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John Curcio
Can't Help Falling In Love



John Curcio
John Curcio


Vinny Minieri
Vinnie Minieri


Sabrina Ayala
Sabrina Ayala




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CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE WITH YOU

Prior to his unexpected and sudden passing in 2012 John "Beau" Curcio had recorded a number of songs, including The Elvis cover "Can't Help Falling In Love",  using a combination of pre-recorded and other pre-produced, then treated music tracks. In March of 2016 his brother Joe "Kirsch" Curcio took on the task of redoing and producing a posthumous version of the song.

 


ABOUT THE SONG:

During an impromptu session at GreenPoint Music studio while Joe was dabbling with the recording of a few cover songs for the Christmas Holiday he realized that his archive still contained the multi-track versions of the songs that Beau had recorded. Those archives also included the isolated tracks of Beau's voice only. Joe decided to get to work and arrange, produce and record a more organic version of the backing music tracks to match the gentleness of Beau's vocal version in the original recording.

The first challenge was to match the key that Beau had performed the original vocal tracks in and still be able to play the acoustic instruments in positions that work well for those instruments. Another challenge was to match the tempo and  timing of the phrasing from the original vocal track which had not been recorded with a guiding click track to keep the tempo consistent. Even if the tempo of both versions would end up the same, there was still the matter of matching just when the phrases would hit. Using special tuning, mechanical devices on the instruments, and general heads up critical listening and technique, Joe began to lay he foundation of the tracks with multiple guitar arrangements.

Then, like a painting, Joe began to sprinkle and layer combinations of flutes, French horns, acoustic and electric guitars, church organ, bass, and even pizzicato strings to provide the rich textures that you'll hear in the finished tracks. Perhaps not immediately obvious in the first listening pass, the song doesn't include any traditional percussion. Rather, the ebb and flow that provides the rhythmic patterns and percussive foundation of the song is provided by the finger picking and plucking of the acoustic guitars.

Once the basic music tracks were near their completion, Joe began to create the harmonic textures of the backing vocals. Unison voices, along with the staccato plucks of the string section in the first bridge and beginning of the second appearance of the bridge create a gentle, non intrusive accompaniment to Beau's laid back lead vocal. Although Beau was a powerhouse of a vocalist, you may notice that his approach to this track never takes him to full voice when he gets to the higher sections of the melody. Rather, he uses his seamless and signature transition into falsetto to get from the lower registers of the melody. This made for a really sweet and well thought out vocal performance. When Joe was preparing and painstakingly cutting Beau's vocal together from the original vocal performance, he constantly kept Beau's approach to the song in mind. This is really evident throughout the song where Joe intentionally kept Beau's vocal slightly and gently behind the natural tempo of the song. This was another Beau trademark that Joe insisted on keeping consistent with Beau's past performances. 

Rather than voices, Joe used the slowly played, sustained notes of flutes and French horns in basic harmonic inversions to compliment and harmonize behind Beau's gentle vocal approach to the song. It's not until the second bridge where Joe begins to add more complicated harmonies and a slightly bigger choir-like vocal treatment to the arrangement. It's also in this section, about 3-minutes into the song where Beau's Granddaughters voice appears, soaring high atop of the choir. Sabrina was just short of 2-years old when Beau had passed in November of 2012.

The idea  to add Joe's now 5-year old great niece Sabrina to the song was the brainchild of Joe's wife Marie. Obviously after more than 35 years being with Joe, music and production values had more than rubbed off on her. Because of a few time restraints and logistic problems getting Sabrina to the session, Joe used a bit of basic ingenuity and off the shelf technical resources to capture her vocal track. Basically, with the help of Dawn, Beau's daughter, Sabrina's Mom, Uncle Joe coached Sabrina over the telephone while Dawn recorded her with an iPhone. Dawn then e-mailed the file to Joe. With a few cuts and pastes, and a sprinkling of stretches and effects, Sabrina's vocals were synced and flown into the mix.

One of the most difficult decisions to make was what to do in the instrumental solo section of the song. The obvious and initial idea was to use a nice, melodic acoustic guitar solo. For some reason the song was so vulnerable that even after multiple attempts at the solo, by different guitarists, including Joe, the obvious didn't work out at all. We then tried sax, and organ, accordion, violin and even a few untraditional instruments in the solo, and nothing was working. Then really late one night as Joe slaved over the mixing console for a solution, a crazy idea came to him. Actually, that evening as the track played over and over, Joe kept turning to look at the spot where Beau had recorded his final songs before passing. Even jokingly, and more like deliriously, Joe made out loud comments to the place where his brother once stood, expressing how much Beau was still being a pain in the ass, even from up above. It was during that one-sided (or was it?) conversation when Joe thought of using a long time friend and neighbor of both Beau and Joe, and amazing blues harpist, Vinnie Minieri for the solo.

After a some emailed reference tracks, text messages, a few beer's and a pizza later, Vinnie descended the spiral staircase into the studio to start the session. Being an old school musician, just like Beau, it took Vinnie just a few takes of the solo before he was finished. He then spent the rest of the night reminiscing about his old pal Beau. But in that short session Vinnie provided enough excellent performance material to allow Joe to later on comp (create a composite track of multiple takes) and reorder the segments of the multiple performances. About 20 edits, and a few hours later, the 54 second electric blues harp solo that sat there within the very organic and clean instrumental tracks, was complete.

The song then needed one final treatment -- and that was the ending. One of Joe's signature methods to producing an ending is to take elements from the entire track and combine them in unique ways to sum up the song. Sort of like when you're decorating a living room and you use elements and colors from other pieces in the room like paintings, material textures, and the like. That method lead to the almost cyclical calliope mix at the end. The concept for the ending outro discovered itself. That's something that when you're on the right track, sometimes (and thankfully) happens. As the song begins to slow and retard, the flutes suddenly become more prominent in the mix because they played such an important role throughout the song. The low end drone of the church organ becomes the solid base for the other instruments to sit on top of, and then finally the cyclical, seemingly never wanting to end rhythmic patterns (as is the case with how this music has prevented Beau's life from simply ending) appropriately played by his brother Joe on guitar, his main and native instrument, all the way through the fade out, yet still left in the listeners mind even after the music has faded away.

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