MP3 Mufkin Tass - Live and Love between Passion and Persistence
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14 MP3 Songs in this album (69:32) !
Related styles: Rock: Classic Rock, Country: Country Rock, Mood: Intellectual
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The anatomy of an album
Lookin' back on a record of events
Soâ¦seven years have passed since Ralph and I started working on the album youâre holding in your hand right now. Why in the world would someone be willing to work on a record for six years?! Recording 14 songs, how long can that actually take? Well, not all of it was just about the process of recording an album. Before the CD and MP3-era, albums were called "records". Those big black vinyl discs. And we agree with Jackson Browne when he said he preferred the term "record", because that's exactly what it is: a record of events. Most of our record of events was actually a process of growth. Growth as a musician, songwriter, producer, engineer. And most of all, growth as a human being. This process made us record, re-record and in some cases re-re-record parts of a song or even an entire song as we grew into our various roles. The past years certainly have been a test of character. There were many moments all of us thought, âmy God, when will we ever see a satisfactory end to this album?â Actually thinking about cutting some of the songs and present an album containing just 10 tracks. Those were the moments where you mentally had to slap yourself and say âno, these are the songs weâre working with and none of them are going to be left behind.â You push yourself a little further and reshape the songs that donât work until they do. In the end, those songs turned out to be much more than just songs. They are now as much a part of me as the beating of my own heart. Live And Love Between Passion And Persistence. A long title, but totally capturing the songs, their meaning and the making of this album into one short sentence.
The Birth Of An Idea
If you ever read the liner notes of an album (if you donât: why am I writing this?!) of any type of artist, you will most likely catch the names of the worldâs greatest session players in the fine print. That is totally unjust though, because even the most brilliant singer needs good musicians (and good songs) to make a good record. The more attention I paid to the fine print of albums, the more I came across the same names time and time again. A drummer like Kenny Aronoff actually plays on a zillion records. I often found myself having the notion âyeah well, if I had these guys working with me, Iâd have a good record too!â After telling myself that a couple of hundred times, I thought âwell, then stop dreaming about it and DO IT!â So thatâs actually how the idea of Mufkin Tass started. Me and my brother Ralph wanted to make THE album (you know, the one youâre able pull from the deepest depth of your soul and of which you say "this is it, this is the best I got") with some of the musicians we have been admiring our whole life. The birth of that idea was seven years ago.
Big Beat - Big Bottom
Ralph and I had already established a writing discipline by then, so when we had the opportunity to do a recording session with drum-legend Kenny Aronoff we took four of our songs with us to the USA. January 2003: it was a dream come true, to watch and hear Kenny play on those songs. And what a pro! This guy listens to a track once, writes down a lead sheet while listening, then plays the song perfectly after just one take. Ralph and I just stood there and looked at each other like "this ain't happening, right? This is amazing! Don't wake me if I'm dreaming!" Iâm afraid Ralph and I werenât very helpful when Mr. Aronoff asked us what we thought of any first take. We were like ... âummm, yeah, U rock! This is it!â Suggesting to him to play a "Blaze of Glory"- type break on the tom-toms on one song, made me smile from ear to ear when I heard him actually do it. So there you have it. Four songs. Just drums.
Whatâs next? An excellent bass player to add punch to the beat! While being front stage of a concert by Elvis Presleyâs 1970âs TCB Band, which features on bass the legendary Jerry Scheff (one of the most adventurous and groovy bass-players of all time), Ralph exclaimed âLetâs get Jerry!â Jerry and Kenny previously worked together (itâs a small world after all) on a Glen Frey-album entitled âStrange Weatherâ, so Jerry was also familiar with Kennyâs playing. In June of 2003 we were able to book Jerry into a somewhat gothic-looking punk/rock studio in Rotterdam. Now that's a daunting experience! Jerryâs approach to recording is practically opposite of Kennyâs: with literally zero preparation, he launches into the songs, firing riffs off the top of his head, only glancing at the lead sheet we provided now and then. I vividly remember Jerry sighing and giving us a valuable little lesson after a take broke down: âLemme tell you what. Turn up the drums a little more. âCause the guitars are way upfront and Kenny is playing it way down flat. MY job is to split the differenceâ¦and right now the guitars are winning!â Then he laughed and played some of the most amazing bass youâll ever hear! Within a couple of hours he was able to make our songs more melodic and added more depth to them than we ever could imagine.
