The Consul at Sunset b/w The Ghosts of New York

September-October 1993

CREDITS | LINER NOTES

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Credits

Alec Cumming: acoustic bass
Tom Curiano: drums
Jim Gray: trombone, baritone horn
Eric Neher: zim gar on "Consul"
Jon Rosenblatt: alto saxophone
Jim Santo: acoustic guitar, vocal on "Ghosts"
Deborah Schwartz: vocal on "Consul"
Sport Murphy: vocal on "Consul"
Zoe Zak: accordion

Honky-tonk piano by Knuckles O'Toole

Produced by Jim Santo
Recorded Sept.-Oct. 1993 at Dubway, NYC
Engineered by Al Houghton
Art direction and design by Carole Filangieri

Cover artwork "Consul": "Gran fandango y francachela de todas las calaveras" by Jose Guadalupe Posada
"Ghosts": "A typical scene on The Bowery ca. 1890" from Columbia Pictorial History of New York
Inside photograph by Alfred Steiglitz

"The Consul At Sunset" [Bruce-Brown] ©1971 Casserole Music/BMI
"The Ghosts Of New York" [Santo] ©1993 Cupcake Man Music/BMI

How We Did It

Except for Eric, everyone had a chance to listen to the demos for "Consul" for at least a week or two. Tom was the best prepared — we'd both known and loved the tune for years, and he recorded the second demo — but I'd given Sport and Debbie a tape pf the original nearly a month before. They needed to live with the song a while.

I'd heard Zoe's accordion from the beginning and was thrilled when she agreed (though I never really doubted she would). Jonny too, although I originally heard him on trumpet. As it turned out, the sax was just the thing. Thinking about Jonny led me to call Alec. I just wanted to chat about Bite The Wax Godhead, but when he told me he'd been studying jazz bass since the summer, well, that was that. I knew Jim Gray from his work with Sport's band, The Skels. What a guy. His cracked horns made the song!

We laid the basic tracks on Sept. 24. Debbie was at Maxwell's with the Aquanettas and The Skels were skelling around in some dive somewhere, so it was me on acoustic guitar, Tom on drums, Alec on bass in the control room with Al and Jonny, hanging out with his sax, soaking up the atmosphere. That night was when I sprang "Ghosts" on the rhythm section. I'd only finished it the day before.

Sunday, Sept. 26, was a blast. Jim recorded the baritone, then overdubbed his trombone with Jonny's sax. Everybody looked nervous when they heard the horns, but I just laughed. Zoe was delightful on "Consul," and gave me goosebumps on "Ghosts." Johnny beamed when he took his solos in that song. He usually plays guitar for Cryptic Soup and was amazed I let him play the sax. Eric was last on with his "zim gar," a cheesy Japanese guitar plugged into an ancient Webcor amp. Though he'd only heard the tune once, he was perfect.

Al was booked solid, so we didn't cut the vocals until Oct. 12. It was pouring rain and everyone felt like shit. Sport had a cold and needed a drink bad. Debbie was so tired, she dozed while Al fixed the monitors I broke when I tripped over them after singing "Ghosts." But in the end it was magic. I had asked Sport to sing like Chet Baker, but later he and Debbie agreed he sounded more like Scott Walker.

Al and I mixed the record on the 17th. Debbie flew in a lovely harmony on "Consul," I dropped Knuckles O'Toole randomly into "Ghosts" and Jon hung out and laughed. After a week's vacation, I went back and remixed "Ghosts" on the 30th. Kicked up the vocals, cut back on Knuckles. Carole did the beautiful cover, we had the record pressed in Nashville and that's all she wrote.

Jim Santo
November 1993

Who's Who

Jim Santo: Jim (that's me!) was born in 1958 at Glen Cove Community Hospital. I got my first guitar on my 12th birthday and haven't had a good night's sleep since.

Sport Murphy: Sport is singer/songwriter/visionary for The Skels, the greatest unsigned band in the United States today. He drinks too much and his mother calls him Michael.

Deborah Schwartz: Debbie is singer/songwriter/smart-mouth for The Aquanettas, who rock. A student of Tarot and anxiety attacks, she lives next to the Hell's Angels clubhouse on E. 3rd Street.

Tom Curiano: Tom and I grew up together and so have a very strange relationship. He once played with Brian Setzer's neurotic brother, and was into "Consul" before I was. I cherish his friendship.

Jonny Rosenblatt: Jonny plays guitar (and sax and trumpet and clarinet and whatever else he can fake) for the orchestral art-rock combo Cryptic Soup. We met in Oswego and share many special memories.

Alec Cumming: Alec and mate-for-life Cynthia Harding are Bite The Wax Godhead, a very cool dance-pop thing. That's him saying "a little sharp on that last note" at the end of "Consul."

Zoe Zak: Zoe plays accordion like Monk, lives by a creek in New Paltz and records haunting folk-rock with her guitarist/hubby Albin. If I hadn't called her, this record would surely have stank.

Eric Neher: In the Modern Pioneers, Eric sang about Marco Polo and the Wright Brothers. He did strange instrumental stuff for a while and now writes really sad songs. Fascinating guy.

Jim Gray: Jim played on some Skels records. I asked him for drunken horns and that's just what I got. I will never know for sure if he played that way on purpose. Does it really matter?

Al Houghton: Could not have done this without Al, who recorded They Might Be Giants and currently fronts his own funky thang named Altimeter. He didn't know what to expect and never will.

Carole Filangieri: Carole did the cover that made you pick this up. She designs outrageous club flyers, creates huge concrete sculptures, loves cats, baseball and vodka and always steals the blankets. (That's a lie!)