Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dan Simonis' new album

Working in a recording studio can prove taxing, and no one knows this better than Dan Simonis. "I would say the worst scenario was recording with Phil Spector. He literally kept us under lock and key, and was going on 4 days without sleep. This rendered him totally paranoiac, and we had to keep hiding his pistol for fear of death."

Yes, it can be adventurous in such surroundings, but Dan can weather such storms. His best recording session was in the mountains of Tennessee in a log cabin studio. the sound was naturally absorbed in the old oak wood that was used to build this Earthy structure. He still thinks fondly of those days and brought out some of his best songs. These days it is all state of the art, and can leave a lot to be desired. It is a cold cavernous feeling, and can feel more like a mausoleum, so Dan counters this with throwing some Persian carpets on the floor and burns incense. It does help and Dan gets into the moment.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Dry Spell

Rex Caliber will be quick to tell you how dismal the 80's and 90's were, with groups that either were pleated pant crooners, or effeminate hair bands. One of those he signed was Formacion, a band that worked the Mexican clubs.

They were arrested after being searched by police and finding 8 pounds of marijuana. He was in his 60's and thinking about hanging it up when he was approached by Bret Austin who ran Old Bisbee Music in Arizona.

Bret wanted an investor to go in half with his recording/promotions business. He already had a good base clientele that included Pinetop Perkins as well as Gatemouth Brown. He wanted, however, to expand his brand to included country music. This was the break Rex needed, and asked where to sign. He and Bret wanted to put together a tour that would feature 4 bands and Rex already had signed Toru Takemitsu, a Japanese country and western singing phenomena.

They also did benefits for organizations like the Verhelst House, which is halfway house for men, to help them make the transition from the jail to the street. When they got on tour they were making their way across the Texas Panhandle and when they were playing Wink Texas, they saw a musician that made an impression that would not be soon forgotten. That person was Dan Simonis and the West Texas Millionaires.

The band met while wildcatting oil pumps in Amarillo. Their sound was very unique, not your run of the mill Garth Brooks or Allan Jackson; no, their sound could have come out of the distant past, the product cow hands around the turn of the century. But the year was 1998, and Rex and Bret signed them to a record deal that would continue to this day. They joined the tour and recorded as they went along. Since then Dan has made the pages of the New York Times and the L.A. times to the praises of music critics. 45 caliber records collaboration with Old Bisbee music has proven to be a success, taking the Bisbee Blues fest to a new level. However Bret Austin was under a extensive audit by the I.R.S. and had to abscond to an Arabian country to protect what assets he had left. No longer is the Blues Fest the small gathering in the Gulch, now it brings in top names and up to 3000 attendees. And 45 caliber records continue to look for the next Dan Simonis and the West
Texas Millionaires.

Celebrating the Seventies

Probably no other time brought so much life and good times than when Rex Caliber was recording bands in the '7os. So many changes took place in that time period, you had the acoustic sound then disco came and went, to be followed with the strange new wave/punk and the hair bands. All of this was capitalized on by Rex but one group stands out in his mind; they called themselves "Top Secret" and had a funky hybrid of styles. They eluded being pigeon holed into one category, and almost sounded like a different band with each song they penned.

They were the first to have a rotating stage and to use lasers. The lead singer Oliver Redding held the record of having a four octave range beating out David Bowie. Though talented, Top Secret failed to bring in audiences on the road, and Rex lost big money on the record that used digital mixing that was expensive for its day. He took the loss and sent them on their way in 1978 leaving a decade of decadence.
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