Satisfied with the results Ralph and I were determined to take this show on the road and started forming the band, Mufkin Tass. First one on board was the talented bass player / singer / songwriter Erwin Pijl in late 2004. Writing songs as a trinity from that moment on felt like what it should have been all along. The cool thing about writing songs for a non-existing band is that anything goes! Thereâs no image to keep in mind, no obligations to anything or anyone but yourself. That made my songwriting more adventurous and more eclectic than anything I have ever written before. Within a little less than a year, 10 songs were written and recorded as demos. The original plan was to take the demos and the four songs recorded with Kenny Aronoff and Jerry Scheff and sell them to a record company in order to get any kind of budget to legitimately finish the album. But as (illegal) downloading of music skyrocketed, record companies became wary of new product. Even top-selling artists were kicked to the curb. Since the three of us figured that âwith the record business being in the shape that it isâ our chances of getting signed were zero, we had to plough through and finish the album by ourselves.
Living In The Band
Obviously our meagre budget didn't allow us to recruit Mr. Aronoff on drums on a permanent basis. So the search began for a drummer that could match his power and creativity. After several unsuccessful drummer-auditions, Ralph and I stumbled upon a drummer by the name of Sjoerd Rutten while engaging in a folk-project (go figure!). We were immediately amazed by his talent and spirit, so the next step was obvious: Sjoerd had to join Mufkin Tass. And he didn't need much convincingâ¦ Ralph and I did a drum pre-production with Sjoerd to get everything absolutely right for the two studio-dates we booked at "Leon's Farm" (what's in a name, eh?) September 2005. Leon did an excellent job recording and engineering and Ralph spent a couple of weeks going through the rough tracks and did some editing. From that moment on we started rebuilding the songs from the ground up on a weekly basis. This approach to recording gave the entire process sort of a âband-of-brothersâ-feel instead of a âwork-in-progressâ-feel you sometimes get working in a studio. Sometimes weâd just hang out, dinks a few beers and discuss an approach to a song. At the end of such an evening, weâd come up with and recorded something that was sometimes totally ludicrous, but somehow worked really well for the song. Ralph actually developed exponentially as a guitarist during this time. He recorded and re-recorded guitar parts (or "guitar-sounds" as Erwin and I call them), never losing sight of the heart of the song. Using all kinds of guitars & amps & gadgets he could get his hands on to create the most sonically interesting guitar parts....sounds...layers!
With a little help ...
In February of 2006 we were fortunate enough to get Pocoâs founding father Rusty Young on board for some blazing pedal steel guitar for a track called "Searchlight". It's a ballad with an R&B-type groove: not the type of song you'd expect to hear some pedal steel on...but that's exactly why we wanted it! Rusty really came through for us and delivered exactly the atmospheric, sometimes eerie part we felt the track needed. Meanwhile, we were also concerned with getting the right feel for the artwork for the album. In April we met with Mr. Ben Kivits. Very nice guy, who knows his art, but also knows good beer. It was a pleasant, if somewhat smoky, liquid evening... Ben helped us a lot with the artwork for this album. He showed us his old portfolio from Art school with photographs, drawings and paintings from '73 up to '84. Very inspiring. We borrowed some stuff from Ben, some vintage pictures and drawings, mostly black and white, seventies stuff. Really cool. One of his picures ended up on the cover, cause to us, that image totally represents passion, persistence, living and loving.
We laid down most of my lead vocals in the summer of 2006. I used to be a real pain in the butt when it came down to singing a song in the studio. Everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) had to be perfect. Spot on timing. Perfect pitch. Perfect interpretation. The night before I laid down the lead vocal to Searchlight, I bought Johnny Cash' brand new "A Hundred Highways"-album. So far the last (and in my humble opinion the BEST) in the American-series. If Cash' vocal on the opening song "Help Me" doesn't grab you, you should probably check your pulse, 'cause you might be dead. This is not a man singing very well. I doubt if one can actually call it singing. But just listen to the man: fragile. Dying. Literally dying. Recorded on his deathbed. It was so real. I actually cried all the way through the album. It was just then, that I realized that a perfect lead vocal (if the is such a thing) is NOT about timing, pitch, phrasing or whatever. It's about true emotion. Feeling your way through the words and trying to make the listener feel what you're feeling at that very moment. With all my experience and (classical) training as a singer, this old, dying guy was kicking my butt vocally from here to no end. Just because he was REAL! With all of that in mind, I laid down the vocal for Searchlight the next morning. Trying to put in as much as I could, I got choked up on "And leave me with a hole". Nowhere near perfection, but this is as real as it can get! Here's to you, Mr. Cash! Without a doubt one of the greatest vocalists the ever walked the earth! On a rainy July Friday afternoon Sjoerd, Erwin, Ralph and myself found ourselves posing in front the camera of photographer Limpe Iven. Hardly supermodels, we did the best we couldâ¦but being a tight-knit group made it easier. We were among friendsâ¦FAMILY!
