Army Blues – Album #1

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Published In 1972

This album was put together a full two years after the formation of the band and is representative of nearly two full years of playing as a road band. In fact, many original members of the band had already moved on by the time this album was recorded. The numbers here were chosen by committee and were picked in an effort to make a commercially-appealing product they could use to get more gigs. As a result, many of the tunes recorded here are the kind of things that would have been popular back in 1972 with very few concessions made to their own personal tastes. Vocalist Walt Skees essentially chose material he had already been performing in his own shows with the exception of “Proud Mary” which he chose specifically for this album. The 5/4 section in the middle of the song was actually written specifically to make Walt Skees (the vocalist) “work for it” as they say. He did not like it at all and never imagined that anyone else would either. However, any time they performed it live, it was received enthusiastically. This, of course, annoyed Walt to no end.

This album was recorded in the long-since-razed T-71 building on the Fort Myer base in Arlington, VA. The building was old and rickety but it was all they had until Brucker Hall was built later on. The band was arranged along the back wall and sessions continued for a few weeks until the album was finished. They made liberal use of recording and re-recording to generate a finished product.

The album ultimately achieved it’s goal and the band had more gigs than it knew what to do with. Of course, highlights abound. “Summertime” is a tune from “Porgy and Bess” arranged by Bill Potts which is basically treated as an exciting big band dance tune. “The 14th Street Bridge Song” is a tune that is liberally sampled from “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”, though it’s taken at a much faster pace. The arranger decided it should be a paen to the Potomac River and dubbed it, “Bridge Over Polluted Water”. “On A Clear Day” is Walt Skees at his very best. There was never a crowd he couldn’t excite and this song shows off all the reasons why. “I Remember Clifford” is a gorgeous ballad that remains a favorite of Bob’s (“Summertime” is as well) and was written in tribute to Clifford Brown. A nice debut from a truly great band.

Audio Note: This album was remastered directly from the original “EQ limited” master reels (the ones from which the original LP’s were pressed). This was as close to the original master reels as we could get since, sadly, the masters were disposed of many years ago. These tapes were stored in what can only be described as deplorable conditions and they were mistreated in every conceivable way until I acquired them in 2005. Given all of that, these tapes sound remarkably good and I was able to extract very nice sound from them. Still, they are not without their inherent imperfections. There is hiss on some of these tunes and removing it would have degraded the sound so I chose not to electronically remove it. Noise reduction systems like DBX and Dolby “A” were not yet realized so hiss was the order of the day. Thanks to modern technology (Logic Pro, Peak, and other things) and a lot of hard work, I got a really good sound I’m quite proud of. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it as well.  (Ed)

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