Recorded at Stanford Sound, Oxfordshire, October 2002 – Feb 2003.
Copies distributed on CD: ~50
Cover by Sam Dallyn
Question: What do you get if you mix a frustrated home studio enthusiast and a talented multi-instrumental music student? Answer: ‘First’, by Jackson-Mckenna…
This was Paul’s colloboration with the multi-talented Andy Mckenna, who offered keyboards, guitar, vocals and trumpet to the EP. At the time of recording, Paul had only known Andy about 6 months. However, this project led to enjoyable (if infrequent) work together, mainly in live performances.
“This EP happened because Andy and I had recently met on a UBM beach mission in Looe, Cornwall, August 2002. We clicked immediately and started to record music together the first chance we got, which I think was November. It was also written to encourage a Christian student friend who was spending a lonely year in Spain.
The core of the album was laid down in two hectic weekend sessions, with Andy staying the weekend at Stanford Sound. I oversaw Russell and Steve’s contributions, without which, the album would have been a guitar-solo-free zone…and who wants that?
I did the production and mixing with moral support from everyone else. The whole enterprise was squeezed into a busy time as preaching engagements abounded and the PFS (FIEC’s Prepared For Service course) assignments were coming thick and fast! Finishing ‘First’ was sometimes frustrating and trying, but I hope you will agree that it was worth the effort. The EP still sounds fresh today. It is arguable that this version of ‘Spirit from Above’ is slightly more gripping than the Milestone version as the excitement seems to build and build, but don’t let me put thoughts in your head!”
This is a very interesting article (thanks @alansarchives) from David Crosby and Graham Nash about the 1974 CSNY tour that has finally been immortalised on CD/DVD/BluRay etc.
We learn from this article (and others connected with this new release) that Crosby didn’t call this the ‘Doom Tour’ because it was a particularly unpleasant experience, but rather because it was hard work to perform well to such gigantic audiences. However, no-one involved denies that there was plenty of excess on this tour and, this being CSNY, there were no doubt plenty of arguments and an unpleasant atmosphere for much of the time!
It’s interesting to note how the current crop of interviews (and Nash’s recent biography) all seem to be keeping to the party line that, yes, Neil Young is a bit weird and ‘only the music matters’. There seems to be a concerted effort to play down the personality clashes that have dogged the world’s greatest supergroup, particularly when Neil Young is involved.
I’ve put the CD box set on to my Amazon wish list and will probably get it next birthday or Christmas. £50 is very, very steep in my opinion, so this is not an instant purchase for me, by any means.
The latest Mojo magazine has a sampler CD (which seems to contain 5 tracks from the box set, although I’m not totally clear about this) and it sounds pretty good.
The CSNY 1974 release inspired me to pull out my CD of CSNY’s 1970 live album ‘4 Way Street’. Strangely, this wasn’t actually a great idea, as each time I play this CD I realise that I don’t like it that much! Although there are a few high points (mainly from Neil Young) this has always struck me as a very rough-sounding document of the band live. The singing is poor in many places (was this the tour when Nash lost his voice? He is particularly hoarse). Sounding more like enthusiastic pub rockers than the supergroup who seemed destined to take over the mantle of the (recently defunct) Beatles.
I am hoping that Graham Nash and Joel Bernstein have produced a substantially better sounding document in ‘CSNY 1974’. The rave reviews in the music press would suggest they have, which is good news for fans everywhere.
This EP was recorded for the purposes of publicising the band in 2000.
Copies went to all sorts of people, from people involved in Christian music, to friends, family and anyone else who was interested. The EP was our first official release, and represents a good effort at capturing the band’s sound.
Despite the relatively good technology on offer, some of
the ‘invisible’ backing that underpinned the actual bass and drums
recorded on the EP was rushed, the result being that My Inspiration, in particular, was a little slow and lacked punch. (Entirely Paul’s fault!)
