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Rowayton Music
Three Bands
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Chapter 1 - Blue Light
Chapter 2 - Dave's Room
Chapter 3 - Airfix
Chapter 4 - Blue Monday
Chapter 5 - The Boston Years
Chapter 6 - The December Projects
Chapter 7 - Pinkney Park
Chapter 8 - Grass Roots
Chapter 9 - The Albums
October Palace
Leftovers and Other Exotic Foods
New Shoes
Chapter 10



“The trials and tribulations have exceeded the frequency range”



Group: Tom May, Melissa Janicke, Dave Procter, Greg Smith
Recording and Mixing Period: between March 22, 1980 and June 17, 1981.
Location: Recorded and mixed at Scovil Studios, 69 Main Street, Norwalk, CT Engineered primarily by Jeff Jones. (Except for Confusion to the French recorded January 22, 1979.)

After Audrey and Harry had left town (forever, as far as we knew) I asked Tom and Dave if they wanted to do another studio project. They did, but we all felt we needed more than the three of us. Audrey had moved to LA, but I met Melissa Janicke who lived and worked in Darien. She sang, wrote, played piano and guitar, and loved Joni Mitchell’s work. Her sound was just different enough for us to stretch our sound. We started playing together, but still didn’t have enough material for a full project. Also, our work schedules were full and it was hard for us to practice and build a full portfolio.

We had found a studio in Norwalk on Main Street (Route 7), above a Greek food market, called Scovil Studios. The studio itself was well equipped and bigger than Golden East. The rates were cheap and negotiable and more importantly, we could do sessions on nights and weekends.

We broke all the rules for this project. Instead of practicing for weeks and months, and then doing a one-day marathon schedule, we spent months recording and mixing this. Altogether, we had thirteen musicians and seven composers.

We would book studio time with various combinations of musicians, sometimes as few as three, sometimes as many as eight. The photographic record documents five, but we had many more. We also mixed as we went along. The result was not a coherent album, but a sampling of the different talents and styles that had comprised the collective groups over the years. We never had a vision for this project; we just recorded material until we had enough for a collection.

Note the printed credits on the final album have Turn of River on the wrong side.

If we had decided to press records for this project, we would have had a double album. The four principals on this album were:
  • Tom May vocals, acoustic and electric guitars
  • Melissa Janicke vocals, piano, acoustic guitar
  • Greg Smith vocals, 12-string guitar, electric guitar, harmonica
  • Dave Procter vocals, bass
The principal group was small, but in the end we had just about everyone still living in the Northeast come in and play with us. (The only rule was that at least one of the principals had to be on the track.) Audrey, still in LA, and Bill, MIA in the Midwest, were the only members of our recent groups not to appear on this album. Other musicians included:
  • Ed Flinn conga on Sonora Story, Amaretta, Unknown Shores, 31 June, Past the Headlands
  • Harry Hussey vocals and electric guitar on How Things Turn Around, vocals on Sonora Story, electric guitar on Headlands, 31 June
  • Josh Kramer vocals and acoustic guitar on Unknown Shores, Sail Away Weary Sailor, We Need Us, Dance in the Fountain of Life
  • Mark Lebow drums on Sonora Story, How Things Turn Around
  • Alan Freedman bass on How Things Turn Around
  • Dave Hopkins acoustic guitar on Amaretta
  • Tricia Lowrey flute on Because of You
  • Tony Savoie drums on Headlands
  • Scott Wyland electric guitar on Sonora Story
Tony Savoie and Tricia Lowrey were friends of Harry’s from college. (We went through flute players the way Spinal Tap went through drummers. Depending on how you count, Tricia was the sixth or seventh* to play flute with us since 1974.)

The songs were all originals, but we had some older work as well as recent compositions. Because we had so many “guests”, we had a larger range of material. The fifteen originals that comprised the album included some of our best writing.

Sonora Story (as I recall) was a fun song to write. The “story” allowed me to be more lyrical and clever than usual. We tried a version with me singing the lead and scrapped the whole thing. Melissa improvised a beautiful introduction to the song and Harry came in to sing a really excellent lead. The piano adds an unaccustomed depth to the main part of the song under Tom’s lead. Also, listen for Tom’s great background vocal on the chorus.

Amaretta is a very traditional structure. The heart of the song is actually Dave’s bass, somewhere between percussion and melody. Tom, as always, does a great lead and has a nice “duel” with Dave during the instrumental. Dave Hopkins also plays guitar on this. His first studio work with us.

Josh came down from Boston for several sessions. (He’d move to Portland not long after this.) Unknown Shores was one of the songs he had written since we’d played together in Boston. He and Melissa do an interesting duet while the rest of us provide various layers. I like the way this song builds and changes… without any real change to the structure. Very hypnotic to play as well as to listen to.

