Monday, July 25, 2011


"...And the livin' is easy"

Or at least so goes the Gershwin classic. And, really, I can't argue as I check in from this quiet, country cottage Southampton way; Our family, seaside vaca in full swing.

That said, truth be told, I'm not a big fan of the summer; never have been. I come from a long line of perspiring Sicilians. Growing up my Dad had an air conditioner in every room of the house. One August day our neighbor came to visit wearing a parka. He thought we were crazy but we were happy as clams (in the freezer section).

In addition to my freon-dependent DNA, I also think my long-standing summer reservations neurotically stem from feelings of intimidation fueled by the expectations of all those "Hot Fun in the Summertime" cliches that accompany the season - Like, what if I don't particularly feel like having fun, fun, fun? Or worse yet, what if I really try to have a sunny, sultry blast but my summer's a total wipe out? Isn't that way too much pressure to put on one's self... especially when it's so damn hot?

But, just as the seasons change, surprisingly, I find myself loosening up a bit these days when it comes to my summertime blues. Despite my contempt for temperatures above 70 degrees (and an acute shorts phobia), I've promised myself to at least try and take advantage of some of what these brief, sun-drenched months have to offer, expectations be damned, before Daddy takes that T-Bird away.


PS - In keeping with the spirit of this post, check out one of my favorite "summer" songs below by my old pal, Michael Shelley -

(Can't see the player? Click here to listen)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Liner Notes

I was recently approached by pop music Blog, "Pop Fair" and asked if I might have any rare/unreleased tracks, demos, etc I might be willing to share with their readers. I thought it was a cool idea and a fun way to say thanks to all who have listened over the years so I decided to give the project a go. After putting in some thought and receiving some great suggestions from the Pop Fair folks themselves, we dug through the vaults to come up with a (hopefully) interesting and different collection of material.

Currently posted on Pop Fair as a free digi EP download, I realized that maybe some peeps might enjoy this somewhat random collection of odds and sods a little better if they knew the back stories behind the tunes. So, as such, here goes...

"Every Night"

Some years back I was asked to contribute to a Macca tribute album the proceeds of which were to benefit cancer research. I'm usually not a big fan of "tribute records" but since this one would be helping a worthy cause and as the source material was that of Sir Paul's, how could I

The Paulie track I decided to cover was one of my faves of his, "Every Night". After mulling it over a bit, I decided to keep my arrangement fairly close to the original with a few embellishments. Why mess with perfection, right?

In the end, the project became a really nice double-disc affair (Oglio Records), featuring some scrappy up-and-comers such as myself as well as some very talented, well-established artists like Neil & Tim Finn, Matthew Sweet, etc. Funny enough, the esteemed Mr. Sweet also chose to do a cover of "Every Night". Our takes on the tune are interestingly very similar, proving either great minds think alike... or we both were too chicken to mess with McCartney's vision.

Since this album is no longer officially in print, I thought it was fair game to share the track. That said, if you like what you hear, please consider making a donation to the charity's original recipient, The Susan G. Komen Foundation.

"In Colour"

As some may know, my alter-ego (he spells Mark w/ a "c") creates music for television from time to time. This track, pulled from my commercial jingle work, was originally pitched for an HP color printer ad. Sadly, it was never used for the campaign but I always liked the way it came out - sort of a glammy mix of T-Rex meets Bowie in vibe. Very 70's Brit-tastic (thus the English spelling of "color", of course).
I'm such a dorky Anglophile.

"Down to the River" (demo)

A few years back the word was out that one of my favorite 70's bands, America, was making a new album ("Here & Now") produced by Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger and Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha. Adam and James' intriguing premise for the project was to take the band back to their roots sound-wise while also having America record a few songs written by a new generation of pop songwriters who were influenced by the band. I asked Adam if I could submit something and he graciously said I could. Written in about two afternoons and quickly recorded in maybe two hours time, this bare-bones demo is what I submitted for the band's consideration.

Ultimately, "Down to the River" was passed on for the project with a lot of the outside writing credits going to higher profile artists such as My Morning Jacket, Nada Surf, etc. I was a little disappointed the tune didn't make the cut but felt a whole lot better when Adam told me Gerry and Dewey from America really dug the song and were seriously considering it. Honors enough for a kid who used to listen
with wonder to "Ventura Highway" on a tiny AM radio back in the 70's.

