This CD captures in song a number of important aspects of my life. I see this as a kind of footprint of my time on Earth. The title, "Bumpy Road" is my way of letting people know that this CD is a very rough hewn creation, probably scratchier, more uneven, and less professional than anything they have ever listened to. It's bumpy! You will need to keep one hand on the volume control and even then a few things are hard to hear. I hope some people get some pleasure from it. Here are some comments on the contents.
The Pinewoods Folk Music Club of New York City has been the heart of my musical life. Many of the songs on this CD were recorded when I was singing at camper concerts, or workshops, at various Pinewoods events. I could not ask for a better chorus to sing with and I am delighted to be able to let others hear the wonderful singers I have been singing with over the last 30 years. I am especially happy to have found usable recordings of "The Mighty Pinewoods Chorus", "One Day I will", "Furl That Banner", "Palms of Victory" and "My God He is a Rock", all of which are on this CD. The voices you hear singing with me inspired me to write "The Mighty Pinewoods Chorus" and it is my tribute to them.
My son Paul is a wonderful singer and there are seven songs on this CD in which he is an important contributor. In two of them, "A Pirate Looks at 40" and "Gone, Gonna Rise Again", he was singing with me at Pinewoods campers concerts. Don Friedman played the guitar with us on "Pirate" and Bernie Stolls played banjo with us on "Gone". Two of the songs were sung by Paul with friends of his on Star Island (they are titled "Paul & Christie" and "Paul and Sarah" on this album). In October of this year, Elaine and I went on a one week cruise on the Norwegian Sun with Paul as Cruise Director. One night he sang "All Night Long" accompanied by "Twice as Nice" in a café setting and I recorded it on a pocket tape recorder from my table. It is one of the best pieces on this CD. I liked "Twice as Nice" so much, I have also included their singing of Enrique Iglesias's "Heroe" on this CD. I recorded this that same night in the cafe. The last two songs with Paul were part of the "Tampa Sessions" described below.
The "Tampa Sessions": After my first wife divorced me around 1977, I went to Tampa several times a year for as long as my parents were alive. My mother died in 1981 and my father died in 1987. Matthew and Paul often went with me and these were happy times. Around 1985 we discovered a concession in the "Harbor Island" center that allowed individuals to record songs using good equipment and singing along with a professional background track. It was sort of like Karioki except that you were in a soundproofed booth and got a cassette of your recording a few minutes later. We got a kick out of this. All three of us (this is only the time my son Matthew can be heard on this CD) joined together to sing the Everly Brothers classic "Wake Up Little Suzie". We had a ball. You can each of thel three of us. Paul sings the high harmony. It's very bumpy… but full of fun. We sang the last chorus as "Wake Up Little Madgie" for my sister, Madge.
I think we went there two or three times, perhaps over a couple of years, and I recorded two more songs, "Margaritaville" and "She's A lady" and, bumpy though they are, I love being able to include them here. Paul, who was around 14 at the time, recorded "Shout" and his talent is already clearly displayed.
There is a short recording of my mother singing a snippet of a song she recalled. My mother always saw herself as the non-singer in her family, and there were a lot of singers in every generation. This captured moment speaks for itself.
Somewhere along the way I began to write words, and sometimes tunes, for songs that I could sing. Usually these were for a special event, which became the subject of the song. There are several songs that came out of my work and friends at Hofstra University: "Brian's Wedding Song" and "Hail to the Web" are on this CD. Brian Ferris and Sookhan Wai had both worked for me as student assistants at Hofstra, and Brian became a colleague in the Computer Center and a good friend. They invited me to sing at their wedding and I felt honored. I did my best. The song notes that my role at the wedding could be seen as either that of a court minstrel or a court fool. Take your pick!
Another important part of my life is the Quaker meeting of Scarsdale, New York, and I have written a number of songs for different events. Only one made it to this CD, a song I wrote to sing to men in Sing Sing prison who attend a Quaker worship group there. It's titled "Christmas Day in Sing Sing" and I sang it for them on Christmas day that year. I recorded it last week, alone, to include here.
I wrote “Goodnight Matthew, Goodnight Paul” as an assignment in a song writing workshop in 2001. My assignment was to write a lullaby for my sons set around the time I was getting divorced in 1977. They were then eight and four and the workshop leader was helping capture some of the experience, without dwelling on the anger.
I went to the Colegio Americano high school in Caracas, Venezuela and graduated from there in 1957. About 30 of my friends from that time met at a reunion, in Phoenix, this past June. I completed this song at the reunion and sang it to my old friends at a pool party, much like those we went to in Caracas. The song starts with “Oh Tell me was it real…”.
"Furl That Banner" is a song I created from a poem I had found in Tampa while down there for funerals. I created a tune for it and made one of the verses into a chorus. I like it because it captures the part of me that is a Southerner and allows me honor the families from which I am descended.
"Hard Rock Bottom" was a country song performed by Randy Travis that I especially liked and felt that Jeff Davis, a professional folk musician and friend, could do especially well. I made tapes of Randy Travis' recording of the song and sent them to Jeff and some other friends who would be attending an upcoming folk music weekend. Jeff had not learned the song by the weekend and encouraged me to sing it. He offered to play along on mandolin and I agreed. I had great help on this and I love it. I am not much of an instrumentalist, but I play the banjo to start this song, and to fill in at the end. I don't play at all during most of the song. Though my playing is "bumpy" at best, I think it complements the song perfectly.
Last, and perhaps least, is a funny little song that I especially like. I call it "The Hitchikers Guide. It’s confusing because it has two unrelated subjects, (a) Douglas Adams "Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy" (the song says universe instead of galaxy) and (b) The "Still No Name Yet" gospel group that Isabel Goldstein leads, and I am in, on Pinewoods weekends. It uses a well known dance tune that I like. One of the verses contains a line I took from a song by the late Marylin Maltzer (a fellow camper, a wonderful singer, and a friend) that I especially like, "To celebrate most joyously, our being here at all".
This CD is one of the ways that I celebrate, most joyously, being here at all.
Dec 22, 2002