One of the great things I’ve noticed about the music scene in New Jersey is that it’s constantly branching off onto different pathways. That’s not a bad thing. Asbury Park has the Live Nation events on waterfront, The Saint maintains acts over on Main Street, Greg Macolino’s Brighton Bar factor is a mainstay in the Long Branch area, you have Mike Grau and the Buddies Tavern in Parlin and now we have Farmingdale jumping into the mix. Producer/engineer Guy Daniels at City Lights in Farmingdale rolled out his newest musical venture called “Sessions At City Lights,” a fresh approach mixing the adventure of a live recording studio session with audience interaction.
Many people that go to see live music never get to see what the “behind the scenes” entails and it’s a fascinating thing someone that’s never been in a studio before. Visiting the performers lair gives the listener insight as to how the artist ticks, showing the process of turning the performance into something tangible to hold, such as a CD.
This past Aug. 4 City Lights Recording Studios used the event of recording Linda Chorney’s new live CD titled Smallest Hits to bring in a group of fans and actually have them be part of her session. Guests were politely reminded by the staff that cell phones were not permitted inside the tracking room where they would be sitting, driving home the exciting fact that they would soon be part of an actual recording tonight.
To me, Linda Chorney was the smart choice to kick off with for several good reasons. Shehas shared the marquee with distinguished acts like Paul Simon, Jackson Brown, Sheryl Crow, Dave Mason, Marc Muller (Shania Twain), and Bobby Bandiera (Bon Jovi). She’s easy going and confident in a situation where many others would stumble over the closeness of the crowd. And she has the musical magic to make something like this special. Guy Daniels fired up the gear and captured that musical magic with fellow engineer Phil Ludwig, who has worked with everyone from guitar monster John Tropea to bass giant Will Lee and Carole King.
Linda Chorney was charming and funny, taking time to talk with the audience (all seated semi-circle in the big tracking room) joking as she kicked off the set with a false start with, “Sorry, I’m kind of Gerry Garcia senile” before launching into a stellar set culled from her five albums including My Blunt Instrument (1996), Racing With Reality (1998), Me So Chorney (2002), 1 Kiss At A Time (2006) and Chornography (2008).
Linda took the crowd on a journey through everything from misery and lust in “Good Pain” (“They say time heals all wounds, but you’d have to lick mine for a very long time”) to the hollow anguish of 9-11 with the song “We Bless America,” a thought-provoking tune that was written on a napkin and driven home with the echoed sentiment of “how I wish Tuesday never came.”
Other great songs like the dusky Carole King flavoring of “Living Alone,” a tune that screams major label gold with a killer chorus, verse and bridges. And “Island Boy,” a composition that put the audience right into the game with Guy handing out percussion instruments for the crowd to play along with. Linda was also joined by Jersey percussion legend Richie Blackwell. Richie is also no stranger to the stage and studio having played on boyhood friend Bruce Springsteen’s first two albums and several other notable projects over the years. Richie lent a genuine, easy shuffle to the island flavored bounce as Linda set up the bell shaking crowd, revving them with tales of tropical admirers doing their absolute best to gain her “favors.”
Second set highlights such as the “Best Friend Song” and “One Kiss At A time” and the sure fired hit “Sit On The Steps,” an Amy Helm/EmmyLou Harris-vibed gem, warmed the crowd well. I also want to mention guitarist Ralph Notaro, who lent great flavorings on guitar and mandolin throughout the night. Linda also did a great cover of Zeppelin’s “California” with Ralph on the mandolin.
A welcome break from the pack ‘em and rack ‘em bar scene, Linda Chorney gives the listener confessional honesty delivered in the traditional and time-tested manner of guitar, vocal and soul. There’s no tricks here—only magical reality.
I can only wonder whom Guy Daniels will have up next on the City Lights Sessions. As things get set into motion for the next installment we’ll keep you posted here at The Aquarian and I look forward to being asked back again for this intimate and relaxing shows around. The live Linda Chorney recording entitled, Smallest Hits will be available in the near future over at 1299onthehighway.com. lindachorney.com.