In an effort to get my mind off the ever-changing craziness of these last few years, I decided to immerse myself in the comfort of music from my youth. These are essential songs for me. I fell in love with each of them at that quintessential coming-of-age moment when music goes straight into your heart with no filter. I was just starting to develop my own taste in music, and most of these songs came from the first albums I ever bought using one of those Columbia House ‘get 12 free albums for a $1’ mail order programs. I played these records endlessly, and they became part of my musical DNA.
I first met Mark Doyle in 2005 when he was the co-producer of “From the Dark Side of the Moon” and he has been my Music Director since 2013. Aside from the strings and drums, he played every instrument on this album. We recorded most of it at his home studio, and a majority of the vocals are taken from the first time I auditioned these songs with Mark for the album… something I never would have done in my youth, but there’s something fresh and unselfconscious about working that way. With the success of our 5.1 version of “From the Dark Side of the Moon,” we knew early on, especially given the cinematic nature of some of these songs, that we wanted to bring these classics into a new light by utilizing the latest audio technologies to reinterpret my favorite Pink Floyd, Neil Young, George Harrison, Richard Thompson, Moody Blues, The Rolling Stones, ELO, Nick Drake, Judy Collins, and the Mamas and Papas songs in the brilliant, full immersive, high-resolution clarity of 5.1 surround, so we brought in internationally-renowned mix master Ronald Prent to do the 5.1 and stereo mixes.
The challenge was to make each of these songs our own without sacrificing the essence first captured by their original creators. We tried out lots of songs. These are the ten we chose:
Can’t Get It Out of My Head – Electric Light Orchestra
This song used to play on the cafeteria jukebox my first year in Catholic high school. It has a special place in my heart as it has a watery dreaminess that washes over you, and it was always able to musically transport me from that awkward place and time.
Ruby Tuesday – The Rolling Stones
I loved the melodic, quasi-classical Brian Jones era Stones. There are so many of their songs from that period I’d love to cover, but we had to pick one. After Brian died, the Stones left behind that early, delicate sound and went full testosterone.
Tuesday Afternoon – Moody Blues
So many people have suggested I cover this song, but the bridge was always a challenge, so I thought… hmmm… maybe I could use a chant like I did on some parts of “From Dark Side of the Moon.” I found the perfect Sanskrit mantra that honors Mars, the planetary lord of Tuesdays, and sang it in the lowest register I could muster. It’s my favorite part of the song now.
River Man – Nick Drake
I wasn’t sure if I should attempt a cover of this song—it’s kind of a musical ‘sacred cow’—but I’ve been mesmerized by it from first listen. Nick Drake had a unique guitar style, and the string arrangements on his original recording are legendary. We knew we couldn’t go that musical route, but we wanted to keep the song’s shimmering quality. Mark is known more for his guitar playing but is an equally great pianist, and he brought that gift to this track. We used my layered vocals in place of strings in the bridge. This is another song with lyrics that have always been meaningful for me… “Gonna see the River Man… Gonna tell him all I can… about the ban on feelin’ free.”
Got A Feelin’ – The Mamas and the Papas
I adored the Mamas and The Papas. When my older sister brought their debut album home for the first time, their sonic wall of pure harmonic ear candy knocked me on my 9-year-old bum… and I always loved Cass and the swagger in that big belt-y voice of hers. This is one of their rare songs that featured Michelle’s soft, breathy vocals.
Don’t Let It Bring You Down – Neil Young
I typically don’t like to do songs that have already been covered by other artists—and this song has been covered to death—but “After the Goldrush” is an album that so abides in my heart I can’t even hear Neil sing these songs without being moved to tears. They resonate on a subconscious level… and they go deep. Moreover, I learned to play guitar with these songs, and I suspect if ever the day comes when I’m addled with dementia, my hands will still be able to play this tune.
Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
I always thought of Pink Floyd as ‘boy music for girls’… so soaring and majestic… and I’ve always resonated with Roger Waters’ lyrics. I consider him kind of a prophet… so prescient of our current times.
Since You’ve Asked – Judy Collins
Judy Collins was a huge influence on me. With that signature voice of hers she was able to seamlessly cover a broad repertoire from folk to classical to theater music—and she was a great champion of new songwriters, including Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. She’s a fine songwriter herself, and I think this is one of her best. I’ve always performed this song in 3/4 time (or more accurately, 9/8 for the prog rockers out there).
Beware of Darkness – George Harrison
I never thought of George as a singer’s songwriter, but the lyrics of this song have lived in my head all these years, like a wise uncle’s advice in its admonition to “Beware of the thoughts that linger/Winding up inside your head/While hopelessness surrounds you/In the dead of night.”
The Great Valerio – Richard & Linda Thompson
When I started to venture out into my own musical taste, I discovered British folk… Sandy Denny, June Tabor, and those great Richard and Linda Thompson records. I never had a girlish voice—neither did these ladies—and as my voice was developing, I sounded like them. Maybe it’s a Celtic thing and we carry that sound in our genes? This is a more obscure song in the Richard and Linda catalogue, but I always loved its mysterious, ponderous quality. It’s a meditation on fame that I find so relevant for our time.
With “a voice for the gods that can transport listeners to other realms” (Boston Globe), Mary Fahl is an expressive, emotional singer/songwriter who first achieved fame as lead singer and co-founder of the mid-1990s NYC- based chamber-pop group October Project, a band known for their lush harmonies, sweeping melodies and Fahl’s unique and powerful vocals. After two records on Epic, the band disbanded, but Fahl had more freedom to pursue her own muse, whether that meant writing and recording songs for movies (including the theme for the Civil War epic “Gods and Generals”), singing arias and medieval Spanish songs for Sony Classical or releasing a unique album-length take on “Dark Side of the Moon.”
Fahl’s music has a timeless quality that she conveys with earthy, viscerally powerful contralto that bridges the generational gap between Fairport Convention’s Sandy Denny and London Grammar’s Hannah Reid. Her elegant, cinematic songs have a hauntingly gothic romanticism that inspired renowned writer Anne Rice to portray Mary’s voice emanating from a dead woman’s room in her 2013 novel “The Wolves of Midwinter.”
Over the past few years, she’s been touring and recording on her own label, Rimar Records, and her recent releases have garnered awards including an Indie Acoustic Award for Best Live Album for “Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House” (filmed for PBS) and a 2020 Independent Music Award for her recent holiday album, “Winter Songs and Carols”. Her latest release, a 5.1 immersive audio CD, “From the Dark Side of the Moon,” brilliantly mixed by Bob Clearmountain, won the 2021 Immersive Album Audio Listener’s Choice award and was named “Immersive Album of the Year” by Life in Surround.
Now she returns with “Can’t Get It Out of My Head,” a collection of songs that she calls “essential” to her development as an artist … “With all the madness that was happening in the world, I was grappling with the loss of my mother and sister this past year and was feeling completely rootless. In an effort to find an anchor, a link to the past, a sense of home, I began to immerse myself in the comfort of music from my youth. These were such essential songs for me… like old friends… my musical home in many ways. I fell in love with each of them at the quintessential coming-of-age moment when music goes straight into your heart with no filter and these songs became part of my musical DNA… I learned to play guitar with several of them – especially the early Neil Young songs. Most of these covers come from the first albums I ever bought using one of those Columbia House ‘get 12 free albums for a $1’ mail order programs. I played these records endlessly… and the lyrics on many of these songs still have a powerful resonance for me.”