Edsel

My Own Personal Edsel

Edsel

Sometimes when you’re just just a little too close to something, it’s hard to recognize that thing for what it actually is. This is the case. not just for tangible things, but intangible things as well, like works of art.

I’ve been a musician for most of my life, since I was in high school. I’ve been writing songs on a consistent basis since about 1987 or so, and from the beginning I’ve been putting those songs down in some form of recording. Through the late 1980s and into the mid-1990s, I wrote hundreds of songs and recorded them at home on a Fostex four-track cassette recorder. Then, I took a break from music for quite a while, about seven or eight years. In 2003, I decided to buy a new four-track recorder so I could revisit some of my old master tapes and, with the advent of modern digital software, I thought it might be an opportune time to try to refine some of those old recordings and see if I can make something out of them. Unfortunately, this was not possible as they were done in an amateur fashion and no amount of new technology could reverse-engineer the sound quality of the original recordings. They were drenched in nostalgia, but they didn’t have a lot of commercial viability.

So I came up with a crazy idea – why not start from scratch and make new music, I mean a real album! I made this decision in about 2004 and before I went out and recorded in an actual recording studio, I decided to give it one more try at home, making music the way used to. So with some new digital software and computer hardware, I resurrected my old fashioned way of recording – with keyboards, electronic drums and bass guitar. I made a 14 song demo of new material written over that long span of my “retirement” and decided to send it out to some local recording studios. I named this demo “Imaginary Lines” after a loose concept I was working on at the time, thinking I would perhaps create a “concept album” of related songs. Ultimately, very few of those concept songs were retained and I did not stay true to the concept, opting to just make the best album from the best possible songs. So even though the name stuck, the “Imaginary Lines” concept was pretty much blown up from the beginning.

After weighing options for many different studios I decided on Saturation Acres, which was then located outside of Danville, Pennsylvania at the time. The studio was owned by two former members of the rock group The Badlees and, even though this was a bit of a drive to get to the studio, they seem like the most professional and I was very familiar with their past work. So in April 2005 I entered a professional studio as a musician for the first time. Some of the those initial recordings were pure magic, sounding unbelievably good due to the methods they used which I had never practiced before – click tracks, professional drumming, great guitar leads, pitch, rhythm, dynamics, timbre, and texture of the sound. I was very happy with the results I got out of those initial recordings from 2005. In October of that year I released what was meant to be the first of the trilogy of albums cleverly, entitled Imaginary Lines One. Those nine songs on that initial album still we made some of the finest recordings I’ve ever made.

The plan was to record an album each year starting with that first one in 2005, obviously with the second one in 2006. However, here’s where things started to go a little bit awry. After the success for recording of Imaginary Lines One, I spent a lot of time writing music for a follow up but I didn’t have the luxury of cherry picking the best songs from a long prepared demo tape. So everything was pretty much new, as I didn’t want to use any of the songs that had been left off of Imaginary Lines One and wanted to make another album that was of equal quality to that debut. I wrote a lot of songs in 2006 but that was also the year we bought our current house and there went my budget to record the second album. This was the first of several issues that would arise with the Imaginary Lines project. In 2007, I got back to the studio to record but I was running short on money and short on time. I gave myself a hard deadline to finish it by the end of that calendar year and hence, I ended up releasing a truncated album and I didn’t add any overdubbed guitars it was a very raw strip down collection of songs with piano bass and drums basically and of course lead vocals and I thought this was like a nice counterpart to the rich production of Imaginary Lines One.

So here comes Imaginary Lines II and it’s little more than a dud and I was I didn’t have the enthusiasm to promote this one that I had for the first one. Also, I was increasingly worried that I wouldn’t be able to come up with a third album that would meet the quality of the first or even the second. So, right around this time I decided to change the overall strategy and focus everything into one large compilation album. This would give me an opportunity to fully complete Imaginary Lines II as well as not worry about making a stand-alone third “album” but just adding the best available tracks. So that’s what I did with Imaginary Lines 33, a triple length, two CD album with 33 total tracks. The first disc began with the eight new (“Imaginary Lines 3”) tracks followed by the nine from Imaginary Lines One verbatim and in the original 2005 running order. The second disc included an updated version of Imaginary Lines II as originally envisioned, 16 songs fully produced. I intended to get this all done by 2008 but ultimately it took another year and this international release took place on September 9, 2009.

