Sunday, 3 August 2014

Praise for my Album!

Here's my first review on Amazon for my new album, well chuffed with this!

Chris’s Picton’s latest album, Journey of Broken Dreams, is a mixture of new material and some spirited reworking of older songs from his Quecia days. But these aren’t just rehashed offerings, he’s obviously spent careful time in the studio to breathe new life into them.

The opening track, Awakening, does exactly what it says on the tin. An inspiring and powerful theme with some perfectly timed dynamic shifts in the overall tempo.

The title track is a pacey instrumental song with some solid guitar work over driving drums and haunting keyboard runs.

The Rhythm (a song from the criminally underrated Quecia II album) is led by Kirsty McCarrick’s beautiful and haunting vocals. Strong lyrics are perfectly matched to Chris’s solid instrumentals.

Don’t Stay Away’s delicate and evocative guitar work dictates a fine instrumental track that paints a picture of longing and melancholy that usually only meaningful, well-sung lyrics manage to do.

Calling Me Back has a lighter, jazzier feel with some funky overtones on guitar. There’s a very natural, unhurried flow to this track that never ceases to engage.

Road of Bones is another Kirsty Mc Carrick vocal over reworked instrumentals. Dignified sorrow and yearning suffuse this gentle and moving song.

Back Thru’ Time lightens the mood with a weaving interplay of guitar, drums and keyboards. Dynamically, the most adventurous song on the album. The changing moods and rhythm paint a journey through life’s ups and downs that is never maudling and ultimately sanguine.

Line in the Sand (another strong song from Quecia II) ends the album with more fine vocals from Kirsty McCarrick over Chris’s clever instrumentals.

This is another solid production from Chris that I’d wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in progressive/ambient/instrumental music made by a talented musician who writes with his head and his heart.

Monday, 21 July 2014

New Album - Journey Of Broken Dreams

I have just released my new album "Journey Of Broken Dreams".  
Again a predominately instrumental album, 8 tracks in total with 2 remixed songs from the old days and a previously unreleased track "Road of Bones" from around that time. 
Its taken me a couple of years (far too long) to put this album together having to work in fits and starts balancing "real life" with writing, recording and mixing, which is frustrating to say the least, but here we are again. 
I hope there's a slightly harder edge to this collection, but still hoping to keep the melodic progressive feel I am trying to achieve in my music. 
I've tried to use a lot of different instrumentation this time around, with mellotron sounds, acoustic guitars, flutes and my guitar synth, helping me be a little more expressive in some of the textures and solo's. 
Also a big thanks to my friend Sharon Coupe for letting me use the wonderful photograph for the cover. You can find her on Facebook for more great pictures. 
I hope you enjoy the album and it won't be as long until the next one! 
And finally a huge thanks to my family for keeping me going lately - Karen my wife and my sons Jamie, Josh and Lucas. (You don't have to listen to the mixes any more!)

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Mastering Time - Part 2

I'm very close to finalizing the music on my new album. Of course I still have to decide on a title and get the artwork done but that's another story. The final part of mastering for me is to create a montage of all the tracks, which I do in Steinberg's Wavelab software. Basically the single audio files are dropped into the Montage workspace (as opposed to the Track Editing workspace) in a linear format, in the order they will appear on the finished CD.
Start and stop markers can be placed either end of each file and gaps inserted between tracks. You can also crossfade tracks into each other so there are no gaps, but as long as you have inserted markers the finished CD will still play continuously or you can still skip from track to track.
The best feature for me of this software is allowing you to match the volumes of each individual track to one another. By simply clicking an icon and holding down the mouse key you can raise or lower the volume of any individual track without affecting any others in the montage. You can tweak away until your hears content, getting levels right until you're completely happy and the sound is balanced across the whole of the finished CD. An obvious but great tool.
There are so many more features I could waffle on about such as track naming, fade in/outs, ISRC codes and so on, but just to get your basic CD sounding professional this is a great piece of software.
There are numerous video tutorials on Youtube for Wavelab and I would recommend checking them out. As the old saying goes - Knowledge is Power! Best of Luck...

Saturday, 10 May 2014

The Rolling Stones - just the feel!

Just watching "The Rolling Stones Return To Hyde Park"  in 2013. It was 44 years to the day since they first played there in 1969.

What strikes me has they go through their classic songs is not only the energy they can still bring to the show, but the passion and feel they play with.

Of course as a bunch of musicians playing together for over 50 years now they are something special. But it is the sum of the parts that makes them unique.

I wouldn't class any of them as virtuoso players but its the emotion that each one can put into a single note, lick or song. Along with that is knowing what to play and when to play it. They always seem to leave the right gaps in the right places and just gell as a unit, like no other.

My take is that its not what you play or how many notes you play, but how much feel and expressiveness you are able to convey and this comes across in bundles from The Stones to their live audience and through the TV screen. Long may they continue...

