In response to many requests from fans and friends, my good friend Charlie Landsborough has decided to make backing track versions of many of his songs available from his website. What a lovely idea, you can now not only listen to and enjoy Charlie's unique songs, but you can jump right into his shoes and sing them and feel them from his perspective. These are not karaoke style re-makes, these are genuine original accompaniments with everything in place except Charlie's gentle honey baritone.
Why does this matter to me? Well, “I’m backing Charlie” is meant quite literally as I am privileged to have produced, played on and recorded the majority of his songs over the last twenty years!
“But I can't sing”, I hear some of you cry! Well, you can have a try, but it matters not, you can still appreciate Charlie's music and sneak a behind-the-scenes listen to what lies beneath and it can be quite revealing! If you've a more confident voice, then you can enjoy singing these songs and even performing them for friends and family. Just pick your favourites and you’re good to go.
“Why would I want to hear these accompaniments; my favourite singer Charlie isnt't there?”
Well, that's certainly a good question, but it is a matter of perspective. Have you ever admired a sculpture in a museum? Ever walked around it and viewed it from lots of different angles? Discovered some extra features you'd not spotted before? Charlie's background music is just the same and it is my hope that apart from singing in place of Charlie, you'll maybe learn something of the man by studying his shadow and the landscapes in which his songs are set.
During the process of producing Charlie's songs, I often need to switch his voice in and out. You could think of this as a bespoke tailor saying “Please slip that jacket off a moment Charlie, I need to make some alterations”. So I get to hear the evolving accompaniments as I tinker and tweak tiny details in the background. It always has struck me as an interesting excercise and quite revealing when you hear what else is there besides Charlie's lovely voice.
A while back I wrote a sleeve note for Charlie's album Silhouette, called “Buried Treasure” in which I described deliberately placing musical ‘sprites’ and gentle jokes partly for my own amusement and to set challenges for the astute listener. I promise you that many more of these tiny notions are revealed when you listen to these backing track versions. I wonder if you can spot them? Let me start you off with the chuckling harmonica which is a direct reference to the laughing hyena in verse two of I'm Just Getting By. It still makes me giggle every time I hear it chuffing away.
It would be very wrong of me to take credit and fail to mention the other producers down the years that have added to this collection. Dessie Hynes produced Songs From the Heart. Then the next three albums in the 90s were produced by Terry Bradford and engineered by me. Albums produced by Rob Williams and Jim Rooney followed and then I took the reins in 2002 and have produced all of Charlie's albums since then, but not to forget ace country guitarist John Pettifer who also contributed to Silhouette.
I would also like to acknowledge all of the wonderful musical performances contributed over the years and thank all of the lovely people who have been involved. They are too many to mention individually, but you all know who you are.
So, as strange an idea as it may seem, I urge you, singer, fan or just a dedicated listener, to grab some of your favourite backing tracks and have a go at singing them, or see what you can hear! Then you too can say: “I'm backing Charlie”. Hey, somebody should make a badge!
Love and respect to the inimitable Charlie Landsborough and to all of you. Thanks for listening!