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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

Magical Guitar Tour album: all about a day in the recording studio

Carlos recording in the studio December 2010

I arrived at the studio directly from Southampton by train. It was the 14th December and it was really cold, especially after coming from the Canary Islands. I was due to finish recording my new album of music of the Beatles but I didn´t think we could do it all in one day.

The Mike Moran Music studio is set in a beautiful landscape near Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire and it is mostly very quiet all around - there are no sheep on the doorstep. Why should that matter? Well once I recorded an album in a studio surrounded by rolling pastures - and sheep. Their plaintive bleats intruded on some recorded takes and we had to discard them! Other times, much to my amusement, the producer would step outside waving his arms and shouting until they retreated. So, thankfully, we had none of that in Great Missenden.

I decided to start the recording with Because. The beautiful harmonies and slow pacing were a calm way to start the proceedings. After that I went on to record The Fool on the Hill. This was a little harder because the arrangement was quite difficult to play, even though I had only myself to blame since I made it. So that took a lot longer and I thought - and I think the ever-patient Adam Van Ryne the recording engineer and David Young the producer also thought - that at this rate we wouldn't get through all the pieces.

Now the arrangements I have made fall into two broad categories. They are either pretty straightforward with just a few fancy bits and harmonies added by me, or they are more adventurous and contain quite a lot of musical material of my own invention. Most of the pieces turned out this way, because for the Beatles songs to sound effective and convincing as guitar solos I had to rethink them as pure instrumental pieces without the voice. That's what I did with Fool on the Hill. Maybe that´s why it took longer to record.

After that we moved on to With a Little Help from my Friends. I first played this piece way back in the early 70´s when I was but a lad with the late Tom Gilhooly, a brilliant harpsichordist and improviser. He had the idea of arranging it as a Baroque dance. To my surprise I found the musical sketch for that arrangement in my music library a few days before the recording. Of course, I had to revamp this too, since I was playing it as a solo, but basically relied on the ideas from all that time ago. That was easy and fun to record.

Then we came to the hardest piece which was Eleanor Rigby. This is one of those pieces which I have extended and elaborated. It is 3½ minutes of constant fast playing with long Baroque-like bass passages borrowed from the string quartet on the original recording. I think it sounds great on the guitar, but boy, is it hard to play!

By this time it was 5pm and I could see that if we stuck at it we would finish but maybe not till very late. There was only more difficult piece to record and that was Maxwell's Silver Hammer in which I had added some ragtime riffs in the style of the Beatles' original song. In effect their song is a bit of a spoof of a ragtime, so my arrangement turned out a spoof of a spoof! Again as we recorded it, I wondered why I had not made things easier for myself in the arrangement. The answer of course is because it sounds good.

After this we were left with recording just two numbers. I had left these two deliberately to the end. Rather like With a little help my arrangements were only a rough guide and not written out note for note. I wanted to leave an element of surprise and improvisation for the moment of recording, rather like I had done on the previous sessions with various songs including the ending of Strawberry Fields. And so it was with these two, Blackbird and Long and Winding Road. In Blackbird I included a brief snatch from Bach's Bourrée for lute which Sir Paul says was the inspiration for the song. Before that we recorded the slower number which I hope casts its' spell even as a solo guitar piece.

And so it was now 8pm. We had been recording since midday with just a couple of breaks and we had the whole album in the bag, 15 songs and 1 hour of music in three sessions between October and December. As I got into the train back to London, I couldn´t quite believe we had done it. I had been involved in arranging the music for the past 6 months, all the while travelling, teaching and giving concerts. It had occupied so much of my creative mind. At times it had obsessed me. And now we had finished.

All that is left now is to release the album and wait to see what the listeners think. Yes, that could be you, so just let me know what you think when it comes out early next year.

December 2010

Printed from: http://www.carlosbonell.com/blog/?p=179 .
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