When musician, composer and keyboardist Jamie Craig decided to create an album of contemporary instrumental music, he didn’t want to explore the sounds of traditional new age or jazz, but instead work more in a rock’n’roll vein representative of his background. His CD, The Lost Dream, is edgier and more progressive than most new age recordings.
“I appreciate the beauty and usefulness of soft, meditative new age music,” states Craig, “but I wanted to make an instrumental CD for anyone who grew up on rock music and still enjoys hearing a solid bass-line and a full drum-kit. On one end of the new age spectrum is ambient, space and chill music. There’s pop-new age in the middle. Now I want to expand new age in the opposite direction and make some new age-rock with a bit more bite than you normally hear. This is not your parents’ new age music.”
Craig was a rock’n’roll electric bassist for many years before expanding his arsenal to include electric guitar, piano and an ever-updated collection of keyboards. Now he composes on piano, but creates the full band sound on his recordings exclusively using keyboards, synthesizers and computers. For example, The Lost Dream features the sounds of eight distinctively-different bass guitars, all synthesized.
“Sure, I could plug in my bass guitar and record, but there’s no reason to do it that way when I can play those exact sounds, and countless more, using electronic keyboards.” In addition to the core band sounds (piano, guitar, bass and drums), Craig utilizes many others including acoustic steel guitar, saxophone, flute, organ, congas and French horn.
“The sounds you can get out of synthesizers are either ultra-real or fantasy-like,” Craig says. “It’s similar to seeing a great animated film where the sky is bluer than a real sky and the characters’ body movements go beyond what is possible in real life. But we enter their world and enjoy the entertainment they provide. That is what I am striving for using synthesizers -- a virtual world of music that mostly incorporates traditional sounds, but sometimes takes the notes of an instrument beyond its actual capabilities.”
The result is music that bridges the gap between new age classics by Vangelis and Kitaro, and the instrumental passages found in the progressive-rock of Emerson Lake & Palmer, Yes, Genesis and more-recent prog-rockers such as Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Dream Theater. Craig acknowledges many of those influences. “I was knocked out in the early Seventies by Tangerine Dream, Jean-Luc Ponty, Deep Purple, Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman; and then later on by Tony Banks, Pink Floyd, and Depeche Mode. I even auditioned for Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. The first new age music I got into was George Winston, Kitaro and Vangelis, and more recently rhythmic acts such as Enigma.”
In addition to creating a cutting-edge, majestic, ensemble sound on The Lost Dream, Jamie Craig’s other goal with this recording was to tap into deep emotions to stir the listener’s imagination. The album’s underlying concept is the sadness of losing a dream counter-balanced with the rejuvenation of moving on with new goals and fresh hope for the future.
“One of the realities of life is that some of the dreams we have are lost,” explains Jamie. “At some point everyone has to face this. But the important lesson to be learned is that we can rise up, start over and head in a new direction. The world offers limitless potential.”
The title tune (included on the CD both as an album version and a shorter “radio mix”) captures the painful feelings an individual has when a dream dies for example, marriage and family plans ending in divorce, or failure to reach a career goal. The melancholy mood continues on “Our Lost Dreams” but is broader in scale. “It attempts to capture the collective emotional pain of our country after something as catastrophic as 9/11,” says Craig.
“The American Dream of always being safe within our borders was shattered. Whether it is terrorist attacks or going to war, it changes our lives and forces us to re-evaluate where we are headed.” Coming full-circle, the album ends on a positive note with “Take the High Road.” “After all you have been through, it is important to keep your head up and go forward, to climb to the top of the hill, look off toward the horizon and realize there are more roads to travel. For every dream that is lost, a new one should take its place.”
The cover artwork for The Lost Dream shows the Constitution of the United States overlayed with pictures of a man begging on the street, a baby crying, a fireman, and the Statue of Liberty amidst such hot-point words as “poverty, vote, homeless, diplomacy, freedom” and others. Graphics inside the CD depict the American flag and the Bald Eagle.
The other compositions on the CD are further reflections of our society’s hopes, dreams and philosophies. “The Power & Glory” is a political statement (“once people get into power, they usually revel in being in the spotlight”). “Did You Have to Ask?” is “a cerebral conversation you have with yourself when you ask a rhetorical question and already know the answer.” The idea behind “Movement Z” is that “sometimes you have to go from A to Z to finally find what you are looking for.”
With the tune “Stereo Five” Craig makes a declaration about how music should be listened to (“Grandiose prog-rock should be felt as well as heard, and it sounds best coming out of big speakers on a five-channel system, and not through tiny clip-on headphones”). Craig says “The Steel Wheel” is symbolic of all the automobile wheels that have come down the assembly lines in Detroit factories over the past century.
Jamie Craig was born in Detroit, raised in nearby Livonia, and still makes the “Motor City” his home. One of his earliest influences was his father’s best-friend, Sam Robbins, “a drummer in the Gene Krupa tradition, who was a Detroit legend and much in-demand to play with all of the jazz and R&B groups in town. He inspired my love of drumming which I utilized in recording The Lost Dream.”
While growing up, Jamie says he was “raised on a steady diet of Motown Records The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye. I was especially influenced by the sound of The Funk Brothers rhythm section used on most of Motown’s recordings with James Jamerson on bass.”
Additionally Jamie was so impressed by the sounds of Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass that the youngster started learning to play trumpet in school at age seven. Jamie switched to tuba when he was 12, but finally settled on bass guitar at 15. He played in numerous rock bands that performed at parties, bars and clubs throughout the Detroit area.
“At first we played the softer radio hits by groups like America and the BeeGees, but eventually we started to rock more with tunes by Bob Seger and Bachman Turner Overdrive.”
In the Eighties Craig began playing synthesizers and joined the tidal-wave of synth-pop music led by influences such as Thompson Twins, Pet Shop Boys and Tears For Fears. Craig recorded three albums of synth-driven music (Boys, In My Car and The Rhythm Takes All) featuring himself on vocals doing original material. The New York-based manager of The Romantics showed interest in signing Craig to that band’s label, but Craig decided to go with Detroit-based Bad Boy Records instead.
Throughout the Nineties, Craig continued to compose new material and study the rapidly-changing music-creation digital technology involving MIDI, increasingly-versatile synthesizers, and computers. He was inspired by the sounds of acts such as Talking Heads, The Cranberries, The Sundays and Natalie Merchant.
“When the 2000s rolled around,” Craig says “I liked the inventiveness and wide-open possibilities I heard in the new age music field, but I realized there were plenty of people dong the softer, more meditative stuff. I decided to follow my instincts and add more edge, more energy, more backbeat to what I was hearing from most other artists in the genre.”
Jamie Craig’s The Lost Dream CD, Top 20 in airplay on the national New Age Reporter radio charts, is available at www.Cdbaby.com, various online digital download locations such as iTunes, and at the artist’s own website (www.myspace.com/craigsounds).
Music Entertainment Magazine