Monday, January 19, 2015

Post Enlightenment...

The musical journey continues, and now with S. Henry McCoy (vocals, vocal arrangements) and Steve La Porta (drums and percussion) on board we have struck out to build the band Enlightened Madness. 

Our first entry into the world was our CD release party at the Bistro in Hayward. Good attendance and a really fun time performing, this helped to solidify the beginning of this new band back in March 2014.

Our next experiment working with cellist and vocalist Marcy Brown took us to the Monkey House in May. The Monkey House is a great little venue with an amazing sound. We captured video of our performance at the Monkey House, taking advantage of the great sound. I really enjoyed working with Marcy in this way and have always loved how cello fits into acoustic folks and pop/rock music.

Over the next several months we continued to look for band members to build a full band. There have been some challenges and some movement back to the beginning to get clear on why this is important that has guided me to restructure my music in the way that will have the most positive impact. One way this has manifested is to restructure how I think of these various efforts as musical projects.

For example one musical project that I am following has been a collaboration with a poet from England, Rachel Amey. We have collaborated on a song called Sister Over the Sea. We have agreed to publish this song and make it available as a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders in the near future.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Album Release Party is on!

Releasing Enlightened Madness - it's a Mitzvah!

Where: The Bistro 1001 B Street, Hayward, CA
When: Friday March 14th, 2014    9PM to Midnight

The Players:

Daniel Mandel - Guitar & Vocals
S. Henry McCoy - Vocals
Stephen La Porta - Drums & Percussion
with special guest Paul Meredith - Harmonica

We are so thrilled to bring this special event to you — our 1st CD release party as Enlightened Madness! We have set up a special way for you to grab a CD Voucher  that will save you money and will let you pick up a signed CD at the show! 

The Bistro in Hayward is a great intimate venue and we're so excited to perform in this place!

The "Other Side" of Releasing Enlightened Madness

Up until now we have been so focused on recording the album. Backing up from that all the history of writing those songs, and all those journeys and explorations! But now on this other side the songs are captured, the album has been mastered, and now the final works have been created, and the physical CDs arrived! Now what?! Well... on this side of the release we are finding lots of great journeys that feel really wonderful! I am encouraged and reminded that all those songs, all those choices we made along the way are being reinforced. For example we recently connected with drummer and percussionist Steve La Porta. Steve's response to us and our connection with him really started with these recordings. Steve is "our kind" of drummer because he really gets where our music fits in the spectrum of light supportive percussion all the way up to rock drummer and all points in between. We are also finding better venues that are a better fit for that acoustic to folk rock space where we find ourselves. If your curious to join us on this journey grab your CD Voucher and we would love to see you at the show on March 14th!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Pre-Order your CD today!

How amazing is this?! Really fantastically amazing!

Pre-Order your Enlightened Madness CD today!

Now we move into full shameless promotion. It is really a wonderful process to put this music out in the world. We have several quality offerings to let you know about. Your best bet is to click on the link above because everything is beautiful displayed and described. You will even see a video overview with Daniel & Henry talking about the process of recording and describing the various ways you can participate in this launch!

One of our favorite options is the signed CD + T-shirt + iBook or PDF digital booklet of lyrics and artwork. This is really beautifully laid out and for those of you with iPads the iBook version is quite stunning.

I also wanted to explain why we are setting this pre-order up for you this way. We have chosen not to ask fans for the money up front and rather take our own funds to create the CD, record, work with the excellent studio musicians, mixing and mastering resources. Instead we are presenting you with our best album yet and asking you to give us a bit of a reward for the final product. This will allow us to buy some more guitar strings, promote the CD to build our fan base, promote our music to clubs and venues to get more exposure, and also to prepare for recording our next album!

You can listen to samples of each of the songs and decide what is the right level of participation, and so it is with love and respect that we announce the release and pre-orders of this new album Enlightened Madness!

Daniel Mandel
S. Henry McCoy
Enlightened Madness

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Enlightened Madness — the album is Mastered!

Enlightened Madness — the album is Mastered!

The album is now mastered. My sense is that our overall approach to have the simplest instrumentation has paid off in many ways. The consistency from song to song is apparent. The mixing and editing process seemed more straightforward. Having an excellent mixing / editing engineer such as Dan Feiszli was an incredibly important ingredient. The final mixes sounded so good that I wasn't sure exactly what to expect from mastering.