And so it was that I carried out this new plan with Imaginary Lines 33 and, when released in September 2009, it was more of a relief than a joyous type of feeling of accomplishment. By the end, I was burned out and just wanted to get it done. At the time of its release I was also on another band called Animal Society and we were getting ready to release our own initial album, which we all decided would be something completely different from the Imaginary Lines project. All three of us in that band wrote to an extent and I was relegated to basically sticking to my duties as bass player lead vocalist, trying to give the other two on equal time. We entered the studio in early 2010 and recorded a solid set of songs that I mixed together as an album, but unfortunately we never released it prior to breaking up and I basically commenced a second long break from making music

But I never really stopped writing songs and started conceptualizing plans to make one more album under the name Sinclair Soul name, a name I had used jokingly as an alter-ego throughout my career. There was an issue with the marketing and branding side of things when I coined the term “Imaginary Lines” in 2004 and by the time Imaginary Lines 33 was completed in 2009, a Hollywood based photography company by the same name had pretty much cornered the market on that name in entertainment. So I decided for the final time to coin a name for my musical act (I was never comfortable using my real name), and the (then planned) one and only Sinclair Soul album was to have the grand finale-like name of One More Rock Left to Roll. This was basically to be my retirement album and I wrote plenty of music for it, about 20 songs. I started performing the songs live around 2013 and began plans to record soon after but but that never happened as I faced issues with getting the thing off the ground.

Then something happened in 2016 when, on a whim I decided to buy an acoustic guitar. It had been a long time since I’d been a guitar player and for the entirety of the Imaginary Lines project I was strictly keyboards and bass. But I did buy an acoustic in the summer of 2016 and, unbeknownst to me, this would set things in motion to really get to Sinclair Soul project off the ground. I wrote three acoustic songs in late 2016 early 2017 and planned to record them as a sort of EP. In Spring 2017, I entered the studio for first time in seven years with plans of just recording the three songs.

However, I had so much fun recording that I decided to go a step further and take some of the better Imaginary Lines songs and update them by adding a new guitar lead here, maybe a new piano there, to make each different than they were on the original Imaginary Lines 33. I also turned over mixing and mastering for the first time, giving these songs to a fresh set of ears which proved very beneficial sonically. In the end, I added four new versions songs of classic songs to the three newly composed acoustic songs to forge the unplanned but pleasantly surprising album of The Journey, released in the summer of 2017. Within a year, I decided to do it over again with the same kind of formula for the second Sinclair Soul album, Reflections of Relevance, released in March 2018.

So, here I go with my trilogy idea again as I decide to create one more Sinclair Soul album made solely of updated Imaginary Lines songs – nine more songs to form Nine Fine Lines to coincide with the ninth anniversary of Imaginary Lines 33 with release on September 9, 2018. I re-did each of them, re-named one of them and everything on this new album has either new vocals or new lyrics or a combination of both. This album was mixed by my son Jake Albano, a new audio engineer who I hope to work with many times in the future.

“…and so it Goes curtains on the shell my own personal Edsel is now gone!”

The final line on the final song of Nine Fine Lines says it all; “my own personal Edsel is now gone” Basically, I’m declaring the end of the Imaginary Lines project once and for all. I affectionately call this “my own personal Edsel” because I think that is a good allegory. Obviously, it signifies a huge bust of something once thought to be innovative and great. On the other hand, it also signifies something that’s a little bit special, perhaps a little bit before it’s time little and odd but beautiful in its own way. Today, Edsels are collectors items. They were considered a major bust in 1959 but they are unique in the sense that they persisted some 50 years later.

