At last! After performing together since 1997, the 11th Hour finally got the album they deserved!
Sam Dallyn created the excellent cover.
The album was recorded between December 2004 and April 2006 at Stanford Sound, Stanford in the Vale, Oxfordshire (Paul’s home studio).
Tracks & song links:
1. Marred [2005 Version]
2. Don’t Make It Right
4. My Inspiration
5. Since I Met You
6. Lonely Road
7. Don’t Throw Your Love Away 1
8. Reap What You Sow
9. Don’t Throw Your Love Away 2
10. Unemployment Blues
11. Spirit from Above
12. Walk Away
13. Reminds Me of the Son
15. Hope in the Saviour
16. Face is of a Beauty
17. Don’t Run from the Light
[ 18. I Can See Her Face – hidden track]
The Making of Milestone
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!