Fans of Bakersfield death rock and jazzy pop should make room on their mobile devices for some killer new hometown music out now and prepping to hit the Web this week.
First up is a free, re-released and remastered download of the 2011 full-length concept album titled “Oleander (Revisited)” by local death rock goth icons Burning Image.
Offered exclusively by the band beginning Friday, the new take features an upgrade sound that fans of the original record will appreciate, according to Moe Adame, the band's lead vocalist and guitarist.
“I listened to 'Oleander' a few months ago and thought that it needed a remaster to give it more punch and depth,” said Adame, who co-founded the band in the early '80s and continues overseeing the legacy and current workings of the band. “The re-mastered version is sonically superior to the original.”
For the uninitiated, the act of “remastering” music refers to the recording studio process of enhancing an older recording through the use of updated technology. It can be a painstaking process from beginning to end if you take into consideration the multiple layers of sonic elements that may need to be researched with a sensitive and patient ear. Most present-day recordings go through their own mastering process prior to their release to assure the best quality sound, but for Adame, the first time wasn’t enough.
To ensure the update would be completed in a timely, and more efficient timeframe, Adame went to Sharon Marie and Gary L. Batsch of Bakersfield’s B2 Studios for help.
“There were no downs in the remastering process. It took a few hours. The upside is that you get another chance to improve on the original recording to make it better for yourself and for your fans,” said Adame, adding the re-released album also comes with the bonus track “Haunted,” previously released on the Austrian death rock compilation “Kaliffornian Deathrock.”
If you’re familiar with Burning Image, then you might already get an idea of “Oleander” and its creepy musical plotline, but even the name alone should conjure up a few notions of the historic central Bakersfield neighborhood. Known for its vintage structures and dimly lit sidewalks, which can at times resemble a scene taken straight out of a classic noir flick, Adame says a conversation with former Dead Kennedys vocalist Jello Biafra helped offer direction.
Biafra, who’d already released a compilation of Burning Image singles in 2004, plus a follow-up album “Fantasma” in 2009, both on his Alternative Tentacles record label, suggested Adame take on the eerie Lords of Bakersfield crime story.
“We went to visit Jello (Biafra) in San Francisco and after a lengthy discussion about the Lords …, he encouraged me to write an album about it.”
Inspired by the legend of the Lords of Bakersfield, a secret network of powerful local men who preyed on (and were occasionally murdered by) teen boys during the '80s and early '90s, Adame also looked up Nick Belardes, a former Bakersfield novelist who’d penned his own book of fiction on the subject, “Lords Part One.” The writer contributed spoken word voiceovers to the recording.
In addition to Adame on vocals, guitars and keyboards, other musicians included on the recording are Anthony Leyva on bass, Tony Bonanno on guitar, plus additional keyboards by Anthony Gordon on “Haunted.”
Burning Image last performed live in 2015, and while they group is constantly working on new material, a full presentation of “Oleander” as a complete work since its original release has yet to make it to the stage.
“We have never played 'Oleander' in its entirety but we have played selections from it in our shows. 'Get Out, Get Out' is a personal favorite. It’s my homage to (gothic punk band) 45 Grave, just a fun song to play.”
Diehard fans take note, “Oleander Revisited” will only be available free for download from Friday through Sept. 3 at soundcloud.com/burning-image, cdbaby.com and Burning Image and Moe Adame Facebook pages. After Sept. 3, the album will be available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Spotify.
And like the spooky story of the Lords of Bakersfield, “Oleander (Revisited)” is sure to give you the heebie-jeebies.
“I have the same passion for writing, recording and playing live as I did back then,” said Adame.
“This is the first remaster and more to come.”
Say your prayers and think happy thoughts, kids.
On a much lighter note, popular Bakersfield jazz pop vocalist, Kama Ruby has a lot to celebrate since the recent release of her third album, “Minds Eye.”
The album's seven songs pick up where her last release, “Rock Dreams in Jazz” left off, but this time with even wider creative stretch. For the new endeavor, she teamed with an all-star collection of musicians including producer Jane Getz on piano and backup vocals; Bob Tucker, guitar; Ray Zepeda, sax, piccolo and flute; Tom Walsh, drums; Robin Bramlett, bass; Tom Stillwagon on various technical programming duties; and others, whom she’s collectively dubbed The Rough Cuts.
“Working with Jane Getz and Bob Tucker made me grow exponentially as a producer, artist and human,” said Ruby of the album that took shape at not one, but three studios (Stillwagon’s home studio, AUM Studios in Bakersfield and Crescent Heights Digital in Los Angeles).
Opening with “Treasure Island,” the album is an interesting run of compositions and lyrics that at the onset mix swashbuckling with sensual themes.
“I don't think I had a particular story line or concept,” said Ruby of her approach to "Minds Eye." “I chose songs I was really drawn to. I did have the idea to have a very different sound from my first two albums.”
It’s an ambitious project, and Ruby once again spared no expense when it came to bringing her vision to life.
“This album was a huge learning curve for me as it was my first time exploring more electronic sounds, extensive production and engineering.”
In addition to originals, Ruby also recorded a cover of “In The Waiting Line” by Zero 7, and mashup of The Doors' “Riders on The Storm” and Stan Jones’ cowboy classic “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” to close “Minds Eye.”
“I understand the importance of having amazing producers (Getz and Tucker) to help your project sound the best it can. Before we just did the track on one or two takes with me joking to the guys, ‘Alright. Get it right the first time, and don't suck.’ Now, there is nothing wrong with what I did before, but I will tell you that this album is superior to them in regards to quality and production.”
Kama Ruby’s next performance will be at Village Fest on Sept. 9. “Minds Eye” is available for download and stream at iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby, Spotify and Napster. For more information, visit kamaruby.com.