So that’s basically what Imaginary Lines within the Sinclair Soul canon, with about 20 songs brought forward in full or part to be included in the first three Sinclair Soul albums and will be from this day forward be the official versions of those compositions. The remaining 13 songs, not brought forward to Sinclair Soul, have been gathered and released on a digital-only album called Imaginary Lines 13, available on Bandcamp, with each song pretty much fossilized for posterity as the same as they were in 2009.

This moment obviously marks a big turning point in the music career of myself and the Sinclair Soul project going forward. From now on, all the music will be new and original and a whole new album’s worth of music is already written and is currently being rehearsed with recording starting in December of this year (2018). No breaks this time. It’s simply on with the music!

It has been fun reflecting back on Imaginary Lines but now the final chapter of that project has been written.

~
Ric Albano

Oh, the Memories of Hazleton

March 1997. I receive a phone call from my former fiancé stating that our son Jeremiah, who was then in kindergarten, had been disciplined for talking too much by having duct tape placed on his mouth and told to stand in a closet. Thinking that she was surely exaggerating the situation, I called the school principal expecting to find out the real truth. When he started reading from what sounded like a prepared legal statement, I knew this bizarre incident was actually true.

Drifting Into the Alternative Universe

This article was orginally published at Strella Social Media on October 14, 2012.

Drifting Into the Alternative UniverseA few weeks ago, I made a mistake of omission, which set off a chain of unforeseen events. It caused a lot of problems for my client as well as a few dozen unplanned hours of problem-solving for myself.

Initially, it did not appear that there would be much of a disruption to the client’s service. After this initial mistake, the lesson learned was quite simple and straight forward – I should have done my due diligence and communicated better from the onset. However, things began unraveling with new issues seemingly arising out of nowhere. In my frustration, I found myself doing something that I absolutely loath when done by others. I started using the “alternative universe” excuse.

“If I had been told to ‘B’, ’C’, and ‘D,’ then I certainly would have approached ‘A’ much differently and all these problems would have been avoided.” This was certainly a true argument, as many of the subsequent problems could have been avoided if the client had disclosed all of the relevant information. Still, this was totally irrelevant, as it’s impossible to jump into that alternative universe where all problems are averted.

This foray into the scientifically unproven domain has become a trend these days. You hear it often from the losing side of a sports contest, and most especially, in the political world. “If I had been in charge, we’d now be in much better shape…” or “things may be bad now, but they would’ve been so much worse if not for my brilliant policies…” These statements are made as absolute fact and as a way to divert attention from the reality at hand.

The truth is, we only live in this one reality and we have to own the decisions we make here.This is especially true for small business owners like myself who don’t have much luxury for academic exercises and hypothetical situations. Not all our decisions will be correct, but once made they must be embraced either as building blocks for best practices or lessons learned for the future.

Stirring Up a Hornet’s Nest (Literally)

This article was orginally published at Strella Social Media on January 23, 2013.

Hornets NestThere’s an amusing little story that I’d tell my kids when they were younger. Although I did tend to exaggerate or embellish on some of the dramatic details, the core of the story is absolutely true and profoundly relevant to my small business services today.

When I was younger, I worked a lot of construction jobs, mostly exterior work that required me to climb up and down ladders most of the day. There was this one job in McAdoo, Pa. where we did extensive work over several months – a new roof, siding, soffit, guttering; the works! We practically remade the entire outside of the house, and it was a big house. If you are familiar with northeast Pennsylvania, many homes in that area are large, vertical, and have steeply pitched roofs.

One morning I was first to arrive at the job site. I started to set up when I was summoned by the woman next door. She was an elderly and kind person with whom I had spoken with several times before, but this time she had a grave look of concern. She pointed up towards the eave below the ridge of her roof where a huge bee hive had formed. She asked me what if I could do anything to help her. Now the older and wiser version of me might have referred her to a good exterminator or some other expert, but I was twenty-something with loads of bravado and a big ladder. So I simply said “I’ll see what I can do.”