The Big League
I HAVE to save one paragraph for my proudest moment as a singer: on September 13th 2006 Ralph and I recorded one song with James Burton. This dude practically INVENTED electric guitar-playing in the fifties and played and shared the stage with all the legends in rock & roll and country & western history. On September 12th, 2006 the TCB Band played a gig in Tilburg, a ten minutes drive away from my hometown. before the show we talked to James and gave him a demo of the song, asking him if he'd be willing to record it with us the next day. The next day I called james on the phone to discuss details. James was actually very relaxed and kind and asked me about my ideas for the track, which he and his wife listened to the night before. Since he didn't bring an acoustic guitar with him, James asked if we had one he could play and if so, what kind of guitar. "A 1960's Gibson J45" was my answer which seemed to please the old master. By the time James arrived at Ralph's house for the session, I was so wound up I don't remember much of anything. I was hoarse and hung over from the night before, tired from getting no rest at all at night en scared way beyond for having to do this LIVE. It HAD to be right and it had to be right RIGHT NOW! Oh did I mention we had to do this within 90 minutes? James had to be in Belgium for a show later that dayâ¦ No pressureâ¦ James couldn't be friendlier and gracious though. After some chatting, we headed up to the bedroom studio a.k.a. The Sauna. No air-conditioning whatsoever. There was a fan, which had to be turned off during recording because of the noise it was making. When we sat down to discuss an approach, James said he really liked the song, but he wasn't sure whether him playing rhythm guitar would be the way to go. If Ralph would play rhythm, he could be more creative and melodic. James played the J45 and Ralph played my Guild with rea-hea-heally old strings. Just to get a basic idea of how things sounded, we recorded one take of the song. It was pretty acceptable, but the guitar Ralph played was desperately in need for some new stings. Not wanting to break the mood of the session (changing strings usually takes up 15 minutes or so), I turned to Ralph and said, maybe it would be better if he used the dobro for rhythm, since we last used that one a week or so before. Strings were still pretty okay. "Yeah, maybe I could play some dobro", James said. So after swapping axes, James on dobro and Ralph now playing the J45, things started to come together. Our second try was actually pretty good. I goofed up the lyrics though, so I asked for another take. James suggested a vocal overdub, replacing the one we just recorded. Being an Elvis-fan I wanted to do things the way he did: live vocals WITH the band. This way you can really get into a song and other musician's performances. It was getting pretty close to the time that James had to leave, so one or two more takes would be the maximum for the day. Fortunately, we didn't need TWO takes. Our third attempt was magical. Just three mikes recording three guys, playing a song they hardly ever played before. Carefully listening to each other. Getting a groove. Hitting the right notes at the right time. While we were playing, I felt it. It was right. Didn't even need to listen to the playback afterward. This was the one, no doubt about it. James noticed it too: "that felt really good! Can we hear that?" After actually listening to the track, I got even more excited. We actually pulled it off! After another listen AND another listen by James' wife Louise, it was time to go. I confessed to James, while he was holding my daughter, that I had been extremely nervous to do this. He told me: "No, don't be. We're family!" Some thankyous, pictures and goodbyes later, James was gone. Off to another show. I desperately needed a drink, but I had to get back to work. So I got my jacket, said my goodbyes to family and friends, got into the car and drove off. Into the cruel, cold world of realityâ¦ A sense of overwelming pride never left me though. This was no longer a bedroom-studio project, we were now swimming with the big fish and I am very happy to say that weâve stood our ground.
The End of the beginning of the end of ...
