This piece was originally posted as “Music Catalog Review” on October 11, 2019.
As the 2010’s close out, this is a review of all my albums and their songs. When people ask me, “What is your best song?” I reply, “I have a lot a great songs, go to Spotify, et al, and pick a title that looks interesting.” Then people ask me, “What are your best songs?” That’s tough again, because I feel I can easily fill any top-10 (20, 30…) list with songs that no one in my era can beat. My personal top-3 are “Ridiculous”, “Anna Rex”, and whatever other song you love. I have a lot of amazing songs. Much depends on what you prefer.
I was really excited, and very naive, when I finally released my debut album Magnified in January 2012. It was really fun to record with Jay Stanley, who is a songwriter, turned producer. He had a great studio on the 2nd floor of his house in Ocoee, Florida. It was separated from everybody else, which allowed us to work well together without interruptions in the summer & fall of 2011.
I would come in with my songs, and we would usually record 2 per two-hour session. I laid down the guitars, vocals, bass and harmonica– in that order. Jay would loop the rhythm guitars & bass to keep it tight to the click track. Then Jay would drop in beats electronically, as I would monitor & make suggestions. I’ve said it before– in many ways this is a rock-electronica album. I did the beats (mostly looped) on “Mercury Rising,” and the hi-hat on “Pay to Play.” The rest were done by Jay, and I feel he was very creative with them.
The biggest limitation of this album is in its production. Jay Stanley isn’t a professional producer, which is a skill that takes decades to master. He has the passion for music, which can get you a long ways, but there’s a lot of harshness of sound & distortion clipping on Magnified. I wanted that punk, trebly edge, but there’s too much in hindsight– IMO.
There’s also very little bass, which is under-mixed, and a common error among under-experienced producers. There’s a lot of wash in the sound, but I accepted that knowing I played everything, and that much of it was looped. For a debut album, this is a 4.5 star effort on the 5-star album scale. Every song is an anthem, and it’s delivered on time. It was a lot of fun to make, and nothing else from 2012 sounds anything like this underground classic. I dubbed it revolution rock, and established this site with the help of webmaster Tom Pearce to promote the record.
I wanted better sound separations, and more live playing for my follow-up album. I went back to Jay Stanley in the summer of 2013, who had by then moved his residence (and home studio) to Apopka. I was to be among his first clients in this new studio, which is a suburb garage converted into a music studio. The acoustics and sound-proofing were problematic from the start.
This is when I brought in Tom Pearce to be my drummer. Tom is a professional musician and sound savant. He immediately began making me aware of issues with the recordings. I intended Electrified to be my best album, and as Tom began to challenge my conceptions of what this album could sound like, I began to butt heads with Jay. There was one time where Jay’s needy girlfriend busted in on our session (again), and Jay flipped out. He left the control room in anger, then came back and said to me, “The session is over.” I had been there for 20 minutes.
I packed up & left, stopping at the first gas station to relax and gain my composure, when Jay texted me that I could come back, and that the issue was his girlfriend is an alcoholic. I went back in a mood, pulled out my Stratocaster and told Jay to record. It was the guitar riff to “Brothers.” I remember singing those sobering lyrics to him in the soundbooth. That’s an example of the intensity level throughout the recording of Electrified.
I also brought in videographer Susan Cameron to film a studio session, and it was inserted into my attempt at a documentary movie of the same title. There was a lot going on, for sure. By autumn all the songs had been tracked (except for Rachel’s vocals), and I asked Jay to do a rough mix-down. I was asking him to impress me, but he didn’t. It was at that point I asked for a copy of all the tracks to Electrified. Jay wasn’t happy about it, as anyone would be, but to his credit he acquiesced and put the tracks on an external hard drive. From this point, onward, everything I have recorded has been produced by Tom Pearce.
As mentioned, I made an attempt at a feature length motion picture. Electrified! the movie died in the rough cut phase because: 1) no more money, and 2) creative differences between myself & Susan Cameron– my partner on the project. I financed the project, and she was underpaid for sure. Susan Cameron was an amazing inspiration to this film, and we patched it together in a little over a year– using entirely local talent.
All it needed was some production polish & final editing, but when I introduced the “Marxist lecture” portions of the film (near the end of shooting), she suddenly lost interest. By January 2014, local businesses & influencers had gotten wind of Ric Size, so they threw a bunch of money at her to do their overblown projects while abandoning the film. That’s my version of what happened. I’m not bitter, just disappointed.