To this day, I don’t know exactly what my plan was. I climbed the ladder with a broom stick and the intention to simply knock down the hive. But upon the first gentle poke, hundreds of hornets were stirred into action and for the first (and only) time in my life, I literally slid down the exterior of a ladder in order to escape.

My embellished version of the story has the bees chasing me for blocks down the street. But the reality was actually much worse. The bees swarmed and swarmed all day, causing us to lose a great deal of production because we were constantly looking over our shoulders. We were the talk of the neighborhood as people walked by all day to observe and talk about the swarming bees nest and the kind old lady next door was more stressed than ever, especially when a removal expert arrived but couldn’t do anything until the bees settled down. And I was the fool who had caused it all.

Today I run a web design business and specialize in a group of specific skills that I’ve work hard to perfect. Still, many people assume that if you’re an expert in anything technology related, you’re proficient on all technology issues. I’ve received requests to do work outside of my scope of expertise. On a few occasions I’ve accepted, either as a gesture of altruism or with the idea to meet a new challenge. These decisions proved unwise as modern day hornet’s nests were stirred, ultimately causing more harm than the good originally intended.

So the moral of the story is to stick with what you do best and learn how to say “no” in those situations where you’re not highly confident in the outcome.

One Giant Loss for Mankind


Neil ArmstrongThe first man to set foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong passed away this afternoon at age 82. The Ohio native was one of the last true pioneers and is considered by most an American hero along with fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. When he set foot on the lunar surface 43 years ago this past July 20th, Armstrong marked the moment with one of the most famous quotes in human history;

That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind…”

These profound words can at the precise moment of an extraordinary accomplishment of a goal set by President John F. Kennedy seven years earlier in 1962. Such a goal would be the equivelent today of getting a man on Mars by 2019, and there was even money thgat these astronauts would not survive that trip on which they bravely embarked. The computing power on that entire Apollo 11 capsule which traveled to the moon was less than that of the latest iPhone. Yet the mission was successful due to a tremendous amount of scientific principles, physics, math, and grace under pressure.

It is important to remember some of the remarkable accomplishments of the past, especially in a time when some views are so cynical that many believe trhis entire moon mission was “faked” on some Hollywood soundstage. (Really? Then where was the 1975 sequel of the Mars landing or any other “fake” accomplishments?) America is still the greatest nation on Earth and can still accomplish amazing things if we really wanted to do so. The only difference between now and 1969 is that then we had no doubt we were the best.

Rest in peace, Mr. Armstrong.

~

The R & R Music Express


Mitt Romney and Paul RyanI was a professional disc jokey for several years starting in the late 1980s through the early years of this century. One of those incarnations of my DJ business was called R & R Music Express, which was a partnership between my buddy “Rico” and me . This morning I found that we have a new “R & R express” as Mitt Romney chose Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan.

I love this choice as Ryan is brilliant, bold, young, and from a modest working class background. In the last two years, he has become the clear fiscal leader in Congress and has put out a bold budget each year as a fiscal guru. This has made him a lightening rod from some quarters, but shows his willingness to put himself out there as an agent of change in an era when the Senate hasn’t passed a budget in over three years. In this health care summit in early 2010, Ryan shows his absolute mastery of budgetary matters:

Ryan is 42 and has been in congress for most of his adult life, having been first elected in 1998. This makes him a good counter-balance to Romney’s vast business experience (as well as in several other factors). Yet, in a near-hilarious article in The New Yorker this morning, Ryan Lizza lamented Paul Ryan’s lack of private sector experience by stating he has no business-world experience “…besides summer jobs working at McDonald’s or at his family’s construction company, or waiting tables as a young Washington staffer…” As if to say we don’t want anyone who has had to work THOSE kind of jobs. No, Ryan does not fit into the left wing’s narrative about Republican “Wall Street” elitists. In fact, even though Ryan has been in Washington for nearly 14 years, he still sleeps on a cot in his office when congress is in session and returns to his wife and three children in Wisconsin at every possible opportunity.

