Category Archives: pop

Review of One More Life

Review of One More Life by Coco Scott
(written by Randall Wayne Belt)
November 2019

One thing about this artist is that she knows her strengths and makes the most of that by highlighting her stellar vocals and great pitch with sparse arrangements with piano and/or guitar, beats and accents of various kinds. One thing you’ll notice on her previous releases is that her voice is always the highlight of the song leaning on strong melody and vocal performance to carry her through. The song Falling is a good one to listen to to hear what I mean and is a fabulous song on its own . The melody and instrumentation have a very beautiful and Celtic feel.

Her song Smolder, another beautiful vocal oriented piece with rich piano backdrop, has the same Celtic underpinning.  As does the song “Wait For Me”. Scott puts all her heart and soul into her vocal takes, that much is obvious. And in that vein, as stated in her description of the song Wait For Me on her YouTube Channel, the description says, “we all make mistakes, but sometimes we don’t get to make up for them. ‘Wait for Me’ is a heart-wrenching plea for forgiveness. If you like any of the ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ soundtracks, you’re going to love this song!”

And the song is indeed heart-wrenching and continues with the sparse arrangement and emphasis on the vocal. After all, a lyrical song is all about the vocal and what is being sung. But this amazing vocalist is capable of much more than the sparse arrangements of Celtic underpinning, and she doesn’t leave it all there.

On Coco’s latest release “One More Life” the production gets more experimental with sounds and moves slightly away from the sparser arrangement style and takes on some more contemporary pop appeal.

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And it is a great success because the arrangements do not take away from the vocal but underscore it. On this song, which is my big focus here, piano starts as slowly the song builds and sequenced sounds appear – and then other sounds come in and build around the perfect vocal take and begin to pulsate by “Baby lets fly, I can’t wait another moment”. Electric guitar comes in just to make accents at this point. Then the beat picks up and pulses the song home even further while all is tastefully done and not subtracting from the vocal, but  rather, highlighting it!  The concept of less is more is working here as it has on other recordings of Coco Scott. Nothing is to intrusive. Nothing is overdone. Perfect arrangement.

Her voice is crystal clear like you are there in the room with her. A result of using very high resolution recording. Every syllable and consonant are crisp and clear and leave you hanging on the edge of your brain. One has to commend the recording engineer, as well as the singer, for capturing everything so well. Independent artists should take note of how well recorded this song is and use it as a vocal standard that can be achieved.

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The song seems to be asking for “one more life”, “One more love”, which could mean another chance at love to perhaps get it right this time – as it seems perfect for once – a concept I think a lot of people can relate to. The line “Better late than never” says it well. The song is short and sweet coming in under 3 minutes as a radio friendly pop song should. It does what it needs to do and ends leaving you wanting to listen again, which I think is the ultimate goal of a song in terms of wanting more.

This song is much more preferable than much of what passes as pop that clutters the airwaves today. It is contemporary but it is it’s own thing. The music and luxurious tasty vocals are rich like the audio version of sleeping on custom satin sheets.

Hear/Buy One More Life on CDBaby:

Coco Scott Homepage

Coco Scott on Spotify

Watch and listen On YouTube

Two of Us (Behind the scenes)

On October 3, 2019 a version of the song Two of Us was released as a joint project between Barley Station and Minneapolis band Radio Drive (Two of Us is from The Beatles Let It Be album)  You can now find it on most digital retail outlets.

And THIS is a little behind the scenes story on how this composition was formed. It is a fitting release considering it is the 50th anniversary of when The Beatles actually finished the final version of this song – which was during the Jan. 31, 1969 session.

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Now, when you sing harmony with someone you really have to be a good listener not just a good singer. You need to hear all the nuances of the other person’s voice. Which is why sometimes people will say to an artist “you sing like siblings”. And usually it is people who have been singing together a long time.

Or in our case, listening in the studio over and over until our voices match properly since we were doing this as a distance project. So making music isn’t just about playing it, it is about listening and feeling it. If you are a musician, producer, or songwriter/arranger, etc., you might be interested in how the rest was put together.

