Spinoza's Dream (2016)
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
"It isn’t often a concept album based around the theme of classic philosophers comes along. However, that’s the case with this new release from Al Stewart’s guitarist, Dave Nachmanoff, Spinoza’s Dream. Nachmanoff has a Ph.D in philosophy and here he has melded his two worlds and passions to create this interesting song cycle...an interesting and different gathering of songs. Sophisticated but never pretentious or ponderous. A very fine (or actually refined) effort."
- Rob Ross, PopDose.com
"Dave Nachmanoff has lots of friends, which is why Tim Renwick, Mark Griffiths, Stuart Elliott, Peter White & Al Stewart all appear on Spinoza's Dream. Each song is linked to the ideas of a particular philosopher- Stewart's suggestion, apparently- and you know what, it's damned good, particularly if you need an introduction to Kierkegaard."
-R2 Magazine in the UK
"Singer-songwriter albums with philosophical themes set alarm bells off in my head, so I confess I approached this one with a bit of trepidation. But Nachmanoff approaches those themes with humor and subtlety, generally opting for communication rather than for showing off how smart he is. He also has an impressive stylistic range, jumping from quietly sprightly folk-pop to Tin Pan Alley jazziness to bluesy rock and back again in the space of the first four tracks. And here’s a fun pop history nugget: the session players on this album are the same guys who played on Al Stewart’s 1976 hit “Year of the Cat.” "
- Rick Anderson, CD Hotlist
In many ways, Dave Nachmanoff’s latest album, Spinoza’s Dream, isn’t really Spinoza’s at all. Or even Nachmanoff’s, particularly. It’s sort of every musician’s dream, at some point in his life: “Hey, what if we got the old band back together, just to see what it’d be like…”
In this case, it was the critically-acclaimed powerhouse that had backed Al Stewart on his breakthrough 1976 album, Year of the Cat. Nachmanoff wasn’t starting from ground zero, exactly, given that he’s been touring with Stewart for a decade and a half, but this particular band — those that had survived the intervening 40 years — spanned the globe from Southern California to the UK, so wrangling them into a studio for a project was going to be no simple task. As they say, you gotta go big or go home, so Nachmanoff went big and left home, armed with phone numbers, introductions, a few songs, and a dream. Destination: Wales.
In addition to musical legends Tim Renwick (occasional Pink Floyd, Elton John, and Eric Clapton co-conspirator, as well as a YOTC stalwart), smooth jazz superstar Peter White (a member of Al’s recording and touring bands for well over a decade), and Stewart himself, Nachmanoff also rounded up drummer Stuart Elliott, harmonica player Graham Smith, bassist Mark Griffiths, and vocalists Robin Lamble, Dave Ellis, and Boo Howard, all of whom (except the last) have either toured or recorded with Stewart. Bringing the sound all together was producer Martin Levan, who had helmed John Martyn’s Grace and Danger and Ralph McTell’s Water of Dreams, among other critical favorites.
Nachmanoff was uniquely positioned to bring this Dream to fruition; not only is he a professional musician of some consequence (SingOut! praised him for his “heartfelt, inspired songwriting . . . with a delivery both biting and assured”), but he also holds a Ph.D. In Philosophy from the University of California. Unlike the beery Monty Python observation that “David Hume could out-consume Schopenhauer and Hegel,” Nachmanoff’s insights are perceptive, targeted, and infused with both scholarship and humor. To wit, when confronted with Nietzsche’s concept of the Übermensch — not a taxi driver, incidentally — he responds thusly: “From the boardroom to the bedroom/He’s the master of the deal/With eyes as cool as ice and nerves of tempered steel/He’s got a taste for subterfuge, he’d make the perfect spy/Well, if that’s who you are looking for…/I’m just not that guy!”
Dave Nachmanoff might be selling himself a teeny bit short there, as he has shared the stage not only with Al Stewart, but also with Alison Krauss, Cheryl Wheeler, Steve Forbert, Firefall, John Wesley Harding, and many others, at venues ranging from The Bottom Line to the Glastonbury Festival. His catalogue runs to a dozen albums, not to mention the Uncorked collection he produced (and played on) for Al Stewart.
With tracks that reference the likes of Kant, Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Aristotle, and Leibniz, among others, one might imagine the album is obliquely brainiac and difficult to digest; nothing could be further from the truth. It’s immediately accessible, both musically and lyrically, to any pop music fan whose IQ exceeds Paris Hilton’s weight. Hell, to any pop music fan whose IQ exceeds Paris Hilton With tracks that reference the likes of Kant, Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Aristotle, and Leibniz, among others, one might imagine the album is obliquely brainiac and difficult to digest; nothing could be further from the truth. It’s immediately accessible, both musically and lyrically, to any pop music fan whose IQ exceeds Paris Hilton’s weight. Hell, to any pop music fan whose IQ exceeds Paris Hilton’s IQ.
