Updated: Mar 28, 2019
The first few artists I am writing about are all individuals I met on mp3unsigned.com. It seems that musicians are able to sense kindred spirits - those who have similar outlooks on life and similar interests in music and song-writing. Ray was one musician who quickly became of interest to my ears, both for the quality of his music, and for the details in his arrangements, There was no quick, fluffy stuff, recorded on a whim and uploaded. It was all finely crafted material that took a lot of old-fashioned work to create.
At this point in his life, Ray does prefer to march to his own drummer, and create whatever he feels like working on in the moment when the creative muse strikes. Yet, he is able to do this partly because he passed through the musician's baptism-by-fire of stage performances, road trips, and marching to someone else's beat. Ray did the band thing for many years and that gave him extensive experience in both writing and performing. He enjoyed some close encounters with major success, opening for a number of headliners (Slade, The Hollies, Freddy and the Dreamers, Jerry and the Pacemakers) on the club circuit in the UK. Now that he is retired from the tours and the stress of studio sessions, he is more content to settle into his own groove in his home recording space, that is when his wife is not encouraging him to get outside and swing a hammer at some project or another. Ray can swing his "axe" with ease - a hammer, not so much.
Ray's music features lush jazz chords and subtle fingerings one moment, and blistering lead riffs and searing blues harp the next. He performs most of the instruments he uses in his musical arrangements, but excels with the piano/keyboard, and the guitar. What he cannot perform himself, he uses an extensive sound library and VSTi's (Virtuial Studio Technology Instruments) from software manufactures such as East West Quantum Leap to fill in. Although he was raised in a home environment, surrounded by music, it was mostly brass instruments that could be heard. Ray was the first of his siblings to venture into the world of electric guitars and rock music. Perhaps the brass ambiance in the home left a mark on Ray's sense of band music, jazz music, and other ways that brass brass sounds creep into his recordings.
Ray does not consider himself to be a vocalist, but I have always found his voice to be very well-suited to the folk and ballad styles that he often records. He is an excellent story teller and that skill, painting scenes with words, lets his voice express his thoughts more accurately than having another vocalist attempt to interpret and render his thoughts. I have tried to do just that - singing the vocals to some of Ray's tunes. It is a challenge. Some of his melodies are intricately crafted and tough to render. Yet, Ray seems to do it with ease.
What sets Ray apart from a lot of other musicians is his willingness to apply his considerable skills at performing, arranging and recording music, in collaboration with other musicians, and notably working with others of less skill than he possesses. This generosity of time and talent has left a profound impression and the digital record of his many collaborations can be found on sites such as mp3unsigned where he can be found in the music of several artists there. It was in that spirit of collaboration that I met Ray and learned that we are of the same age, with fathers who were both from Toronto, and who had both served in the Air Force in WW2. Ray's father ended up settling down in Australia, whereas my father settled in Toronto. It turns out we have a lot in common and the love of music, songwriting and recording was the most obvious.
You can find Ray's music on several music platforms: http://www.mp3unsigned.com/ArtistPage.aspx?bandid=33143 https://soundcloud.com/ray-brookes As well, Ray has participated in a feature on my own website called The Collaboration Page, where he has written some thoughts about the collaborative process in music creation https://www.terrywigmore.com/ray-brookes-collaboration-page
I have worked with Ray in all kinds of music, from Pop, to Swing, Rock to to Folk, and Ray's skills are superbly demonstrated in each song he records. You can enjoy a sampling our our collaborations here on this website in the 2 Jazz albums I have compiled, or visit Ray in any one of his online platforms. *Stay tuned for podcasts featuring the artists I write about in the music blogs. I hope to be releasing these starting in late March of 2019