Monday, November 7, 2016

Falcon - Self-Titled Album (2004)

[22 November 2016: This post is under heavy construction. I'll be adding more text, links, photos and correcting errors as time moves along. -P]

For a limited time I'm offering the eponymous first Falcon disc for free download. I'm down to my last few remaining copies of the second small pressing. Rather than letting it languish out of print and fade into obscurity, I'm making it available to fans old and new.  

Here's a link to the compressed .zip file -

Simply right-click on the link and "save link as". Then decompress once you've downloaded the .zip file.

Perry Grayson - Guitar/Vocals
Greg Lindstrom - Bass/Keyboard/Additional Lead Guitar on *
Darin McCloskey - Drums

Basic tracks recorded live in November 2003. A few overdubs and mixing conducted in February 2004. Engineered, mixed and mastered by Chris Kozlowski at the Polar Bear Lair in Middletown, Maryland. Produced by Falcon and Chris Kozlowski. Released May 24, 2004 on Liquid Flames Records, piece code LF002.

1. Downer (Grayson)
2. Castle Peak (Grayson)
3. On the Slab [guest lead vocals by Bobby Liebling from Pentagram] (Grayson)
4. The Crying of Lot 246 (Grayson)
5. Throwback (Grayson)
6. Redman [Bang cover] (D'Iorio, Ferrara & Gilcken)
7. High Speed Love (Lindstrom) *
8. Route 666 (Lindstrom)
9. Shelob's Lair (Lindstrom) *
10. Half Past Human (Lindstrom) *

The Eponymous Epic!

The self-titled Falcon album has to be my second fave recording experience of my career. Not only do I love it sonically, but I really dug/dig everything about the project from start to finish. I don't use the term "project" to describe Falcon, though. It's a serious band situation.

Me and Greg L. flew out to Pennsylvania on November 19, 2003, for two days of wall-to-wall jamming at Pale Divine's rehearsal space (the Glen Mills, PA community center basement). Then we drove down to Maryland and hit the Polar Bear Lair studio for 5 more days. We banged out the basic tracks within two full days, followed by 3 more days of overdubs and mixing - a couple of guitar solos, vocals, percussion, etc. The result was a spontaneous, raw sounding album. We truly bashed it out as quick as humanly possible! A breath of fresh air compared to the recording sessions of Destiny's End - Breathe Deep the Dark.

Chris Kozlowski did an incredible job engineering and  Darin did a killer job behind the kit, despite the fact that we haven't had more than like 6 rehearsals with him! An especially huge thanks goes out to Greg Diener (guitarist/vocalist of Pale Divine) for loaning me his old Sunn Sceptre head for rehearsals. We returned to the Polar Bear Lair from February 18th to 21st to do a couple of last overdubs and to mix.

Greg, Darin & Perry inside Chris Kozlowski's Polar Bear Lair, Nov. 2003

Sunn Sceptre 60 watt head

For all you gear geeks (like me, Greg and Darin), I used my 1976 Les Paul Deluxe for all of the basic tracking and most of the solos. I brought my 1976 B.C. Rich Eagle Supreme on the February trip to lay down a couple of solos and to double-track some lead passages as well. Greg used his Fender USA Custom Shop Jazz Bass and his Les Paul Jr. (think vintage Leslie West) for his solos. Greg's keyboard parts on "Downer", "Lot 246" and "Half Past Human" was carried out on a Novation K-Station. Amp-wise I used Chris Kozlowski's original Sunn Model T for about 75% of the recording and an Orange Overdrive Series 2 (until it blew up) for overdubs.
Sunn Model T 120 watt head

Orange Overdrive Series 2 Head
Perry with his B.C. Rich Eagle Supreme & Marshall stack at the Artisan jam room, NoHo, CA - 2003 

The Story Behind the Cover

At first we wanted to keep with the Cirith Ungol tradition of using art depicting Michael Moorcock's albino elf anti-hero, Elric. We approached artist Robert Gould to see if we could license the cover of The Elric Saga Part I. It suited Falcon, as it depicted Elric with a bird of prey on his shoulder. At first Gould seemed interested, but eventually he just gave us the cold shoulder.

Ful color scan of Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone by Robert Gould

Perry's b-day gig in '05 with Shakey Mallard & High Horse. Get your sushi 'n' rawk on!!

The S/T Nitzinger LP cover
It wound up better that way, as I discovered the perfect cover in a pen and ink piece by renowned fantasy artist Virgil Finlay. Finlay's illustration is of a skeletal warrior on a beach surrounded by seagulls. Being that I worked in graphic design/advertising, I chopped the skull out of the larger artwork, leaving the winged helmet in as well. The result was not only an album cover, but the perfect colophon/logo for Falcon. I quickly got in touch with Finlay's daughter through an old weird fiction friend, editor Joe Wrzos, to secure rights. From that point on the helmeted skull graced nearly every Falcon gig flyer. The final cover is a combination of Finlay's finest and a backdrop of black leather amp leather or Tolex and the logo in silver embossed foil stamping as on the self-titled Nitzinger LP (1972).