Is it Year of the Cat? No. But neither is this. 2016 is the Year of the Monkey, and the monkey is characterized (zodiacally speaking) as being “…smart, clever, and intelligent. They are lively, flexible, quick-witted, and versatile.” That fits Spinoza’s Dream like a glove… whether you’re in a “morning from a Bogart movie” or not.
I was a huge Al Stewart fan growing up, and saw him for the first time in 1985 at the legendary Royal Albert Hall in London. I fibbed my way backstage and met Peter White, his longtime guitarist. Since my teen years, I had dreamt of playing guitar with Al, and through Peter I wound up meeting him in the late 90s and by 2001 I became his touring partner. In 2006, I retunred to the UK for the third time with Al, and this time we played with a full band at the Royal Albert Hall! In 2013, we came back, joined by most of the original musicians who played on his "Year of the Cat" album. We got along well and it occurred to me that it would be a dream to record with these guys…
In 2014, my good friends Phil and Jean Wilson told me about a wonderful studio in the countryside in Wales that belongs to Phil’s college friend, Martin Levan. It looked lovely, but it seemed unlikely that I could ever record there. A month later, Al and I played at the Cropredy festival with Tim Renwick, the guitarist who played on many of his classic records. While over in the UK, I spoke with Tim, Stuart Elliott (Year of the Cat drummer), and Mark Griffiths (who played at the Royal Albert Hall with us), and they all said they'd work with me if we recorded in the UK! I contacted Martin, and he said he'd be willing to work with me. This was great stuff, but I had two problems: I had no budget, and I had no songs! Over dinner with Al one evening I mentioned that I’d always wanted to do a philosophically-themed album (I have a PhD in Philosophy), and he enthusiastically encouraged me, suggesting that each track could be linked to a particular philosopher. For the rest of 2014, I went on a bit of a writing spree and started recording rough demos. Meanwhile, I was quietly speaking with some of my fans/friends/supporters who I thought might be interested in the project and who might help me raise the funds that I needed to record.
In 2015, we came back to the Royal Albert Hall for two shows with a full band, under the musical direction of Peter White. Somehow in the midst of this, I asked Peter if he’d be willing to play on the album and he agreed! While touring, we bumped into Graham Smith, who played harmonica on two of Al’s records, and he also agreed to play on the record. And I saw Robin Lamble (who played bass and sang with Al for quite a while in the 70's and 80's), who told me that he was living in Wales. In June, by some miracle, the budget for recording was there, in the form of some very generous donations and loans from a small number of people! I booked the studio time and flights and coordinated with the musicians and continued to work on the songs.
The bulk of the recording was done over a three week period in July and August 2015, with the core band (Stuart, Tim, Mark and myself) playing more of less live without a click, just as they would have done in the 70's. Martin Levan was not only an incredible engineer, but turned out to be a great vocal coach for me, getting performances that I actually liked (most singers don’t like to hear themselves sing). We worked 10-14 hours a day, because there was a limited time-frame, but got 11 songs down (including one that I wrote the day I arrived there). We brought in Dave Ellis and Boo Howard, a wonderful folk duo that have sung together for over 30 years – and Dave played on a few tracks of Al’s “Modern Times” album. Then as I was getting ready to leave, Robin Lamble and his wife Sarah came over to visit the studio (they live fairly close by) and I asked Robin if he’d be willing to make a cameo appearance on backing vocals. It was sounded so great that we asked him to come back after I left Wales and add vocals to a bunch of other songs!
Last fall, after I returned to the US, Martin continued to work on the tracks, and Al, Peter White and Graham all sent in parts via the internet! We tracked down Colin Elgie (who illustrated the cover of “Year of the Cat” and designed the logo) and he agreed to design the cover and artwork. Anne Burghard (a very talented journalist, musician, photographer and videographer) came over to the Albert Hall and to Wales and got wonderful shots, many of which will be in the booklet, and at the same time shot video footage. So, she has been hard at work editing all this material and we will have several music videos, as well as a short “Making Of” documentary piece soon. Mixing and mastering is complete. We are in the home stretch and aiming for a May 2016 release date. I will be doing my first solo European tour in April and May of 2016 to promote the new album. It's been quite a journey so far and it's not over yet!
Sacramento News & Review writeup about CD release concert, July 2016
Elmore Magazine, May 2016
Milkcrate Premiere of "Never Enough", March 2016
For The Country Record, March 2016
"Temptation" chosen as Top Ten Song of Alternate Root, 5/14/2016
In studio appearance on nationally syndicated "Overnight America" radio show, August 2016
Nakedly Examined Music podcast interview (July 2016)
Dave on "Good Day Sacramento" TV Show, July 2016
Dave on KDVS, July 2016
Capital Public Radio's "Insight with Beth Ruyak" Interview (July 2016)
Dave on KVMR, June 2016
Dave on Overnight America (May 2016)
Rob Ross of PopDose comments on Dave's new album on Overnight America (May 2016)
Radio Summerhall interview, April 2016
Dave in studio on KVMR (February 2016)
Dave in studio with the The Folk Brothers (Bill Wagman and Peter Schiffman) on KDRT (December 2015)