The Story Behind "Fizh & Gritz"
"Fizh&Gritz" features fabulous guest vocalists from the SounDoctrine landscape like Janis Jones, Tara Amill & Michaela with newcomers, husband & wife team Kurtis & Ricquita Townsend showcasing their wonderful voices.
This project intentionally addresses present cultural issues from a faith based perspective.
The First Single, "Fake News" scrutinizes Mainstream Media sources for the obvious bias interjected into stories instead of reporting the news without editorializing or interjecting personal opinions.
Other songs like "Only Two," challenges emerging cultural norms by repeated quoting Genesis 1:27, affirming that God created Two Genders, not multiple ones.
"Tolerance" ponders the practice of those who cry loudest for others to be tolerant of them and their lifestyles are the least likely to show it.
"Obfuscating Euphemisms" explores various words and phrases created & redefined, such as "Toxic Masculinity," "Racism," "Woke," "Preferred Pronouns" and others now used to reshape society.
"F&G" also questions the Christian Church's response (or lack thereof) in addressing such difficult narratives.
My Motive is to spark deeper dialogue into areas where people only appear to be shouting. To Me, It Doesn't Matter if You're DemocratRepublicanWhiteBlackLa
A Bonus Song, "Let Me Live" which will be available to subscribers only, is written from the viewpoint of a fetus in the womb of a mother contemplating abortion.
THE UNITED STATES OF INDOCTRINATION - Prayer by Pastor Juan Rivera
FAKE NEWS - Featuring Michaela
ALONE WITH YOU* Featuring Kurtis & Ricquita Townsend
TRUE FRIEND - Featuring Michaela
THE ONE - Featuring Bla_ckwell
GRACE & TRUTH
SHAKE & SHINE - Featuring Pastor Angel Lopez
HAND IN HAND
VALLEY OF BLESSING*** - Featuring Felecia West
KEEP LOOKING UP - Featuring Michaela
Additional Voices: Tara Amill & Janis Jones
*Lyrics by Tejai Beulah
**Based Upon a Gail L. Harris Melody
***Lyrics by Janis Jones
Additional Keyboards: Jeremy Lucas
Written & Produced by Jere B for NiayanaTejai
Executive Producers: G.H. Beulah, Jr. & W.G. Thompson, Jr. for Two Cabbages
Recorded, Mixed & Mastered between Listen Studios & The BHive by Jere B & Jerry Thompson
Graphics & Cover Designs: John Cruz for Cruzman Productions
My Heart was to share the True Motive of my intent for this project.
I address our current cultural challenges, not to throw stones at anyone but to spark conversation among us all. It seems we are doing more screaming at each other than engaging. Some may be offended, again, not my motive, but it's worth another attempt at civil disagreement.
The most interesting assessment concerning the recording of this project, especially the singing portion, was the conversations prior to the sessions.
The lyrics, with the exception of "Valley Of Blessing," which was penned by Janis Jones had already been written. I wanted to be completely forthright with the direction of this project and the possible push back some of the material might receive in our present climate. Some singers obviously differed, expressed their concerns, questions and in some instances, grievances. After being fully assured of my intentions, not one person I asked to sing backed down. A few did ask that I not use their name or likeness either in the credits or in the promotion, yet out of relationship with me, they were willing to offer their incredible gifts to the album.
I respect each one of their opinions, positions and perspective.
Their contributions solidify the heart of this project, in that we all can create something extraordinary, especially out of our differences.
THE UNITED STATES OF INDOCTRINATION:
The Music here finds its roots in the early 90's when I was discovering Public Enemy. It is intended to be disruptive. Perhaps representing the Ball of Confusion right outside our front doors. There are so many voices, an overload of information from all angles. Within this song I begin to ask questions which lay the foundation for many of the subsequent songs: Do You Really Believe Everything You Read, Hear and See? Do You Take the Time to Develop Your Own Mind? Do You Research True Sources or Take All Information at Face Value? Beware, You May be allowing yourself to be Indoctrinated...