In announcing Paul Ryan as his VP running mate this morning, Romney mistakenly called him the next PRESIDENT of the United States. Well, perhaps not the NEXT President.

~

Three Fundamentals for a Business Website

This article was originally published at Strella Social Media on August 16, 2012.

Website FundamentalsI’ve come across a lot of situations with new clients where they are having trouble getting access to their existing source files or getting their current providers to cooperate in many ways. So I’m share three business fundamentals that should be established when starting a website.

 
1. Establish Ownership. The first and most important one of these principals is to own everything – your domain name and all of your content (words, pictures, logos, graphics, videos, etc.). There are many, many companies who will offer you great deals up front (such as a “free” website for a year) but then retain ownership of your site, so that you are left with fewer option and limited flexibility. Although the initial cost may be higher, establishing ownership will pay dividends throughout the lifespan of your website by assuring that certain barriers to progress will not be imposed.

2. Have Complete Access to Your Content. In many (if not most) cases, there is one major exception to the “establish ownership” rule and that is in regards to hosting. Most small businesses just do not have the time, resources, or know-how to manage their own hosting servers. Therefore, it makes sense find an established hosting company to handle these tasks. However, when you employ a hosting company, it is important that you have direct access to all your files via FTP. Many small business owners don’t understand the process or the importance of this. By having full access a professional developer can instantly add, modify, or delete any website item on your behalf.

3. Adaptability and/or Agility. This is the only one of the three that actually deals with website design (my specialty). The basic point here is that the online universe is rapidly evolving and it is important that your website’s design has the ability to integrate newer features, technologies, and design elements. Of course, this is much more of an art than a science because none of us know exactly which innovations will become popular. But by keeping your site agile and not “painting yourself into a corner” with too many static features and dependencies, you and your developer will maximize possibilities for the future.

Baring My “Soul” on a Saturday Night

Sinclair SoulIt has been five years since I’d done this and I had sworn it off many times before. I tried doing it during several fits and starts in the early 1990s, but none of those worked. Through the years I was convinced to do it for various causes, once even in a chemotherapy unit to cheer up the patients, but none of those times worked out as planned. But this past Saturday night (08/24/13) I gave it one more shot.

I performed my music solo, without support, without a net, at the Cornerstone Coffeehouse in Camp Hill, PA. Now, for most this may not seem like a big deal, after all the Cornerstone always has solo performers playing on the weekends. But for me this was truly an event. It was a sort of mission and redemption wrapped in one. Long ago, I concluded that my musical talents lie in composing and not performing, although I have been involved in scores of rock bands and have played every major position on the field – lead vocal, guitar, bass, keyboards, drums. However, being a bit of a control freak, bands have always felt limiting and the urge to do it alone has persisted despite the consistent disasters when attempted.

What brought me out this time was the fact that I have composed a whole bunch of new songs but have not had the time nor resources to record it. I had spent five years on my previous recording project, a 33-song double CD international release called Imaginary Lines 33 , in 2009. I was also involved with a band and we recorded an album in 2010 that never got released because of internal disagreements. At that time I was pretty sure I was retired from all things music. But that pesky muse kept bothering me, and soon new song ideas started to form. I came up with the idea of “One More Rock to Roll” as an upfront declaration that this would be my last go-round. I also brought back the fictional “Sinclair Soul”, an alias I had used for years when writing articles as well as on some music projects.

The music was written on piano but had rich arrangements for several guitars and other rock instruments. I was eager to enlist many of the fine musicians I had worked with over the years as well as find a “front man” to handle the dynamic vocals, but as of mid 2013 I had not had any luck getting the recording process started. So I inquired about playing my songs solo on piano at the Cornerstone, a website client of mine and a much better alternative to performing at a bar room or any other “noisy” situation.

So, after all this background, how did the gig itself go?

