Whitley recorded Soft Dangerous Shores with bassist Heiko Schramm and drummer Matthias Macht, the supple German rhythm team on board for Hotel Vast Horizon (Messenger, 2003). Malcolm Burn was at the helm, producing and engineering the record in his Kingston, N.Y., studio. Burn’s sepia-toned keyboards were also the source of the album’s hovering atmospherics. …. Whitley says “Malcolm is a cinematographer in sound. With this record, I totally trusted him to really interpret the songs sonically.”
Whitley’s aim in mixing deep-blues feel and rich jazz harmonies with shape-shifting rhythm beds and electronic ambience was “to create something erotic, something that you could almost touch — a prime goal in music for me,” he insists. “I have no time for records that aren’t erotically charged. And I hear the erotic in a lot of things other people might not. To me, Iggy, Bowie, Monk, Satie, Little Walter, Bob Marley, John Lennon, the Flaming Lips are all erotic.” [from Bradley Bambarger]
What Whitley says he’s really excited about is “Soft Dangerous Shores,” another new CD due in February. It couldn’t be more different from the red-dirt sounds that made the Texas-born singer a name for himself. How he describes it: “melancholic,” “electronic,” “like a 1960s British romance movie,” “recorded with a German trip-hop group.” “Not at all rock.” “Pretty.” [from “Change Will Do You Good”]
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Several years ago, Hiroshi Suda sent me a Macromedia Flash Player file of a multi-media promo for Soft Dangerous Shores. It’s a beautiful thing, made all the more beautiful because “Fireroad (for Two)” plays throughout it. Towards the end, a statement – presumably from Chris – appears on the screen. I’ve captured (most) of it here:
These are not really songs. Each song is more like a little clip, a picture. The whole record is more like a little road movie. Each song has a cinematic quality if you “listen” to it like a visual picture. I would rather call it cyber folk blues film shorts than a singer/songwriter album.
Thanks to Hiroshi for converting this video (previously viewable only in Flash Player):
Because Chris died just a few months after SDS was released, only a few live recordings of SDS songs have been captured. How I wish that we had umpteen bootlegs of these songs, especially Fireroad, Valley of Innocents, Breath of Shadows, … well, ALL of them! But we can only imagine what Chris would have done with these gems solo. If he had lived to be 100, Chris would have been gone too soon….
Here’s a playlist of three rare recordings – two of Medicine Wheel and one of City of Women:
Malcolm Burn talked a bit about SDS and played Times Square Machine and Endgame Holiday on his Dust Radio podcast for Radio Kingston:
And a bit more with Breath of Shadows:
So many thanks to Dan Whitley for sharing this image – Chris’s lyrics book opened to Fireroad (for two):
Discussing this photo on the ATCW group, Dan and Malcolm revealed that Chris wrote these lyrics – probably on the patio at Malcolm’s home studio – in between jumping in the pool and smoking some weed. [read the post]
And an intimate photo of the same page:
And a couple from Malcolm Burn, taken during the recording of SDS at Burn’s Maison Bleue Studios in Kingston, NY: