Gary Marks - singer, songwriter, author  
  singer, songwriter & author  
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CDs by Gary Marks

 


Playlist: 1994-2014 - click on cover to listen  

 

Just for fun, fans and friends chose their favorite songs from my last 6 CD releases. Here is their playlist.

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No Turning Back - click on cover to listen  

 

"No Turning Back" Many of Gary's compositions on this CD utilized open tunings on electric guitar. Skylar and Annabel Marks added their voices to Gary's harmony tracks. Lynn Peterson and Gary mixed the songs at Lynn's studio in Maui, Hawaii, and had a great time, even at 2am. Special thanks to the great visual artist, Dario Campanile, for the use of his painting on the front cover: http://campanilefineart.com/

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From Here - click on cover to listen  

 

"From Here" is a compilation of songs I wrote in 2009 and 2010. I mixed the songs in LA with the great Mark Needham. My daughter, Skylar, assisted me in LA, and created all the graphics, including the front cover.

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A Whisper Can Change the World - click on cover to listen  

 

In 2007, I released my 9th record, "A Whisper Can Change the World." This recording was mixed by the Grammy award winning mixing engineer, Jim Scott at his studio in L.A. It was a fantastic experience.

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Bountiful - click on cover to listen  

 


Bountiful (2005): Bountiful was such a great CD to work on because the band felt like a family, and we rehearsed each song until we were totally inside the stories. Tom Finch played electric guitar and Rob Fordyce played bass. They would also play on "No Turning Back" eight years later. Amazingly enough, the drummer, Chris Krotky, was also the recording engineer. It was quite a sight seeing him with his Mac computer placed right next to his drum set while we were all gathered around our instruments. He would look at us, smile, hit the return bar, and count off. . . . 

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Self Portraits - click on cover to listen  

 

Self Portraits (2005): A friend at iTunes suggested I do an "unplugged" version of Bountiful. I really enjoyed the process. Getting enough intensity and breadth out of just a voice and a single instrument in such a big sound field is tricky. But I think it turned out really well.

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If All They Said Was True - click on cover to listen  

 


If All They Said Was True (1994): I wrote the first eight songs on this CD within the first few months after meeting my wife, Theresa. I wrote about us, and a few past relationships I needed to say goodbye to, and some wilder topics. The last nine songs on the CD are a compilation of "greatest hits"("hits" according to a few close friends and fans) from my first two rock albums: The Real World (1988), and Past the Nightwatch (1985).

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Anthology II - click on cover to listen  

 


Anthology II (1978 to 1988): This is a compilation of songs I wrote and recorded long ago, taken from three "albums" (remember albums)? -- Thoughts of Why (1978), Past the Nightwatch (1985), and The Real World (1988).

The Thoughts of Why tracks from 1978 include: Art Lande, Mark Isham, Paul McCandless of "Oregon," John Scofield and David Samuels.

The Real World was an album that included some great San Francisco rock players including guitarist Stef Burns of "The Alice Cooper Band." The backup vocals were sung by me, Teresa Trull, Bonnie Hayes, and Vickie Randall, who sang back up for Aretha Franklin. (That's the closest I ever got to Aretha Franklin!) But Vickie is pretty awesome in her own right.

Also of note, the drums on The Real World were all created via "drum machine." I arranged and programmed all the songs, which even though they still sound quite good, took me forever. I vowed from then on to revert back to programming humans.

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Anthology I - click on cover to listen  

 


Anthology I (1972-1976) : These are the "classics" from my jazz-folk-rock days in the 1970's -- from my first two recordings: Gathering (1973) and Upon Oanda's Wing(1977). The latter album title is an anagram taken from the name of an inspirational lifetime friend of mine, Gina Dawson -- "Oanda's Wing."

The tracks include Michael Cochrane, David Samuels, and John Scofield (three now famous virtuoso players from my first "band," on Gathering). A certified musical genius, Art Lande, played half of the piano tracks and shared his brilliant mind and brilliant band with me, "Rubisa Patrol" -- ECM Records, on Upon Oanda's Wing.