Additionally, a less than magical antique microphone meant the vocals were pretty thin, or authentically 60s, depending on your point of view. Still, the group played well and the songs shone through: Marred for its chorus, excellent guitar work and imaginative lyrical concerns, I Can See Her Face for its sheer groove – and Steve did a fantastic job of arranging the song from Paul’s original version.
This CD enabled us to make some connections in the Christian music
scene and play several high-profile gigs that year.
The EP was recorded in a Fostex R8 reel-to-reel tape recorder and a
Fostex R81 2 matching mixing desk. Although it was digitally edited with Cool Edit, all subsequent band releases were recorded digitally from start to finish.
1991 After several years as a rock music fan, Paul Jackson buys a guitar and tries to emulate his musical heroes. Tries to record a Beatles song on a cassette machine and pens a few (thankfully) long-forgotten songs.
1992 With help from a guitarist friend called Alan, masters the guitar further and writes another song, Private State. Not too good, but playing and singing coming on well.
1993 Becomes a born-again Christian – still interested in music, but begins to write songs about his new-found faith.
1994 Paul meets Russell Dyer at Grove Free Evangelical Church, Oxfordshire. Russell is also a guitar player and songwriter. The two hit it off immediately and begin playing and writing together. ‘Spirit From Above’ is first significant effort. Paul buys a Fostex 4 track cassette machine and gets stuck into making demo recordings.
1995 Paul & Russell write and record more songs. They meet guitarist and songwriter Steve Gascoyne whilst the duo are leading a service at Hanney Mission. It is nearly a year before all three work together. ‘Don’t Throw Your Love Away’ written this year.
1996 Paul, Russell and Steve start to work together with various jamming sessions. Paul makes more demos at home. Not so many new songs this year, but the threesome are gelling well. Band work on each member’s strongest material.
1997 Jez Fernandez joins as drummer upon returning to Wantage from university. First gig, as the ‘Jesus Loves You Free Electric Band’ in Abbey Meadow, Abingdon. Pretty hot – weather wasn’t bad either!
Later in the year, Paul buys an 8 track tape machine and a decent mixer – the sky’s the limit! They play at roadie Dave Owsnett’s engagement party at Abingdon school in December. Paul prefers to forget his attempt at ‘Everybody Needs Somebody to Love’ singalong with Afican gospel choir. Cue stoney faces and silence in the hall!
1998 Band plays at a youth event in Garford as ‘11th Hour’, a name coined by David Henderson from church. Many of the songs have evolved well and the band seems to be getting more and more proficient. In December band start recording three songs in two days at ‘Stanford Sound’. Project actually finishes at end of May 99!
1999 Big Christmas gig for friends and family in Grove village hall. Quite good actually – even if ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ will never be the same again! Paul Hazell joins band as keyboardist. Paul J writes ‘Marred’ (about Northern Ireland) and ‘My Inspiration’.
2000 Year begins with the ‘Calling Earth EP’. Recorded with help from Mike Parsons at Grace Baptist Mission studio, Abingdon. Three songs are attempted, and finished off at ‘Stanford Sound’. EP is a bit of a mixed bag but certainly the most professional sound yet achieved. Copies of the EP are sent out to various organisations. Band plays UCB ‘Cross Rhythms’ festival in July (how did we land that gig??) and youth events in Faringdon (Sept) and Littlehampton (Nov).
Russ’s ‘Hope In The Saviour’ helps give the gigs a very direct focus on the Gospel. The 11th Hour’s star is rising and there is talk of it fast becoming Wantage’s best contemporary Christian band! 😉
2001 Unbeknown to them, band plays last gig at the Q Gundersen’s ‘Impulse’ event in Faringdon in February. Also performs four songs ‘live to air’ at UCB Cross Rhythms radio station in Stoke, the day before final gig.
The band can now go in a new direction, but not all are keen to pursue the commercial route via Cross Rhythms. By now the band is taking up a lot of time and, with wives and babies on the way, the band goes into hibernation….