For my mastering work I turned to Ken Lee in Oakland. He came highly recommended and I've been impressed by his work. He sat me down and we listened to the final mixes of the songs and discussed the overall sensibilities of the songs and what I should and should not expect mastering to achieve. The main quality he described that I should look for and expect is an improved presence, especially for the vocals. This was absolutely the result. Both Henry and I were impressed with how much of the vocals and nuances we could hear even at lower volumes.

So from my perspective this is the psycho-acoustic icing on the audio cake! I am so thrilled and I cannot wait for you to hear the results...!  Oh, hold on — the wait is over! Because even though the physical CDs are not going to be ready for several weeks, the mastered audio is ready and I've posted these to our BandCamp site for those of you who want to get an early start on your journey into Enlightened Madness!

Here is the entire album of Enlightened Madness for you — Thank you so much for listening!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Recording Project 3: Vocals Complete

Since my last post I have had 4 more recording sessions. +S. Henry McCoy and I both have been recording and working with our mixing engineer on the edits, the punch-ins, and the tough decisions. Here is a break down by song of the surprises, the delights and those other experiences we've encountered along this recorded journey! This isn't a comprehensive list, just some of the songs that have popped out as we have wrapped up the vocal recordings.

Lovely Empty Strong and Brave

This is the farthest along. This has been one of the more interesting and most positive of the surprises I've experienced. I'll just be clear about my worst fear up front. My worst fear is that I would have to record and re-record a song a couple hundred times to be able to get a take that I'm really proud of.  I should also explain that I am moving through this 3rd recording project without an explicit producer. On this song Dan Feiszli is our extraordinary mixing engineer and bass player. He's also lobbed some great producer-like comments at me between takes. This song's lyrics written by Maria Barnet are really  very layered, as the title suggests this is an exploration of many, many moods. So... Dan suggested I run at this thing one pass at a time exploring the different moods. This for the most part did the trick. I did face a technical difficulty of hitting all the 1/2 steps that I had written for this melody. So those are some of the spots I had to punch in.

Beggar Burglar Bastard Buffoon

This song (working title = Anchor) seems like a simple enough melody! However I felt the need to get wordy and poetic which resulted in quite a bit of frustration and a total of 3 separate passes (with multiple takes) to get a really satisfying vocal. The learning on this one is to hold out going forward for beautiful poetry that is also beautiful when sung! This one carries a big emotional charge for me too, so I really wanted to get this one right! Don't worry not every song has a four word title!

Slow Blue

I encountered many frustrations with this song, but not at first. We followed a proven formula of laying down scratch tracks to get the drums and bass recorded. Then we doubled back and recorded my acoustic guitar. Then we recorded my vocals. Then we added Henry's harmonies, counter parts and on this one Henry had 2 harmony parts to get us a fuller 3 part harmony. Basically everything was sounding great! The song was being realized even better than I had hoped, but with one exception. The 1st two verses start out very slowly and I had written in a bit of a challenge — the original way I tried to sing these lines was a bit too musical theater with long held notes. We tried many many takes this way and then every time we revisited the editing to finalize the vocals it was clear that those verses were not acceptable. Then out of frustration I tried a pass singing these verses the opposite way as short bursts, or alternating shorter phrases with one long and one medium. I basically just attempted a very free form mix up and threw it all against the session wall to see what would stick! In truth very little of that session did stick except that it did show ME that the middle or medium approach worked the best, and when I held that as a guide we were able to record the 1st two verses and get to the parts you will hear on the album!

Possessed in Poses

While the vocal on this song wasn't easy to sing, and I do have continued learning about specific mechanics such as where to breathe within a phrase, the challenge I face with this one is how to hold my ground as a my own producer. My intention with this project was to avoid getting caught up in the over production kid-in-a-candy-store mentality. I am working through some keyboard parts and the 1st attempts we applied were very beautifully played, but really pulled the song into an area that felt too polished and decked out with all the trimmings. I am determined to present the songs with the appropriate atmosphere, and I want this song to be understood more intimately.