Michael Cochrane was my first piano teacher, Art Lande was my second. (There was no need for a third.) I am forever grateful to them for their insights, humor, friendship, inspiration, awesome abilities, and for knowing who I was, sometimes before I did.

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The Real World - click on cover to listen  

 

The Real World (1988) was a cool new experience for me. All the drum parts were arranged, programmed, and played by me on my super modern “Roland R5” drum machine.

My goal was to have the tracks sound like they were played by a “live” drummer. I think it sounds pretty realistic, even 25 years later. See what you think!

In fact,  have a funny secret to tell you: I used that same 25 year old R5 for a few tasty “techno” drum fills on “No Turning Back,” my latest CD as of this writing, released in 2013. I’m definitely getting my money’s worth from that little gray box.   

A few other memorable things about “The Real World:”

Joining me on back-up harmonies were Bonnie Hayes, Teresa Trull, and Vicki Randall. That was really fun! And I had Stef Burns play the electric guitar parts. He was a wizard! Stef eventually went on to work with the Alice Cooper Band, Narada Michael Walden, and so many others.

A truly great recording engineer from L.A., Ricky Sanchez asked to be the recording engineer for one of my sessions. So I chose the song, “For Molly’s Sky.” I had told Ricky beforehand that I wanted to sing and play the song at the same time (live) and just get one good take. I came into the studio and it was magical. The piano was moved in the middle of the room, the mics were set up all around the piano, the lights were dimmed, a vase of flowers was on a tall stool next to the piano, and a pair of headphones were laying on the piano seat. I put them on and started to sing as a test and it sounded like I was singing at the Oakland Coliseum. I started laughing. He said, “Ready when you are,” and I said, “Okay, roll it.”

After the first take I sat down with him to listen. Then I said, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is, that’s the take. The bad news is I don’t get to do it again.” Ricky became one of my favorite engineers to work with.

My most interesting memory about “The Real World” was that it was recorded entirely for free. How? The story goes like this: I met this girl at a party. Her name was Marianne. Her boyfriend introduced me as a great piano teacher. She told me she was studying music at Berkeley and would love to take lessons from me but that she couldn’t afford it. So I decided to challenge her. I said, “Don’t worry about the money. Just show up, I dare you!” So she did. And I taught her for free for over a year.

Fast forward the tape three years later. She calls me out of the blue and tells me she’s now a recording engineer at Alpha Omega Studios in the city. (A great studio.) She asks me if I’m writing new songs for my next album. I said yes. She says, “ Are you willing to record at odd hours if I can get you a good rate?” I said, “Yes. What kind of rate are you talking about?” And she said, “Just show up, I dare you.”  And that’s how I recorded “The Real World” for free. Marianne Zahorski was awesome, both as a friend and as an engineer. I still love the way “The Real World” sounds to this day.

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Past the Nightwatch - click on cover to listen  

 

Past the Nightwatch (1985), and the song “Only Time Can Tell,” were breakthroughs in my song writing career.

“Only Time Can Tell,” was picked up by the publisher Famous Music / Paramount after it was sung by Theresa Trull in the mid-‘80’s.  

Larry Kelp of the Oakland Tribune wrote this about "Past the Nightwatch."

"Marks shows a knack for combining a catchy and memorable song with mature and often brilliant lyrics about love, relationships, and finding a place in the world. . .  always a rare thing in the world of commercial music.”

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Thoughts of Why - click on cover to listen  

 

These comments were from an interview I did in 2014: Gary Marks’ ground-breaking album, “Thoughts of Why,” was recorded and released in 1978, a year and a half after his critically acclaimed recording, “Upon Oanda’s Wing.”  These two recordings had distinctly different sounds, because a large musical and psychological shift took place for Marks in his mid- to late-twenties. He was moving from a jazz perspective to a rock perspective. And his lyrics were moving to more a political view, as well as questions of the spirit.

The players on “Thoughts of Why” included members of the Art Lande band “Rubisa Patrol,” (ECM Records) including Mark Isham, Bill Douglass and Kurt Wortman, each of whom also played on “Oanda.”

But it also included John Scofield and David Samuels from Gary’s first album, “Gathering,” as well as oboist Paul McCandless from the band, “Oregon,” (ECM Records).