I sent the finished vocals over to Kevin and we were very pleased with how that part turned out and we had lots of comments of how our voices blended so well.  That part was easy enough.

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Kevin Gullickson

One of the biggest challenges of the song, was trying to find the right arrangement. The first idea was to make it a bit contemporary alternative rock. That didn’t work.  Sonically, it was like the song demanded a simpler arrangement. So I went back in time and dug up what was going on when the Beatles were working it up. And not to my surprise, they had tried something similar but it ended up being what Paul McCartney phrased as “too chunky”. I knew exactly what he meant. It was too chunky.

At its core this is a folk song. I believe if you look up the genre of the original on iTunes it is classified as folk/rock.  Keeping to that original concept and also making it into something new would prove to be challenging but we didn’t know it when we started on it.  My approach has always been “let your ears guide you”, as the Beatles’ producer George Martin might say.

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Randy Wayne Belt

I listened to the original and dug up outtakes, including an outtake of the song, recorded on 24 January 1969, which was released on Anthology 3 in 1996. The chief difference to me was whether the bass lines were more ascending or descending but it was clear; those lines were important to the song and oddly enough to its integrity. With the basic rhythm track finally decided upon and liked by both Kevin and myself, I had to shelf the song again until the rest of the arrangement came the way it needed to.

There had to be a way to keep it a simple arrangement but add our own flavor. So I experimented. For months and months I would go back to it to try different things. By the last time I came back to it, it finally hit me. It needed to be mixed similar to what a 4 or 8 track recording would do and it needed a guitar part on the electric end to give it more body but not interfere with the melody or the overall feel.

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And then, the bass guitar part was really crucial to keep the songs integrity. In the album version, The Beatles’ George Harrison played the bass lines on a Fender Telecaster. No one knows exactly why but it could have been done on Sir Paul’s Hofner bass just as easily, but since he was playing acoustic guitar, to keep it with a live feel, George ends up doing bass parts. Imagining being there and knowing a bit how the Beatles worked, I would guess that George picked up his Telecaster and doodled along making bass notes to fill the song out and John and Paul said “lets keep it like that, it sounds cool”. And if anyone would do something of that kind of unusual nature, it would be The Beatles.

So when I lay down bass tracks, I went to my own Viola Bass, the same style McCartney used in the Revolver/Rubber Soul mid sixties era and it was definitely what the song was lacking for its low end.

Then the bongos were scaled back. In fact, everything was scaled back to make it simpler. At one point Kevin even had a Rhodes keyboard track if I remember correctly. And slowly we brought everything back in to see what fit right. The decision was finally made that Kevin’s crunchier electric guitar track would be brought in panned far to the right or left and my tremolo guitar would be far the opposite leaving the basic rhythm and vocal in the middle.

The easiest part to do whatever we wanted with was the double bridge “you and I have memories…”, probably because that part was more “open” and easier to experiment with without messing things up.  The tremolo guitar and the crunchy electric are allowed to stand out more there with the simpler rhythm and bass line.  I think that’s probably the part where you hear our input more – along with the original ideas that probably emanated from the brain of Sir Paul McCartney.

The final result was a balanced non chunky semi-rock version but keeping the song’s original integrity. After all, this is the Beatles. There has to be musical integrity mixed with experimentation. I think that’s how they’d have done it.

Listen on YouTube: https://youtu.be/BPZoxP8E2WU

Listen to Two of Us on Spotify

Buy it on iTunes

Buy on CDBaby

Two of Us by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Copyright Sony/ATV Tunes LLC dba ATV o/b/o ATV (Northern Songs Catalog)

The “Waiting” Video is Here

Time is precious and life is precious. We hope our video for the song “Waiting” effectively conveys that.  We often worry about the future, or obsess about the past and forget that we live here and now.  “Now is the day that is here” sums up the song fairly well.

