Rose City Project
Rose City Music Foundation
Here is a worthwhile endeavor, incorporating the efforts of some of Portland’s best known Blues and R&B players, coupled with several talented newcomers. But it is the aim of this project which makes it utterly unique and noble in its intent.
Cliff Castle was one of the founders of the Audix Corporation. Established in 1984, in Redwood City, California- Audix dedicated themselves to creating world class microphones (as well a some other accessories). Moving to Wilsonville in 1991, Audix created their own manufacturing facility, which gave them complete control over the product they sell.
Always a musician himself around the Bay area, Castle’s influences have always been in the Blues, R&B, Funk realm. Through Audix, Castle has established a strong relationship with numerous National artists, including Alannis Morrisette, Ani Di Franco, Willie Nelson and Travis Barker- to name but a few. But Castle has also has developed an artist program that should be the envy of the music industry.
And that was how the Rose City Music Foundation was founded. With the desire to give back the Portland area music industry- Castle conceived of a program whereby he (along with all the other musicians involved) could benefit music education programs throughout the city- providing musical instruments for school programs, as well as scholarships for deserving students. Cliff, along with his musical director Gene Houck, recruited the talent and all played a part in creating arrangements around Castle’s lyrics to create eleven indelible songs with a decided Oregon flavor.
Some of the better-known musicians contributing their serves include guitarists Jay “Bird” Koder and Eddie Martinez, sax men Patrick Lamb and Renato Caranto, vocalist Liv Warfield, gospel greats, the Brown sisters singing backup, noted keyboardist George Mitchell and drummer Reinhardt Melz, to name but a few. Hauck played bass on most of the tracks and engineer Eric Johnson added electric or acoustic guitar to almost all of the songs, as well. Castle played acoustic guitar and sang on a couple of songs too. Hauck played bass on most of the cuts and was the lead vocalist on most of them.
“Rose City” leads off the session, with a scorching vocal by Hauck, the Brown Sisters backing, Lamb and trumpeter Dave Mills on the horns, Koder and Johnson on guitars and Melz on drums. “Rose City/make my home in Portland/Rose City’s got the beat/Rose City/make my home in Portland/A city by any other name would not be as sweet.”
Warfield steps to the mic on “Not A Day Goes By,” her smooth, buttery voice melting all over the crisp production. Castle takes the lead vocal on “Like You,” acquitting himself with soulful grace. The instrumental, “Black Cloud” offers Caranto room to stretch out. Castle and Warfield share the vocal duties on the seductive “Talk To Me.” “Rapozo” is a touching number dedicated to artist Warren Rapozo, who died last year. Hauck and the Brown Sisters create a beautiful vocal milieu, while, Lamb adds tasty sax accompaniment.
Warfield and Hauck execute intricate call and response vocals on “Gossip Love,” with Lamb again adding a slipper sax solo. Warfield solos vocally on the vocal to “Get Through This,” a folk infused number, distantly related to the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” with Martinez adding hot guitar licks in the turns. And “Her Other Life” concludes the album where it began, with Hauck bringing to mind Curtis Salgado on vocals, while Mitchell spins a web on the Hammond organ and Koder adds the sterling funk on guitar.
This album shouldn’t be hard to find: there is a counter display in every Fred Meyer music department, as well as at Everyday Music, Made in Oregon and at Music Millennium (whose Burnside Distribution is handling the local distribution). Castle saw the project as a fine collaborative effort. “As a songwriter, it opened up my eyes; to get out of the box and look at things differently.”
There are already other projects in the works. Castle would like to open the doors at Audix for school ensembles and bands. He has found that many kids love the recording process and become enthusiastic about the procedure. He is also looking for support from the industry to expand the program nationally- if it works. In addition, Castle is considering another benefit project where he will ask for bands to contribute their own individual tracks to a compilation recording.
The cause is a good one. The Audix mics and performance studios create a pristine sound. And the players are cream of Portland’s crop. Here is a fine album that works for all the right reasons. All the net proceeds will will be donated. And the project has even won the approval of the City of Portland. It doesn’t get any better than that.