April 15, 2012
I didn’t write this song. But like most musicians, I wish I had. The melody was probably a slave chantey. Most of the words came from John Newton, an 18th century sea captain.
I wanted to emphasize some of the complex rhythms of the songs origins. And was lucky enough to have Ron Powell do the percussions on this track. Ron was just off tour with Kenny G or Diana Ross. What he can do with a drum is incredible.
Think of yourself in a slave ship, pounding on anything you can find to produce rhythms to accompany your song. And then sing along.
March 1, 2012
This song was written by blues legend Thomas A Dorsey. He helped found northern jazz, Chicago jazz.
After the death of his wife, Dorsey was devastated. She died given birth to their son, who died shortly after. I think you can still hear the pain he felt in his words: I am tired. I’m weak. I’m worn. [Read more]
February 10, 2012
I recorded this at the end of a very long day in the studio. I was tired. The musicians were tired. And my voice was shot. After I finished this song, I couldn’t talk for nearly two hours.
I finished writing this song shortly before flying to N. Carolina for the session. No one had seen it or heard it. It was a last minute addition.
I asked Richard Putnam (who was doing the charts for me) to look at the lead sheet. While he did, I recorded another track. There was Richard, off in a corner, trying to make sense of my song and ignore the song I was singing. He only had time to jot some notes; “charting” would be too generous of a term. So we mostly flew by the seat of our pants.
The result is one of my favorite songs. I like the thought of noel (peace) being an on-going event. The birth of Christ may have been the first noel but not the last. I believe God is still saying: Peace.
July 10, 2011
I started thinking about Paul and Silas traveling through the country spreading the Good News. So I wrote a brief history of American gospel music from the 1800′s up til pre-WWII. So each song represents a different period of time.
I wrote this song in the middle of doing the album but the sentiment had been part of my life for years. I always started my sermons with “I’ve got Great News for you.” It kept me from giving a negative sermon. Cause you can’t start with Great News and then tell people they’re going to hell.
When I was a young pup, I tried to be a preacher like my Dad. Dad was a really good teacher-preacher. He had that preacher voice that was expected in those days but he was more concerned with presenting good theology than with jumping the pulpit in a single bound.
Being an evangelist is an easy gig, my Dad used to say. You work up 3 sermons and move from town to town. Every time you preach your sermons, you get better at it. And moving from town to town means everyone thinks you great; they never hear your 4th sermon.
This song is about two traveling preachers who roll into town in their wagon. It’s Paul and Silas. And they’ve got Good News.
It’s Good News for people in trouble. Good News for people in pain. Good News for everybody: Jesus is alive!
June 14, 2011
We started this project to raise money for Katrina’s medical bills. People generously donated with time to make the album. And many donated much more than the price of an album when it was released. My continued thanks.
This song is for Katrina. She was very tired but able to sing on this track. Today, her disease has progressed, and she spends most of her time in her hospital bed in the living room. Clearly, she wouldn’t be able to make the trip or sit on a stool like she did here. So I’m very glad to have this recording.
This is the tile song for the album, and one of the first I wrote for the project. I don’t dance, so this is as close as I’ll ever come to a Christmas waltz.
May 27, 2011
I’m been singing Gospel music for over 40 years (not counting childhood). When I graduated from high school, I had a voice scholarship to one of the three best conservatories in the world (Eastman). If I had known more about school loans and how education works, I might have figured out how to take advantage of the opportunity. But since I couldn’t figure out the logistics, I stayed in Seattle.
As it turned out, I still make my living with my voice. Sometimes is the written voice in an article or book. But mostly it’s lecturing to students. Lately, I’ve added some podcasts and videos. But none of that is as hard as doing one-night stands on the road. I’ve been blessed.
I’ve recorded two albums. The Christmas album (Katrina’s Christmas Wish) was
recorded in North Carolina. With charts by Emmy-winning Richard Putnam and great
licks from guitar stylist David Johnson, I sing some of my own songs and some
classic carols. It’s a bit of Pavarotti meets the Beverly Hillbillies. Great
The second album (Professor Tangen’s Great Gospel Tour) is a brief history of
American gospel music. Gospel music developed as preachers, peddlers and singing
groups travelled across America and ran into new music styles. At every stop,
they added someone new to the mix. Gospel music in the US began with spirituals
and “field holler” songs but soon encountered blues, jazz, and more modern
styles. I sing some of my own songs and added some twists to old favorites. The
album features jazz pianist Mark Davidson’s arrangements.