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Mastering Time - Part 1

As I work for myself I sometimes get quiet times in the day and this I find is an ideal time to work on my music. The house is empty and I can make some noise MWah!!
This week I've been mastering my third album (which is close to completion) in a program called "Wavelab" by Steinberg. This is a great program as it simply allows you to drag and drop music files into the work space and use up to 8 plugins simultaneously, to affect the sound.
I tend to use a similar sequence of plugins usually (but not always) in this order.
1. EQ - firstly to get rid of low end rumble
2. Another EQ  with more options just to give me more to play with.
3. A Multi-Band Compressor, split into 3 to 5 bands across the frequency range. So I can just compress the bass/mids/top or wherever I think is needed
4. A Limiter - to allow me to bring up and maximise the volume if needed.
5. A Leveler - in case I am comparing 2 or more files (usually a reference track) so I can hear the tracks at the same volume for comparison. As its easy to misjudge sound if the volumes are even slightly different.
6. A Stereo Expander - I don't always use this but it widens the stereo field and can excite the sound (make it brighter and bigger) but this can sometimes be too harsh I find, but is a useful tool to have.
7. and 8. Then one or two Analyzers to help visually look at the sound frequencies and dynamic range of the track. Although these can be great at times they can also mislead and its always best to use your ears rather than your eyes when mixing and mastering.
I would always add into the work-space a reference track that you know well, so you can compare your own music to an industry standard piece of work. I tend to use tracks by Peter Gabriel - usually "Red Rain" from the "So" album.
An excellent resource if you do master your own music is a great website run by top mastering engineer Ian Shepherd called "Production Advice". You should check this out as it is full of great articles, videos and advice to help the home studio musician. I've certainly learned a lot from Ian

Friday, 18 April 2014

Feels like a Saturday...And Bass Blogs!

Good morning, well it is where I am, even though Good Friday always feels like a Saturday. Beautiful sunshine if a little fresh in the breeze, but still it is only 9-30am. I woke early today 6am and I decided to go for a run believe it or not. That's my second in a week as I plan to do a 10k run for charity in September. Early days yet but I reckon if I can keep motivated I should be in reasonable condition to complete it by then. Who am I kidding?

As I was jogging round, looking across the fields, trying in vain to take my mind of the pain. I got to thinking about blogging believe it or not. I've posted a few over this last couple of days and it's nice not to be stuck in Twitter mode with just 140 characters to play with. Also last night I had a bit of fun with 2 of my twitter bass playing pals Alun Vaughan and Trip Walmsley and we decided we'd return to the "Blogosphere" as Alun puts it. Trip also saying he'll "try to bang one out tonight". A lovely way with words these two. Well we are all bass players so don't expect too much. Although we do like to think we are a cut above other musicians, particularly drummers.

Anyway hopefully this is the start of a little Triad of Bassiness and hopefully occasionally we might entertain, inform and definitely have some fun. The Three Bloggerteers or Muskebloggers you might say! Of course other bass playing pals are welcome to join us, or anyone else for that matter.

One for All and All for One!

Until the next time...

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Are Musicians Better Language Learners?

Research has shown that children who study music before the age of seven develop bigger vocabularies, a better sense of grammar and a higher verbal IQ. Simply put, children who learn music from a young age find it easier to learn languages even in adulthood.

Even just 1 hour a week of learning music is enough for the full brain benefits to take place.

Here's the science bit - "Training of this neural network may produce cross-modal effects on other behavioral or cognitive operations that draw on this network. Plasticity in this network may explain some of the sensorimotor and cognitive enhancements that have been associated with music training. These enhancements suggest the potential for music making as an interactive treatment or intervention for neurological and developmental disorders, as well as those associated with normal aging."

Interesting stuff, n'est-ce pas?

Read more on the story here

Uriah Heep's new album "Outsider" out soon

Oooh, looking forward to this one! I've just learned that Uriah Heep have a new album coming out on June 6th on Frontier Records. I have been a Heep fan from being at school. They were the 2nd live band I saw at the age of 14 and I've loved their music ever since.

Although their is only one original member left in the line-up, Mick Box (guitar), Bernie Shaw (vocals) and Phil Lanzon (Keyboards) have been ever present since the 1980's.

Relative new comers are powerhouse drummer Russell Gilbrook (5 years or so) and Davey Rimmer on bass, replacing Trevor Bolder who sadly passed away last year.

Heep are still a classic rock band, gigging all over the world, presently touring Russia. If you get the chance, check them out, as they are a superb live band.
Here's some details of the new album. Love the album artwork too. Vinyl version for me I think...

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

7 Remarkable Robert Fripp moments, not with King Crimson

I'm also a big fan of King Crimson and of course Robert Fripp. Click on the pic and it will take you to some great Fripp moments...

AC/DC not retiring after all...

 Yesterday rumors were rife all over the internet that AC/DC were about to split, due to the illness of founder member and guitarist Malcolm Young.
Today some great news for the fans  of the band, of which I am one.
Brian Johnson front man has been quoted as saying in the Daily Telegraph.

 "We are definitely getting together in May in Vancouver. We're going to pick up some guitars, have a plonk, and see if anybody has got any tunes or ideas. If anything happens, we'll record it."

He continued, "I wouldn't like to say anything either way about the future, I'm not ruling anything out. One of the boys has a debilitating illness, but I don't want to say too much about it. He is very proud and private, a wonderful chap. We've been pals for 35 years and I look up to him very much."
It has been reported that AC/DC are planning a tour to mark their 40th anniversary, which would involve 40 concerts in 40 different venues. "That would be a wonderful way to say bye bye," said Johnson. "We would love to do it. But it's all up in the air at the moment.
"AC/DC is such a tight family. We've stuck to our guns through the Eighties and Nineties when people were saying we should change our clothes and our style. But we didn't and people got it that we are the real deal." 

Friday, 10 January 2014

Instrumental track "Fractured" from my new stuff...

Here's the instrumental track I was working on/mastering last night. Its around 7 minutes long and has plenty guitars, basses, flutes, mellotrons, swirly keyboards, drums, bells and whistles on it, (well maybe not the last 2). So go make a brew/glass of wine and have a listen if you can spare a few mins... 

It's called "Fractured"

Please feel free to share, cheers... Chris.