Find Me a Lover

This song has gotten good responses and being transparent I feel that my 1st release of this song was a beginner's attempt and that I could capture a more raw powerful impactful version this time around. Henry enjoys performing this song in our set because it is just outside of the style of my other songs, and it's fun to sing. On the refrain, I had always been singing a certain melody to the words "good, good, good" that we captured on my vocal. Henry recorded his harmonies. Now on this section we got some "interesting" (that's a euphemism for: what happened here?) responses. We sat down and analyzed what are the notes we're both singing — and GOTCHA! I had been singing a sort of bluesy phrase that really didn't line up with the chord. OK, this is embarrassing. I think I had gotten away with this because it was a "passing tone" and did sound bluesy... so I recorded with a different note, which meant Henry had to rework his harmony. Henry also encountered some frustration in that this is a really bluesy piece and his vocal background is not such that he's used to belting out crazy fast runs. So we reached a compromise on what backup parts we were going to sing and we eliminated a section of improvising in a way that neither of us are used to. However, when we tour and hire those amazing backup singers... watch out!


On a very simple song with minimal instrumentation these vocals are very exposed. We are learning what it takes to capture these vocals and had to do several passes to get to that, "yes!" feeling when we heard them back. The really fascinating magic that Henry brings to songs like Hide and Slow Blue are his sensibilities around harmony and counter harmony. So yes, I had several passes to get my vocals right. Then Henry listened back to his counter harmony and realized his part was leaning towards a shorter phrased (not quite staccato) expression. This was a simple fix and he reworked his part much more connected and legato. But our work isn't done yet, we will need to ensure that when we get to the mixing we will capture the right blend of volumes and panning and reverb so that you can hear the same magic between our voices that our audiences hear live!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Vocal Sessions - October 6th, 2012

The Vocal Sessions - October 6th, 2012

11 songs. Lead vocals and harmony. 1day. No problem!

Here's the breakdown...

One Dark Night (inspired by a comment from Kath Burlinson)

I chose to start with this one because it starts out a bit lower in my register and I thought overall that would be a good strategy with so many songs to record. The recording went pretty well, and what makes this song interesting (thank you, Kath) is that this song is written from another person's point of view, and a rather angry one at that. So there is a bridge where I wanted to set up an angry rant. I think I accomplished that.
Later that afternoon when Henry arrived this was the last song of the day where he added his harmony. Henry nailed his harmony (and even improved it in the process of recording it - thank you, Henry!) Then we got to the angry rant and we needed to coax Henry away from a singerly approach to a more broadway musical theatrical approach. This was the first time we'd worked out how the rant would work with both our vocals. So now in the upcoming mixing sessions it will be interesting to see what best version we come up with to support the anger of that song!
During the guitar sessions - hats off to Dan Feiszli (bass player & recording / mixing engineer) for suggesting a no-chord percussive attack that really adds to the bitter mood of this bridge!

The Train Knows Where To Go

This song felt like home base to me because prior to launching into this 3rd album project (... note to self, pick a name!) Henry and I had created a very full demo version in my home studio. But again, one of the surprises, the chorus and the bridge were challenging to get the right energy to come through.
The challenges were mine. Henry just sang his harmonies without a hitch!

Find Me A Lover

I have been singing this one for many, many years. This song has a definite bluesy feel and I think my voice can go there and I actually have so much fun singing this style, but then again it isn't a home feeling for me. It's more of a summer vacation spot I sometimes go to.

Henry's harmonies really make this one come alive - and we found some challenges on some bluesy scoops where we found two scoops are not necessarily better than one. At least not at the same time!
Also neither Henry nor I are well rehearsed at bluesy improvisation — so this was new territory.

Lovely, Empty, Strong and Brave (written with Maria Barnet)

Maria provided such a rich and layered lyric here, and I had a rather complex chord progression. This provided lots of challenges (of the good kind) for me as a singer. As the title suggests this is about a variety of emotions — in fact a rather full spectrum of emotions, and a real gusto for whole hearted living! 

My first pass was, focused on hitting all the notes really well, and thanks to Dan Feiszli again we talked about the emotional choices and did a couple more takes that really helped to move the song to a different place. Mixing this one will be a great experience!

Slow Blue

This song is really a suite of 4 different sections. This represents an annoying aspect of my songwriting where I write melodies a bit beyond my comfort zone and beyond what I am sometimes able to sing. In this case there are a lot of exposed long notes. Especially the introduction the instrumentation is very light and there I am singing out loud on long notes!

One thing that helped (again, thanks Dan Feiszli) — Dan reminded me of something that my voice teacher would bring up. One good way to explore a song is to sing the "opposite" emotion of the song. This song starts out very low energy and sad. So I tried this as hopeful and happy as possible and it brought a definite energy to the piece that wasn't there before!


