I’ve written about Shirley Ryder a lot this year; today I’m writing about her again.
Shirley is a singer, songwriter, YouTube presenter and producer, and a bunch more besides.
Her band - along with Graeme Hardaker - The Shirleybyrds had an album out not so long ago and she is now on the second series of her web-based interview show – along with Lynda Ford – People of Paradise. The current episode features notable local singer/songwriter/guitarist Grant Haua.
In addition to that, Shirley has, as far as I’m aware, at least two other projects in the works and the one that is just coming to fruition is possibly the most ambitious of the bunch. Working with Shane Davis of Soundtree Productions in Whakamarama, she has just produced a 17 song ‘visual concept album’.
It is called Lucy Star – Slave To The Industry.
The project had its genesis a full three years ago.
Shirley says it all started with the death of a rock icon: “In January 2016 after David Bowie’s death, I wanted to write a song to remember him by and one or two days later embarked on what turned out to be a concept album complete with story.”
Remarkably that took Shirley only six weeks. She then took everything to Shane Davies at Soundtree and, together, she and Shane created a script around the songs and story Shirley had written.
Then with Shirley playing keyboards and acoustic guitar, Shane recorded the songs, narrated the script, filmed the songs, edited the videos, then put the video together with the audio and mixed and mastered the whole thing, while also playing bass and various guitars and singing backing vocals.
Hats off to them!
Having been involved with the making of a few albums I know what a massive endeavour just recording an album is.
To also film videos for the entire thing while co-ordinating musicians and actors is a Sisyphean task.
And there are some excellent musicians involved.
I was aware that Narcs keyboard player Liam Ryan contributed to one track so it amused me when on my first listen to the album the Hammond organ solo on Life Is A Trick leaped out: “Damn, that sounds like Liam” I thought, and sure enough it is – quality has a way of shining through.
Another musician who makes his mark is Mike “Mutt” Furness, who played early guitar parts before he was snapped up by AC/DC’s Phil Rudd to play rhythm guitar for his band touring Europe.
Other musicians include bass player Wayne Melville and drummers Paul Higgins, Sly Tawhera, and Steve Laffan.
So what’s it all about? Following a time-honoured storyline it is the tale of Lucy Rats, who is plucked from her mundane existence via a magic apple and offered fame, fortune and a record contract by the evil emperor of Majick Music Records. As the title predicts she finds herself unhappy and exploited, and older and disillusioned returns to her everyday life on the final song, Psychedelic Dreaming.
That song and several others highlight Shirley’s great strength: catchy, uplifting melodies. The narrative here might need a little tightening up but there are several songs up with her best.
Meanwhile, the videos, while perhaps not entirely clarifying the story, are almost a show-reel for Shane’s imaginative video-making, with everything from moody band shots and some interesting green-screen work to Shirley riding what I think was a crocodile.
Also, I’d be remiss not to mention what a great voice Shane has.
He sings of course, with Electric Universe currently, but here he acts as narrator and is unrecognisable and very effective.
Lucy Star – Slave To The Industry is available on an engraved memory stick but not in shops. If you’d like to track down a copy either go to the Shirleybyrds Facebook page or drop Shirley a line on: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile her activities continue unabated. Shirley says that a lot of strange experiences happened in real life as the songs were being written and acted out. So she’s about to write a book about that. As you do.