So the band from “Thoughts of Why,” was a musical reunion from Gary’s first two records, plus Gary’s new friend, Paul McCandless, who is now known as the greatest oboe player in the world. 

During this time Marks also met Catha Rexford, whose voice was so beautiful and unique that Marks asked her to sing harmony parts with him on all the tracks.

The lyrics on “Thoughts of Why,” focused on spiritual and political questions. The title track, “Thoughts of Why” posed the life question most of us come to ask at some point: “Why am I here?”  But after Marks asked the question, he realized the album would be incomplete and, in fact, weakened, by not satisfactorily answering the question in another song. This became his challenge during the writing of the album.

According to Marks, “I realized this was going to take more than just thinking about things on my own without outside influences, because I had already done that, and all I’d come up with was the question.”

So during the writing of “Thoughts of Why,” he began to read books on spirituality and human history, particularly Will Durant’s “The Story of Civilization,” as well as “The Life and Times of Albert Einstein,” by Roger C. Clark; “East of Eden,” by John Steinbeck, “Think on These Things,” by Krishnamurti, “The Tibetan Book of the Dead,” “The Tao of Physics,” “Be Here Now,” etc, etc. 

From this new and exciting perspective he eventually wrote the last song for the album, the final track, “The Grace to Be.”  

After the release of “Thoughts of Why,” Marks did not tour or promote the record, although there were requests for him to do so. His continuing insistence on not wanting to tour anymore would lead him to a seven year experiment with different styles of music, while continuing his study of piano and guitar, and asking himself the next new question, “Where do I want my music to go from here?” 

This long journey eventually led him back to his roots, or what he jokingly refers to as “my de-evolution from jazz back to rock.”

The rock genre and its alluringly powerful rhythmic energy, along with a continued focus on social, spiritual, and political lyrics, were the styles and elements that became his new musical path in years to come -- the origin of which emerged from the writing and recording of “Thoughts of Why.”  

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Upon Oanda's Wing - click on cover to listen  

 

Upon Oanda's Wing (1977) was my second recording, which I competed at the age of 26. This was recorded with the great pianist Art Lande.

Art Lande's band, Rubisa Patrol, played on Oanda along with Art. The band included Bill Douglass, Kurt Wortman, and Mark Isham.

Jazz Magazine's W. Patrick Hinely wrote:

". . . A flow chart of 'Upon Oanda's Wing' might closely resemble some of Milton Nasciemento's EMI albums, which still serve as a paragon for anyone trying to be equally convincing across the board, from tight vocals and arrangements, to wide open instrumental playing."

"Upon Oanda's Wing" review in 2012 by "Stella Records / Japan."

"Gary Marks is a songwriter with both brilliance and charm. We consider both Gathering and Upon Oanda's Wing folk-rock-jazz masterpieces and are happy to see them re-released in 2006 and 2011 respectively. Two albums from over thirty years ago have gracefully withstood the test of time. Gary Marks' songwriting style is poetic and original. As far as the band members, each participant shows great range of style, and draws freely from the depth and brilliance of the songs themselves."

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Gathering - click on cover to listen  

 


These comments were from an interview I did in 2013: In 1973, at the age of 22, singer-songwriter Gary Marks self-produced "Gathering." It is now considered a collector's classic -- a totally unique amalgam of folk, rock and jazz that seems to get richer and more powerful through the years.

It was first released on the prestigious "JCOA" label, run by Carla Bley. Original copies go for $400-500 on e-bay nowadays, since it has never been re-issued. Kindred Spirits found a copy in Jazzanova's collection and contacted Gary Marks to request licensing the album.

What makes the album extra special is the fact that the band included guitar legend-virtuoso John Scofield, the renowned pianist Michael Cochrane, and one the of the top vibraphonists in the world, David Samuels. At the time none of them were known to the general public. (Gary, apparently even from the beginning, knew how to hand pick his band members.) In fact, "Gathering," was the recording debut for each of them!

Gary played and sang live with the band on these tracks. No overdubs were used, and all nine tracks were first takes.

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