I had scheduled Henry McCoy to arrive just after noon to give me time to knock out these songs above. I was thankful the way the day panned out because Henry and I were able to trade off and not have either of our voices burned out with all the singing we had to do!

Hide (Acoustic)
Hide first showed up on Jongleur, my 2nd studio album. When Henry joined my band previously and as we've moved into a duo Henry's arrangement for this song turned the chorus into a contrapuntal extravaganza! So this is a paired down version so that you can hear myself and Henry with just my acoustic guitar... and the ending is quite nice! 

Beggar, Burglar, Bastard, Buffoon

Warning! Syncopation ahead!
Anchor (working title) - is my most recent song. As Henry is well aware (that's the polite way of saying it) I can at times be somewhat inconsistent. This song has a chorus with some options and I had difficulties staying with the option we discussed.

Henry didn't have too much trouble matching my best take, so it all worked out.

Possessed in Poses (Inspired by Ana)

Possessed still amazes me. This song literally arrived memorized. The challenge for me? The very last word of the last line is held out and exposed! I am so happy to have this one recorded!

Candle Girl (written with Neyire Ashworth)

Candle Girl was a delight to sing. I was literally dancing a jig in between verses. This is no mere fairy tale! My intention is to send this one off to Neyire to capture her exquisite clarinet and vocals!

Dreaming in the Dark Time (written with Patrick Rydman, Tom Frederiksen)

Challenge #462 - for some reason the phrase "baseball cap" at the end of the 1st line of the 1st verse really bothered me! The is song really has something that I can't describe...

Surrender Dorothy (written with Maj Vestergaard)

Maj recorded her vocals while I was attending the Copenhagen Songwriting Festival at Tom Frederiksen's studio! I think you'll like how our voices sound together on this somewhat latin jazzy sounding tune. This recording for me flowed very smoothly.

Monday, July 9, 2012

July 7th, 2012 the initial recording session

3rd CD Initial Recording Session

Preparations Complete

I had my guitars restrung and tuned. I had my list of lead sheets and lyric sheets printed and prioritized, one for Dan and one for Alan and the master notebook for myself. The hard drive and various other items in the backpack, and still not too nerve wracked and off I went at approximately 10:25!

Dan's New Studio

I arrived just as Dan and Alan were finishing up the drum mic set up. This was my first visit to Dan's new studio. This time around he's got isolation rooms for drums and a vocal booth. Fair warning - this picture below is NOT the final look of Dan's studio. He's just finished his basic construction prior to my session. So this is the "raw" look... oh and I ended up in the vocal booth which is behind the door between the two videos.


We jumped right into the Train Know Where To Go, reviewing my demo against the lead sheet. No big surprise, but I didn't capture all the rhythms correctly and they had to make some notes. The bridge turned out to be the trickiest bit to work through. After a few takes I understood what I needed to communicate about the emphasis of the groove and we got it!

Then we moved on to Find Me A Lover. This is a redoux from my 1st CD project, Might Be You where I had a hunch I could find a better treatment with a more raw approach. This track sounds, well, hot and funky, due to Alan & Dan's superb skills! Our initial thoughts are to do a full track and a radio friendly shorter version. We're talking about adding a 3 part horn section and perhaps a Hammond B3 organ track!

We started to look at a couple other songs and decided that with the time left we couldn't complete some of the more complex songs, so I re-prioritized and we moved to Possessed in Poses. We decided to try a rock version of this song - just as an experiment. The idea was to do 2 versions - a real simple acoustic intimate version and then a sort of rock anthem version.

Next up we tackled Beggar, Burglar, Bastard, Buffoon (You Anchored Me). This is a simple melodic song that I wrote very recently. My idea was to try a sort of Iron & Wine indie approach to have several optional drum beats that could be mixed and matched - but without sacrificing a cohesive and supportive overall feeling. I think we were on the right track because Alan came up with 3 different takes that I really liked.

Finally I pushed to squeeze in one last song, Surrender Dorothy. I co-wrote this with Maj Vestergaard from Copenhagen, Denmark. This one went pretty quickly, and when I say quickly I also mean we pumped up the tempo faster than I had initially planned. The real bonus for me was hearing how the chorus "popped" in the hands of these musicians! I also learned that I had written the lead sheet for this one correctly enough that I didn't need to provide any extra descriptions to make the chorus make sense to these guys.