"(Love Theme From) Shark"

This tune comes to you direct from yet another failed TV pitch (it's a tough biz, folks). "Shark" was written
back in '06 as a potential theme song for a (short-lived) US television series/legal drama of the same name staring James Woods. Woods playing a notorious LA defense attorney who, disillusioned with his career, becomes a public prosecutor. If I remember right, they were looking for a theme with a "Mack the Knife" retro-vibe to it which I tried (emphasis on 'tried') to deliver.

For some reason this tune also reminds me a little of, dare I say, Jon Brion's work. A good thing to aspire to in my book.

"Camp Elmo" (Live Acoustic)

This live, stripped-down performance of the 'Queens English' song, "Camp Elmo" was pulled from one of my video Blogs and features my bud, Jay Sherman-Godfrey accompanying me on acoustic guitar and vocals. Minus the album version production, this take on the song assumes an almost country-ish, back porch vibe I kind of like.

"Listening to the Band"

This pop/punk cover of the great Michael Shelley song should technically be credited to 'The Clifton Foundation', a silly band/side-project that my wife and I launched just for kicks back in the early oughts. Aside from this tune (which was actually recorded as a birthday gift for Mr. Shelley), the Cliftons also partially recorded a yet unfinished EP. Maybe when our son goes off to college, my wife and I will try and finish it from our rocking chairs (emphasis on 'rocking').

"For Real"

This tune is yet another track that should really be credited to a side project/band of mine called, 'The Down Crowd'. This outfit was originally formed to explore some of my darker tunes. With elements of electronica sprinkled throughout the productions, it was sort of an interesting stylistic detour I might revisit one day, time permitting.

"Let's Go"

Another in a continuing series of rejected TV spots, this bouncy little ditty was composed for, of all things, a Hershey Theme Park (aka "The Sweetest Place on Earth") ad pitch. There was also a version of this tune with lyrics too embarrassing to ever be heard anywhere except within the confines of a park built on pure chocolate.

"Lighter Than Air"

One more time!.. failed television ad pitch # 1,015 (are you starting to see a trend here folks, maybe I should go back to grad school?). This one was submitted for a 3 Musketeers' commercial some time back that was aimed at the fairer sex and sang the praises of the chocolate bar as a lighter and somewhat less fattening snack. Ummm... Ok.

"(Do the) Juje"

Ah, success... finally! This fun instrumental was composed for and used on the now defunct but wildly popular male-makeover, TV series, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy". I stole the title of the tune from a (faux French?) nonsensical, buzz word that one of the show's stars, Carson Kressley, often used to describe adding a stylish little adjustment or tweak to someone's look in order to amp it up - "Just give it a little juje and there you go!..".

Hope you enjoy the download! Thanks for listening and if you're new to my music and haven't done so as of yet, please visit my site and join the mailing list, I'd love to stay in touch.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Am What I Am...

"I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam!"

Sage advice from the spinach huffing sailor man of yore.

Watching Popeye cartoons as a kid, I don't think I ever fully appreciated the depth of that little pronouncement. Thinking back on it's meaning now as an adult, I realize it's quite a useful mantra when the idealism of youth yields to the cold, hard facts of grownups-ville. When things, maybe not turning out as expected on that bumpy road into town, force one to reconcile who they've become with who they thought they'd be.

I find the same applies in art as it does life.

With the first month of the new year almost a memory and 2010 fading into the distance, I've found myself running into many of those inevitable, year-in-review, "Best Of" lists folks in the music world, journalists and fans alike, enjoy assembling. I guess these compilations are fun to read but at the same time, probably a little dangerous to hold too much stock in especially if stuff you've created stands to very likely be omitted from such rundowns. That said, I also have to admit it's kind of flattering when the work you've done is actually included in the roll call.

Releasing "Queens English" back in the spring, I feared I might alienate some hardcore fans of the power pop vibe who've previously supported my music since "QE" is, stylistically,
a touch outside the genre and a little different from what I've done in the past. As such, it was kind of cool and in some ways validating to see the album appear on a number of these aforementioned "Best Of" lists especially those within the pop scene. While certainly being a full on pop record in my mind, I also knew "QE" was not "Pop Job 2.0". With downtown guitars replaced by uptown horns and "Who's your daddy?" lyrical content substituted with tales of baby-daddies, it was, indeed, a bit of a change up but one, nonetheless, a sailor man with heart-on-his-sleeve leanings had to make. I really had no choice.

I am what I am... Hope you are too.