Nick Waterhouse: In The Nick of Time
Soon, the smog-strewn air of the Los Angeles area was left behind for the more rarified air of San Francisco, where the young man, seeking a university degree, once again found himself out of his element and searching out the local music scene. And love of music again led to close quarters on one of the cities hilly side streets where Rooky Ricardo's Records, spinning a large dose of hot Soul and R & B 45s from turntables lined up, paramilitary style, became a way station for Waterhouse. Submersing himself in the funky offerings that proprietor Dick Vivian had in store broadened the guitarist's love of roots music and furthered the desire to record his own singles. The lines between a wealthy southern California beach community and the poor southern Mississippi delta began to blur as Waterhouse, after a seven-year absence and several harrowing experiences, returned to the city of angels with a heavenly calling and renewed inspiration.
"Man, I remember bein' at a bus stop in San Francisco when I was 21 and I was homeless! I'd just gotten back from England where I'd studied for a year and I remember feelin' totally adrift, like really losin' my rudder."
Yet, after finding his way, developing his material and assembling a band, many members of whom had never before recorded, Waterhouse entered the familiar confines of McHugh's Distillery to document what would become Time's All Gone. Recorded over a 10-day period which stretched over approximately six months, the effort was recorded with all analog equipment and, remaining true to the guitarist's purist ideals, in mono. The resulting sound is raw and real and captures the feel of a medium-sized band sitting in a studio playing live and having a time at it. As unpolished as an aging pewter vase, Time's All Gone reflects its authors truest sensibilities and sounds unlike many of today's overly refined and highly compressed recordings.
Opening with the shocker "Say I Wanna Know," which chronicles the criminal escapades of a former friend and the tough times Waterhouse himself has experienced, the tune sets the tone of the album from the outset with a couple of simple alternating guitar chords that lay a foundation for the band. Cascading in forcefully with a deep rhythm section and punching horns, the band makes its presence known and the track leads to a crescendo, introducing the superlative female backup singers, The Naturelles. Led by Natalie Alyse, The Naturelles cries out the mystical response to the protagonist's dilemma-filled call, with its "I wanna know" surfacing to express the angst-driven demand for a universally sought resolution.
"That tune [ "Say I Wanna Know"] is all real," Waterhouse relates, "They're struggles that I, or people that I know, have gone through. The music is about this deeper wanting; it's about a quest for understanding. You're looking inward, you're looking outward. 'What does the world mean to me?' This album is about arriving to the conclusion that it's the songs, in the end, that provide the response-in their feel. The questions are all there, but it's like this infinite loop where you have this question but at the end of the day you have like four seconds of a song where you feel like everything makes sense and everything is right with the world. When I listened to it on playback I felt like, 'I did it! I did it!'; I gave myself chills! It's beyond language or superficial appreciation; it's something you feel when you react involuntarily to something."
With truckloads of soulful swagger and power, "Say, I Wanna Know" ends on a dramatic note and sets the stage for the next selection, "Some Place." The deep grooves that the band strikes changes the tempo significantly and turns the tune into a raucous party anthem with all the bells and whistles blearing at once. "I can only give you everything" again features The Naturelles, with ringing harmonies that offset the masculine, adrenaline-infused rhythms. Another change leads to the beautiful ballad "Raina," which Waterhouse describes as the sound of his driving on the Pacific Coast Highway to a late night performance when he was only 17. It is, perhaps, the best composition and most thoughtful arrangement on the disc, with castanets, shakers and tambourines all adding to the mix. The title track blazes with saxophones, guitar and rock steady bass summoning ancient American dance rhythms that could rattle and roll any self-respecting rent party during any era. Waterhouse's mature, Gibson 335 guitar sound anchors the vintage approach and accentuates the overall feel with great color and texture. His vocals are also chameleon like in the way they blend with the various grooves in the music.