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Any fans of The Ship: A Contemporary Folk Music Journey (produced by Gary Usher 1971)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Clarkophile, Sep 9, 2007.

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  1. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile Thread Starter

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    As a diehard Gary Usher fan, I finally tracked down his production effort from 1971, A Contemporary Folk Music Journey credited to The Ship.

    I've listened to it twice in its entirety and can't make up my mind on it. Here's the really odd thing: While there is frankly nothing distinguished or even particularly memorable about this album,:laugh: I find myself drawn to listening to it.

    There seems to be some kind of a story or concept to the whole thing, inasmuch as all songs segue into each other, and have titles like the following:
    Side 1
    the ship
    the order
    the innocence
    the man
    the calm
    the storm

    Side 2
    the lost
    the island
    the reason
    the return
    the ship

    The music is gentle, almost facelessly benign New Age folk, similar in presence to Usher's own work like Beyond a Shadow of Doubt, except the writing is nowhere near as good or instantly accessible, but still, there is something relaxing, even meditative about this record.
    I'm not sure if this qualifies as praise or criticism, but in the times I've played it I've drifted off into very sublime naps.:laugh:

    Anyone else know this curio?
     
    Desolation Row likes this.
  2. dumangl

    dumangl Senior Member

    I've never heard (or even heard of) The Ship: A Contemporary Folk Music Journey but you've got me curious. I've never heard anything by (or involving) Gary Usher that I didn't like. He's one of the greatest songwriters ever. :)
     
  3. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile Thread Starter

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    I know. I can't find out that much about it on the Internet--just the barest of details. Of course it hasn't been released on CD---I doubt very much anyone remembers it!:laugh:

    In terms of the music, let's put it this way: The record's artistic quality is far outweighed by its production quality. The songs are certainly inoffensive, even charming in their way; the singing resembles CSN, but devoid of their soul and personality.:p
    But you can really hear Usher's touch in the acoustic guitars; they're rich and ringing, and the vocal harmonies are well thought out.
    Instrumentation is very sparse: acoustic guitars, bass, piano, maybe some harp hear and there.
     
  4. abtech

    abtech New Member

    Location:
    Handy, MI, USA

    Google Moses Lake . . .

    When he was working with Kurt Boetcher there were several incredible projects that never saw the light of day . . .
     
  5. MikeM

    MikeM Senior Member

    Location:
    Youngstown, Ohio
    Tom, I remember it, and I may possibly have it in the bowels of my LP collection somewhere. This came out about the time I was working at a radio station with an "underground" format, and I'm sure I played it. I don't think I realized that Gary Usher was involved with it.

    I'll do some rooting around to see if I can turn up my copy!
     
  6. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile Thread Starter

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    See if you can find it, Mike!
     
  7. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile Thread Starter

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    Resuscitating an old thread of mine, I'm a deeply shocked and very pleased to say that this album is now available on CD from Wounded Bird records. Up till now I've been tolerating a subpar vinyl rip of the album, so this will be a treat. I've just placed my order.

    I know when I started this thread I didn't care too much for this album, but I've grown to love it. Usher's production is sublime, and the songs are quiet, unassuming gems. A real sleeper.

    Selling for $10.98: http://www.woundedbird.com/
     
    Desolation Row likes this.
  8. Jack Son #9 Dream

    Jack Son #9 Dream lofi hip hop is good

    Location:
    U.S.A.
    I just bought this album a few weeks ago. I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet. Definitely looking forward to hearing it.
     
  9. Mark Kaufman

    Mark Kaufman Active Member

    Location:
    Minneapolis
    Hey, I've chatted occasionally at another forum with one of the band members, Todd Bradshaw. I'll send him a message and let him know about this thread.
     
  10. Mark Kaufman

    Mark Kaufman Active Member

    Location:
    Minneapolis
    Desolation Row likes this.
  11. rhavers

    rhavers Active Member

    Tom, I'm with you. I absolutely love this album!

    Mark, thanks for the website info. Now I know something about what I've really enjoyed listening to over the years.
     
  12. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile Thread Starter

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    What I've come to love about the album is that it possesses the unmistakable hallmarks of the Gary Usher Sound: initially it seems harmless---or, as I described it in my first post, pleasant, faceless & benign pre-New Age folk---but beyond this, there is an ominous, spooky undercurrent running through the entire thing. And that same mysterious, spectral feeling characterizes much of Usher's late 60's/early '70's sound.

    I'm thrilled this has finally come out on CD.
     
  13. rhavers

    rhavers Active Member

    Tom, there's a circularity to the music that seems to resolve itself throughout the listening experience. Anyway, like you, it works for me. Your comments are spot on.
     
  14. SteveCooks

    SteveCooks Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lyon
  15. LeeDempsey

    LeeDempsey Forum Resident

    Location:
    North Carolina
    Hope I don't burst any bubbles, but according to Usher biographer Stephen McParland, Usher had very little to do with how the album sounds. The music, sequencing, and arrangements were already prepared by the band, who had previously performed the entire album live as a rock opera. The Ship and its material were thrust upon Usher (as in-house producer) by Arista. In fact, according to McParland, when the band declined Usher's creative input, he simply committed the band to tape as quickly and as best as he could.

    Until I read that, I too was under the impression that Usher had shaped the album in the same vein as Sagittarius.

    Lee
     
  16. Clarkophile

    Clarkophile Too Long in Exile Thread Starter

    Location:
    St. Thomas, ON
    No bubbles burst, but thanks for the info. I wish the McParland bio was easier to find than it is. I did not suggest Usher had any creative input; he didn't write a lot of things that he produced. It is largely the overall sound/production of the album that appeals to me and which spawned my comment (especially the acoustic guitars).
     