I had initially asked my Senior Pastor Juan Rivera to Add a Prayer to the song "Repentance" (see below), but felt his words were so powerful that they needed to be showcased amidst the entropy I was trying to convey. Not Only Does his prayer "work" here audibly, but its the precise posture we all need to be in. Listen Carefully...
A Song of Repentance for Our Nation, Our Leaders, Our Churches, Our Children. No Apologies. No Compromise.
The Music from this song represents many from this project in that I created the music some 20+ years ago and the groove just basically sat. The house at 630 Fairgreen is no longer standing. The original title was "Brother To Brother."
The equipment we (Bub C, now Pastor Robert Christian, Jr. and Phillip Moore aka Phil The Beat) were using at the time was a Korg M1, Ensoniq EPS 16 --- Roland R8, a few Shure SM 57s and an Alesis MMT8 sequencer. While I cannot recall the occasion that I came up with the groove, as we were always creating, I do remember thinking that this was going to be something special "one day" and I would keep it tucked away.
In 2017, I began doing inventory on all of my old stuff, so I could begin redoing what I felt had further potential. I have been a fan of Propellerheads Reason since version 3 (currently 10.3). As I started the process on this, I still had no idea exactly what the song would become.
In May of this year, 2019, I was convinced that lyrically this project should speak to the social constructs redefining our society from a position of faith and knew this album had to have a song of repentance. The original goal was to write a softer, almost somber melody with a choir type anthem that cried out to The Lord. He didn't agree. I was cautious in thinking this groove would capture the atmosphere "I" was trying to convey. In late June, I committed a day to listen to the music and write lyrics accordingly. God began pointing out the opening organ riff with the "God Forgive Us, Lord forgive us..."
I admit, I thought it a little cheesy. Then He began the "Dear Father..." part and everything fell rapidly into place. Even the lead vocal part, which I first sang and was in a very odd meter felt exactly the way it should have when finally sung by "The Sanga!!"
The prayer section was culled from the "Bruce Almighty" scene when Jim Carey's character was hearing the thousands of prayers coming into his head and trying to think of the best system in which to file them. I asked each person who sang on the song to record a prayer, using Pastor Angel Lopez as the anchor. Later I asked some additional prayer warriors to phone in their prayers and added them to the mix. It worked!
This may (or may not) be the only time that I mention our president Donald J. Trump in these liner notes, because this is not a political project, it's a faith filled one. Hence, I feel very strongly about praying for our leaders, whomever they are. The Bible instructs us to and followers of Jesus Christ should obey, laying aside their political persuasion.
Janis Jones, Michaela, Tara Amill, Larry Johnson and Others who Didn't Want to Be Mentioned
Bishop David L. & Pastor Kathie Thomas, Pastor Juan Rivera, Pastor Joe Thomas, Vicki Gonzales, Britney Mitchell, Michaela, Tara, Larry and Others
Anchored Prayer: Pastor Angel Gomez
I am an unapologetic musical child of the 70's. The Funkadelicized Rhythms of that era continue to intrigue me. This song is all about having an absolutely great time, house party style the way I remember during my formative years. No violence, No Disrespect, Just Partying!
I wrote this song around February or March 2019, while messing around on the synth while my wife and middle daughter "invaded" my basement studio space to watch football on my TV because it has better reception of our local channels.
I switched to the headphones for mutual respect and God downloaded the drum loop and bass line into my spirit. Afterwards, it was off to the races and absolutely everything took shape within about three hours. The next day I redid a few of the solos, not being a "real" keyboardist, slowing the sequence tempo down as needed to capture the thrust of the parts. Later, I'd have the luxury of adding Jeremy's funky clav to the mix (see below).
The first song I remember really digging that had a party crowd vibe was Cameo's "It's Serious" from their "We All Know Who We Are" album. It wasn't hard to emulate that.
This song is all about THE GROOVE. Period.
Eric Tyus provides the brilliant soaring guitar toward the song's end. Dropboxing me right in time, We have worked this way for about four years. Having produced three singles with him at the helm, it's high time we did a full project together.
This Music sat in multiple forms on various DATs, hard drives and discs in many versions for over 25 years. I'm not ashamed that it sounds that way. At My Age, I'm completely Old School and Loving It! The groove remains infectious (to me) and like "Repentance," each time I revisited it, I knew I would use it.
