2019: Head to Heart
Northern Latitudes Records
Copyright © Rio Paso Music (BMI)
~ A Revolutionary Manifesto in Song! ~
Rusty tried to get things jump-started several times during the decade of the 2000s, writing a few songs, purchasing a new guitar, and swapping out his trusty old analog home studio recording console for a fancy digital board. "That swap didn't work well," Rusty recounts. "The new board had flying faders and could store mixes but was too complicated. I felt at home with the old board and lost with the new one. Every time I turned it on, it seems like I had to relearn how to work it. I never did get comfortable with it. That was disappointing and discouraging."
So the decade passed with little accomplished on the music front. Rusty Reid fell into a musical funk and came close to giving up music altogether. But not quite. A spark still flickered. "I remember thinking at one point after a long fallow period whether I could call myself a songwriter any longer if I was no longer writing songs. The thought kind of bummed me. Being a songwriter is an important part of my self-identity. To lose that would be problematical."
Technology to the rescue. In 2013, Rusty asked a friend to orchestrate an instrumental arrangement of one of his songs, and watched over the friend's shoulder as he manipulated a modern digital audio workstation (DAW). Inspired by the possibilities, Rusty dove head-first into the digital music realm, first playing with his old tracks dating back to Houston.
"I was just thrilled to be able to bring my old recordings into the computer and play with them. I really didn't have any new songs that inspired me to record them."
But that situation was short-lived. Rolling down the highway, the Olympic Mountains in view, a single line popped into Rusty's head: Had to leave the old state to find me. "I was taken aback," Rusty says. "I realized that I had not consciously, rationally, pieced that statement together; it had just come out of nowhere, as so many artistic ideas do. At first I was wondering if it even made sense."
It made more than sense. Not only does this single line sum up much of Rusty's personal journey, but mystics through the ages would recognize it as their own journey. The old state. For Rusty that would be Texas, but for the mystics it would be a state of mind, a state of being, which must be shed and left behind before a higher state can be attained. That, too, applies to Rusty Reid.
That one lyrical line opened the floodgates to resurgent creativity, spawning most of the songs that would be included on Rusty's latest album, Head to Heart. "To Find Me" was quickly followed by "I Went Searching," setting the tone for an album of deep philosophical and spiritual content. Yet, in a sense, it was a continuation of the direction his first album, NWXSW, was heading in several of its songs. Head to Heart would become a discourse on some of the heaviest of human concerns. Eighteen songs (though three are but snippets), taking on the thorniest human questions and the weight of the world.
The album, and the ideas, of Head to Heart would be put to personal test in the summer of 2015 when Rusty's mom suffered a debilitating heart attack. Rusty and his sister spent nearly three months back in their old hometown of Midland caring for their mother before she passed. "My dad's death, 13 years earlier, really threw me for a loop," Rusty explains. "If he had died before I released NWXSW, I may never have finished it. But this time I was far better equipped to handle the blow. All my life I had filtered everything I did by wondering what my mother would think. She and I were so alike in many ways. I think she would have been just like me if she had been born into the same circumstances, and I just like her if I had shared her situaton, which involved far more challenges than anything I ever faced. Losing her from my life was very sad, but I clearly saw the elegance and deep meaning of the process. There is not a shred of mystery to death. It's very simple. Death is a beautiful thing. There is nothing to fear. It's the perfect system. It rescues us from dying, delivers us into the everlasting peace of nothingness, and clears the way for more things to have the living experience. We are only here because of death. It even imparts the most important lesson that we can carry throughout our lifetime: You better start living and loving. Recognizing this provides great clarity and equanimity. 'Joyful participation in the sorrow of the world,' is how it is described in the East."
Run once again through the crucible of personal loss, Rusty came out the other side with another scar but still moving forward. "Through the undertow, we surface at last." There would be no funk this time around. The album would be finished.
From a thematic perspective, Head to Heart is surely one of the most radical, revolutionary records ever released. It may be the most. This wide-ranging work (essentially a double album) is no single-issue or limited perspective screed, not just an intellectual proclamation, but rather a universal, spiritual call to action to rethink and remake much of human civilization. It is post-post modern, or integral, not content with simple deconstruction but circling back around to integrate the best of human cultures, including the classical virtues: love, truth, peace, courage, equality, goodwill, justice for all, happiness, real (not religious) spirituality and abiding affection for Mother Earth. Who could be against that? Well, just about everyone it turns out. Few are willing to pay the price of peace and a sustainable world: the end of many cherished traditions, including religion... and the wanton destruction of animals and the environment.