When it came to forming a list of potential promotional partners (sponsors) for the film, Sue kept suggesting Bill Maher, et al. I kept insisting it could only be a revolutionary superstar artist, such as Madonna or Brian Eno. Sue is a liberal Democrat producer, and I ‘m a Trotskyist artist with creative control. In the end we did amazingly well to get that far into production (~98% finished) before breaking up. It’s still a powerful film, and the original soundtrack is all Jay Stanley mixed.
Orson Welles was asked near the end of his life at a press conference, “What is the best part of making movies?” A once-again defeated Orson Welles candidly replied, “When you know the money is in the bank.” Don’t attempt to make a film, unless all the money is there to finish & distribute it. That’s a hard lesson.
Tom had to transfer the digital files out of ProTools (Apple), and convert them into PC format so he could use Studio One, which is the software he decided upon. It has been a great choice, as it records very clean, and I am doubly happy because I paid for all this.
ProTools mucks-up the recorded sound with its built in effects. ProTools is the “industry standard,” but it’s also why so much of today’s music sounds the same. Many serious musicians have moved away from ProTools in the past few years for the same reason. Tom & I have been leaders in this movement towards better sound quality & the return of dynamics.
There were many tracks on Electrified that had to be re-recorded after my split with Jay Stanley, due to poor or faulty microphoning, especially on the drum kit. Tom used his own snare, but the rest was Jay’s in-house kit, which was mic-ed by at least 8-10 microphones. Some worked, and some didn’t. Lots of spillage, etc. There were 30-40 tracks for each song, due to this style of microphoning, along with digitally duplicated tracks. Many were just empty air.
Once again, this isn’t good professional technique, and I want people to understand how much work it was for Tom Pearce to wade through all this jumble, and piece this album back together. This was also very frustrating for the songwriter, as I knew these were great songs, but the studio engineer/producer kept dropping the ball and making me look bad, when he’s supposed to be covering my mistakes and making me sound good. Like I said, there’s lots of tension on this album, but in the end it was worth it. I thank Jay Stanley for giving me what he could. At least he was willing to “go there” with me, which no one else would do. It takes balls.
The biggest improvement on Electrified are the professional musicians & producer. The song quality is roughly equal to Magnified, perhaps a bit better. Tom’s live drumming shows up instantly in “Spirit of the Road” and is an essential element to this 5-star classic. There is (again) not a bad song on this album, and I’m pushing every button. I’ve got what sounds like a backing band, but in reality, are supremely artistic musicians helping out. Electrified may be the best rock album of the past 25 years or so. I know I haven’t heard anything better, or even close to it. If you have a suggestion I’d love to hear it.
Craig Roy did all his bass in two sessions– Anna Rex, Old Friends, Tip of the Cap, Listen to the Woman, Brothers, Moneybug & More Like Us. Bill Pelick did his guitars & bass (Tip of the Cap & Just Because) in one session. Jessica Lynn Martens did her violin & vocals (Anna Rex, Old Friends & Moneybug) in one quickie session. Rachel Decker did her vocals twice, because Tom accidentally erased her initial session for “Listen to the Woman.” That’s kinda how it went.
The biggest blunder I made with Electrified was the cover. I already had the image, which is shown above as Tom & I playing live in Apopka in summer 2012. The photo was taken by Laura Rivera, my ex-step daughter. But I eventually switched the cover to a black & white screenshot from the movie, as a promotional tie-in. Big mistake, as the movie was never finished, and the live image is better. Tom says he wants to re-mix & re-master Electrified, and when he does, Laura’s live photo will be the cover.
Tom worked on producing this record, night & day, for nearly two years. He had finally opened up a watch repair shop of his own in a tin shack at the corner of Highway 19 & Main St in Tavares, FL and set to work on producing when things got slow– which they mostly were.
When he finally finished production and put Electrified online in October 2015, he then asked me with a smile, “What’s next?” I told him I wanted to make a “Beefheart record.” Tom instinctively understood what this meant, and so he closed the watch shop for a few hot afternoons in October-November. We recorded six songs live in the makeshift studio he had built. I had taken up the slide by this point, as it was apparent I was never going to find a stable backing band for live shows. A slide adds an element of attack and sound separation to guitar playing. A solo performer can use this effect to stand out.
We recorded “Haters, Step Aside”, “Rolling Stoned”, “Problem Solved” and the rest in two sessions, I took the album art pictures immediately after the final session, and TomP shot me while I was playing. Tom recommended the title, the format of me playing solo, and doing it as an EP. Today, Highway 19 & Main St already stands as one of the best rock EP’s ever. Tom & I both like this record better than Electrified, because it’s recorded live and we were having fun.