The Where & Win evaded me...
I created the groove back in 1991 after a fifth or sixth breakup with a previous girlfriend and the original melody had a lot to do with me being gone for real "this time!" I had named it "Ghost, Baby." Now some 24 wonderful years with my beautiful wife Lori Lynette, I am grateful I left my old life behind!
Every time I'd mine the studio for older tunes, I would still attach that melody to falsification or fraud whenever I played it.
Consider this present structure of the Main Stream Media, both Conservative & Liberal, with their obvious biases. Americans, perhaps the world over are being sucked into a vortex of Fake, False, Phony Fabrication!
We Must Remain Very Aware. This means far more than being "Woke."
We must be vigilant and ask the right questions of the right people, beginning with "Who's Your Source?" And subsequently, "Do they have a source?" "What is their political persuasion?" "What's Their Objective?" and "How Many Other Viable Sources can Corroborate What was Said, Done or Alleged?!"
Again, I tried to keep my focus off President Trump directly, although I used his sound bites for relevance. My motive was to make great use of the opportunity to begin a conversation that creates an attitude of normalcy. I mean, if we are all being lied to, shouldn't we just take a minute to catch our breath and reevaluate EVERYTHING? To dismiss the fraud is akin to insanity.
Michaela Write has been a SounDoctrine mainstay since our very first album in 2002. She began with us as a preteen, hanging around the studio and stage while her mom and older sister Tara sang on various songs and performances. Her contribution to "Brother's Keeper" from "Inspire" led to my asking her to sing the title track to "Source," which she performed masterfully.
While discussing the motives behind this project, Michaela addressed several serious concerns and posed probing questions but in the long run, was in the studio most often, adding her voice to practically every track, whether featured or not. She would lay down the template for the additional singers to come in and overdub. She worked through various arrangements and tirelessly added character and depth to the simplest of ideas. It wouldn't be an exaggeration at all to say this entire project really came alive through Michaela's voice.
When I presented this song to her, she wasted no time adding the sarcasm needed to challenge the status quo. In fact, I added a vocoder to her second vocal to try to subtly "dehumanize" her assault so we wouldn't appear so preachy. She handled the descriptions so effectively, many people who heard the early mixes said they automatically reached for their dictionaries.
Genesis 1:27 - And The Lord God created man in His own image. In the image of God, He Created him. Male & Female created He them.
ALONE WITH YOU:
Circa 1994, 95- 721 Winona Drive. Our Chocolate Pulse Studios had moved to Phil The Beat’s basement.
We began working with Gail & Angela Harris for their 2Elegant project which produced “Anticipation,” “Makeitwitu,” “Tightrope,” “Be Real Wit Me” and so many others and I was literally writing constantly.
Having married the love of my life, Lori Lynette on April 8, 1995, Janis Ivery had sung in our wedding. Her voice was radiant. I asked that she try out a song and presented this music to her. I originally had no idea what to call it, but my oldest daughter Tejai, then just 11 years old began to write the (beautiful) lyrics and it instantly had a melody and title.
I was the original male vocal, growing a little more confident in my ability to deliver a line and that decision stuck for more than 2 decades. When I considered this track for the project, I found I could not locate the original discs with the separated tracks on it. So I redid the entire groove and set out looking for the right vocalists to match the needed vibe.
Kurtis & Ricquita Townsend are a wonderful couple who sing on the praise team of Victory Christian Center Coitsville Campus. They know how to massage melody, harmony and drive a rhythm with power. Interestingly, Ricquita’s range is remarkably similar to Ms. Ivery and Kurtis replacing my tracks was a no brainer.
Theirs were some of the quickest takes I've had to record and with the exception of a few additional edits, we had created the necessary atmosphere. The synth solo was an afterthought, but worked really well creating the backdrop to their romantic getaway. This track, along with a few others are perfect departures from the otherwise serious drama.
This song is another departure, sung by Michaela with subtle background vocals provided by Janis Jones and an anonymous brother.
It’s a story of enduring friendship, through ups & downs, from childhood through the autumn of life. There are friends who stick closer than brothers & sisters. Michaela reminisces about them here.
