Tuesday, April 08, 2008
MAGIC WITHOUT "ABRA CADABRA"
Magic doesn't always happen because of a clever magic trick or a great illusion or a special effect in a movie. Magic without the words "Abra Cadabra" happens best when two amazingly gifted individuals come together and combine the talents that God has given them and create a song, a sound and a harmony that is unequaled. I have been a songwriter since 1980-- that's twenty eight years out of sixty-- almost half of my life. And sometimes, its hard to continue when dreams refuse to come true as we want them to. But becoming a songwriter in the first place, was a complete happy accident. I had no formal training whatsoever. At least Mel Brooks had been a jazz drummer before he took on comedy and musical theatre. I had literally stumbled into all of this because of God's sweet gift. The odds against it happening at all were astronomical. But then again Almighty God defies odds in ways that completely astound us. In 1996 my world had come crashing down with the loss of my agency and there should not have been any way that I would have written another song after that. But God had different ideas. My ability to write without training in any way depended on bar none the most amazing and talented individual I had ever met. This was Tim Doran. If Tim had gone to Juilliard instead of "having fun" touring with a jazz band, we would have never crossed paths. If Tim hadn't gotten bored writing music for a top science fiction TV series-- again, there would have been no way. But we did meet and this amazing man has helped me to create over five hundred songs since 1990. Then we lost contact completely and the only way we found each other was that Tim sold his house in Whittier, moved to a rental in Hacienda Heights and decided for the first time in his life to have a listed telephone number. So one day, when I wanted to write again, I called 411 and made an attempt to find him-- and found him-- only by the sheer grace of God. I was living in North Hollywood at the time. There he was. He looked amazing. He had gone through a regimen of health training and gymnastics.
But the next miracle came so unexpectedly, it simply blew me away. That was the accidental meeting through AOL that occurred between Tony Westbrook and myself. He had this dream of being a great singer and I was an original songwriter. I had still a lot of contacts. But the real magic happened when I decided to record some songs. Tony had sent some original songs he had recorded for other writers and I was blown away. So then the two guys (Crag and Christian) that I had allowed to open a recording studio in the office complex I was managing back in the early 90's and I struck a deal. I had let them into the complex upon their pleading even when their credit wasn't sterling and even that there was another recording studio in the complex. Be kind to others? It all comes back. They gave me fifty hours recording time gratis (because I had made that exception all those years ago) and the rest at $19 an hour. Into the studio came Tony Westbrook and we recorded an album called "Highway To A Dream". This was the winter 0f 1998 going into January of 1999. We recorded "Fly Me Home For Christmas" and two other songs and the magic began. By today's standards, it was crude. The old grand piano we used had seen much better days. And on went until we changed studios in late 1999. That was and is still today Smooth Sound Studios. But the amazing miracle was yet to come. We had decided to try and market us all by putting on a show. That show was called "I Love Those Shows" held in Hollywood. As we searched for other singers to perform in the show, by pure blessing of God, Tony Westbrook was introduced to Terry Snyder. And that pairing, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls was in two words "mind blowing" Their harmony, their simpatico, their timing and their sound together was simply astounding. Tony is an amazing singer all by himself. He has compelled this poor old writer to cry in pure joy on more occasions than I can tell you. But together: Westbrook & Snyder were so wonderful, it was like two angels had escaped heaven and found a singing gig together in Hollywood. Last night after many years, the duo was reunited and the magic was re-kindled all over again. W&S recorded a religious tune called "Open My Eyes" that I am still crying over. It is so beautiful and such a loving tribute to Almighty God. He has blessed my life in so many ways. This was my humble tribute in thanks to him for all of that. Tim arranged and created the tracks for the song and that was simply wonderful. The second song was called "Some Gave All"-- a patriotic song that again was arranged by Tim and turned out stirring and heartening. The last song was called "There's A Little Bit of Broadway In All of Us"-- a wonderful tribute to the "Great White Way"-- that almost didn't happen. Terry had thought the song wasn't quite right for harmonizing on and felt that Tony should do the song solo. By this time, it was late and his young son, Vincent needed to go to bed. Somehow (another miracle) we convinced him to go in and sing a guide version that Tony could follow with. Terry is a better sight reader and so that made logical sense. Terry went into that recording studio and in ONE take did an incredible solo performance. We hugged and Terry left. Guess what? That one take performance was so great that Tony felt it didn't need anybody else and there was nothing that he could really add to it. Oh by the way, that song was dedicated to Tony months ago. So the trooper that Tony is realized that the song dedicated to him didn't need any contribution by himself. I can only hope that Tony will visit California many more times and that the magic of Westbrook and Snyder can again one day be made again. Thank you both. Thank you Tim. Thank you to Robert (pictured here) who has been our engineer for years) Onward! Oh yes, thank you, God-- you are the word awesome in every sense of the word!