Sinclair Soul is a championship-level background singer who has lent his talents to Cynus Wave artists Wahray and Soul and Imaginary Lines. Mr. Soul is also currently a political columnist for BigBlueBullfrog.com, where his column, The Soul of the Nation thoroughly examines the state of American politics and culture from a “Soul” perspective
Ric Albano was born and raised in Hazleton, Pa. At an early age he was a big fan of Johnny Cash, saw him for his first concert at the age of five and would mimic him when he got his first guitar at age six. As he reached adolescence, Ric became a dedicated listener of classic rock, especially Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Rush, and The Doors.
In 1984, he purchased his first instrument, an odd hybrid of electric piano and harpsichord and about a year later he joined his first rock band, Running Wild. Together they wrote a handful of original songs that they played at their first gig about a week before high school graduation. About a week after graduation, the band promptly broke up.
Ric got interested in songwriting and recording. He slowly began to acquire musical instruments – electric and acoustic guitars, bass, drums and percussive instruments, harmonica – all of which he slowly taught to himself. Using a Fostex 4-track recorder, he developed a makeshift home studio and would ultimately write and record nearly 300 songs under the pseudonym RAREx between 1987 and 1996. Influenced by prog-rock acts such as Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Zebra, and Yes, these songs were experimental, adventurous, and eclectic. Some were quite interesting and some were downright disastrous, but due to the limited, semi-professional recording quality, none of these songs were ever released publicly until the digital-only release of Wahray and Soul in 2011. There were a few of these old songs that would be used as direct influences or templates for Animal Society songs a couple of decades later.
During this analog period, Ric was also involved in several other activities. In 1989 he received former training in audio engineering and briefly worked and recorded in a professional studio in Ohio. Later he would provide live sound for several Pennsylvania bands, including The Badlees, during the period immediately preceding their national breakthrough and large arena tours. Ric was a performing member in series of short-run bands with names such as Onyx, Misery Loves Company, and The Steel Breeze, in which he, at various times, played on guitar, drums, keyboards and/or vocals (ironically, he would not play bass in a band until Animal Society was formed, several years later). He also briefly performed as a solo acoustic act under the name Snake Simpson.
Starting in 1997, Ric took a long hiatus from writing and recording original music to focus on domestic life and working towards a college degree. During school, he subsisted as a disc jockey in Northeast PA under the name Dr. Jones until he received a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Bloomsburg University in 2002. In late 2003 / early 2004 Ric began a project to digitally “refurbish” some of the better RAREx recordings for a possible public release. However, he eventually decided that the best course of action would be to start from scratch with new material.
After relocating to suburban Harrisburg in 2004, Ric started a concept project called Imaginary Lines. He built a new digital home studio to record a demo and chose Saturation Acres studio, owned by Bret Alexander and Paul Smith of The Cellarbirds, for the high-end professional recordings. In 2005, he recorded and released Imaginary Lines I with Alexander on guitars and Ron Simasek on drums. This was followed up with a second release, Imaginary Lines II in 2007. Soon Ric decided to complete the Imaginary Lines project with a super-sized 33-song compilation of everything from the first two albums plus new and unused material. Future band mate, Erik Trabert provided guitars for several songs on this final phase while Simasek remained the primary drummer and Janet Rains of M80 added vocal support. The result, Imaginary Lines 33 was released internationally on September 9, 2009.
During the Imaginary Lines years, Ric developed the independent label Cygnus Wave. In 2008, he co-produced Not One of You by 1980s new-wave band Hormoans, using archived studio recordings that Ric digitally re-mastered and released on the Cygnus Wave label. He also went on some musical tangents, writing material for other potential projects beyond Imaginary Lines. One of these projects was called “Americana on Acid” while another was called “Searching for the Perfect Sunday”. Songs from these projects may be used for a future project.
