The Singles Series: “Invisible” – Slide Guitar, Mellotron, New Drums

Transparent recording process reveals all.

After years of not playing the slide guitar, “Invisible” beckons to shake off the rust. It’s something I love to do, having learned how in the 90’s, playing along to “Love In Vain” on The Rolling Stones‘ “Let It Bleed”, and J. B. Hutto & Lightning Hopkins records. It got to the point where we ended every Willie Wisely Trio gig from 1991-1995 with the epic “Lady Beware” slide guitar orgy.

It took some psychic energy to start tracking it, after spending over a week not knowing quite what to do next with the song. John Fields’ drums and mellotron are debuted in this version too.

The slide guitar adds some much needed mystery. The track was starting to bug—mostly because my poppy strumming pattern on the verses was feeling too oppressive/insistant––and too reminiscent of a bunch of other recordings of mine “His Eye, It’s Wandering”, “Altitudes”, “Ella”, “Tokyo Arbor” and others.

The slide guitar part on the bridge posed a challenge because it contains minor and suspended chords, which are not easily played with a slide on a guitar that’s de-tuned to a major chord [DADF#AD].

For the suspended chords I wound up not using the slide and simply barring the neck with my index finger, adding the suss4 on the F# string. For the minor chords I retuned the F# string to F natural, and punched in at only those isolated five or so measures needing that tonality.

Brass slide on Guild guitar neck with mid-60's Gibson 125 on the floor.Once I started letting loose improvising on the coda with slide guitar solos it became clear that the ritard at the end of the song was premature and interrupting a lift-off into evermore. So, I opted to keep the song at tempo (115 beats per minute) and make it ripe for an old-fashioned long-ass fade. That will make the song emotionally bigger, somehow.

The fade is not build in here; the track just cuts off, exposing that I was looping 4 bars of rhythm section in order to make the coda longer. Will have to crawl into the original drum and bass tracks and find more performance, to avoid repeated fills and riffs.

Brass slide guitar on Guild neck, with Gibson 125 on floor.This ritard issue is something I need to address generally. It wasn’t until after I’d finished recording and sequenced my latest album “True” when I realized that 7 of the 12 songs on it ended with big dramatic slow-downs.

Not sure what inspired that—but it’s too much of a maudlin effect and I’m embarrassed for the oversight––although no one’s said anything. “Dr. Jack”, “Mule”, “Drownin’ Of Two”, “National Council Of Jewish Women’s Thrift Store”, “Duration”, “True”, and “Real” all have it.

The worst joke in the world is when musicians purposefully construe ritard for retard—but in this case it feels apt.

The first video posted here is the latest production mix; now with slide guitar, drums, bass, acoustic guitar & mellotron. The second video is is an early, partial pass at slide guitar—without audible backing tracks.

Note that I intend to redo the slide guitar on the bridge, replace it with different and simpler syncopations. I need to leave room for percussion. Also must replace some of that phrygian noodling on the slide guitar that conflicts with the non-verbal vocal hooks that follow the second chorus.

Weeks ago Fields had mentioned adding conga. A touch of that Joe Lala-styled playing on “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” would be perfectly exotic. For that matter, what I always believed to be Neil Young’s lead guitar (not), pumped through a Leslie rotary cabinet, is also a liftable idea.

Hey, Cliff Hillis & Mike Ruekberg and I should sing the whole thing in tight harmony and fully finish the Crosby, Stills & Nash quote (more bad ideas). Tempted too to bring another Led Zeppelin influence into the arrangement… maybe some monster electric guitar or maybe mandolin or ocarina/recorder. Again, bad ideas lurk behind every edifice of rock idolatry.

This Post’s Spotify Playlist ::

Song written by Cliff Hillis & Willie Wisely
Production in progress John Fields & Willie Wisely

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