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Funny Ways was one of the first Gentle Giant songs that I actually remember liking. Like many fans, their music took some time to grow on me, since it was so much more challenging than most of the other music that I grew up listening to. But upon first hearing this song, I was awestruck by the hauntingly simple acoustic guitar strumming, contrasted by the beautifully atonal string lines. The vocal entrance is one of those melodies that, for me, was impossible to forget. And then just when the listener is settling in to the nice four chord progression that makes up the verse, here comes the contrapuntal and syncopated chorus!
I first got the idea to "cover" Funny Ways when searching for a vocal tune to put on my upcoming CD release of instrumental originals. Within a month of this idea, the Giant Tracks project was suggested, and I immediately "laid claim" to this track. My concept from the beginning was to give it a thicker, more aggressive treatment -- with a strong piano accompaniment replacing the acoustic guitar, plenty of synth pads to fatten up the piano, and synthesized strings playing at least some of the Giant's lines. I knew I would need driving drums throughout to support this orchestration, and possibly even some well placed guitar "power chords" for emphasis. Once I had laid down this basic arrangement (months later, actually) I realized that some of the Giant's pizzicato string lines would not work well in this context, but I was happy to copy, and embellish, some of their striking trumpet parts.
As supervising producer on the Giant Tracks project, I had the distinct pleasure of collecting the DAT masters of each track from around the world, enabling me to hear the project taking shape at a very early stage. The quality of the incoming work was so much higher than I had hoped, that what this did for me was PUSH me to re-record my vocals and completely re-mix Funny Ways no less than 3 times in order to improve the vocal tracks and the overall arrangement! While the vocals are still not likely to be confused with Gino Vanelli, I hope that I have succeeded in creating a powerfully orchestrated version of this classic "Giant Track."
Incidentally, I played all of the parts myself, using Cakewalk Pro to arrange them, beginning in July of 1995. Very little quantization was used throughout the process. The vocals were recorded for the final time in the spring of 1996, and synched to the PC during mixdown to DAT. All recording and mixing was done at my very own Hybernation Studio in Nashville.
Electronic Instruments used: Pianos: Kurzweil Micro Piano, Roland RD-300S Strings: E-mu Protues 1 Synth Pads and Brass: Roland U-220 Oboe, Flute, Bass Guitar: Korg M1R Bass Synth: Moog Source Guitar "Power Chords" and Lead Synth: Alesis Quadrasynth Organ: Korg 05R/W Drums: Alesis D4 Recording Equipment used: Cakewalk Pro for Windows, Shure SM-58, Mackie LM-3204 mixer, several Alesis effects units, Yamaha MT2X, and Tascam DA-30 MkII DAT