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Vital Information

Tom Coster
Hammond B-3 organ, Fender Rhodes, accordion

Frank Gambale
guitar

Jeff Andrews
acoustic & electric basses

Steve Smith
drums

Tracks

1. Dr. Demento
2. Moby Dick
3. Craniac Trilogy, Part 1: Transport
4. Listen Up!
5. Swamp Stomp
6. Craniac Trilogy, Part 2: The Extraction
7. First Thing This Morning
8. Take Eight
9. Craniac Trilogy, Part 3: The Implant
10. Bob
11. Cranial Joy: Completion
12. Happy House
13. Cranial Meltdown: Dementia
14. Blow Fish Blues
15. Sitting Ducks
16. Once in a Lifetime
17. 008

Album Credits

Produced by Vital Information

Recorded at Neverland Studios, Marin County, CA, from April 24 to May 3, 1997

Engineered by Wally Buck and Jim Stern

Mixed by Eric Valentine at H.O.S. Studio, Redwood City, CA

Mastered by Scott Hull at Masterdisc, NYC
Liner Notes for Where We Come From

The concept for this recording started to develop while I was preparing for the Journey album Trial By Fire. I researched the roots of rock and roll so I could have a much greater knowledge of the development of the music and gain insights into the role of drumming in that evolution.

I read books, watched videos, talked to everyone that I could who was knowledgeable about early blues, R&B, and rock. Then I bought CDs, tapes, and records; dozens of reissues of early blues, jump blues, R&B, soul, funk, Cajun, early rock, and surf...everything I could find. Most of the music had a great feel. It was swingin' and loose, played with an attitude that was playful and unselfconscious.

At this point, I began to rediscover some of the great instrumental rock of the 60's and 70's. My two favorites were Booker T and the MGs, and the Meters; both bands were quartets featuring the Hammond B3 organ, and had the same isntrumentation as Vital Info. I then remembered that the B3 was Tom's main instrument; however, since leaving Santana, he rarely played it.

Instruments - The Sounds

I talked to Tom about using the B3 on this project, and he was excited about the idea. Not only did I want to capture the vibe and inspiration of the older groove instruments, but also highlight our own personal musical roots. For Tom, that also meant the accordion, since that was his original instrument. The other instrument I wanted to hear was the Fender Rhodes. When Tom and I first played together in his band, about 17 years ago, the Rhodes was one of his main keyboards. The way he used the Mutron, wah-wah pedal, and the ring modulator was so hip I asked him to dust off his old Rhodes and bring it to rehearsal.

We were on our way to reinventing the sound and concept of Vital Info. I love the sound of the acoustic bass and how it blends with and grounds the sounds of the more electric instruments. Jeff was into using his upright on as many of the tunes as appropriate. Jeff has been playing upright for quite a while, but he has not been recorded on the instrument very often. As for electric bass, he decided to go with his four-string Fender style Yamaha, feeling it would be more in keeping with the new (old) concept, rather than the five- or six-string basses he had been using.

Frank has already been deep into exploring the nuances of his hollow body George Benson Ibanez guitar, having played his entire last solo recording Thinking Out Loud on it. He was glad to play that instrument on every tune and get into his own blues, country, rock and surf roots.

For myself, I brought out of storage, one of my old Sonor Phonic drum kits, with all traditional sizes (toms: 8x8, 10x8, 12x8, 14x14, 16x16 and a 20x14 double headed bass drum). A combination of old and new K Zildjians were used, and about five or six vintage snare drums. Around the kit were mounted various cowbells, woodblocks, a tambourine and I topped it off with a ching-ring on the hi-hat for a few tunes.

By rediscovering the beauty of the music of the 50's, 60's and 70's, I saw that we had become very self-conscious of the imperfections in our playing. We had developed the ability to play virtually perfect "tracks" but in doing that we had homogenized a lot of the soul, spontaneity and fun right out of the music. By underestimating the openness and intelligence of the listeners, we had deprived them of a vital experience, the true expression of ourselves as a group and as individuals.

On this recording, we are letting it all hang out, this is where we live, this is Where We Come From.

The Music

One of the ideas for this project was "What if we went back to the late 60's and early 70's when electric jazz was just getting started and altered the recipe a little bit?". We'll keep some of the main ingredients that the early "fusion" pioneers used; blues, be bop, modal jazz, R&B and rock, but we'll add a dose of New Orleans, Memphis, James Brown, Ornette Coleman, Jimmy Smith and a pinch of surf music (sorry, Jimi).

Many of the tunes developed from jamming on grooves in rehearsal. 'Dr. Demento' (dedicated to the wacky DJ we grew up listening to), 'Swamp Stomp' (dedicated to the funkiest of the funky drummers, Zigaboo Modeliste), 'Take Eight' (dedicated to Joe Morello for his inspirational playing on 'Take Five' and to the memory of one of my teachers who also played some great drums on 'Take Five', Alan Dawson), and 'Bob' (dedicated to Bob) were created in this way.

Listen Up is one of Tom's tunes inspired by the work of Eddie Harris and First Thing This Morning is Frank's nod to George Benson.

Jeff came up with the idea and arrangement of 'Moby Dick', a potential New Standard. Jeff also brought in 'Blow Fish Blues', a composition written by Jaco Pastorius that he gave to Jeff, and has never been recorded until now.

I wanted to record the Ornette tune 'Happy House', since the quirkiness of the melody seemed to fit our direction, and it's such a nice drum feature. On a recent gig with my friend Jeff Richman, we played his tune Sitting Ducks, which I thought would be perfect for this recording.

There are also five "inserts" on this CD. They are obviously the results of the idea "Let's just roll tape and see what happens." As they were sequenced into the album, Frank discovered they tell a little story, and it goes something like this:

Craniac #1: Some aliens come to Earth and snatch a hapless victim, Bob, and carry him off to their spaceship.

Craniac #2: In order to conduct some kind bizarre experiment, they remove his brain.

Craniac #3: Now they insert a new brain into the space where the old one was. This seems to be a bit traumatic.

Cranial Joy: The experiment is going well and Bob is experiencing some real bliss.

Dementia: Big trouble. The experiment has run amok and old Bob's mental state has deteriorated, big time.

Thanks for the interpretation Frank, we'll make sure your therapist gets a copy of this.

As if all this music isn't enough, there's more. When we listened back to our improvisations, we decided to include two in their entirety. 'Once in a Lifetime,' which is dedicated to the memory of one of the greatest musicians of our time, Tony Williams, for his innovative drumming and bold new directions in music, especially his work with John McLaughlin and Larry Young. And then there's '008' . Forgive us but this is a one time only spontaneous performance of Vital goes surfing.

With that you have Where We Come From...a recent summation of who we are now, all the way back to our earliest influences, musical and otherwise. This is by far the most natural and fun recording we've ever made. We hope you groove on it, baby!

Thanks for listening.

-- Steve Smith
   
 

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