It is a summery song in many ways with catchy guitar hooks, honest lyrics, and melody and harmony that grabs your ears as you would expect from any Barley Station song.

“Waiting” appears as track 1 on the Barley Station album Back There Somewhere, released Sept. 14, 2017.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel here for future releases:  http://www.youtube.com/barleystation

 

Announcing the release of Borderline by Barley Station

March 21, 2018

This is a Rock/Pop version of Madonna’s song that hit #10 on Billboards Top 100 in 1984. I was on the Billboards chart in various positions for a total of 30 weeks. This new version by Barley Station is more akin to the version of Madonna’s 2010 Stick and Sweet Tour and is a collaboration of vocals between Randy Wayne Belt (Barley Station) on lead vocal and Verity White (Verity White) on leading harmony (and both on backing vocals). It is an across the pond vocal collaboration between he U.S. and UK that will surprise many!

The old saying that a hit song is a hit song in any format bears true.  The new format for the song was achieved by removing the dance/pop elements from the song and stripping it all the way down to an acoustic guitar and vocal and rebuilding it with a rock/pop beat, crunchy guitars and somewhat gritty vocals.  It was with the help of Verity White on a leading harmony vocal that the song was able to be sung with a conviction and reflection of the new atmosphere that helped the song stay true to the integrity of the original underlying song written by Reggie Lucas and first performed by Madonna.

It was deemed by Randy, who produced the new version, that the piano/keyboard melody that opens the song was an important element that should be kept as closely as possible to the original and tastefully translated to the electric guitar. This was achieved by multi- layering various harmonics of the melodic phrases to achieve a thick and believable electric sound.  The rest of the song fell easily enough into place very naturally.

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So far, all those surveyed before the release, liked this version even better than the original.  That could be a matter of taste because the original was a brilliant mix of dance and pop. But at the least, this song works very well in a rockier format to be certain!

The photo for the cover is by Veronica Linge Phillips of Veronica Marie Photography.

You can find Borderline at most major digital retailers such as:

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/borderline/1352851105?i=1352851119

On Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/0vXxqupVurPDg7DMFtDK2Y?si=od48UVxjSMq4F-cGtbzkTA

And at CD Baby: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/barleystation20

 

Katie Belle Akin: Review of “You Are My Holiday”

 

Katie’s enthusiasm for music and singing has been consistent since an early age.  Following her dreams, working hard, and learning from her mistakes with an always upbeat attitude has helped her multi-task successfully as a musical entertainer and in fashion as a model.

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Since her very first music release, and even since my last review of her music, she has come a long, long way, and like a fine wine, only improves with time.

She has that special “it” in all that she does that brings me to her Christmas song, which I pulled from her back catalog of other great songs.  

Blessed with natural vocal talent and an ear for a good melody, Katie brings home the Christmas cheer easily with her song “You Are My Holiday“. I dug this song up by accident and was surprised I didn’t find it before. It is from 2012 but sounds as fresh as yesterday!  It is pure goodness!

I can hear this song being covered by other artists in the future in a big way. And it is also a great candidate for a Christmas movie soundtrack.

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The rich warm acoustic guitar played by song co-writer Kip Williams starts the song out accompanied by Katie’s naturally pure and very tuned vocals and with the snare brushes and brush hits that give it a light and smooth feel.

Katie’s vocal gives a rich, warm, and enchanting beginning to the song that when the chorus kicks in knocks you out with a fantastic hook that will be stuck in your head for life.

As the song progresses from the perfect opening sparse arrangement, more instrumentation comes in and the bass picks things up a notch and never lets it back down.

With dramatic vocal pauses before the chorus, the song is well arranged and puts the “Merry” into Merry Christmas.

The song will fill you with feelings of jubilee and bright cheerfulness washing away any kind of sadness that sometimes come to many this time of year. The song is like an escape into merriment and blissful joy.

Katie Belle’s Homepage:  http://www.katiebellega.com

Watch the video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/gvqd1IKorwI