Aaron Freeman’s Marvelous Clouds: Ben Vaughn Offers Insight
Aaron Freeman (aka Gene Ween) will shed his pseudonym for his first-ever solo record, Marvelous Clouds. Set for an April 10 release on Partisan Records, the album presents interpretations of 13 songs written by Rod McKuen. Ben Vaughn, who produced Ween’s 12 Golden Country Greats, worked with Freeman once again on this release and shares these thoughts on the project with Relix.
Recording Marvelous Clouds
Working with Aaron is always interesting. I’ve known him a long time but only recently found the opportunity to turn him on to Rod McKuen. Somehow, Rod’s music slipped by his radar all these years. Which is strange because it would be hard to name one genre Ween is not well versed in. Metal, R & B, progressive rock, country, etc.. And Aaron, more so than Mickey, is a big fan of soft rock from the ‘70s. Songs by Michael Murphy and Harry Chapin really get him going. He connects with this type of music in a sincere, sentimental way. How he managed to avoid Rod McKuen all this time is a mystery. I guess it points out how elusive Rod’s legacy has been since his heyday in the ‘60s and ‘70s. He went from being everywhere to nowhere, from omnipresent to invisible. Which, of course, added an electrical charge to Aaron’s discovery. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing and immediately became obsessed. He is now one of Rod’s biggest fans. Rod lives in semi-isolation in Southern California but we were able to get a copy of Marvelous Clouds over to him and he loves it. He says that Aaron’s phrasing on his songs might be the best he’s ever heard. And he’s been covered by Frank Sinatra!
“As I Love My Own”
This song was the catalyst for the whole album. I had been aware of the tune for about fifteen years and every time I listened to it I would hear Aaron singing it in my head. It sounded like something he could have written. None of the lyrics rhyme which displays the same type of freedom Ween is known for. Rod never asks for permission and neither does Aaron. It felt like a natural fit. Maybe not on paper but definitely in reality. I knew it would work. When I played the song for Aaron he was bowled over. “Who is this guy” “Why haven’t I heard of him?” He recorded a quick demo and it was instantly right. Aaron was hungry for more so I started giving him one song at a time which he would demo and send back.
We were so deep into this song that it wasn’t until later that we realized Aaron was singing his own pseudonym over and over again. Aaron was vaguely aware of the hit version by Oliver but decided not to listen to it and approach it more like an old folk song. Which, it turns out, was Rod’s intention in the first place. He wrote it for a film called The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and was so successful at imitating a folk song that a lot of the cover versions attributed the writer’s credit to Public Domain or Traditional. He says his publisher has been chasing down royalties for years. It was a great experience to witness Aaron sing this live in the studio with guitar, upright bass and accordion. He was feeling vulnerable and it added to the authenticity. His mom cried when he played it for her.
This also sounded to me like something Aaron could have written himself. Especially the opening line, “I’m the son of the wild swan of Flanders.” It was an easy fit and sounded almost exactly like I thought it would with Aaron singing. We viewed it as an anti-war song but with Rod you’re never quite sure. His writing can be interpreted in many ways. Always.
“A Man Alone”
“A Man Alone” sums up Rod’s philosophy better than any song of his. If philosophy is the right word. Aaron was really attracted to the “alone in a crowd” aspect of Rod’s songwriting and poetry and was enthusiastic about doing this tune. After laying down the vocals with the band he picked up a gut string guitar and started noodling in a Willie Nelson kind of way. Lucky for us, we left a hole in the arrangement for a solo of some sort so we stuck him in the booth and miked up the guitar. He came up with a beautiful solo.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
Ron Sexsmith visits the Relix office to perform a tune from his latest record Forever Endeavor.
- First Look: Robert Randolph & The Family Band’s Blue Note Debut Lickety Split
- The Rolling Stones with Dave Grohl (Gallery and Clip)
- Lotus "Age of Inexperience" (Official Video)
- Morning Teleporation Share "People On My Floor"
- The National at Public Assembly and on Colbert (Gallery and Clips)
- John Fogerty and Dawes "Someday Never Comes" on Letterman
- Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers "Little Too Late" Live at the Hangout
- John Fogerty: Wrote A Song For Everyone
- Interlocken Festival to Feature Neil Young, Furthur, String Cheese Incident, Black Crowes, Zac Brown and More
- Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers "Friend of The Devil" at the Beacon
- The Salvation of Page McConnell (Relix Revisited)
- Interlocken Adds Widespread Panic and John Fogerty, Furthur to Play Workingman’s Dead
- Warren Haynes and Joe Bonamassa "If Heartaches Were Nickels"
- The Final Ingredient in Dogfish Head’s Grateful Dead Tribute Ale Is…
- Stone Gossard Readies His Moonlander
- Trey Anastasio Band at The Hangout (Video Stream)
- Doctor’s Orders: So what should we call the Super Ball IX Newspaper?
- John Kadlecik Posts Statement on Bob Weir’s Collapse
- "I Wanne Be In moe.": The Latest Volunteers
- Bob Weir Escorted Off Stage During Furthur Show
- Furthur Cancels BottleRock Show as Bob Weir Is Out Of Commision
- Vote for Your Favorite "I Wanne Be In moe." Contestant
- Doctor’s Orders: What’s Your Favorite Furthur Song? (Win Copy of Relix Signed by Phil and Bobby)
- On The Verge Poll