The infamous first Falcon gig flyer!

Track by Track Notes

1. Downer
This one isn't about popping pills. Quite the contrary, it's a philosophy. Taking things raw, without a crutch, heeding "the worse case scene". There's also a politically charged bent to the lyrics. The "banished utopia laid to waste before its time" serves the purpose of having a bite at Uncle Sam. Riff-wise, there's a little tidbit about the intro/outro worth mentioning. Rob Garven, the Cirith Ungol skinsman, said, upon receiving his copy of the S/T Falcon album, "It reminds me of Heart's 'Barracuda'. It wasn't a conscious effort. Just something that occurred by chance. I've always felt it owes more to Pentagram (circa Day of Reckoning) and Quartz (think Stand Up and Fight) than anything else. Greg played the honky tonk piano synth in the solo section of this one.

2. Castle Peak
Castle Peak is a mountain wedged between my old suburb (West Hills) and the ritzy gated community Bell Canyon in sunny Southern California. I hiked it many a time during my early teen trials and tribulations. Climbing Castle Peak cheered me up when I was down, prior to obtaining my very own electric axe. On the lower slopes of Castle Peak there's a cave, fondly referred to as the Bat Cave by the teenage heshers who used to hang out there. Castle Peak was used as a ceremonial site by the Chumash during the solstices, The Cave of Munits – which lies in direct sight of the rocky peak, was said to be the home of a powerful Chumash shaman who was killed after murdering the son of a chief. There are stone alcoves at the summit of Castle Peak. In and near the alcoves were heaps of of heavy rock 'n' metal graffiti. Back in my high school days (daze) there was spray-painted the likes of Iron Maiden, AC/DC and Metallica. Before these sprawling trails were officially preserved as parkland there was an overzealous security guard patrolling this parcel of land, formerly called Ahmanson Ranch. The rent-a-cop brandished a gun loaded with rock salt. Fortunately I was never caught by the guard, although I know others who were shot at and detained. All that nonsense came to a halt in 2004 when the Victory Trailhead, El Escorpion Park and the rest of the former Ahmanson land opened for public use. For once the politics of land/property development sided with the nature loving common person. I was stoked to the max and celebrated the cool situation with a trip to ye old Bat Cave.

Philip Parris Lynott - the original Rawker (1949-1986)
3. On the Slab
"On the Slab" is my tribute to Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy. I'm heavily influenced by both the Eric Bell-era power trio and the classic lineup with the duelling guitars of Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham. They're a special band for Greg Lindstrom too. He and Cirith Ungol drummer Rob Garven used to wear homemade Thin Lizzy t-shirts on their rounds of SoCal record shops like my old hangout, Moby Disc in Canoga Park. The title stems from the story of the same name by Harlan Ellison. "On the Slab" was Ellison's paean to H.P. Lovecraft. This one's rooted in reality rather than fantasy. It's painfully obvious that this tune is a tale of a smack addict going down the drain on drugs. It could just as easily encompass blow and meth as well. (As in "inhaling your death off a slab".)

Bobby Liebling, the voice of Pentagram!
Ironically, "On the Slab" has guest lead vocals by none other than Pentagram's Bobby Liebling, himself a storied smack and crack addict for the majority of his life.

I originally laid down vocals on both the demo and album versions of the tune, but I just wasn't happy with the results. As the vocal tracking came to a close it was evident that I'd either need to revisit it or... The possibility of Bobby coming in to lend a hand - or pipes. Bobby previously made a guest spot on Pale Divine's Thunder Perfect Mind, on the tracks "20 Buck Spin" (a Penta-cover) and "Dark Knight". So, it goes without saying that both drummer Darin McCloskey and engineer Chris Kozlowski were friends of Bobby's already. The latest version of Pentagram (with the 3 instrumentalists from Maryland doom kingpins Internal Void) was finishing up tracks for the Show 'Em How album, also with Chris Kozlowski at the helm. Kelly Carmichael (guitar) and J.D. Wiliams (vocals) from Internal Void paid a visit to us while we were recording overdubs. At Chris' recommendation I left my lyrics sheet and a note to Bobby with my cell phone number. I didn't expect he'd want to sing it due to the too close-to-home theme. On the contrary, Bobby rang me up and raved about how authentically Lizzy-like the tune was and that he'd be very happy to vocalize a tribute to our and his big hero, Philo. Bobby rang me several times, even during the wee hours of the morning. He left me messages to show me how he wanted to sing parts. We had some good phone chatter. In the end, we were thrilled with Bobby's rendering. Bobby went off the rails again around the time we released the S/T Falcon CD. I called him and he nodded off on the phone. A while later he screwed over the Internal Void guys by collapsing on stage at their first (and only) gig before a note was even played. Hopefully he's doing better now than he was back in '04. To this day I’ve never met Bobby, but we had some good long talks on the phone, and I hope to see him live with Pentagram someday.