In late 2008, Ric formed the power trio Animal Society with guitarist Erik Trabert and drummer Matt Roy. Ric provided bass and vocals and wrote or co-wrote much of the band’s original material. In 2010, he produced the band’s debut album Any Atomic Lies, before Animal Society disbanded later that year.
Ric also lent his talent to many charitable functions. When his sister-in-law suffered a massive debilitating stroke in 2007, Ric helped organize Dollars for Diane and was involved in all three benefit concerts, performing solo in one and with Animal Society in another. He also developed a website for this cause with future band mate Matt Roy, which was integral in collecting online donations. In late 2009, Ric and his wife Karyn produced a compilation album using donated songs from some of Pennsylvania’s finest artists. For this project, Ric wrote and produced “Song for Diane” which
was recorded at Saturation Acres by Diane’s cousin PJ Heckman.
Currently, Ric is a writer, web designer, husband, and father of four. He has written several reviews for the music site DAMESofPa.com and is editor of his own sites Modern Rock Review and Classic Rock Review. In March 2009 he started his own design firm, 33 Dimensions LLC, which is the developer and owner of Cygnus Wave.
The analog recording process has all gone the way of the horse and buggy, so it may be a good time to reflect back on this recently past age. With this realization, producer Ric Albano has decided to finally release the many semi-professional, analog recordings he made close to a quarter century ago with The Evolution of Noise, 1987-1995 by Wahray and Soul.
These recordings of original songs were all made in an attic “studio”, on a Fostex 4-track cassette recorder. There is alot of trial and error, experimentation, and development of technical proficiancy along the way.
Blue Flowers & Beige Towers (1989)
The Telephone (1989)
I Need Her Bad (1989)
It’s Hip to Live In Disgrace (1990)
When It All Falls Down (1990)
Ballad Of a Big Breasted Bimbo (1991)
Everything I Forgot (1991)
Don’t Look Back (1993)
The Difference Between (1995)
The French Toast Affair (1995)
Animal Society was formed in October 2008 by Matt Roy, Erik Trabert, and Ric Albano. Matt and Ric had been jamming together for several months with Matt on drums and Ric on keyboards, but soon found this arrangement was very limited in potential and scope. So Erik, a co-worker, was asked to come to one of their “jam” sessions to see if they could come with anything interesting. They did and the band was born.
The name Animal Society stemmed from an argument between Ric and Matt over whether, in fact, animals (non-human) could actually form a society. Although the argument was never settled, the name stuck.
In those earliest days, the band worked on covers from such classic rock staples as Led Zeppelin, The Who, Rush, The Kinks, The Animals, and Pink Floyd, as they were each big fans of this genre. On the flip side, the band also played covers of more non-conventional acts such as Widespread Panic, Cheap Trick, Men at Work, The White Stripes, and Emerson, Lake, & Palmer. This reflected the deep diversity within band that would grow over time to make Animal Society a very unique and interesting group.
This diversity is present on several different levels within the band. In musical background, Erik and Matt had a bit of structured and formal training, while Ric is nearly 100% self-taught. In age, there is now currently a member of the band in his twenties, his thirties, and his forties. And then there’s politics – Ric is fairly conservative, while Matt is fairly liberal, and Erik, well, he believes that politics itself is an evil concept planted in our minds by a sinister galactic overlord.
With this diverse selection of cover songs and the difficult vocals styles of favored bands such as Rush and Zeppelin, the band sought a fourth potential member to provide lead vocals as well as additional instrumentation. But, as time went by, no one suitable for these duties was found and the band eventually decided to continue as a trio, which meant cutting back on some of the more ambitious covers.
Also, after several months of working on covers, the band decided to start working on originals. The first of these were some adaptations of Imaginary Lines songs, such as “Tommy’s Got a Gun”, as Ric was still working on that project through 2008 and 2009. Eventually, though, it was agreed among the band that they would find their own distinct sound for Animal Society and develop exclusive originals. This process was slow at first, as each member came in with ideas, hooks, riffs, and, beats and matching these together into a cohesive composition was initially difficult.
