a minimum. It is a pretty old fashioned recording in that respect. The key of E is not great for me either and as the years stack up the top end of my voice is disappearing. Anyway, despite it all I like the vocal, it is where I’m at.

Greg Mongolds’ Mossman guitar is heard on this track. I hadn’t realized until a moment ago when I checked the tag in the sound hole that it was built in 1972. 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. Pop song scholars will note that I added the solo and repeated the bridge. It’s a tuff song and I think it can take it.

I’m not sure if it is a quirk or a foible, but I’m not fond of pop song fade outs. I worked out a clean end and could see clearly how that messed up the song. So as I’m fading out, it probably is OK to 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 ever really heard and played which was an Arp Odyssey that Conrad and Sons Music loaned to New Albany High School in 1975 for our production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”. We were the second High School in the U.S. to put the show on, and part of the production costs were paid for with money from the National Endowment for the Arts. My sincere thanks to the generation of parents that paid taxes and didn’t mind enriching the lives of kids at my High School, and my thanks to a music department that could put on something that was kind of controversial at the time. Well done.

I’ll will eventually get back on the topic, but I played bass in Superstar, and even though there were lots of pictures of the show in my Senior Year Book, not one photo of the band was included.

Returning to “I Can See Clearly Now” the synthesizer part now seems a bit too prominent. While it was way out at the time it is a bit dated and the incredible vocals are kind of too far back 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.