4. The Crying of Lot 246

The title of this one is a play on Thomas Pynchon's 1965 novel The Crying of Lot 49. Thematically it's slightly similar to "Castle Peak". "Lot 246" also has something in common with Grand Funk Railroad's "Save the Land". It's about conserving land, lashing out against greedy commercial/corporate property developers. Getting back to nature. That sort of thing... Both Greg Lindstrom and I are big fans of Cream, and the chord progression in the chorus of "Lot 246" brings to mind "Tales of Brave Ulysses". Chronologically, this one was the second track I wrote for Falcon - also the second I demoed with a drum machine in autumn 2002.

5. Throwback
For the most part, "Throwback" is just a let loose and have fun type of song. I still managed to inject some seriousness into the fray. The lines "They watch my heroes die / Public eye don't cry" imply that the media doesn't care about the passing of talented musicians. Like say Chuck Schuldiner of Death and Control Denied fame. Randy Palmer (Bedemon, Pentagram) is another that comes to mind. The rest of the lyrics deal with the uninitiated not understanding the world of heavy rock and metal. Claiming it's too loud and "evil" sounding. Let's not forget all that demonic imagery. When I sang "I'm a throwback, baby / Born too late," I was quoting from the Wino-era Saint Vitus classic. I dig stuff that people call dinosaur rock (say Pentagram again!), I let my freak flag fly (the hair is flowin'!) and I love playing through a blaring full Marshall stack. Another Pentagram-related lyric is "livin' in a ram!" (as in "Living in a Ram's Head").

Leisure Suit Perry in front of the guitar cab shed at the Polar Bear Lair, Nov. 2003

6. Redman [Bang cover]
Bang is one of my all-time fave early heavy '70s bands. I'd call them proto-metal because of that outright heaviness.. They had three albums out on Capitol Records between 1972 and 1974. This one was on the self-titled Bang LP (1972). My old pal Rob Preston (Doomed Planet Records) hipped me to Bang. And they were the first band I wrote about in the pages of Metal Maniacs when I became a staffer in 1999-2000. Not only did I interview drummer Tony D'Iorio, but I became friends with Frank Ferrara (bass/vocals) and Frankie Gilcken (guitar) as well. We hung out one night in Hollyweird in 2000 and also in the studio in 2002 while they were demoing new songs. After the studio visit we adjourned to their friend's Calabasas home. I love the hippie-esque theme of "Redman" - again, a cautionary tale of not allowing the land to be raped by the Man and his penchant for war. Live, Falcon used to lengthen our version of "Redman" with an extended improv jam. Technically speaking, Bang tunes down a half-step (a semi-tone in the UK or Oz) to E-flat, while we tuned down a whole-step to D. This makes it easier on my voice and also adds a bit of heaviness to the whole affair.

7. High Speed Love
"High Speed Love" is an old Cirith Ungol tune from the late '70s. Greg wrote this fun little tune about fast cars. Both Greg and Rob Garven are big car racing fans. They love Ferraris and the like. I've never been much of a car geek, but I can understand their obsession with speedy automobiles. Tim Baker sang the original with backups by Rob and Greg.

8. Route 666
Another one of Greg's old Cirith Ungol songs which they demoed in the mid '70s. Greg wrote both the lyrics and music - and sang the original version himself. It's a horrific tale of a guy who comes face to face with a demon on a lonely desert highway. I had Greg's vocals to base my own delivery on thankfully.

9. Shelob's Lair
Fantasy geeks might realize right off the bat that this is Greg's take on J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Like Zeppelin, Rush and Mountain before them, Cirith Ungol used the hippie's fave fantasy series for song fodder. Shelob was the giant spider who tangled with the heroes of the story in Cirith Ungol. Cirith Ungol was the high mountain 'pass of the spider'. Other Tolkien bits Greg inserted into the lyrics were the Ringbearer (Frodo the Hobbit), Samwise (Frodo's Hobbit friend), the Nazgul (Ring wraiths) and the magic sword called Sting. A rehearsal recording sans vocals was my only guide in how to sing/play "Shelob's Lair". I tried to deliver the lines as Tim Baker (the CU vocalist) might have.

10. Half Past Human 

The subtitle of this one was "A Quarter to Ape". The final S/T Falcon track is Greg's tale of the demise of man on Earth. Cirith Ungol demoed it in the mid '70s. He was heavily influenced by the fantasies of Jack Vance (The Dying Earth) and perhaps a hint of Clark Ashton Smith's tales of Zothique as well. Again, I had no vocal guide to follow beyond Greg's coaching. I tried to instil a bit of Iggy Pop into the line "Thirteen screaming souls / to feed the one within".