2004 After a large investment in the facilities at Stanford Sound, band begins to record semi-live album Milestone, a collection of their best tracks so far. They attempt to record the songs as live as possible in an attempt to recreate the songs as they were performed on stage. However, some of the songs evolve during practice sessions and the band decide to record these more interesting versions for posterity.
2005 Recording continues at Stanford Sound, spurred on by the fact that Paul will be getting married early 2006!
2006 Milestone released on limited edition CD in February.
March 25th 2006 – Photo opportunity at Paul & Liz’s wedding.
This project was conceived because, even after the band’s regular gigging had ceased, Paul had long wanted to put together an album of all the songs the band performed on stage. Unfortunately, a track-by-track audit of the tapes of the 11th Hour’s gigs showed that they were neither comprehensive, or sometimes competent enough, to put together a definitive live album of their best songs. Milestone was their biggest project ever, comprising 17 tracks on one CD, all pretty much recorded from scratch. It was a tall order, made all the more challenging by the fact that, during recording of the album, Paul had met his future wife, Liz, and was getting married in early 2006.
The album was made possible due to a large investment in the facilities at Stanford Sound, centred around a Roland GD-10 digital drumkit for Jez. A massive 18-channel Seck mixing desk allowed many more permutations of monitoring and recording. Headphones were purchased, along with a headphone amplifier, which created a virtual studio in the musician’s ears – while the neighbours heard nothing! This may have allowed the band to break free of any inhibitions they may have had recording in a home environment, because the results were thrilling! It was certainly the best environment the band had ever had to record in as they were all able to play together, and crucially, properly hear one another at the same time. The upstairs bedroom became the control room and the lounge, with its tangle of wires, amps and guitars, became the ‘stage’.
The general idea was a semi-live album, with no more drum machines! Jez took to the GD-10 kit like the proverbial duck to water, which was the foundation of the live rhythm section. Where possible, all the drums, bass and rhythm were recorded live, without overdubs. Guide vocals were also laid down at the same time and the final vocals were normally re-recorded as overdubs.
‘Semi-live’ meant that the recordings could not have horrendous blunders, but they were not always going to be polished perfect either. There were, inevitably, a few damped strings and fluffed notes, but these were triflings when compared to the amazing punch and pace of the band playing live. A couple of the songs, Don’t Make It Right and Hope In The Saviour, were remixed and overdubbed from studio performances that were already ‘in the can’ from previous efforts. Quite simply, it would have been pointless reworking Russell and Steve’s existing versions of these songs. These were definitive versions: intimate, passionate – and powerful. A third song, Paul’s Reminds Me of the Son was actually a complete reworking of the ‘First version. Andy’s piano and trumpet remained, overdubbed with new drums from Jez and new bass and vocals front Paul. Again, why try to reinvent the wheel?
Andy Mckenna mode a valuable contribution to the Milestone project. In one weekend, he added brass, acoustic guitar and organ to the epic Don’t Run from the Light.
What’s the last track?
Anyone with the CD copy of Milestone will have noticed a ‘hidden’ track, number 18. This song is actually ‘I Can See Her Face’ from the Calling Earth EP.
Recording is a funny business. Your first efforts are often disappointing, but like a lot of things in life, it gets easier the more you try it. Calling Earth was one such example. The first two tracks, Marred and My Inspiration, weren’t awful by any means, but somehow didn’t capture much of the excitement that we got from playing the songs live. The third and final track, I Can See Her Face, was a different story. It wasn’t that it was a particularly good song live, it was just that it all wonderfully came together in the studio! This is without a doubt the 11th Hour’s definitive version of this track. Sure, the microphone’s weren’t up to much, and the slightly strained vocals on the key change will always knock my ear out, but this version has so much going for it. Jez is wonderful, Steve’s solos are fantastic and where would it all be without Russell keeping order with his absolutely unshakeable trademark rhythm guitar? (Interestingly, this is probably the rockiest piece of music to be recorded at Grace Baptist Mission studios in Abingdon!) Thanks to Mike Parsons for all his help.
