“I had just written this new song in February,” longtime Michigan-based composer Steve DeDoes recalls in May of 2020. “I was excited to begin recording it. Then, the coronavirus lockdown happened.”
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The thought-provoking lyrics of “Beyond” (click here) – together with its musical and thematic perspectives – “just seemed so perfect,” DeDoes muses, “for speaking to all of the challenges that lie ahead of us. I certainly wanted to get it realized.” The veteran producer had developed a rich arrangement; one with orchestral elements and synth-pop grooves, laced with jazz expressions – all designed to culminate in an over-arching, grand statement. “I had a vision for how all of these dimensions would come together in the piece,” he said.
Link to the title track “Beyond” on YouTube
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He was planning to tap collaborating instrumentalists and vocalists to add their parts to the score. “Whenever I produce something like this,” the artist says, “I always look to some key associates.” With an extended quarantine in place, however, such interactions with other musicians were impossible. “So,” DeDoes said, “I began to consider how I could put this together by myself.”
DeDoes has a long track record of producing complex arrangements, employing his broad skillset. His keyboard/brass chops, and his range of experience as an arranger across so many styles, genres, and ensembles, help him to create interesting (and realistic) textures. Nonetheless, he also frequently utilizes critical personnel; the musicians that he often calls upon help to, as he puts it, “make the track come alive.” As he dug into producing the tracks of “Beyond,” however, he challenged himself to generate each of the parts – including all of the vocals (backgrounds included); the drums and percussion (as he couldn’t tap David Taylor, his “first call” drummer); as well as an improvised flugelhorn solo. “I really had to spend some time developing the flugel sound I wanted,” recalls DeDoes. “That required me to spend some time in the ‘woodshed’.” All on top of a layered production that has full rock rhythm section (piano, guitar, bass, drums), synthesizers, along with the orchestral parts.
The composer is proud of how the completed recording of “Beyond” turned out. “I worked hard to make each part speak as part of the whole,” DeDoes says. And, with that “title” song finished, some of his loyal listeners implored him to construct an album that – as a listening experience – would combine with other songs from his body of work to present a satisfying, dramatic statement. DeDoes describes one such intention: “My good friend David Wolter,” he says, “wanted to be able to give people music that would accompany books that he wanted people not only to read, but to think about.”
ACCESS PAGE – for CDs, stores, streaming
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After completing the recording, DeDoes decided on a dedication – to the memory of Carl Sagan, to Neil deGrasse Tyson, and to the ongoing legacy of the “Cosmos” series. The overall “journey” of Beyond is therefore one of consideration, thematic development…and ultimately, hope for the future. “The COVID-19 pandemic clearly represents just one of the phases of adjustment,” DeDoes says. “There will be so many things ahead that will require us to not only change behaviors, but also modify our thought processes.” From the perspective of a creator, DeDoes considers the role of MUSIC in the equation. “LISTENING skills,” he opines, “and one’s ability to understand layers of musical expression – go hand-in-hand with a better understanding of complexities. And we face that in all aspects of our existence.”
Click here for more information about the songs selected for “Beyond” – including the first release of the captivating “Frozen In Ice” (featuring a great lead vocal by Emma Aboukasm & a memorable solo by saxophonist Mattie DeDoes).