This, a double CD, comprising an amazing
collection of original songs and cover versions (as only Dr. Eugene
Chadbourne can do it) is played solo and with the duo "Me and Paul."
Some songs alternate with the so-called
"celebrity freakouts" - recordings of celebrities used without their
permission, but with heartfelt acknowledgement of their wonderful genius
and right to blow off steam whenever they see fit!" (Eugene Chadbourne).
There is a distinct possibility that (against our
will) these CDs will shoot to the "Top Ten" charts straight away and will stay there forever.
Total times are: CD1 - 69'16 and CD2 - 65'07
Young at Heart
January 2000. Last year in London Leo Feigin and I got together for a
spicy Indian lunch and the discussion of future projects came around to the
lack of recent releases featuring me doing songs, with singing.
Since 1998 I had released a whole slew of CDs featuring my instrumental
compositions selected from several different books' or projects. But I had
also been keeping up my usual busy schedule of solo concerts, and in these
events as well as group collaborations I had been doing more songs material
Ever since There'll Be No Tears Tonight in 1980, I had gotten used to
people either loving or hating my singing. I didn't have an opinion of it
myself, I just thought it was necessary for someone to do the vocals, and
nobody else was volunteering, except for odd audience member, and I mean odd
both ways. When selling my recordings after gigs, I was also used to people
coming up asking "Do you sing on this?" sometimes because they were looking
for recordings with my crooning, other times because they wanted to avoid
The 1998-99 "KKKmart" or selection of recordings for sale had been sadly
lacking in new vocal material. The set of two new Leo CDs, Young at Heart
and Forgiven is the result of this luncheon discussion and will hopefully
fill the gap along with other recent developments such as the revival of the
Camper Van Chadbourne group.
We discussed a mix of solo performances and accompaniment, and for the
latter my first choice was my frequent duo mate Paul Lovens. I had met Paul
through the free improvisation scene, and listeners tend to associate him
with this kind of music through associations such as the long-running
Schlippenbach Trio, which improvises all its performances.
As I got to know Paul I learned he was a real fan of songs from many
genres, and one of the beautiful things about the song form, the combination
of music and lyrics, is that it exists in some way in practically every
style of music. As my collaboration with Paul has developed over the years,
we have focused more and more on songs. Last year we named our duo Me and
Paul, a title I took from a Willie Nelson song which wonderfully is a
tribute to his longtime drumming partner, Paul English, and some of their
more exciting road adventures.
Right there shows you how vast and weird the world of songs is. If you
are traveling and playing music with a drummer named Paul, and you want a
song about the two of you, well, Willie Nelson has written one. Next?
I love all songs, and I am trying to learn them all. To me one of the
most frustrating things in life is to get a request for a song I don't know.
It is fantastic realizing that there is a song about just about every
subject, and plenty of them about nothing at all. (Too bad there's no room
on these CDs for a cover version of Let It All Hang Out by Los Bravos.)
When I am introduced to and learn a new song that I really like, I wonder
how I have gotten along up till now without it. This is certainly true of
David Crosby's Everyone's Been Burned, and you won't fall in love in a same
way after you hear it. Luckily, I heard it first when I was a teenager.
The way improvisers rework songs and insert the language of free
improvisation is certainly stimulating. I was amazed when Paul told me he
plays exactly the same way with me as he does if he was playing free
improvisation. I think this comes about because I play songs in an
improvised manner, but always keeping the form in mind. Sheet music is a
great help when doing songs. This prevents one from totally internalizing
certain songs, providing a contrast with the ones I play that I have
memorized since I was a child. Also there is something entrancing about
squinting at a scrawled set of lyrics written on a train or in a
bathroom/dressing room years and years ago.
In my early experiences in various combos I was sometimes pressured by
bandmates to stick to certain arrangements once a new song had been learned.
My reaction in this situation was to find other people to play with, and I
find myself now totally committed to the idea of never playing anything the
same way twice. This is called living in harmony with memory deprivation,
and I can recommend it as therapy as well as an artistic approach.
The drumming of Paul Lovens has been celebrated often, he cerainly has
plenty of fans. I feel blessed getting to play with him and learn from him,
and I think the duo situation allows an opportunity to hear every nuance and
shade in his playing. Some of these performances, all of which come from
live gigs, I think are practically textbook examples of brilliant drumming.
Check out what he does on Skylark, for example.
Something I think is a total revelation is that he sometimes makes sounds
that are totally appropriate to the text but not always because he
understands the text. He hears sounds that are a literal translation of
events that are being described in a song without even knowing that he is
doing it. He creates a situation where he seems to be plugged into some
internet of appropriate sound effects.
Other than raving about Paul, I don't have much else to say about these
recordings other than they are a collection of songs by some of the great
songwriters such as Johnny Mercer and Willie Nelson, and they cover quite a
range of styles. My original songs are of course where I make my own comment
on my own life, many of the lyrics coming directly from dreams such as The
Sky Got Flatter or Happy New Year. Some of these originals have been
recorded before, some are brand new. I hope you like these CDs, which I
think are some of the best I have ever made... And if you don't like my
voice, well then you are Forgiven, and don't have to worry about being
placed on my 10 Most Wanted List.
When editing these collections I decided to use some of my collection of
"celebrity freakouts", coming from a variety of sources, as well as my own
impersonations (with encouragement from Paul, who tells me he likes my John
Wayne imitation better than the voice of the real Duke!). Originally these
bits were put into private listening tapes just for kicks, but everyone
liked it so much it didn't seem possible to enjoy the CDs as much if they
Greensboro, January 5, 2000