This groove has been around since '02, during SounDoctrine's infancy. Throughout the years I never saw an opportunity to release it as SD material, although I was on the lookout for another artist to record it. Interestingly, I thought the same about each of these songs, as I began this year 2019, preparing to record our forthcoming "Vision." I had gathered some musicians and we began writing songs. But it was as if The Lord was not going to provide me anything new until I made good use of what He'd already provided. So here we are and I'm grateful for how it all turned out.
Words have power. The power of death and life is in the tongue. The use of words to shape culture can be transforming and certain segments of our society with divisive agendas are using certain words to dismantle civilization. Woah, those are powerful words right there.
Without wanting to oversimplify or conversely overwhelm, if you carefully listen to how certain words and phrases are being used to obfuscate paradigms once held dear. I reveal those I have repeatedly heard lately. There are many more being formed as I write this.
There’s a Herbie Hancock tune on his “Future2Future" album called "This is Rob Swift" which has this one chord that I always loved every time the breakdown comes to that part. That chord is the foundation of this song. I formed a simple motif and everything else blossomed from there. I put down all of the solos, again slowing down the sequencer as needed to make the point, originally intending to replace the tracks with real cats. But overtime I grew used to what was there and decided to keep that flow. I can't wait to hear the live version.
This is yet another groove that has stood the test of time. I had 101 ideas for it. Originally it was written for a singing group we were working with in the early 90's called "Frenz." Last October, I presented it to one of the founding members who has embarked on quite a solo career and after hearing the song, which I know he listened to, never returned my call. This didn't bother me in the least. This song is not meant to sound "current." Most of the music I tend to write won't fit modern playlists, unless I was extremely intentional. At best, this song would sound contrived. At worse, it would be artificial and lifeless. At 54, I'm less interested in being current than I am in being truthful. Some will love it. Some will hate it. It's all good.
Jerry Thompson brought Brandyn Bla_ckwell to the studio to sing this song. I had no knowledge of the young man prior to this session. By this time I had hook and melody but no actual lyrics. Brandyn proved himself a diligent songsmith not only on this track, but on another tune we were working on to submit to Pure Flix. That song was called "Stronger" and incidentally, I met that lead singer, Michael Frazier, the same way - Jerry has an amazing knack for bringing in the right voice every time!
So Brandyn dusted off all the vocals in one session, laying down the backing harmonies, counter melodies and then tracking the lead. I was more than happy with what I received and made my final edits. Jerry & I mixed the song, only adding a quick tweak with another singer. Brandyn called me on 8/26, knowing I was prepping for final release and said, "I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but it's been about two years since we laid those down. I'm a better singer now. Let me come back in!" So we scheduled the session for Labor Day. And this mix is the result.
GRACE & TRUTH:
Simply, this is an opportunity to share my heart. My focus is the response (or lack thereof) of my fellow Followers of Christ on the cultural denominations right outside our doors. I guess I don't need more to say more here than what I say in the song. This was the last song I recorded. I made notes, but I did not script anything so I could remark on the very latest instance or occurrence before this project's release.
The music, although not an afterthought, was far lower in my thought process than all of the others, but I think fit very well. I wrote the music thinking at some point I could license it for a film and perhaps still might. For now, it provides a firm foundation for my thoughts.
SHAKE & SHINE:
This song intentionally follows "Grace & Truth" and is a part of the "&" section of the project by design. I wanted to further drill in the point that Followers of Jesus are to Be & Do exactly who Jesus said we should. I determined to make the song light and whimsical because I truly don't have a spirit of condemnation. I wanted to ensure a serious message was easy to digest.
I can't remember when I met or how long I have known Pastor Angel Lopez. Perhaps Jerry Thompson is to blame. I don't remember, but I was very impressed with his musicianship, production skills and his pure heart for Jesus. When SounDoctrine recorded "Inspire" and "Meant2B" his exceptional guitar solos made those tracks historic.