In June, 2009, the band completed its first song, “California”, built from a bass/drum riff by Ric and Matt, a chorus by Erik, a mid-section anchored by Matt’s frantic drumbeat and Erik’s psychedelic-surf guitar lead, and lyrics by Ric. It was a true collaboration that was interesting and unique and a preview of many other Animal Society songs that were composed in 2009 and 2010.
Animal Society’s first public performance was on July 18, 2009 in Zion Grove, PA at a graduation party for Ric’s eldest son. The gig consisted of two sets made mostly of cover songs along with “California” and a few original “jams”. At the request of Ric, the band rehearsed and performed several songs just for this special occasion, including songs by Oasis, Stealers Wheel, and The Doors.
Later that summer, on August 22nd, the band played the “No Regrets” benefit at Gullifty’s Underground in Camp Hill, Pa. This would prove to be the first of several benefit shows that the band would donate their talents to, including Dollars for Diane 33 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa in January, 2010 and Sound Off for Vets in Harrisburg, Pa. in June, 2010.
After composing new material through much of the winter (2009-10), the band went to Saturation Acres recording studio on the first day of spring, March 20, 2010, to record their debut album with legendary music man, Bret Alexander. In a single, exhausting day, the band recorded ten original songs from scratch, nine of which would be included on the Animal Society’s debut album, Any Atomic Lies.
Originally scheduled to be released in the Fall of 2010, internal disagreements ensued and the project was halted before publication and Animal Society disbanded in late 2010. Cygnus Wave published the mixes of the songs as they were in December 2010, presented as the eponymous album Animal Society. This album contains a diverse selection of truly original songs that cross the boundaries from rock to pop to folk to country to jazz to funk to some things that are just not easily categorized.
Imaginary Lines is a studio project produced by songwriter and musician Ric Albano. It was initiated in 2004 and has yielded two full-length albums; Imaginary Lines I (2005) and Imaginary Lines II (2007), and will culminate with the triple-length compilation Imaginary Lines 33 in 2009, the final Imaginary Lines product. Ric Albano had been an active songwriter, producer, and performer in the Hazleton, Pa. area for over a decade starting in 1985. Educated as an audio engineer, he wrote and recorded several semi-professional albums under the pseudonym RAREx, later renamed Wahray and Soul. Many of these recordings have recently been remastered and released by Cygnus Wave as a 72-song collection called The Evolution of Noise, 1987-1995.
From 1996, Albano entered into an undeclared era of retirement from songwriting that would last for the better part of a decade. In those subsequent years he developed several extended piano instrumentals that were worked and reworked until finally being forged into the songs that would become some of the earliest Imaginary Lines tracks (“the original six”). These included “Twilight of Innocence“, “Dawning of Decadence”, “Welcome Home”, “Episode IV” (a Star Wars tribute which was later re-written as “Lorelei“), “Imaginary Lines”, and a couple of instrumental pieces that would later be combined to form “Good Friday“. In 2003, a couple of more songs – “Anthem” and “33 Flames For Mary” – were written and added to the mix.
Originally, Imaginary Lines was to be a “concept album” with several songs that focused on the chasms between perception and reality. Some of the songs that fit well into this concept were “Lorelei” and the title song (“Imaginary Lines” which later became “Soliloquy” and then ultimately “One“). Several other songs that appear only on the 2004 demo were written in this fashion such as “Speak No Evil”, “Paradise”, “Elitist Lament”, and “I Don’t Want to Live Without It”. Over time however, better, more traditional songs were developed to replace the “concept” songs, including “Good Friday“, the 2 written in ’03, and newcomers “Perfect Light” and “The Phoenix“.
The demo was completed in December, 2004 and Albano spent the early months of 2005 shopping for a recording studio in the Harrisburg area. After meeting with Bret Alexander at Saturation Acres in Danville, Albano decided that was the place for him and recordings on Imaginary Lines I began on April 7, 2005.
