Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Anatomy of a Bonus Track

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I'm always suspicious when a bonus track pops up on an album a few years after its original release; my first thought is always, “Well, why wasn’t it on there in the first place?” I feel like I’m being “had,“ and that the new track has just been added in an attempt to make me buy the album all over again. But in the case of the terrific cut, “The Lamp is Low,” included on the Japanese Fall 2005 RE-release of Rain Sometimes, by Pinky Winters and Richard Rodney Bennett that I produced in 2001, nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s the “real” story behind the addition, and while we’re at it, some background on the making of the album might also be in order.

My original plan in 2001 was to record the album, hop on a plane to Japan and sell the master to the highest bidder. Winters was and IS quite well known there, far more so than in the States. In between the recording of the CD and my scheduled flight, however, 9/11 happened and by the time I was eventually able to get to Japan, most of my label meetings had been cancelled, never again to be rescheduled. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Through no fault of Bennett, Winters or myself, at least the first day of recording of the CD was fairly much a nightmare. And if it had not been for Bennett, the project might never have been completed. Throughout the first three hours of the initial day, the breathtakingly inept staff of the studio where the CD was recorded kept topping themselves in the inefficiency department.

Finally, I went up front to the office of the owner and told him in no uncertain terms that he had better shape up or WE would ship out. When the two of us reached the studio, Bennett, in high apoplexy, told him off in no uncertain terms. And within one minute---no exaggeration---the problem that had held us up for hours was solved by the clueless, but not entirely technically inept proprietor. Later that day, he asked me:

"What's that guy's name and just who the hell does he think he is talking to me that way?"

"He is SIR Richard Rodney Bennett."

"Sir?!?!? How did he get to be a sir?"

"I suppose," I said, "by doing his job and having a sense of responsibility toward the rights and feelings of others." ("Unlike you" was my implied undertone.)

But the gumby could only respond with a distracted, "Doh."

All of this came as a great shock to me inasmuch as the studio was one of the highest-priced in L.A., with a long, impressive history and a top of the line Boesendorfer piano. I had an expensive, multiple gold disc-winning engineer at the controls, and had booked more than adequate time---18 hours---in which to record the CD. Fortunately, the second and third days proceeded without serious incident. Little did I realize it at the time, but the "fun" was just beginning.

Eventually, I was able to lease the master of the recording to a major Japanese record label, but within a short time they reneged on the deal to release the CD and I had to "eat" my fairly substantial advance in order to hold on to my rights in that country. The label’s failure to honor the contract had nothing to do with the quality of the album. I was later to learn that after the recent death of the label’s president, a radical shift away from releasing American recordings to, instead, strictly Japanese recordings was the new order of the day for those who had taken over in the wake of the death of the label prexy. After that, Winters and Bennett graciously agreed to let me issue the CD myself in the U.S.; thus was born my Cellar Door Records.

I'm still significantly in the hole even after my recent licensing of the CD to Japan. So I'm glad that I held on to my rights there. There were other problems as well attendant to the making of the recording---"What! And give up show biz?"---but they are perhaps saved for some long, cold winter’s night around the campfire.

And NOW to the business at hand: The reason that "The Lamp is Low" didn’t appear on the original U.S. issue is as follows:

"Lamp" on my protection master in the U.S. turned out to be flawed, but the Japanese were taking so long in sending me back the original master, that I just went ahead and issued the CD in the U.S. on Cellar Door under the title Rain Sometimes, sans "Lamp" (The Lamp is Low was to have been the CD’s original title). Eventually, I got my original (perfect) master back, thus enabling me to reissue the CD with "Lamp" as a bonus track on August 24, 2005, somewhat ironically

. . . in Japan.

One of the things I began to suspect after producing "Rain," is that there is, perhaps, a sturm und drang saga of near-epic proportions behind nearly every CD set out in the bins at your local record emporium. Finally, however, despite some passing moments of unpleasantness in its making, Rain Sometimes is, I think, a wonderful album.

Now it is being released in the country, Japan, for which it was intended. . . along with another recording for which I was the Release Producer, Down in the Depths by
Bill Black.

Rain Sometimes and
Down in the Depths are available through Cellar Door Records at Per usual for Japanese imports, the prices are a bit steep, but nowhere near the vertigo-inducing tariff that other sellers are charging at and other cyber commerce sites.

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