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Selecting Songs for an Album

I've written about 400 songs in the past 30+ years, yet I've never released an album.

Thanks to a pile of technology, internet distribution - and the particular point I've reached in my life - it's relatively easy to close that gap in my life. So, I've decided to record and release my first album. I'm looking at it being a 6-12 month project.

The good news? I've got plenty of songs to choose from...

On the other hand, while it might be easy to say, "I'll release a 12 song album in the next year", the question remains, "Which songs?"

  • Should I select them based on style? (upbeat vs. downbeat, rock vs. pop vs. world music, acoustic vs. electric, relationship songs vs. story songs vs. 'issues' songs, etc)

  • Should I prioritize them from best to worst?

  • Should I sort them from easiest to record to most difficult?

  • Should I sort them from least to most risky?

  • Should I just start with my oldest songs and record them chronologically? Or should I start with my newest and work backwards?

(Before you read my decision, close your eyes and ask yourself, which path would you choose? I'd love for you to post your choice and tell me why...)

Each choice has it's own upside and downside.

  • Selecting by style can make an album focused, but also limited - even boring.

  • Prioritizing from best to worst - even if that's possible - can create an album that sounds like a greatest hits collection - lacking a coherent theme.

  • Sorting from easiest to hardest is convenient - but kind of lazy, and extremely random.

  • Sorting from least to most risky would make my life easier, but less interesting.

  • Sorting chronologically would provide thematic coherence (Wow, where did I buy that $5 phrase?), but would force me to delay recording the songs that I've written most recently (or long ago).

(Once again - Before you read my decision, close your eyes and ask yourself, which path would you choose? I'd love for you to post your choice and tell me why...)

So what's my decision?

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I have decided to record chronologically.

Mickey Torpedo at work (or what substituted for work)

Mickey Torpedo

I'm going to start from my first songs... my first bands... my home town - Watertown.

Despite the fact that it will delay my most recent songs, I like the idea of 'starting at the start'.

Starting with Watertown provides me with 52 songs to choose from, and covers the first two bands I was in - "Starfire" and "Mickey Torpedo".

Starting with Watertown naturally brings a theme to the album. These are all songs that I wrote in the 70's/80's, between the ages of 15-22, in a bar-band environment.

Plus... starting with Watertown allows me to get in my musical time-machine and relive the past - a prospect that kind of thrills me!

Choosing the 'Watertown' songs also forced my other songs into regional/time groupings...

  1. Ohio Songs - Songs I wrote for the band "Quik Fixx" while I was in college (84-87)

  2. San Jose Songs - Songs I wrote for the bands, "The Knee Tremblers" and "The Siege" after I moved to California (87-93)

  3. Asia Songs - Songs I wrote while living in Japan and Singapore for ten years (93-03)

  4. Santa Clara Songs - Songs I wrote after I moved back to California in 2004.

I have no clue whether this structure will stick, but - for now - this structure provide focus. Still, 52 songs is too many. I'm sure I'll be posting about the 'narrowing' process as I identify the songs that I want to record and develop further.

I'll also be sharing stories about the people and events behind those songs.

Stay tuned!