Secrets of the Heart was one of Melissa’s compositions written for the guitar. This song builds in an interesting way as well and the lyrics are very good, I think. It never repeats its melody. At 1:56 it’s also one of the shortest things we ever recorded. Tom provides a nice tremolo on the electric guitar, the only other musician on this piece.

31 June is one of my better compositions by all accounts. (So why did I play it so fast?) Besides Tom’s excellent guitar work and background vocals, Melissa’s piano and Ed’s conga are worth paying attention to. (Again, why did I play it so fast?)

Confusion to the French, which was an entirely spontaneous creation that Tom and I made up on the spot in my bedroom, back on the evening of January 22, 1979 (before we had even started on October Palace). We added this instrumental because it was a relatively clean recording and (to me) showed what a remarkable musician Tom was. In this recording, you’re listening to Tom follow and even anticipate where I take this improvisation. He simply had no idea where this was going. (Neither did I.) At 6:04, it’s one of the longest pieces on Headlands, but one of the most interesting and fluid.

Sail Away Weary Sailor is a song Josh had taken as his own when I taught it to him during our time in Boston, but the words are pure Dave. I listen to them and think about who Dave was during the time he wrote them, back in our Airfix days. Dave had a whole separate bridge that I never completely learned the words to. Dave never bothered to teach them to Josh when he had the chance to play on this with us. I’ve always wondered what he thought of Josh’s version of this. This superb version was taken from a particularly good session we did in May of 1980 with Dave, Tom, Josh and me. (More on this later.)

Placid Lake Blue is one of the most beautiful, simple songs Harry has ever written. Also some of his best lyrics… and most poignant. This was one of the first songs we did for this album. It’s just Tom, Dave and me.

Turn of River is a solo piano instrumental by Melissa. I think I’ve listed to this more than any track from this album. Melancholy and beautiful, I just wish we had known a cellist.

Because of You is another of Melissa’s originals. Her structures were so delicate that we rarely added other instrumentation. (We’d just muddy it up.) Tricia Lowrey’s flute is wonderfully intuitive on this. (She had no time to learn the song.) I wish we had had more time with her.

We Need Us is classic Josh; deceptively simple. We should have dropped the second harmony (me), but Dave’s bass on this is outstanding.

Dance in the Fountain of Life; Harry thinks this song is far from his best work. Josh and I never cared what he thought. Fun to play and to sing, this is another song from that extraordinary 5/80 session. Just sit back and enjoy, Harry.

Paradox was Melissa’s most “important” song for this project. I think it came out well, but I don’t think it showcases her best writing and singing talents. It would do justice to this composition to rework it and re-record it.

Past the Headlands is a good example where everything went right. Tom sang the lead perfectly, with a good harmony from Melissa. Harry provided exactly the right driving lead that worked with Melissa’s piano lead. (The only lead we ever heard her do.) The drumming by Tony Savoie, bass by Dave, conga by Ed… hell, I could have stayed home and just mailed this one in.

How Things Turn Around is, depending what you believe, accident or inevitable. Tricia Lowrey provided lyrics that are a series of sketches around the universal truth contained in the song. Harry built an appropriate, not overly complicated, musical structure. Alan Freedman, Mark Lebow and I are the only musicians behind Harry (and I’m barely there). We could have spent more time tuning. (When has this not been true?) But I still think this is simply one of the best things we ever did. A good end to a long project.

Songs recorded (in the studio and outside during this time), but not put on the final album include:

There are many examples of really good work, which stands to reason given such an ambling project. For example, a tape exists of a session from May, 1980 with the following personnel:
  • Josh Kramer acoustic guitar, vocal, autoharp
  • Greg Smith 12 string, vocal, harmonica
  • Tom May acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals
  • Dave Procter bass
This unmixed session showcased Tom’s lead playing, Josh’s superb vocals and Dave’s ability to play a more imaginative, melodic, but still competent bass. The between song banter shows the familiarity we had developed in the previous years of constant playing. Songs from this session include:
  • 31 June Greg Smith
  • Sail Away Weary Sailor Dave Procter
  • Bridges Greg Smith
  • Dance in the Fountain of Life Harry Hussey
  • One of Yer Typical Maritime Goodbyes ‘bout 1880 Greg Smith
  • You Are Free Harry Hussey
  • You Are Free (again)
  • Woman of My Dreams Josh Kramer
Martha Wyland took photos for the cover of the four principles in Dave’s room on a sweltering July evening in 1981. These pictures are particularly poignant given that Tom and Dave are gone now. I particularly like this sequence of Dave.

We had a cover and two-sided insert for the cassette. (No LP this time.) We also had a “parody” music book about the album for the players. We did a cassette run of 111 tapes. Unfortunately, we looked at price over quality and just about all of these copies are unplayable today.

    * Flute players:
  • Patti Buckley, 1973
  • Mike Hector, 1973
  • Lisa Hansen, 1975
  • Melissa Handler, 1976
  • Holly Saxe, 1978
  • Tricia Lowrey, 1981
  • Nelia Moody, 1982