The opening notes on the album come from one of the many melodic themes entwined in Rusty's song, "Too Many Poor," which appears later. It's a wistful, mystical, somewhat melacholy synthesizer riff, accented here by double tracked acoustic guitar, setting the stage for a rare extended listening experience.
The listener knows they are in for a cerebral ride when among the first songs are "The Story of Now," which recounts the history of the Universe in five minutes, followed by "The Meaning of Life," which succinctly answers merely one the thorniest question of human history. Next, the title song, "Head to Heart," explains the simple truth of how the virtue of our intellect, conscience and deep reservoir of love must be channeled into actualization for each individual to attain their best self. Already in three songs Rusty has made more sense of the world than some philosophers do in their entire careers... and we’re just getting warmed up.
Three songs of personal searching, finding and transformation follow: "Ancient Stones," "To Find Me" and "I Went Searching." In these songs, the journey to "a higher view and a new mind's eye," must traverse through loss, including that of the old self.
Three works on the album are co-written with legendary poets: Edgar Allan Poe, George Gordon (Lord) Byron and the anonymous creator of the Indian “Moola Mantra.” In "Eldorado," "There is a Pleasure" and "Sat Cit Ananda," Rusty has married memorable new chords to old words... an effort that has been tried before, but not like this. Rusty’s twist beyond his engaging melodies is to extend each tale... kindling a new contemplation. This might be considered presumptuous, even blasphemous, to hardcore devotees of these beloved works, but such interpretations would denigrate a literary device that brings these works alive in a new way for the current era, those long bygone voices now part of a very modern conversation. Art using art as the medium. Would Poe, Byron and the "Moola Mantra" composer approve? Let the debate begin.
After painting a worldview in the first part of the album with songs of hope, meaning, positivity, change as growth, and abiding love for the planet mother, in the second half Rusty takes direct aim at the pervasive, oft unquestioned but nonetheless stultifying dysfunctions of modern culture. The brief but biting "Your Tummy" heralds the change in tone. In rapid succession carnism, religion, women’s subjugation, disparity of wealth, conservatism, corporatocracy and societal dysfunction receive the blade. The chilling "Dismaland" (the “saddest place in space”) rounds up all the negativity into one song, laying the blame squarely at the feet of conservatives and their corporations. The spell of gloom is momentarily suspended by the album’s crescendo, the bridge’s anthemic call for revolution, before the final verse and chorus fall back into the dystopia of Dismaland as the enduring image.
The call to action is clear: ruination of the world is at hand if We the People don’t “Rise Up” and “Unite, Unite, Unite!” It's the language of a revolutionary. In this case for a revolution of love. No lies. No violence. No hate. But sweeping change nevertheless.
"John is referring to the transcendent, the eternal shadow. Save for the fundamental forces and subatomic particles, nothing in the Universe is real for long. All things must pass. Even stars must die. In 'Another Way' I am contrasting the shadow with our speck of flame, the here/now, where we are alive, everything is real, even thoughts, dreams and apparitions, and the laws of cause and effect are fully in force. Real people have created a real mess on a real planet filled with other real beings who are really suffering because of our real ignorance, real disconnect, real selfishness and real hubris. It’s up to us to make the world we want to live in and allows future generations of all Earthlings to thrive. We can’t do that if we don’t wake up during our brief flicker of life and make it so. Awaiting heaven, the next life, or meditating, praying or playing through this one won’t cut it. The highest integrity, morality, spirituality requires that we put our love into action to nurture and defend what is really sacred, and that’s not some mythological godman, it’s first and foremost our mother planet, along with the living beings, all of them, of this beautiful orb. War is over if we want it. And the biggest war of all time is the one humans long ago declared on nature. We live in the most dangerous time in human history for our species. We have fouled the nest. We have polluted the sacred. The biosphere is hurting. We're running out of time. The sacred doesn’t need worship; it needs defending. We need all good and brave souls on the front lines... right now! I think this is precisely what John was saying. Despite his line in 'Strawberry Fields', John not only recognized the real, but believed he, and you and I, could change it. Let's prove him right.”