As Pastor of Fountain Of Grace Temple in Campbell, Ohio, Angel is also a well traveled missionary who comes from a musical family which has passed down to his children and grands. He brought in his nephew, famed flautist Jeremy DeJesus to help transform "Meant2B" and was a co-writer and played his behind off on "Selah." Angel's contributions to this song, "Repentance" and "Gritz" are signature ingredients to these tracks.
In keeping with my commitment to comment without condemnation, Tolerance is a heavy duty subject I knew we needed to tackle. If there is one idea that has taken hold of the American psyche like a tornado, it's Tolerance and as the song reminds us, many of those who are crying out for it are those who are most reluctant to give it to others.
Like "Shake & Shine," the approach was to keep it light, make it conversational, state the truth and then allow people to make up their own minds. Larry Johnson, a fantastic singer who is a mainstay at Listen Studios who also co-led "Brother's Keeper" keeps that 'Baby, baby' bass part airy!
I've mentioned Jerry Thompson from time to time in these notes. He is the owner of Listen Studios, Inventor of the beverage "Vocal," teaches hundreds of classes around the country for the FBI's LEEDA program and is a die hard music lover, recording engineer and music producer. We have been friends who are more like brothers for only about 12 years, but it feels like forever. Jerry has encouraged, supported and challenged my work, providing everything needed to complete my projects. It's no lie to say if it wasn't for God's blessing of Jerry Thompson in my life and on these projects, they simply would not be, at all.
HAND IN HAND:
In 1986, I knew I wanted to pursue my dream of being a music producer. Other than working a myriad of odd jobs, especially since having become a father of Tejai at 17. But, as Larry Graham once sang, "Music is the only love!" By 1987, Tyrone Williams, Phil The Beat and I were pooling our equipment, beginning to work on tracks and experiment with recording. By the very early 90's, My Apartment above my Mom on Lanterman Ave was a full fledged production place. We constantly had musicians and singers in and out.
"Hand" was one of those tunes that wrote itself. In a very version, I had titled the song "If." In a later version, I based the chorus off the 1986 George Duke song "I Just Want To Be In Your Life" and began finishing the song. By '91, it felt like this song would be huge.
The lyrics came fast. Carlton "Uncle CJ" Jenkins, an extraordinary singer who had hung around all of our sessions lay down the lead vocals as quickly as I was writing them. His delivery was the de facto standard for the track for many decades.
Bub Christian (now Pastor Robert E. Christian, Jr.) with whom we were trying to become the next "Jam & Lewis" brought The West Sisters (Twins Carla & Darla and younger sister Felicia (see below), who was only 10 or 11 then) to the Lanterman studio. They participated on the song I wrote called "U Can Wait" which they held their noses while singing. They came back a couple weeks later and we decided to put them in front of the microphones for "Hand" and they absolutely killed it.
Here it would be cool to speak about the brother who has contributed so much to this project and asked respectively that I not include his name. Again, I must blame Jerry for bringing him in and specifically for him to sing the lead on this reboot. His voice has all the character of Carlton's and without exaggeration, as soon as he heard my attempt at what was needed, he went at it with all the gusto CJ had 30 years ago. His unique approach is equally prominent on "Repentance," "Tolerance," "Fake News," "Shake & Shine," & "The United States of Indoctrination." If you listen closely, you can hear his quaint adlibs on "Gritz." This brother had some excellent reasons he needed to remain off the radar and I highly respect his reasoning. Once his career launches and his unmistakable voice surfaces, you'll remember you heard it hear first!
VALLEY OF BLESSING:
Janis Jones is the First Lady of SounDoctrine. She has been a staple in our work since "Bloodline" and "Inside Out" from SounDoctrine's "Perseverance" debut. She wrote the lyrics to both of those great tunes. The cool thing about our collaborations have been my only providing the notion of what I wanted and she delivering the goods each time. Often I would already have a particular melody or hook in mind and just as easily Jan would come in with her version and we'd track that.