In all, 2007 went by really fast! We decided to rework the arrangements on 2 other songs. That âof course!â took a wee bit longer than expected, but has been worthwhile. We also did a Hurdy Gurdy-overdub on a song called "Broken", which really sounds cool. Friend Hans Hoosemans played the Hurdy Gurdy, and he really rocks on that ancient thing. It sounds kind of like a cross between a violin and a bagpipe...totally awesome. After Ralph got the ole studio up and running again (the main computer died...more edits than it could stand, I'm afraid) we recorded the final guitar parts. Fortunately, we had already set up studio "B" at my house so the work could continue. In December and January, we did two sessions with more special guest musicians. Both on the song âBrokenâ. The first one was very talented flute player called Ilse Vromans. Second, the also very talented Valérie Rijckmans played harp. They both added their magic and the song was beginning to take on it's epic proportions. Still more to come, but Iâll get to that in a minute. Around that time we once again hooked up with another addition to the Tass, on the keyboards: Mr. Alex Heikamp! Although we'd played a couple of organ and synth parts ourselves, we felt the band needed a "real" pianoman to round out it's sound. That was the band and the sound we envisioned from the start: big guitars, topped off with tasty piano and thre-part harmony singin'. Ralph, Alex and I also go way back, as we worked together in several musical endeavours since 1999 and Ralph and I felt very fortunate the opportunity arose to work together again. It has been a blast. Alex managed to familiarize himself with the songs really fast and we finished recording his parts for the album somewhere in the fall. But still more to come. Not hindered by any technical knowledge whatsoever, we spent some time arranging and programming some orchestral string parts since 2006, with the help of Jeroen Krouwels. Though we might have been able to pull it off in the end, we decided we wanted some real strings with really great arrangements on this album. Through a friend of Jerry Scheffâs, in April of 2008 we acquired the amazing arranging talents of Mr. Erik Arvinder. He wrote scores for seven of our songs and arranged and recorded the string section. By the way, these parts are all recorded in Sweden! Now, thatâs exciting. It is a dream come true to have a real string section âin fact almost a full orchestra!â on some of our songs. A lot of great records have great strings on it â¦lots of Beatles songs, Eagles, Springsteen, Stones, Zeppelin and lest we forget: Warren Zevon. Erik finished recording in December of 2008. By our book: that was really darn fast!!! Early 2009 Ralph saw a show in a pub by a local band and was raving about the sound of their violin player Kim de Beer. So we decided to invite her over to record the violin part for the song Long Way Down. That was also the last bit of recording that we did for the album. Funny how you can build up âthe endâ in your mind... The end of the recording process basically just sort-of happened. I donât even recall it. It was a strangely unremarkable moment, after working on something that intensely for six years. Kim turned out to be not only a great violin player, but also one helluva harmony singer and - most importantly - a genually friendly and kind-hearted human being. So we asked her to join the Tass on a permanent basis and thankfully she accepted. Getting the album mixed was a tough job made easy by Bart Erkelens. Husband of my vocal coach and mixer extraordinaire. After six years of recording and editting we kinda lost sight of the big picture, and fortunately, Bart didn't. Turn up the harp! He mixed the album november & december 2009. Also, he shot the videos for 5 songs, as featured on the bonus DVD. During the video sessions, we decided on a whim we wanted to record our version of The Monkees' song "Daydream Believer", which is also featured on the bonus DVD. Bart suggested we try Darius van Helfteren for the mastering and so we did. Darius did a great job and delivered the master march 2010.
So thatâs pretty much it! Thatâs seven years of our lives in a nutshell. Big nutshell, grantedâ¦
On behalf of the entire Tass-family: thank you so much for taking an interest and we hope to see you and talk to you out there on the road somewhereâ¦over the rainbow...
Kenny Aronoffâs drums were recorded at Echo Park, Bloomington (Indiana), USA on January 30th, 2003 by Paul Mahern.
Jerry Scheffâs bass was recorded at Excess, Rotterdam, the Netherlands on June 13th, 2003 by Dennis Leidelmeyer.
Sjoerd Ruttenâs drums were recorded at Leonâs Farm, Venlo, the Netherlands on September 21st and 22nd, 2005 by Léon Bartels.
Rusty Youngâs pedal steel was recorded at Session Cats, Nashville (Tennessee), USA on February 21st, 2006 by Jack Sundrud.
The DMF Session Strings were recorded May 9th through November 29th, 2008 at SAMI Studios and Kingside Studios by Erik Arvinder, Otto Wellton & Jan Wirmark. Arranged by Erik Arvinder
The DMF Session Strings are:
Violin â Erik Arvinder / Andreas Forsman / Fredrik Syberg / Aleksander Sätterström / Andrej Power / Daniel Migdal / Conny Lindgren / Anna Larsson / Anders Hjortvall / Viola â Christopher Öhman / Riikka Repo / Olof Ander / Erik Holm / Anders Norén / Cello â Gudmund Ingwall / Pelle Hansen / Erik Wahlgren / Cello â Cecilia Linné / Henrik Söderqvist / Double Bass â Danijel Petrovic / Johan Strindberg
Everything else was recorded at Squank Recording Studio, Goirle, the Netherlands by Ralph and Mark Schraven somewhere between 2003 and 2009.
Postproducion of all audio by Ralph and Mark Schraven.
Mixed by Bart Erkelens at Edisound, Tilburg, the Netherlands.
Mastered by Darius van Helfteren at Amsterdammastering, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Art direction and design: Ralph Schraven
Photography: Limpe Iven, Ben Kivits, Mark & Ralph Schraven, Jan van Dijk, René Frik, Gijsbert Hanekroot
Mufkin Tass would like to thank all wonderful people that were willing to contribute their part to this project. At the risk of forgetting someone important, we deceide not to mention anyone specific. You know who you are and we love you dearly for what you have done for us.
A very special thanks goes out to our families and friends for their patience and support during the making of this album.
PRODUCED BY THE MUFKIN TASS.
© 2010 Subdude Music Inc.
in partnership with CDbaby
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