Taking advantage of the “house band” feature of Saturation Acres, Albano brought on Cellarbirds Bret Alexander on guitars and Ron Simasek on drums. He originally envisioned using several more session players and singers for this album but found that to be over ambitious and costly. Nevertheless, he was determined to make Imaginary Lines I a richly produced album and did so by layering the songs with digital effects, orchestration, and counter-melody. After drums, guitars, and bass were recorded at Saturation Acres, Albano added keyboards and vocals at home studio along with all initial mixing and mastering.
Ultimately, the album contained nine tracks; seven (or half) from the 2004 demo along with two tracks written in early 2005 – “Peace” and “Donovan’s Dread“. There were also two tracks recorded at Saturation Acres that were excluded from the album – “Welcome Home”, which would not appear until Imaginary Lines 33 and a version of “Lorelei” that was determined to be too slow and was chucked in favor of overdubbing and remixing the original, demo version of the song. Over half the songs on the album were longer than five minutes in length and all were constructed with unique arrangements, chord patterns, and instrumentation. The ultimate goal being to compose something of longevity, with new discoveries on every listen, and which might still sound fresh five or ten or twenty years down the line.
As the first album neared completion, Albano decided that Imaginary Lines would be a 3-album “trilogy” with a definite end, presumably in 2007, no matter how successful the project would be with the public. This plan would lated be adjusted. Imaginary Lines I was released on October 24, 2005 to moderate reviews that ranged from positive comparisons to Genesis, King Crimson, and Pink Floyd to negative comparisons to “show tunes” or over-indulgent prog rock or worse. Ironically, it was Albano’s primary goal of producing a richly-layered album that also may have caused Imaginary Lines I to lack accessibility to the casual listener. While unapologetic about this initial project, Albano was receptive of honest critique and decided early on that the next album, Imaginary Lines II, would consist of more traditional, shorter, and simpler rock songs.
Production for Imaginary Lines II was set to begin in April, 2006, with a timeline similar to that of the previous year and album. The intention was to combine several songs written in late ’05 and early ’06 with a few of the original demo songs left off of the first album. However, these plans got delayed and production on this album did not begin for over a year.
Albano decided to use this time to write in volume, and 2006 became his most prolific songwriting year of the era. “Crimson, White & Indigo“, “The Last Man to Walk Alone“, “The Cup“, “Keep Doing What You Do“, “She Said“, and “Believe” were just some of the songs conceived during the year. A song called “Deuce” was written to end the album with a link to another song “The Last Day of February”, which was set to kick off the album Imaginary Lines III, but neither this song nor album ever materialized. The earliest version of a song called “Trinity”, which was intended be the final song in the collection (last song on Imaginary Lines III), was also composed, cleverly making the final songs in each album to read: “One”, “Deuce”, “Trinity”. A couple of upbeat instrumentals were also written; one called “Can’t Get My Mojo Risen’” and another called “I Kicked a Dog”.
Recording for Imaginary Lines II finally got underway on April 13, 2007 at Saturation Acres. Ron Simasek was again enlisted for drumming duties, but no immediate plans were made for guitar tracks, as Albano tried to stick to the simplicity principle of just piano/bass/drums/vocals of each song with each song being either three or four minutes in length and with a “traditional” arrangement. One planned deviation was to be the 16-minute-plus, four-part “Ocean Suite”, which concatenated two of the “original six” – “Twilight of Innocence” and “Dawning of Decadence”, with the new songs “The Old Man In the Sea” and “Here On the Beach“.
A couple of the later songs written for Imaginary Lines II were the near-comical “Naked“, probably the closest to 1970’s pop that Albano would come, and the driving rocker “The Fool’s Overture“, which picked up the “dangling string” from “One” and kicked off the album.