Idealism, vision, wisdom, philosophy, spirituality such as presented here usually requires a lifetime to achieve. And that’s why perhaps only a sixty-something troubadour could deliver an album like Head to Heart.
"I'm no longer a young punk. I'm an elder now, so I was hoping that with this album I could share what I have learned. My journey has allowed me the time and place and experience and inclination and information to ponder and question not just authority, but everything else. I've thought long and hard about these issues, consulted and come into accord with the best thinkers of history, tried hard to keep every thought congruent with science, and arrived at a modern synthesis that I think adds up to a beautiful, moral, truthful and sustainable worldview. But it's a worldview that is going to make people uncomfortable, because it requires change and loss. Most people are mired in thoughtless, uncaring, unsustainable, selfish, dubious customs. They don't question; they just conform. They don't like change, and they really don't like loss, that is, the prospect of giving up parts of themselves or their culture that are harmful to others or the planet. I understand it. That was me, too. I come straight from that same mindset, but somehow I found a 'higher view and a new mind's eye.' And that's what I'm trying to pass on here. Just in this one album, I'm probably assailing the beliefs and lifestyles of 99.9 percent of the human population. I suspect it will be the rare listener who is not bothered, or outraged, by at least one song on the album. It's not that I'm intentionally trying to make anyone mad; I'm just describing a better world that does not include a lot of the harmful and dangerous 'traditions' that are currently still embedded in human culture. I'm bringing the truth, and often the truth hurts. Most people can't handle the truth. Yet, I would hope that the mystic journey of personal evolution and cultural revolution described through the album is something that a critical mass of people of all nations will undertake... one individual at a time. That would very soon transform the world. We'd better hope they hurry. Otherwise we are on the road to ruin."
REVIEWS FOR "HEAD TO HEART"
Hey, enjoyed "Head to Heart," you havent lost yer touch!... sounds terrific -- you haven't lost yer voice either, amazing at our age (and more than Dylan or McCartney can say!) ... some fine & fancy guitar work, too! Glad you're getting it out the door and hope we don't have to wait another 20 years for #3! Look at ya!... You compose memorable hooks within range of Elton & Elvis C., sing melody/harmony w/Everly Bros. precision, jangle guitar chords and leads that would do the Byrds or Buffalo Springfield proud, and then top it all off w/self-produced SFX videos... Some people have way too much talent, That's right, I'm talking to you, bruddah! You live in a gilded Talent Taj Mahal.
Rusty Reid’s new CD, aptly titled "Head to Heart," takes us on a musical journey reminiscent of the 60s, punctuated with tones of East Indian sitar-like sounds in the song, "Sat Cit Ananda." Raising the question whether the Baby Boomer generation, which so flaunted "flower power," has taken us where we wanted to go... obviously not. "To Find Me" is an example of such soul-searching, while the song, "Dismaland" commands, “We are better than this; we can turn it around.” Covering topics that should be near and dear to every listener, "Head to Heart" hits its mark beautifully.
I like the message, absolutely. This kind of spirit-rock feels very west coast to me, all of the California hippies that are now spread out from LA to Vancouver, will enjoy this music. The tones are really nice, the drums sound great, and the production feels right into the vein of heartland rock like Tom Petty. I like your sense of style for building a chorus, you have a nice feel for that, and your best feature is the consistency of your messaging. I feel like I really understand you, and what you believe in, and I have your back on that. We share values. The meaning and depth of the lyrics is your greatest strength. Please stay on brand and message the way that you are - it will be the core of how you connect with your audience. That is not a problem for you, and adds a lot of depth to the music.
I like the mellow drum tempo & lead guitar riffs and your vocal has a tender/poetic quality that brings the lyrics. Overall an easy listening sound with a nostalgic vibe. There is clearly a lot of thought that goes into your lyrics. I like a song that tells a story and takes you on a journey and your songs definitely do that. You have created an uplifting sound that I can see resonating with a lot of listeners.
Nice Tom Petty kind of vibe. The lyrics are written by someone who has lived and has a sense of wisdom.
We were able to feel the songs through the lyrics. One can definitely tell how much heart and meaning you place in your music. We see an audence that should appreciate your talents.
Really nice overall sound on your tracks. I like the vocal performance, and the production is good, too.