  17. Steve Goodman was sitting-in on stage, late one late night at The Earl Of Old Town between our sets and we were all sitting in the front row, giving him a friendly hard time. He looked down at us and said "The Ship - five Jewish guys from Chicago singing songs of the sea...."

    In reality, we weren't all Jewish and we weren't all from Chicago, but in a way he had a point. These days, I make sails for boats for a living and I'm just happy that there aren't any glaring nautical errors in the lyrics of The Ship - because at the time, a canoe was the biggest boat that any of us had ever been in.

    I'm glad people are still enjoying it. Considering how young we all were when we put it together (I was 19, Melshenker must have been maybe 23 and the others somewhere in-between) we still think it was a good effort and we're happy with the way it turned out. The re-release on CD was a good thing which we wanted to have available to go with our other CDs, and we didn't have to pressure Warner/Elektra/Wounded Bird much to get it done. Old, scratchy vinyl doesn't do much for mellow music and the re-mastering guys did a good job getting the new release very clean.

    I think we're also pretty proud that we did 95% of the arrangements - harmony structures, instrumental parts, etc. ourselves, before we ever met Gary Usher or any of the folks from Elektra. We had been performing The Ship live for more than a year before we ever got a record contract for it. Being able to have Gary lend his experienced ear for recording and adding tasty bits to the recording, as well as having the recording technology available at Elektra, then took it to the next level. Chances are though, that if you hear a harmony or instrumental part in The Ship that you really like, the real credit more than likely goes to Mark Hamby and Billy Panda (then Steve Reinwand) who are responsible for most of the arranging and who just happened to be two really talented young musicians (still are, though they aren't quite as young these days).

    The split from Usher came after all the recording was done. He mixed it and we didn't like the mix, or all the special effects he was using on it. Our goal from the very beginning had always been to generate a cleaned-up and slightly enhanced version of the original live show. Gary's mix, though quite possibly more commercially sell-able than the current version, wasn't very true to the original, or our ideas of what the piece was supposed to sound like. Remember that we were primarily in the business of traveling around the country playing this thing - and we didn't want people walking out of a live show and saying "Gee, it was so much different from the album". We also didn't want to put in all that effort and end up with a product that we weren't happy with. It's sometimes difficult to get people to take you seriously when you're a rookie and that young, but Elektra's management did. We sent Billy Panda and Roger Francisco (our manager who also owned a recording studio) back out to L.A. and they remixed the entire album, without the special effects. That's the version that you hear on the original vinyl and on the current CD. We have never felt bad about doing it and are happy that "The Ship" really does sound like "The Ship".

    Anyway, it was mostly a good experience and it's fun to hear from people who remember it from the old days and younger folks who have discovered it and find something in there that they like. It's by no means perfect and not everyone's cup of tea, but it was a solid effort for a new band trying something out of the ordinary. The group is now spread all over the country, but we still manage to get together from time to time and play a bit. We're currently working on our fifth CD and I think it's going to be the best one yet with a wide variety of different sounds (like the "Left In The Wake" CD on steroids). It's a slow recording process when done via the web, but the tunes are coming out great and hopefully we'll have it out by fall of 2010.

    Todd Bradshaw
    www.theshipmusic.com
     
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  18. Mark Kaufman

    Mark Kaufman Active Member

    Location:
    Minneapolis
    Looks like Mr. Bradshaw is on his way over with some first hand (first mate?) knowledge...just waiting for the activation.

    It's really cool to see this album still floats!
     
  19. Gary

    Gary Nauga Gort! Staff

    Location:
    Toronto
    Fascinating story!!!!
     
    Desolation Row likes this.
  20. LeeDempsey

    LeeDempsey Forum Resident

    Location:
    North Carolina
    Wow Todd! That was very fascinating. Thanks for chiming in with your story.

    I have another piece of the story to add...

    Several years ago on eBay, I picked up an entire lot of Arista Records safety tape reels that were being disposed of. They are all half-track, 7 1/2 ips, 7-inch reels. Most of them were not very interesting (sorry, no Doors, etc.), and I traded them off. But the ones I kept (and the reason I acquired them in the first place, being a Gary Usher collector) were four reels of "The Ship" -- 2 labeled "Francisco Mix" (sides 1 and 2 on separate reels), and 2 labeled "Usher Mix." All this time I assumed that the "Usher Mix" was the released version and the "Francisco Mix" was an alternate mix. And I played the "Francisco Mix" reels several times trying to detect differences from my vinyl copy, to no avail. Now I know why! I'll have to go back and listen to the "Usher Mix" reels now.

    I'll post some photos of the reels tonight.

    Todd, I'm assuming that the band has the master tapes of the Usher mix in its archives, but if not, please send me a private message through this board.

    Lee
     
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  21. LeeDempsey

    LeeDempsey Forum Resident

    Location:
    North Carolina
    Sorry; that should have been "Elektra" -- not "Arista." :eek:

    Lee
     
  22. rhavers

    rhavers Active Member

    Todd, enjoyed your reminiscences, thanks very much.
     
  23. william shears

    william shears Active Member

    Location:
    new zealand
    Great stories, both from Todd and Lee. Lovely that there can be connections made like this:thumbsup:
     
  24. kwadguy

    kwadguy Senior Member

    Location:
    Cambridge, MA
    Not to go too far off topic...But this sounds pretty cool...What else did you get in the lot?
     
  25. rhavers

    rhavers Active Member

    I love it how these kind of accidental things happen.
     
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