As production progressed on Imaginary Lines II and projection on Imaginary Lines III was assessed, Albano determined to change the overall arch of the project. First, as the deadline of the end of ’07 rapidly approached, Imaginary Lines II was trimmed to 12 tracks by excluding the song “Half Hearted” and including only “Here On the Beach” from the extended “Ocean Suite”. Also, the song “Trinity” had morphed into “Long Way Home” and would conclude this album instead of Imaginary Lines III, which was scrapped altogether due to lack of focus and/or strength of the projected material for that album. Instead, initial plans were made for a large compilation that would include both Imaginary Lines I and Imaginary Lines II in total, along with some of the better songs either excluded from those first two albums, or slated for the now-defunct Imaginary Lines III. So it was that an intentionally under-produced version (or “Naked” version as it was sometimes called) of Imaginary Lines II was released on December 27, 2007, with the promise and understanding that the full version would be featured in the upcoming “33” compilation.
The significance of the number 33 has a bit of history, as Albano considered that as an artist title when he was actually aged 33 (2001-2002). It was later in the title “33 Flames for Mary“, although that was more coincidental than by design. During the later phases of Imaginary Lines II, Albano wrote a light-hearted reciprocal to that song, from the instrumental that was “I Kicked a Dog” and renamed it “33 Shots at Louis“. He also considered a third “33” song (“33 Visions of Time” from the unpublished song “Only a Matter of Time”), but that never materialized. Nevertheless, “33” was a real number to be met by total track numbers and several decisions needed to be made to reach it. Even though far more songs than that sum had already been written (in whole or in part) by the end of 2007, some judicious editing needed to be made to optimize the remaining selections. Ultimately, Imaginary Lines 33 would be made up of 3 distinct sections (spread over 2 discs in hard copy).
The first section of the compilation (tracks 1-8 of disc 1) is made of previously unreleased material, save that which was omitted from Imaginary Lines II due to time constraints. These include the songs “Crimson, White, & Indigo“, “Tommy’s Got a Gun” “Deuce“, “Princess of Pearl Avenue“, and newcomers “Sister Josephine“, “999 Escape“, and an instrumental titled “Rubicon“. Also included is “Ashes“, which appeared as the prefix link in the Imaginary Lines I version of “The Phoenix“.
This leads into the second section of Imaginary Lines 33 (tracks 9-17 of disc 1), which is the whole of Imaginary Lines I – nearly verbatim. Aside from the re-mastering, the only significant changes to the original are the omission of the “Ashes” intro into “The Phoenix” (the new “Ashes” immediately preceeds “The Phoenix” anyway) and the editing out of about 36 seconds of ad-lib during the coda of “Perfect Light“. Also the faint lyrics (…where is the buzz when you need it the most/drowned in black coffee, eggs, bacon, and toast…) were re-instated into “Lorelei” shortly after the organ solo in the mid section. The first disk ends much the same as Imaginary Lines I, with “One” and the fading of the “dangling string”.
The second disk (and third section of the compilation) is made wholly of the full, complete version of Imaginary Lines II. Starting with the introductory “dangling string” during “The Fool’s Overture“, it is immediately apparent that this is updated from Imaginary Lines II, as Bret Alexander’s droning guitar (originally recorded along with “One“) joins in. All of these songs on disk 2 were remixed and re-mastered, with many having guitar parts added by Erik Trabert as well as further arrangement and production enhancements (albeit not quite to the level of Imaginary Lines I). The sequence of songs follows the same pattern as the original Imaginary Lines II up to track 9 (“The Cup“), with tracks 10-13 being the separately listed tracks of “Ocean Suite”, followed by “Naked“, the previously omitted “Deuce and “Half Hearted“, and finishing with “Long Way Home“.
With the release of Imaginary Lines 33, the project has come to it’s completion. Being that there are no immediate plans to perform live shows, the name “Imaginary Lines” is effectively retired.