Performance is impressive and the songwriting is notable.
Reflective vocals and lush guitar work shine.
Really inspiring sound.
A bit of a Morrissey vibe. It's pretty.
Nice classic songs and performance.
Cool guitars, lively natural vibe. Reminded us of Poco in some moments.
Good songwriting, cool musicianship and vocals.
Evokes the big hitters of the genre. Radio friendly.
Professional artist with charming voice.
A lush alt country take with confident production.
Lovely vocal performance.
Love the themes, such a great message that is often completely neglected.
Solid. Keep up the good work.
You have something special in your hands.
And get a free bonus "The Sixties Ain't Dead Yet" button - while they last!
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1. Too Many Poor Theme
Backstory: Rusty had planned to include "Too Many Poor" on his first album, NWXSW (see more below), along with a different version of this prelude snippet as the lead-off song, but at the last minute decided against it. The prelude features a keyboard riff from the actual song. "I came up with this part on my Ensoniq synth as I was recording the song back in the late 80s in Manhattan Beach," Rusty recalls. "For some reason it reminded me of the melodic theme to the movie "The Exorcist," harmonic and enchanting but a bit spooky. On the full song it serves as a connecting part from the chorus into the guitar outro, but as a prelude I'm using the same lines to establish a mood of anticipation and differentiation. The idea is you hear this as the first song and right off the bat know this is not your normal album.
2. The Story of Now
Wander through the saga of the world
Rusty - vocals, electric guitars
Backstory: "The Story of Now" is inspired by the writings and lectures of Marshall Ganz. "With this album I wanted songs that explain my worldview, which is pretty much based on 'Big History,' that is, the history of the Universe," Rusty says. "Marshall Ganz talks about the importance of narrative, story. He encourages everyone to think of their lives as a story, and each individual as their own story teller (and Joseph Campbell would insist that everyone become the hero of their own story). It sounds simple, but is very profound. If there is any story that every human should know and understand, at least at a simple level, it's the story of the Universe. This is the backstory of every other story. To me, every scientific discovery is infused with great intellectual, emotional, philosophical and even spiritual richness. Of course, all of those discoveries, and the entire history of the Universe, come together in the moment of now. The 'story of now' began 14 billion years ago. I wanted to capture those 14 billion years in one song. As soon as I had written it I knew this had to be the first song on the album. It sets the framework for what we are going to discuss: why, space and time, life, Earth, how, you and me, now." Rusty produced two different recordings of "The Story of Now." One appears on Head to Heart and the alt track will be released as a single.
3. The Meaning of Life
Some people say you must wait
Rusty - vocals, electric guitars
Backstory: "The Meaning of Life" was written just a month after "The Story of Now" in 2017, and seems to flow as a sequel in the same stream of consciousness, picking up on the subject of happiness. Philosophers, poets and artists have long contemplated “the meaning of life,” but Rusty interjects a rarely included but rationally and spiritually essential requirement: the meaning of life must apply to ALL life, not just human life. If you want to contemplate the meaning of strictly human life, then don’t call it "the meaning of life." Certainly, a universe could do worse than gifting all of its living things a “shot at happiness,” which they must then individually pursue, which all things do... all the time. If this isn’t the “meaning of life” for all living things, what possibly could be?
4. Head to Heart
Heaven knows life can be so cruel
Rusty - vocals, electric guitar
Backstory: The album’s title song was originally called “The Longest Journey,” but soon gave way to the more pointedly spiritual "Head to Heart." The line, “The longest journey is from head to heart,” is not original. The saying has been around for a long while, variously ascribed as a Native American saying. Rusty heard it from a commencement speaker at the doctorate graduation of a friend, and immediately jotted down the idea on the graduation program, and went to writing the song in late May, early June, 2017. Rusty says this song is one of those that just “fell together, almost effortlessly. I’m not sure where it came from, but that one line was a great start. With that triple rhyme in the third line I thought maybe I had painted myself into a corner that would be hard to manage, but it all ended up pretty well."