VOB was no exception. All I'd provided her was the title, the text out of 2nd Chronicles 20 and awaited her presentation. I wrote the music in '93 at our Fairgreen studio. I don't remember the original title, but always found myself humming the baseline. I have loved the Moog since Stevie's "Higher Ground" as a little boy. You'd notice most of my music is deeply rooted in this tradition. For this song, I had another melody entirely because of the bass, although eager to hear what Jan was working on which seemed like it was taking her forever. When she came to record, Michaela and sister Tara Amill, whom Janis had sang with forever were there waiting to rock the mic. Those backing vocals were the fastest I've ever recorded. I doubled them and Janis recorded a scratch lead. We rescheduled her vocal and the doggone thang was done. But then Jerry got the big idea - After the tune was done and while we were mixing at crunch time that we needed to contrast Jan's lead with what they were doing on background. He recommended a singer who was unavailable, but as The Lord would have it, the incomparable Felecia West was available and came through the next day. Since Jan is a good friend and loves Felecia's voice, it was a perfect match and Jerry Thomson, again, was Right!
2 Chronicles 20 is the story of how King Jehoshaphat followed The Lord's leading into a victory so devastating to their enemy, they renamed it the Valley of Blessing! This is Your Song of Encouragement!
KEEP LOOKIN UP:
This song is most likely one of my earliest compositions, dating back to around 1986. It has always been "Keep Looking Up" and the lyrics have never changed. There's not much to it and I had thoughts that I might pass it by again. I redid the song in the hopes that my youngest Ayana would sing it; but her passion as a published author far outweighs her singing career.
Michaela's voice was the decision maker, singing all of the parts. Since this song would be the project's closer and it needed to end with optimism, her delicate touch was the perfect blend to the sensitivity this song was to convey.
Sprinkled All Over these songs, with the exception of "The Motive," "Repentance" & "Valley of Blessing" is the incredible keyboard addition of the young and incredible Jeremy Lucas who literally came through on our final day of recording, Friday September 6 and after just a few seconds of listening to each song, he dove right in adding the perfect nuances needed to set this thing on fire. He is the newest member of the SounDoctrine FAmily and we're more than pleased to have him aboard.
I Used Reason 10.3 Exclusively in the writing, recording and mixing of this project. It;s My Faithful Go since SounDoctrine's "Endurance." Interestingly, They Are Upgrading on 9/25. Yes I Will Have It!
I Utilized Izotope's Production Suite to process various elements and master Fizh & Gritz.
The BHive in Youngstown & Listen Studios in Girard Ohio are the laboratories we work out of.
Humbly, I Give The Lord Glory for Making Me a Musician and Allowing Me to Process these ideas He downloads into my spirit. I Thank Him for Blessing Me With The Resources to Manifest the Gift He's Entrusted to Me. I Trust and Pray He Is Pleased with these Efforts.
My Wife Is Incredible. I Don't Know What It's Like to Be Married to a Musician, But She Tells Me It's Quite Interesting. I Am So Grateful She Puts Up With My Ever Increasing Unconventionalism. Lori has captured and held my attention for 25 years. It Only Gets Better!
I Could Not Be Prouder of My Daughters, Tejai, Nia & Ayana. They Have My Heart and Are Doing So Many Wonderful Things by God's Grace!
Jerry & Bea Thompson, as I Explained Earlier, are the generous benefactors which has allowed me to grow as Man and as a Music Producer. I don't know what I've done to earn the friendship of a Jerry Thompson, but he is THAT friend who sticks closer to a brother.
Janis Jones! Michalea Write! Larry Johnson! Brandyn Bla_ckwell! Felecia West! Y'all Did More than Sang. You Poured Your Love & Heart Into This Project. I Am Forever Grateful. Thank You For Giving SO Generously! Let's Do It Again Tomorrow!! Jeremy Lucas, You Are THE BOMB!
Phil The Beat! Thank You For Coming To Help Me Slice Tracks!
Bishop David Thomas (Dad) & Pastor Kathie (Mom) Thank You For Coming To The Studio and Blessing the Building and this Projects. There are No Better Spiritual Parents. There Just Ain't!
Pastors Juan & Deidre. Thank You For Your Encouragement . Thank You For Believing in My Dreams and Speaking Into My Life and Into My Family. But Most Importantly, Thank You For Leading by being led by Holy Spirit! You Are Incredible Pastors & Friends!
I'm Going TO Keep Addng to These Thank Yous - For Right Now, Put Your Name Here _____________________________.