Novak (novak) wrote,

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Personal/Musical: George and the Freeks: Greatest Live (Free Download)

Since Dan received his birthday gift of a guitar from Amy, I've given him a couple of very basic guitar lessons. Just that sentence will make my musician friends laugh, because I'm nobody's idea of a guitar player. I picked up enough from Mark, J.P., Doug and Erik to start writing down the music I heard in my head, for which I'll forever be grateful, but I was pretty sure up front, having a poor innate sense of rhythm, that I could only go so far as a guitar player, and so I've not invested much effort on getting past that point. Just being able to go into the studio and tell the guys, "Play that, in such-and-such a way, but better," was enough for me.

But in showing Dan around the guitar, I've had to go with what I know. To start with, we don't know much of the same music. Dan's taste seems as eclectic as mine, which I enjoy, but it's all over the place with lots of things I don't know, and so I've come back from his house with borrowed CDs ranging from Coldplay to Johnny Mathis' Christmas music. Last week, while trying to show him a thing or two, we ended up playing around with things like U2's "Mysterious Ways" and Sixpence None The Richer's "Kiss Me," that I knew he knew as well. But to show him a chord, a technique, or a sound, I've had to go with what I know.

Thus entered the Freeks.

I have explained my liaison at Notre Dame with George and the Freeks elsewhere, and so I won't repeat that here. But it is a bit inconvenient to give guitar lessons when the music that you have mostly played on the guitar is from a band that very few people have heard of. Dan said something about passing some of the band's music to him, which seemed the easiest way to build a common guitar idiom. I've been listening to the Freeks a lot the last week or two because of this guitar-playing, and I thought that perhaps the easiest way to get Dan familiar with some of the music was to put some on the internet that I had intended to upload for quite some time, anyway.

At an earlier stretch of graduate school, as the ten-year anniversaries (Yikes!) of a lot of gigs the band played rolled around, I had been uploading digital files I had made from tapes of the band's gigs. (Since then all made available for easy downloading from MegaUpload.) I had first uploaded the Freeks' private second album, recorded during their Senior Week at Notre Dame. A bunch of early songs recorded in an "unplugged" acoustic setting, The Senior Week Sessions had long been a fun listening experience. These had been followed by Live at Bridget's Pub, a February 1996 gig that was one of the highlights of my first months working sound for the band, and the best recording with the original lineup with Erik as lead guitar. Live in Dayton followed, which is probably the clearest recording from the 1996-97 Freeks lineup, with Chris replacing Bryan on drums and Mark starting to get more comfortable in his rushed move up to lead guitar. I had also uploaded Live at Corby's Pub, another South Bend venue, which was the first recording I had of the latter Freeks lineup, and features the introduction of some material that would be a staple of the rest of the year, as the Freeks began touring regionally. With graduate school proving a horrible distraction, I had not gotten around to uploading anything else, other than the Freekish first Chrysogonus Fest from the summer of 1997, after the Freeks had officially broken up once some of the guys decided that they didn't want to make a full-time go of it in music and with the others heading to D.C. to become Hoobajoob.

But I had always meant to do something. Before getting around to uploading some of the other gigs, I thought I would try to eliminate some of the problematic nature of live music, of me being a soundguy who had not yet learned to listen simultaneously to the full band playing (a skill I really wouldn't start to master until recording in Nashville), and of having to mix the soundboard and main speakers against whatever level of sound was coming out of the band's amplifiers: I would make a "Best Of" collection.

And so I did. And George and the Freeks: Greatest Live has remained among my iTunes playlists for a few years. Until now. With Dan needing to hear some of this music, and some of the Freeks having not heard a lot of this taped music since we moved into the Digital Age, I figured it was finally time to get off my tush, upload these tunes, and make them available. I stand by my assessment that this music is something special, that the tunes – whether pure fun, grim introspection, or moving into the mystical – have a lot to offer both heart and mind. As a vocalist, I had to love a group that, depending on the lineup, had anywhere from three to five singers, four of whom were good songwriters, and thus had a variety of voices in the literal and literary senses. Doug, LiveJournal's own weaklingrecords, remains, in particular, one of the most gifted songwriters I have ever heard, and it's a tragedy that his music didn't get a wider chance to be heard, although given the delight he has had in following his parents and creating a family of his own, I imagine that he wouldn't pick musical success over his personal success, anyway.

George and the Freeks: Greatest Live (FREE DOWNLOAD)

Gotta Be Good (McKenna) Every bit as "bad ass" a tune as Mark says at the end: words you wouldn't associate with the Irish Blessing until Doug's adaptation.
Wanting, Waiting (McKenna) One of Chris' first contributions was giving Doug's new song this irresistible groove, over lyrics more sober than they sound.
Join Us On the Ride (Lang) Mark's classic invitation to the audience: a song frequently found around the opening of a gig.
Bittersweet Highway (McKenna) Andy's organ explodes in this version of Doug's raging song of self-conflict.
Thoughts (McKenna) Doug never felt finished with this song, but it remained one of the Freeks' staples, although you never knew what the lyrics would be at the end.
Let Your Spirit (Brenner) Andy's longing, hopeful tune draws on the deep wells of no less than Augustine's Confessions. I always hear this chorus in my head during the consecration.
Away (McKenna) The rarest treasure of this collection. In one of Erik's farewell gigs, his guitar goes as far to the edge as Doug's vocals.
The Search for Aeneas (Lang) One of Mark's early mystical pieces, later aptly re-recorded as "The Search for Sophia," the song tries to move toward pure self-abandonment.
Beginnings (McKenna) Another early Freeks staple, Doug's exploration of the drama of ambiguity and fidelity is as sharp as ever.
Tree (McKenna) Spanning everything from surviving a typhoon in India to the Cross, Doug serves up terror and triumph with one of the most dangerous riffs ever, here with the rare extended ending.
Oddity of a Stranger (Goldschmidt) Erik's searching self-exploration, here served up in a rare acoustic gig.
Only Beauty (McKenna) One of Doug's most popular songs, here with a perfect duet of a jam between Andy's piano and Mark's lead guitar.
Gypsy Moths and Cantaloupe (Goldschmidt) This version of Erik's failed mystical dialogue with God remains a band legend, even for the self-confessed "Most Narcissistic Band on Campus."
Good-Bye (McKenna) A slower version of Doug's testament to love lost, and all the more heartfelt for it.
Empty Space (Brenner) The beauty in music redeems even the pain of breakup and emptiness in this earlier tune of Andy's.
Don't Go (McKenna) Bassist J.P.'s genius for arrangement is evident in this moody masterpiece of Doug's, such as in his changing the bridge from the song's 6/8 time to 5/4.
Gratitude (McKenna) A gem of Doug's last year with the Freeks, and a personal favourite, this chord progression alone is perfection and I probably play it on guitar more than any of my own songs.
If I Go On My Way (Lang) A rarity of Mark's, this gorgeous song crept out for one acoustic warm-up for a few early fans before a gig, never to be heard again, except for here.
Field of Bliss (Goldschmidt) Another exploration of mystical frustration, with elements as old as the Song of Songs and as modern as the Allman Brothers, this song will make you shoot out of your mind.
Tags: friends-notre dame era, george and the freeks, musical, notre dame, personal

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