5. Ancient Stones
As I move on through and the years roll by
Backstory: "Ancient Stones" emerged as Rusty was sitting in a tire store awaiting a repair. Rusty explains. “I was just daydreaming and the phrase 'ancient stones' came to me, and I quickly figured out the first chorus. I had no real melody yet, but both choruses before I left the store. That was strange because I usually don't write that way.” It was July, 2016, and Rusty drove home on the repaired tire and finished up the song. Recording of the demo began later that same day. "With 'Ancient Stones,' I'm trying to describe something of my pathway to being in love with nature. I used to think I honored nature, but later realized there was so much I was missing, including the small, subtle things that contain so much beauty, meaning and mystery: stones, bark, birdsong, rainbows, pools of crystal clear water. All my life I have been walking on 'ancient stones,' and not bothering to even notice, much less love. As I have aged, nature has become my touchstone of sanity. There is so much insanity going on in the human realm; humans will disappoint you. But nature, if you respect and nurture and love it, just steadily gives and nourishes, physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually. You can read all the books you want, you can pray and chant and sing hosanna, but the key to becoming whole is through nature."
6. To Find Me
Had to leave the old state To Find Me
Backstory: "To Find Me" alludes to the process of true individuation, becoming an original self, breaking out of the societal shackles that invariably entrap us and stifle our potential as thinking, feeling creatures. This is an arduous, inherently painful journey, which runs straight through "the dark night of the soul" (the "fields of dissolution"). It is not the road less traveled; it's the road rarely traveled. And perhaps for good reason. If you want to be mostly happy in a superficial way, it's best to conform and remain blissfully ignorant. Rusty thinks of "To Find Me" as his symbolic "come-back" tune. Afer a long fallow period, one day, driving down the highway in March of 2014, the line "Had to leave the old state to find me," popped out. This one line marked the edge of renewal for Rusty Reid, the singer-songwriter.
7. I Went Searching
I Went Searching… for universal truth
Backstory: So as it appears next on the album, "I Went Searching" was the very next song written by the rejuvenated Rusty following "To Find Me." This song also picks up the thread of searching and finding, but in this case the quest is not for personal change, growth and discovery but for universal virtues. "In my mind, these songs go together," Rusty explains. "When I finished 'I Went Searching' about a month after 'To Find Me,' a wave of confidence swelled in me. 'Yeah, I’m back!' I knew then that something was rolling, and it was going to be interesting." Also a bit interesting is that of the multiple guitar parts on the song, all are played on an electic 12-string guitar. And a final quirky story: "I love discovering cool words from other languages. I was just wowed by the Japanese word Wa. So it ended up in 'I Went Searching.' I couldn't resist using a wah-wah pedal when the word comes along in the song. I dug out my old, dusty wah-wah pedal from the 60s that I hadn't used in years. Then I found out it was actually one of the first wah-wah pedals ever made. Shortly after recording this part, I sold it for $900. So somebody out there has my Wa wah-wah."
Gaily bedight, a gallant knight
Backstory: In each of the three "poet songs" on Head to Heart, Rusty takes a different approach to co-writing. In "Eldorado," he continues the story to reach an unexpected conclusion of the knight's quest. Rusty loved this poem as a teenager so much he carried a carefully folded half sheet of paper with the words written out in blue fountain pen ink around in his wallet for over a decade. "I memorized the poem, but still carried the little paper around just in case I ever forgot something. It survived three or four wallets, traveling with me to Houston and Nashville and L.A. until it was falling apart." But Rusty's interpretation of the poem was always counter to the more common reading. "Most people think of it as a sad story; the shade is the shadow of death and the poor, hapless knight dies having spent his life on an absurd, immpossible quest. I always imagined that he did just as the shadow instructs, went over the mountains of the moon, and found Eldorado. I couldn't explain how he could get over the mountains of the moon; I just knew he did. Decades later I realized the answer. The mountains of the moon are in your mind. It's the obstacles, the peaks and valleys, of the mind that prevent us from finding happiness and meaning. There is no city of gold, but there awaits riches for the mind and heart that find them inside."
