While living in Athens, Greece in the mid 90’s through the early 2000’s, producing Greek artists for Polygram, I had discovered a new movement. European DJ’s were creating compilations by selecting tracks from various artists and producers, assembling them in a said sequence then releasing them in their own name.
This movement quickly caught on (Cafe del Mar, Buddha Bar, Hotel Costes etc.) and in essence became the beginning of a lifestyle movement as well as a music movement. The etherial multi cultural blend of languages and styles seemed to open a new chakra in people. Somewhat world music, somewhat lounge this progressive new music swept the mediterranean and further found its way into the rest of Europe, Asia and ultimately the world.
Taking notice of this new movement I realized that there was a myriad of artists I had met along the way who although supremely talented, had not been able to secure recording contracts. As I had personally been involved with music from around the world, world music was no stranger so I reached out to all of them and gave them each one song, set the sequence and hence, Living Theater was born. “Living Theater vol. 1 modern music from the mediterranean and beyond” became an instant favourite on the Greek islands and further caught the eye of DJ Ravin at the Buddha Bar in Paris who contacted me asking to license “Solo por tu amor” in order to launch Buddha Bar 3. That further led to many more licensing requests by The Buddha Bar and other compilations worldwide. Living Theater act one is an enhanced look at the maiden voyage of what would become the Living Theater series.
They say once you’ve run one marathon you will definitely run a second.
The second offering continued to expound and expand the depths of this insightful concept of contemporizing world music. Utilizing several artists found on Living Theater act one, while introducing four new artists (Sabine Wamier, Sienna Joy, Terry Barber & Missarah) Living Theater act two continued its global musical journey while picking up passengers along the way.
This compilation also led way to truly seeing Living Theater as a series rather than a one off which completely altered the approach (making it even more free and open than had been originally anticipated). As is identifiable on “The World is a Stage” and “We’re all Beautiful” (sung in seven languages) the songs of Living Theater are in a world all their own where no cultural, musical or language barriers exist. Once again this collection of audio paintings set sail on a world voyage and in many ways became even more successful that its predecessor.
“The Beat Goes On” and “Bang, Bang” were two tracks that I had completed with Erica Jennings several years earlier. It wasn’t until Living Theater act three came along that they both their rightful place. The mix of a Middle Eastern arrangement with a wester pop song had always been on my mind since the early nineties and Sonny Bono’s timeless lyric made it all possible to assemble.
Once I had found my opener I remembered something John Grisham had once said about writing. He finds his opener and his closer and rest comes naturally. So I thought I would try it and it worked like a charm. As I also had a finished version of “Bang, Bang” I thought what better bookend then yet another Sonny Bono song. It was such an obvious closer both in it’s thematic and melodic approach that I was sure with a middle eastern touch to the arrangement it would be perfect.
The writing of Living Theater act three was also augmented by my surroundings. My long time friends Pat, Andy and Jesse Langer were kind enough to lend me a beautiful country house for the summer. Amongst the sprawling one hundred and fifty acre backdrop, the two hundred year old stone house with its semi tuned wall piano I centred myself in a way I could’ve only hoped for.
My brother Frank, once again came through with yet another discovery, Mis Sarah who graced “Wishing You Were Here” with her taunting vocals, Kaz Silver the world’s funniest Brit, became a welcome edition on “True Love.” Brazilian Beauty Valeria added to the tropical feel on “Brazil” and the performances of Living Theater alumni Bert Joris, Nitzia and Terry Barber enhanced “Lily’s Lounge,” In Your Arms” and “I Must Learn About Love” respectively. “Building Bridges” was a track I had felt longed for an otherworldly element and was fortunate enough to find the perfect samples alongside the stunning vocals of Eioni Kalaitzidou in order to properly frame the feeling.
I was also reminded of my jazz roots (Berklee alumni that I am) and took great pleasure digging out an old Gibson E8295 at I.C.P. studios in Brussels and wrote “Read Between the Lines” on it. I collect old instruments and believe they have songs in them as over the years, a vintage instrument has been witness to countless experiences that partially remain inside the instrument. This particular guitar owned by my friend John Hastry had not only “Read Between the Lines” inside is (which Sienna Joy sand perfectly) but four others that were written in the course of two days in Brussels.
Frank suggested Michael Paladino for the graphics and it wasn’t until Micahel and I met again that I realized just how perfect his art would be. We all worked together looking through countless photos and paintings ultimately arriving on the cover art and package materials.
As the Living Theater ship continued its’ voyage, the family became closer.
By Living Theater act three all the musicians involved seemed reheated although the hadn’t even heard the songs. I realized that by this point in our Living Theater relationship we had such an easy going dialogue that the recording process was more like a vacation that a recording session. A vacation where rather than snap pictures of our holiday, we recorded a snapshot, making the completed music our remembrance of a time well spent.
From our first breath, we are all programmed by the sound of bells. School bells, church bells, wedding bells are all nothing less than doorbells of perception in the understanding of human response. With this in mind, rather than leave the bell with its dogma I decided to further project it into a new musical spotlight. After experimenting with several bell sounds I found the resonance I was looking for and began embracing its innate tone and wisdom with a consistent family of instruments (bass and drums) joined by the occasional guess (trumpet, flute, guitar). I saw the bell as the keynote speaking, the back up band as its podium and the subsequent additions as guest speakers.
My intention was to create a continuous instrumental dialogue enhanced by rhythms representative of the times we live in thus providing the listener with their own modern day soundtrack.
Upon completion of the recording I began contemplating the cover design.
I had first imaged the cover photo with an Elephant as the feature but after discussing the idea with my long time friend, photographer Ken Shung we found ourselves twisting the initial cover idea. Modeling out collaborative design after Lock magazine images we were both influenced by during our childhood we agreed on a groove, mod, indelibly cool approach to a retro look. Just like the old days, we went shopping for Caroline’s (model) outfit (wig, eyelashes, dress, fishnets and boots) and shot the cover on a fabulous Devember Sunday in New York. Conceived in New York and recorded in Brussels, Living Theater presents Groove Guru is my finest example of rehearsed spontaneity.
This Living Theater box set contains all 36 tracks found on the collective Living Theater act one, two & three disks plus 12 additional Living Theater gems.
The 3x CD package is accompanied by a 40 page full colour booklet graced with fantastic photography of celebrated photographers Michael Palladino and Ken Shung while explaining the motivation, inspiration and point specific thoughts behind the making of each track in the words of Living Theater’s composer, creator and producer.
This limited collectors edition is hand signed by Joseph Baldassare and is a must have for all Living Theater fans. Limited Edition of 2000 copies.
Tracy Young was introduced to me by my brother Frank. As I had a ritual of producing artists all year then at years end doing remixes of hits I had had during that year (while living in Greece) he suggested that I do the same for Living Theater.
So we handed Living Theater act one, act two and act three over to Tracy and let her select her favorites and remix them as she saw fit.
One by one as the remixes were completed I was more and more impressed and pleased. Upon completion we called upon Michael Palladmo and had him design the cover art. The compiled 11 remixes would become “Tracy Young remixes Living Theater” and wound up being Tracy’s first solo outing. Tracy went on to remix for the likes of Pink, Madonna, Cher and countless others and remains of a force of nature on the dance circuit today. But once again, Living Theater showcased her talents first.