In one sense it was quite a disappointment. Many of the folks I invited did not show up and I didn’t quite get the capacity crowd I had hoped for. Also, I made some really air-headed mistakes on some of the cover songs I performed (the songs which I , ironically, walked into the gig without performance worries).

However, in a larger sense Saturday’s gig was a tremendous success. I performed 14 brand new “Sinclair Soul” songs (including one so new that it doesn’t yet have a name) and each went off without a hitch. None of these songs had every been performed live for anyone except my dog and these were obviously my main focal point on Saturday’s gig. The dozen or so cover songs and three old Imaginary Lines tunes were really just there to fill up the two hour commitment.

Also, the crowd that was there was tremendous in quality if not quantity. For the first time ever, I performed music with my wife, all three sons, and mother in the audience. The rest of the audience gave me a warm reception, even if many only sat in for a song or two while they enjoyed a coffee, beverage, or ice cream cone. There was a woman in the audience who knitted throughout the first set and gave me the resultant winter hat when she was completed. There was also a tremendously talented musician in the audience named Suzi Brown who stayed for the whole gig and gave a compliment at the end and, of course, the Cornerstone staff was gracious and helpful.

Although I was hoping to perform everything perfectly and fill the place up, it didn’t quite work that way. But getting the new songs out there after all this time kind of made them real entities and not just figments of my imagination, which makes this past Saturday a very special occasion indeed.

~

SinclairSoul.com

Knocked Down by a 15-Year-Old!

My eldest son Dylan started playing football at the age of six. That year he was the youngest and smallest kid on the team, which meant he naturally got the least playing time. I volunteered to be part of the chain crew for home games and would often be on the same sideline with Dylan as he rode the bench in boredom. He soon developed a way to entertain himself. Emboldened by his full football gear, he would charge after me full speed and try to knock me down. He would even get sneaky and covert, coming at me when I’d least expect it or when my back was to him. Still, the little six-year-old was never able to succeed in his mission.

My 3 Sons
My 3 sons in 2011. L-R: Jake, Bryen, and Dylan
Later that same year (1997), Dylan’s twin brothers Jake and Bryen were born. Through all the following years of football, wrestling, slap-boxing, and Ricky-ball (don’t ask!) these boys would also try to knock me off my feet, to which I would reply; “You kids have been trying to knock me down since your oldest brother was six years old, and no one has ever succeeded.” I must admit there were some very close calls where I stumbled and nearly lost my balance, but there was no clear-cut “knockdown”.

Until this morning, that is.

My now 15-year-old son Jake had gathered together a pile of old video games to re-sell to Game Stop, which I then grabbed and jokingly told him I was going to throw in the pool. He moved to block me from getting out the door and half-heatedly swiped at me as I kept the video games out his reach. Then I started to “trash talk” saying something like “you know I can get past year you whenever I want”. To this, Jake calmly lowered his shoulder, wrapped his arms around me and “pile-drived” me right into the couch.

Now in my defense, Jake is not built like your typical 15-year-old. At a doctor’s visit a week and a half ago he measured in at 6′ 3″ and 242 lbs (and that was a week and a half ago, he may have grown since then!) But the fact remains, although it took 15 and a half years, I can no longer brag about none of my boys being able to knock me down.

Keep chasing your dreams kids, anything is possible!

 

Spring Is Here!

It is a great time to be optimistic at 33 Dimensions we have plenty of things cooking which are very exciting. First, we are now developing websites using responsive design, which adapts and optimizes for any screen size – desktop, tablet, or mobile. We’ve also partnered with some great companies to provide more convenient transactions for our customers, including Fresh Books for invoicing and expense reports and Stripe for accepting all major credit cards. We have also recently added Google Analytics and Webmaster tools for each of our customers at no additional cost.

Best of all, we have some great new websites launching in the coming weeks as well as some interesting new initiatives in the works. Stay tuned for more great stuff!

Ric Albano
Owner and Creative Director
33 Dimensions LLC