9. There is a Pleasure in the Pathless Woods
There is a Pleasure in the Pathless Woods
Backstory: After writing "Sat Cit Ananda" and "Eldorado," Rusty searched for a third "duet" with a long dead poet to go on Head to Heart. Again, it needed to be philosophical and/or spiritual, as well as another good story. He found what he was looking for with Lord Byron and his beloved classic, "There is a Pleasure in the Pathless Woods." Rusty had read this poem as a child, but unlike "Eldorado," it failed to impress. This poem is actually just a small part of a larger work of Byron's called "Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage." Rusty explains, "It was too much for my young mind. At that age I didn't find anything that I particularly related to. Only much later when I became both environmentally mindful and spiritually aware did this poem grab my attention." Rusty's version includes only the first three stanzas of the small section of "Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage." After the three stanzas, the song takes an unusual songwriting tact, with Rusty, himself, taking over as narrator, now referencing the poet and poem as he sadly brings into the present the issues Byron spoke to nearly 200 years ago ("not long ago," in actual fact). Noting the dire ecological devastations that have occurred since Bryon's life, and that he would have scarcely believed were possible (the loss of a pristine sea and even the dark of the night), Rusty dovetails back into Byron's signature desire: to "mingle with the Universe." Daniel Ribeiro's lilting acoustic guitars, forlorn steel guitar, moog snyth and mellotron comprise an aural match to the mystically melancholy lyrics of both Lord Byron and Rusty Reid.
10. Sat Cit Ananda
Om (Highest Energy/Primordial Sound)
Backstory: Speaking of mingling with the Universe, "Sat Cit Ananda" is all about that. Rusty first encountered the phrase from the writings of Joseph Campbell in the 1970s, and long harbored the desire to write a song around the concept. "I have a soft spot for India. I like Indians. I like Indian food, Indian humor, Indian music, Indian movies, Indian history - Ashoka is one of my heroes - and, especially, Indian spiritual philosophy. I don't know why I never attempted to write something India-inspired before." Somehow that never happened, until a spiritual friend suggested they write a song together. With the theme of satcitananda in mind, Rusty asked her to throw together specific words she would like to add to the song. Then Rusty went in search of more information on "Sat Cit Ananda," and discovered the "Moola Mantra." No one seems to know where the Moola came from, but it has been put to music many times. "I discovered that there were at least a handful of musical intepretations. I intentionally didn't listen to any of them because I didn't want my version to be in any way influenced by them. Of course, from the get-go I knew my version was going to include more than just the Moola, so in that way it would stand out from other songs which featured just the original words. The concept of Sat Cit Ananda - being, consciousness, bliss - captures the spiritual journey. To me this song is spiritual, not religious; the various deities mentioned in the Moola can be taken, more beneficially, as symbolic aspects of natural diversity in their different ways facilitating connection to the ultimate Oneness of all." In his version of the Moola Mantra, Rusty veers off from the original Sanskrit verses of acknowledgement and thanksgiving into English choruses and bridges espousing Universe-loving rapture. Who is the lover? The Universe itself. "Sat Cit Ananda" is the longest song on the album, the most ambitious, and the last recording finalized for the album.
11. Your Tummy
Yo, what you doin' with that bloody shit
Backstory: This little ditty came to be immediately after Rusty finished a non-Head to Heart song called "Rap Manifesto," which makes good use of beat loops. "I had the idea that I wanted some kind of lead-in for 'Passion or Fashion,' so since I had just been jamming with beats for awhile, I decided to just do a short rap, and this is what emerged. I think it's a pretty sharp little dagger."
12. Passion or Fashion
So it's finally come to this
Rusty - vocals, electric guitars
Backstory: Rusty's Houston buddy Steven Beasley wrote the original version of "Passion or Fashion" in the late 1980s after both had moved to Los Angeles. "I immediately liked Steve's song, especially the signature riff; I'm a real sucker for those. I wasn't crazy about the subject matter, so a few months later I asked Steve if I could re-write the lyrics into an animal rights song. He's an animal lover, so he said, 'OK, give it a shot.' So I did re-write the song, keeping a few of Steve's lines." But then the song was stashed away without ever being recorded. When Rusty was putting together the songs for Head to Heart, "I thought 'Passion or Fashion' would be a perfect addition, so I went looking for those lyrics and could not find them anywhere." Rusty had to re-re-write the song! "I think that was one of those serendipitous situations where the bad thing happening, losing the lyrics, turned into a blessing because this version is much better than what I remember from the earlier re-write." Then came a snafu in recording. "I certainly wanted Steve to play on his own song, so I sent him my version, which included two separate bridges. I specifically pointed out this big change from his version." Sure enough, Steve sent back his tracks, which included drums and bass and great guitar parts, but only one bridge. His retort was, "Well, that should be an easy fix on your computer program." Easy fix? Adding another bridge smack in the middle of a song is definitely not an easy fix, especially when the first bridge comes out of a chorus and into a verse and the second bridge does the opposite. Somehow Rusty managed to do it, and so allows perhaps the song's quintessential line: "Don't speak of peace and love when you're chewing on the dove."