So, this final track made it on to Milestone for several reasons: It was unlikely ever to be recorded this well again, and it provided a contrast with the band’s current output. A bit of nostalgia and a reminder that the Milestone was by no means the band’s first recording effort. Finally, it proves to us, the band, that recording is worth persisting with. We are grateful to God for our progress as musicians, both on stage and in the studio. On Calling Earth, we got it right 33% of the time. On Milestone’s 17 tracks, we probably really hit the groove on over 14 of the tracks and created definitive versions in the process. By my maths that’s a hit rate of over 80%! Good progress in six years.
To my brothers in Christ – Russell, Jez, Steve and Andy. Thank you, and well done!
Going away, but I know the Saviour’s love is never far
I’m led away, but with God in front the path is never dark
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, I know you’re there
And if I settle on the far side of the sea, I’ll know you’re there
Oh Lord, where can I hide from your Spirit?
Oh Lord, where can I flee from your love?
Oh Lord, where can I hide from your Spirit?
Grant me the Spirit from above
Whatever steps I may take in the journey of my life
I know that God longs to see me leave the wrong, and choose the right
When I’m away from the friends and the family that I love
It’s good to know I have a friend that cares for me from up above
Oh Lord, where can I hide from your Spirit?
Oh Lord, where can I flee from your love?
Oh Lord, where can I hide from your Spirit?
Grant me the Spirit from above (x4)
Paul: “This was written in late 1994. I had a chorus and a first verse, and left the rest to Russell to finish – a very Lennon/McCartney way of working! I seem to recall arriving at Grove Evangelical for an evening service after a weekend away and we were due to perform this song to the congregation. Russell showed me his further three verses and said “Is that alright?” kind of thing. We performed it there on the spot! (Well, that’s how I remember it, but who knows?) I do know the famous riff came in early 1995, and that was a pure fluke when I was experimenting with the top two strings of a guitar!
Were those verses ‘alright’? – they were absolutely wonderful! A model of elegant simplicity. Poetry. A great song about God’s fathful presence.”
PJ on ‘First’ version: “The first released version of this 11th Hour classic. A reasonable version had been attempted in 1999 but no-one was terribly happy with the wobbly tempo, which was part and parcel of the painful early recording methods.
From the first bars, there’s plenty of excitement. Unlike previous attempts, the momentum continues after the (shortened) first chorus, one of Andy’s suggestions. Also look out for the gorgeous piano counter-melody that links the verses.
For the first time, the end section’s ‘duelling guitars’ are captured. Listen out for Russell’s patient and bluesy fills giving way to another hard rock wig-out from Steve!”
Each time I hear a song of beauty
Each time I’m lifted by a melody
I’m reminded of your Son
From whom all this blessing comes
And if all this seems too much for me to take
Just imagine how I’ll feel when I see your face!
When I walk the sand at midnight
Hand in hand with my sweetest love on Earth
And although I might pretend
That our love will never end
I remember that our lives are but a breath
And eternity with Jesus is my rest
These are the things I bring to mind
When the light’s gone out and I no longer see
The world has all but turned to stone
Will Jesus ever set me free?
When I consider what your hands have made
Love and care in everything you’ve done
And this world can be such fun
But it’s not the only one
So be reminded of the Son that sets you free
Each time you hear that sweetest melody
PJ on ‘First’ version: “Originally attempted live in Summer 1997, soon after its genesis. Andy brings some keyboard dexterity to this interesting piano ballad about Creation, beauty, depression and, ultimately, God’s complete trustworthiness. Attempted live several times since ’97, this recorded version has a definitive feel to it, thanks to some really emotive trumpet work on the middle 8 and fade-out. And, yes, the big echo hi-hat sound in the early verses is trying to sound like the album version of ‘Let It Be’!”
Christian reflections on music, politics…anything!