"Just For The Record" is a brand new section at the RockUnited site where 'DJ Urban' has a look at some old(er) records/albums in the great history of hard rock and metal. It could be some "obscure" minor record label release that simply didn't get the attention it so rightly deserved the first time around. It could also be a what you would call a "classic" album or sort of a best-seller. They all have one thing in common though. They all ROCK and and they all have at least one classy enough band member to answer our q's.
SWEET COMFORT BAND: "Perfect Timing"
SWEET COMFORT BAND's album "Perfect Timing" from the year of 1984. 'SCB' are regarded as of the very first Christian Rock Bands as they started out already back in 1972. They put out their Chicago (the band, not the city) inspired self-titled debut album in '77 and became progressively more 'hard rock' with each new release. "Perfect Timing" was their last and final vinyl and it's an excellect display of poppy 80's AOR in the vein of Kansas, Foreigner, Balance, etc. Produced by Dino Elefante (Pakaderm studio) and with his brother John (Kansas vocalist) on bgv, this is clearly a 'must have' record in every soft rock fan's collection. Guitarist/vocalist RANDY THOMAS played in Allies between the years of 1984 to 1993. He became a staff song-writer with PolyGram Music, and has spent a significant amount of time writting material for artists such as Bob Carlisle, Cliff Richard, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams Jr, Highway 101, etc. He's been touring with the likes of Shania Twain and co-wrote the pop/country smash hit "Butterfly Kisses", it was #1 for seven weeks on AC radio, won a Grammy for country song of the year, and sold 3 million CD's. And guess what? Sweet Comfort Band is reforming!!! They're in the studio at this very moment and a new album's in the works. Here's, Mr. RANDY THOMAS, to tell you/us all about the excellent 1984 album, 'Perfect Timing'.
How long did this album take to make from start to finish, recording-wise?
Sweet Comfort Band used to record fairly quickly. This record was a departure from our previous producer / engineer Jack Joseph Puig. 'Perfect Timing' began to take on the form of a "goodbye" record. As I remember it, we recorded for 3 weeks or so and shut down to negotiate a final tour. The band was splintering after 10 years of touring. It was time to move on. But these things take time. We had so many fans and responsibilities, we had to schedule out a year to break up! So we returned to finish the recording for another 3 weeks or so. What would have taken 4 weeks took 6. That's how I remember it, which may or may not bear a strong resemblance to the reality.
What kind of initial budget are we talking about here?
I think it was modest by the L.A. standard - about 40 grand.
How much of the budget did you actually spend on useless equipment and other nonsense?
Odd question. The answer would be no.
What kind of 'sound', production wise, did you have in the back of your mind, prior to entering the studio?
We were in an era of "bigger is better." We wanted BIG. We recorded everything loudly and played it back loudly. Since John Elefante was on hand, and he was singing with Kansas, it took on a Kansas flavor. But we were generally thinking "big and loud."
What kind of input did the producer have during the process?
Dino sort of helmed the recording process and let the band arrange and hash out detailed ideas. Dino was very, very funny. He kept me laughing. Toward the end - I think we ran out of ideas. Unusual for us. I think Bryan Duncan wrote "Neighborhood Kids" at the last possible second.
And were you pleased with the final outcome? (sound - production wise)
Some of my guitars sound "EQ'd" to me now. Which they were. Dino would sometimes dial in weird mid frequencies, looking for an odd sound. But generally, drums, bass other things sounded good. We put too much 'verb on everything- because we COULD! That's what you did in those days. It sounds like 1983.
Did the producer use any (weird) experimental miking and/or recording techniques?
Mostly standard. Probably an SM57 on snare. My favorite sounds are when second engineer Mike Mierau would mic my amps. Mike would find the"sweet spot" rather than use EQ.
How much time did you spend on overdubs?
We tended to re-record everything but drums. So - a Sweet C record wasn't recorded; it was Rerecorded.
Which band member spent most of his days in the studio and why?
I was there every second. I was becoming a producer / engineer myself. I cared about everything. I was familiar with every tom hit and every bad punch on a vocal. I probably drove everyone crazy with perfectionism. Dino was more loose. The struggle between perfection and inspiration is where music happens. Fortunately, I lost a few battles, and the record has some looseness.
Which band member hardly spent any time at all in the studio and why?
Most band members have a disease of only listening for their own instrument. Generally, the other guys were there a lot.
Let's talk about the lyrics. Are you just as fond of them today or are they typical of its time?
Bryan Duncan is a brilliant lyricist. I would work hard to keep up. Bryan's work on this record is very dark: Envy, jealously, hate. My best was "You Led Me to Believe". My worst was "Computer Age".
How did you go on about capturing your 'live sound', or perhaps you didn't?
We just made records the best we could. We couldn't replicate all that stuff live. Our earlier stuff was nearly live. This is typical. When you start out, you're just playing the songs like you do live. By the end, you're frantically inventing songs in the studio and later trying to figure out how to reproduce it on stage.
Did the record company interfere anything on your "sound" and "songs", considering what's 'hot and not' at the time?
No, perhaps they should have. I think in those days- they didn't understand rock, so they left us alone.
Your favourite songs off the album and why?
"Perfect Timing" was a good title track. "You Led Me To Believe" and "Prodigal's Regret" were great ballads. The transition from "Lookin' For The Answer" to "Envy and Jealousy" - that's worth the price of admission right there!
Any 'oh-I-wish-we-had-never-recorded' song on this album?
On LPs you put the weakest songs at the end of the side. At least we did. So track 5 and 11. Only a fan will look that up. And, they'll probably agree.
Were there any other tracks recorded during those studio sessions that didn't make the cut?
No. This was like a swan song.
What's your honest opinion about the songs and the production today? Dated, fresh, a mess?
The sound is dated in a good way. It was the 80's. The weak stuff is embarrassing, but the strong stuff is REALLY strong.
Are there any 'crazy' behind the scenes anecdotes from these sessions that you can share with us?
Dino used to comb his hair front-ward. A comb-forward. He would move his hair up and backwards like a toupee while playing a kick drum. I would roll on the floor crying / laughing.
Were you ever a "priority" case or merely just another release at your record label?
Just another release by those crazy L.A. rocker / jazzer / Calvary Chapel boys that the record company didn't understand.
Did you ever feel like the record label supported you guys enough afterwards? (promotion-wise, tours, etc.).
They did pretty well. The accounting was creative. We sold a lot of records and never saw a penny of royalties.
Any regrets whatsoever? (regarding the album of course)
I regret that we broke up in a typical fashion. We were young. We argued our way on to the next thing. If we could do it over again, we would talk more frankly and openly. Now that we're wiser- that's how we act now.
If there's anything you'd like to add, say, or promote, please do:
Well, put this at the beginning: Sweet Comfort Band is reforming! Not a "reunion tour". After 25 years, SCB is writing and recording again! Whatever releases and concert dates follow will benefit original bassist Kevin Thomson, who is now unfortunately a quadriplegic. All we know is - we are creating some great new music. The next session is Feb 15- 19 2010 at Shelter Studios in Riverside, Calif. We are reforming for an indefinite time.
Interview by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,