This collaborative song-writing project began partly in he context of Sheridan’s deep research for a future novel, creating the original song cycle of 14 songs as a theater piece between 2006 and 2007 and marking the duo’s return to songwriting and recording “in the fully-digital age.”
Atlas credits Sheridan as the impetus, prompting Atlas to throw himself once again into the disciplines, challenges and rewards of both songwriting and recording.
“If KS hadn’t kept bumping those new lyrics over to me as they spilled out of him, I don’t think I would have invested in totally revamping my old digital-analog hybrid project studio. “
In the years following, Atlas completed several albums worth of songs, before returning to a trunk-full of his own lyrics, where he also unearthed the treasure trove of Sheridan’s lyrics and some of their early demos. Drawing especially from a collection Sheridan had entitled “Stories of a Kind” he set about recording new fleshed-in demos of some of their early work together.
Atlas has had to defer to Sheridan’s impressive memory, being near the apex of its development from deep research, analysis, and the height of his creativity from his fiction writing, literary criticism, cultural observations under his blogging persona at www.culturehack.com , in addition to photography and other visual arts, and his own forays into recording and production.
” K S is just in another league entirely, and watching my parents deal with debilitating memory loss has led me push to complete this project while I still have a handle, myself, on anything close to reality. So it has become the first and most important item on what I guess is a bucket-list of mine, for want of a better term. “
Sheridan had his own big picture of a cinematic version of these songs woven among some of his own impressive instrumental compositions.
” I hope he, or we, can get that one done, separately, too. I think the context is quite different and that the potential audience would be quite different for that vision. “
Atlas also discovered some lyrical threads and symbols which Sheridan had woven into songs as many as twenty years apart.
” He really dislikes revisiting finished pieces once they’ve been nailed down. When I bothered him by sending him the older things, redone, I was happy that he liked them, and that we agreed that the songs had held up. And you know, it was kind of nice to hear him admit that he had developed a bit of kindliness towards ‘that young writer’ that had written some of the earlier lyrics. He once told me, “I no longer have access to that guy’ from one or two, much less three or four decades ago. ”
“I find it remarkable that some of his earliest work holds up so well as to be included in this, as a new release in 2017. I know it’s unfair to compare things done in his twenties to just a decade ago. But in my mind, these are slices of an artistic viewpoint that have a palpable, if somewhat bleak, consistency.”
With just a couple of very minor tweaks on one or two by Atlas, even the earliest of the lyrics included here embody rigorous craft and artistry.
The discovered treasure trove and the inclusion of several other collaborative songs written between 1980 and 1996, for Atlas, seemed to take on their own connections and places within the story line. Together they comprise not merely a tale of broken love, but he feels, a cautionary tale.
” I said this years ago about KS. I believe that what he has written in these lyrics comprises a contribution to his fellow human beings. He’s seen and experienced some consequences of personal decisions, not only among his friends, but in his own early life, that he wouldn’t wish on anyone. And perhaps in seeing and hearing these songs performed, there are mistakes that were made by one or more of the characters that others might manage to avoid. “
Eleven years since it began, the project has grown into a song-cycle in Two Acts as well as a concept album — essentially a 2-disk set of 25 songs, including Atlas’s Overture and Coda. They capture highlights of the duo’s writing during the 3 decades from 1976 through 2007, with the recent re-recordings and new contribution by Atlas, and his final sequencing, allowing for the portrayal of 3 distinct characters, each with not only his or her own motivations and perspectives, but also different methods of coping with the indignities of love and life.