We then recorded 16 covers for what I titled Fully Covered, but never released officially, because of licensing rights. Fully Covered was only released on YouTube and linked through this page on my site in November-December 2016 & January 2017, with videos for every song. I provided most of the content, and TomP put the images together to produce the videos.
YouTube has brutally censored my content, so this project hasn’t been allowed to receive the distribution it deserves. We’ll eventually release Hwy 19/Fully Covered on a single CD. Honestly, I don’t believe any solo performer can do these types of covers as well as I do, so everything that Tom & I recorded in this tin shack is a 5-star classic.
After these landmark underground albums were released in rapid-fire succession, I focused on blogging, as no touring or live performance opportunities were available to me. My influential blogging career began in earnest in 2016, and has continued up to the present, as there are still no live performance opportunities for me.
I was sent an eviction notice in the spring of 2017, and had to move from my Mount Dora apartment by July. Before I left, I told Tom I wanted to record my last batch of songs. I wanted to make sure this final album would get made, as I wasn’t sure where I was moving to, and if I would be able to record with Tom after I had moved.
Over & Out was released that summer, and was somewhat a rush job, as everything except “Yes/No Wave” was recorded in one session that May. Tom brought his recording rig to my apartment, and was experimenting with different techniques, which is why some of the recordings sound a bit different. If you really listen to this album, you realize how intense & serious these thoughts are. To keep them in one’s head indefinitely can only lead to frustration & insanity. That was my motivation to get this record done, and for its title.
This was another solo, acoustic record. Tom added beats & effects to “Up Around the Clock” & “Many Miles.” We now have a rehearsal recording of “Up Around the Clock,” with Tom on drums & Bill on bass from fall 2018, and maybe someday we’ll release it, as it’s surely better than the album version. The song I really don’t like on Over & Out is “Waves,” as I had issues with my capo, which I rarely use. The songs on Over & Out are strong, but could have used some help from other musicians in certain areas. I rate this as a 4-star record, as the best songs are really strong and it does hold together, but could have been better.
One of the hardest things to do as an artist is to let go. Once an album is done & released, it’s not yours anymore. It now belongs to everybody who listens, and it’s what they think that counts– especially the kids. I’ve spent a lot of time here, nitpicking at my work, which is what you have to do to be a honest critic of yourself. It’s not easy, and definitely not fun, but it’s necessary– since it is the only way you can control your narrative. If you don’t do this, then someone else will, and they may promote a version you don’t approve.
I really did think I was finished with music after Over & Out, but somehow a few new songs crept into my head and wouldn’t leave me alone, so by late 2018, I had informed Tom of my intention to record a new single– at least. This morphed into a 4-song EP which is currently in production.
I think Extended Play 2019 will be the best batch yet. The songs are strong, and the playing & production have overwhelming technique– it’s remarkable. It’s a lot more fun this time, because I have great help everywhere. It’s easier to do now, but that’s only because of all the challenging experiences I’ve had in the past. Actually it’s never easy making art. It’s fulfilling, but always challenging. Making it look easy is the genius part.
Final Critique: What TomP & I have accomplished, with a little help from our friends, is nothing less than revolutionary. How many rock artists are considered as a serious political leader & theorist? None, until I came along. This has opened up new artistic fields for musicians, as blogging has become THE influential underground internet journalism format. Now everyone makes their own movies and uploads them to YouTube. I still say Electrified! is the best of the bunch, and deserves a sponsor to produce & distribute it.
The fact is that even the best songwriters can’t write a really great song every day, week or even month. Artists can fill that creative void in music, by reading & analyzing world events in all fields: economics, politics, sports, art, science, literature & pop culture. That was never possible before the internet & social media. What the persona of Ric Size did was show everyone how to do it. I got essays, mp3s, pics, videos & a movie. That’s hard to beat, especially considering it’s all DIY and in the establishment’s face. Imagine if I had some real money to work with…
When it comes to “Artist of the Decade,” it isn’t close. No one has been the artist I have been in this era. No one has been more influential in revolutionary politics & youth pop culture. That’s why I am blacklisted. So I will never appear on any mainstream lists of this “decade’s best.” The further reality is that 2nd place isn’t even close, and that really can’t be acknowledged. That’s the current impasse with me not being critically acclaimed. It’s the power of art.