13. Dark Ages
Slowly but surely we're gaining momentum
Backstory: "Dark Ages" was written in November 1986, just a month after "Too Many Poor." Rusty and Steve Beasley recorded it at Steve’s San Fernando Valley apartment shortly thereafter on a 4-track cassette recorder. So you can imagine the awesome sound quality of that one. "Yet, it was actually a pretty cool recording. I liked it," Rusty recalls. “The lyrics were somewhat different from this version. I wrote it originally as the Religious Right was rising during the Reagan years, televangelists were on every channel raking in the cash, and fundamentalism was surging. It was alarming for those of us who believe in strict separation of church and state and are highly dubious as to the actual positive contributions of religion in general amidst the all too apparent negatives." Yet as televangelists began sequentially disgracing themselves through scandal, and surveys suggested that religion, as a whole, in the modern world was losing influence and power, the song didn’t seem quite on target any longer. "I decided to re-orient it from a contrasting perspective," Rusty explains. "Instead of religion gaining members and power, now the number of 'free-thinkers' is surging. Perhaps the most important concept in the song is that true spirituality does not need religion, indeed religion thwarts real spirituality (love for the Universe). 'Spirituality is its own way,' may be the best single line I ever wrote. But we are still faced with the great divisions that religion creates and maintains, as well as as the dogma and superstitions that all the religions promote, and which are actually impediments to deeper spirituality. We haven’t entirely escaped the Dark Ages yet.” "Dark Ages" was the next-to last last song recorded for Head to Heart ('Sat Cit Ananda' being the last actually finished). "I wanted 'Dark Ages' on the album, though I knew it would likely be the one song that would cause the most consternation,” Rusty adds. “I asked Steve if he wanted to record it again, envisioning pretty much the same old arrangement, The tracks he sent were pretty true to that old recording, but then I started messing with it. I had just aquired a 1966 Gretsch Tennessean (featured on the album cover), and it decided to turn the song into something out of a spaghetti western.”
14. Who Do You Think You Are
She's your mother, daughter, sister... she's your wife
Rusty - vocals, acoustic guitars, keyboards, bass, drum programming
Backstory: It would seem that this song might have been inspired by the #MeToo movement. But it was written and originally recorded in August of 1992 at Rusty’s Hawthorne, California house affectionately dubbed the “Hobbit Hole.” Yes, the same Hawthorne that was home to the Beach Boys (and Emitt Rhodes). The stereo drums remain from that original 8-track recording. The vocals, acoustic guitars (1969 Rich B-38 on the left channel; right channel, Martin J-40), bass and synth were added in October 2017. Rusty explains how the song came about. “I had been critically mulling the concepts of male advantage and privilege, sexist behavior and oppression of women for some time, and then a lady and her young daughter came into my life, and this song flowed out from that environment and experience."
