Let's Keep It Real

from by Michael James

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Jazz-rock fusion of the '70s remains one of my guilty pleasures. This tune borrows some of the classic tones of the era, while mashing up a Hendrix-esque riff with a Zepplin-esque bridge, some "expensive" Steely Dan chords, and a modified blues progression.

Propelled by a rhythm guitar riff inspired by Jimi Hendrix's Spanish Castle Magic, Let's Keep It Real was originally destined for another artist's album. It featured lyrics about two lovers with different priorities: one of them was focused on a big house and fancy car, while the other was more into spiritual, nonmaterial pursuits. Two good people, but they didn't connect.

Ultimately the song is about tolerance and purpose, and not becoming distracted by ephemeral things. Here I perform a guitar-interplay lyrically delivering the conversation between these two lovers. They are calm and reasonable at the beginning and the end of the discussion, but they become passionate in the middle, when tempers flare and restraint goes out the window. I distinctly remember struggling to play the chorus melody because I had not practiced. It wasn't under my fingers, so when I arrived at the improvised solo, I cut loose with reckless abandon. After I got that frustration off my chest, I settled into a nice easy groove for the final verse and chorus.

Incidentally, Let's Keep It Real is the only song on the album that does not feature a custom boutique Tom Anderson model in the lead role. The tune gets its '70s fusion vibe from a Gibson ES335 plugged straight into my Mesa/Boogie Mark I combo amp. The rhythm section of Dan Rothchild and Dan Potruch was recorded live, during the middle of the night, at Bill Kole's very small private studio with no room mics… mainly because we couldn't fit them! Certain bits of phrasing were rhythmically ambiguous, residing someplace between straight 16th-notes and eighth-note triplets. We amused ourselves, and ensured rhythmic precision, by singing and fingering the word "Lipitor" in unison during the ambiguous phrases. Rumor has it that Paul McCartney sang "scrambled eggs" to the melody of Yesterday while developing it. Perhaps my song might have become a classic if we sang "Hollandaise" or an alternative cholesterol-laden breakfast favorite.

credits

from Marchesano, released March 8, 2015
Guitars: Michael James
Keyboards: Wishnefsky
Bass: Dan Rothchild
Drums: Dan Potruch

Produced & Mixed by Michael James. Co-produced by David Kahne and Urban Olsson.
Written by Michael James and Bill Kole.
© 2015 Marchesano Music admin. by Bug Music (ASCAP)/Sweating Palms Music (BMI)
℗ © 2015 Alternator Records LLC. All rights reserved.

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about

Michael James Simi Valley, California

• Producer.Mixer.Engineer.Songwriter.Guitarist
• Gold & Platinum Records
• Discography includes New Radicals, Hole, Far, Robben Ford, L7, Edwin McCain, Chicago, Reverend Horton Heat, A.J. Croce, Butterfly Boucher, Jane's Addiction, Maia Sharp, Too Much Joy, Kalimba, Mario Guerrero and Jawbreaker.
• Former Warner/Discovery head of A&R & Producer, trained by WEA founder Jac Holzman.
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