How suite it is:
Producer meets David Cassidy halfway and records the singer's
vocals in his hotel room
By Mark Wyckoff
Ventura County Star
"Where's your gear?"
David Cassidy's tone was decidely dubious as he surveyed
producer Craig J, who was clutching just two bags as he stood
in the doorway of Cassidy's hotel suite at the Mohegan Sun
casino resort in Connecticut.
"Worry not, my friend," Craig J reassured Cassidy.
"All will be well."
It was November and Cassidy was at the Mohegan producing,
directing and starring in his ring-a-ding revue "The
Rat Pack is Back!" Craig J was there because time was
running out to finish recording Cassidy's vocals for "Part.
II — The Remix." The CD, a pop-dance hybrid in
which Craig J gives Cassidy's '70s hits a club-conscious sonic
makeover, was coming out Feb. 25 as part of retail giant Target's
new Spotlight Series on the 180 Music label.
To make that release date, Craig J arrived at Cassidy's Mohegan
doorstep with a duffel bag and a messenger bag. Cassidy, used
to recording in high-tech rooms at Capitol and RCA, was understandably
wary as he watched Craig J quickly convert his suite into
a recording studio.
The producer, who has remixed nearly 20 No. 1 hits on Billboard's
dance chart for such artists as Madonna, Beyoncé and
Kelly Clarkson, pulled the drapes shut to keep the sound in
and set up a Lawson vocal microphone just behind the couch.
The makeshift studio's nerve center, a MacBook hooked up to
an Mbox Pro audio interface and an external hard drive, was
placed on the dining room table just a few feet to the right
of the mic.
When all systems were go, Cassidy pulled a chair up to the
mic, sat down on the edge of the seat, closed his eyes and
sang "Cherish," his first Top 10 solo hit from 1972.
The first playback was all it took for Cassidy to gain complete
faith in Craig J's portable setup.
Over the next six days, the pair recorded the CD's final
five vocals, with Cassidy singing to instrumental tracks recorded
in September in Hollywood with Calabasas producer Peter Bunetta
Those backing tracks, which mirrored the original '70s arrangements,
were jettisoned when Craig J began the remix process.
His mission, Craig J said, was to bring Cassidy's songs "into
my world." On "Part. II — The Remix,"
he doesn't just put a dance-groove gloss on the songs, he
deconstructs them, rebuilds them and thoroughly reinvigorates
them, adding new beats, melodies and harmonies. It's not the
all-new studio album that longtime fans are craving, but it's
a far sight more interesting than yet another greatest hits
In Craig J's hands, "Cherish" emerges as a percolating
chill-out ballad; Cassidy's plaintive, self-penned "Ricky's
Tune" gets transformed into a swirling slice of Beatlesque
psychedelia; and the Top 10 Partridge Family hit "I'll
Meet You Halfway" is given a gospel-style house treatment.
"Halfway" was the first track Craig J let Cassidy
"I was freaking out, thinking ‘He hates it,'"
Craig J said. "Then he starts tapping his feet and moving
his head and I'm like, ‘Oh, maybe he likes it a little
bit.' Then he starts turning red and I'm like, ‘Oh,
he must hate something.' Then he's really starting to get
into it at the end and I'm like, ‘Oh, maybe he does
like it.' He took his headphones off at the end and said,
‘Wow. That kicks my ass. I have to hear that again.
I love that.'"
It was the song's lyrics, penned by Wes Farrell and Gerry
Goffin, that inspired Craig J to give "Halfway"
a gospel groove.
"It's about a person in transition and that transition
could be spiritual or it could be as part of a relationship,"
he said. "You could almost interpret it as a conversation
with God. And so for me, as a composer, I wanted to score
the song using those emotions as colors. I also wanted to
score the song so it aligned with David. As I got to know
him, I found out he's got a serious love for old R&B.
So I took that track, sped up his vocal, tweaked it a little
bit and then brought in these fabulous gospel/R&B singers
that I work with to sing behind him."
"Halfway" cooks, but "Could It Be Forever"
and "Echo Valley 2-6809" are better. Both were recorded
in the wee small hours, when Cassidy was back in his hotel
room after "Rat Pack" performances. Craig J managed
to capture the edgy ache of Cassidy's voice, which too often
gets smoothed out in recordings.
"I wanted ‘Could It Be Forever' to be really vibey,
like it was 3 in the morning and he was pondering," Craig
J said. "The way his voice sounded on it was really wicked.
It was one of his grittier performances. I loved that sound."
Not as successful, surprisingly, is the Partridge anthem
"I Think I Love You"; both the arrangement and Cassidy's
vocals sound flat and pedestrian. Craig J may simply have
lost his perspective on the song; he admits he spent more
than two months trying to nail it. In comparison, the vibrant
"Cherish" only took a day and a half. Weak, too,
is "C'mon Get Happy"; despite a pounding piano riff
reminiscent of "Lady Madonna," the track never gels.
More to come?
Craig J will get a second shot at "I Think I Love You";
he's about to begin crafting a seven-minute mix of the song
that will be sent out to club DJs across the country. He's
also in talks to join Cassidy for a few concerts so the remixes
can be heard live, but that won't happen until well after
Cassidy's gig Saturday at La Mirada Theatre in La Mirada.
If the chance came up, Craig J said he'd love to record another
album with Cassidy. When it's suggested the pair try putting
a contemporary spin on "Rat Pack"-era material,
Craig J picks up on the concept immediately, noting he recently
did a mash-up of Dean Martin's ‘Sittin' On Top of the
World' just for kicks.
"If I had the budget, I'd record David singing live
with a big band and then I'd press that onto vinyl so it sounds
like an old record," Craig J said. "Then I'd take
that and drop it into my world, adding lots of club beats
and filters. That would be fierce."