15. Too Many Poor
I take a look and I don't like what I see
Rusty - vocals, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, keyboards, bass, drum programming
Backstory: "Too Many Poor" is the oldest song on the album, as well as, by far, the oldest recording. The song was written in late 1986. It was a re-write of an Unreasonables era song called "Too Many Girls," which Rusty describes as "one of my worst-ever songs lyrically, just stupid, but it had a good melody and nice guitar parts." The recording of the repurposed "Too Many Poor" was completed on a home 8-track machine in early 1987 when Rusty lived in Manhattan Beach, a suburb of Los Angeles. You are hearing the 34-year old Rusty here, singing and playing. As New Wave was fading and Grunge was still yet to break, this is what Rusty was doing. "Too Many Poor" was scheduled to be included on Rusty's first album, NWXSW, along with its short melodic theme leading off the album, as it would on Head to Heart. But at the last minute he pulled it off. "I just didn't think the recording was good enough for the album. This time around I considered re-recording it with a reggae band. But I’ve actually always loved this recording. I used to roll down the streets of L.A. with this song blasting from the cassette player. It’s obviously not a polished sound; it contains just seven tracks (including lead and harmony vocals on the same track and mono drums... the 8th track was devoted to drum track impulse signal), but I still think it’s one of my most interesting songs, thematically, lyrically and musically. It’s obviously an important subject. After our war on nature and impending ecological catastrophe, disparity of wealth may be the next biggest problem that humanity faces. Some disparity is probably a good thing, overall, for our human family. Say, the richest are 100 times richer than the average family. But this over-the-top wealth is utterly toxic. Research shows that such dispaity is highly corrosive to society. It's a slap in the face of the average person, much less the poor. Low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, drug use, crime, social turbulence all accompany rising disparity of wealth, and we are now in an era of shocking economic inequality in America. So we have too many poor; it's inexcusable that any person on Earth today should be desperately poor. But we also have far too much wealth accruing to a tiny cadre of the super wealthy. The stats are just sickening. The upper one tenth of one percent of the wealthy control more assets than the bottom half of the human population. That's absurd, insane and totally immoral. The only question is what are we going to do about it? The guitar parts at the end I call the ‘Gretsch-Stratocaster Pas de Deux.’ The Country Gentleman (right channel) and Strat (left channel) seem to dance with each other. In the end, I thought, I don’t care if it’s a bit rough, this song, this recording, needs to be on this album. So here it is." Fittingly, these three old California songs appear back-to-back-to-back on Head to Heart.
The storm is underway
Rusty - vocals, electric guitars, sound effects
Backstory: Head to Heart segues from the oldest song to the newest song. "Dismaland" was written in October 2017, the last song to be written for Head to Heart, and recorded early in 2018. Rusty says. "The moment I saw a film of Banksy’s Dismaland Bemusement Park, I knew I had to write a song along those lines. I wanted the song to reflect the dystopia of Banksy's project, but also fill it with the actual entities and personalities who are currently making the world far worse than it should be. After writing the verses, I thought that the misery needed some relief, a little interlude of optimism, and so the bridge emerged. I had just seen the touring company of 'Hamilton' in Seattle, and the line 'Rise Up!' is a little homage to the play."
17. Another Way
What is life but time
Rusty - vocals, electric guitars, piano
Backstory: We said "Too Many Poor" is the oldest song on the album. Technically that's not correct; it's the oldest song that still exists much as it was written. "Another Way" originally came into the world 14 years earlier, in June 1973, as young songwriters Rusty and Jon Stone huddled in a cramped gas station office in Midland, Texas. The melody survives intact from that humble (no pun intended, actually it was a Texaco) origin, but only a few lines remain, and the theme has been changed entirely. "I always liked the melody, loved the title, but knew there was something important there that was missing," Rusty explains. The original song was thematically, lyrically off the mark. In the Spring of 2014, Rusty took a crack at re-tooling it to address the human condition amidst the glory of the Universe. Following six blistering social commentaries, "Another Way" closes the album, returning to the project's early optimism, mysticism and spirituality. The final word from Head to Heart is “People will find another way.” Another way of being in the world is what this album is all about.
18. Head to Heart Coda
Backstory: Unlisted on the CD cover track list, "Head to Heart Coda" emerges as the surprise ending to the album. Rusty explains how it came to be: "All through the process of creating the album, I was mulling which song should be the final song. I've always felt that the first and last songs on an album should be there for a reason. At some point I decided 'Another Way' should be the last song. It has just the right theme and mood; it reorients us to a positive mindset after confronting a good deal of negativity, and I like the way its last note rings to finality. I also had been thinking it would be fun to get some kind of 60s musical gimmicks on the album. As it turned out, the track list comprised almost the max amount of time that a standard CD can accommodate, about 78 minutes, so that eliminated some of the possibilities I was considering. As I was mixing 'Another Way,' I was thinking the instrumentation on this song is really special; it's too bad the vocals cover up much of it. That's when I landed on the idea of combining a Beatles-like reverse tape collage with a truncated instrumental version of the song. So the fade-out of that last note of 'Another Way' ends up not being so final after all, coming right back in reverse on the coda, which then goes into the short instrumental, which then fades into the reverse tape that finally ends with the backwards 'whap-whap' that is the two snare hits that start the song. So these effects are my little 'thank you' to music of the 60s."
All songs Copyright © 2019 Rio Paso Music (BMI)
© Copyright Rio Paso Music Productions