It says on iTunes that Carter Albrecht's solo album Jesus is alive ... and living in London has been available since February 9. Carter's father, Ken, and Robert Jenkins, whose Summer Break label is co-releasing the disc in conjunction with the Carter Albrecht Music Foundation, say that's wrong, and that it's only been up for a week or so. Regardless, this isn't the kind of release they had hoped for, having the disc tucked away in the Apple crate where fans and friends might accidentally discover it. Even some of Albrecht's closest friends and former bandmates were unaware of its iTunes availability till tonight.
But after months of trying to get the album released through a distributor and months of listening to music industry types offer only empty promises, Jenkins and Ken Albrecht finally decided to release it digitally rather than hold on to Carter's final notes a second longer.
"Nobody was interested label-wise," Ken says. "We're trying to figure out what the actual launch date will be -- when we'll have CDs in local music stores. We're looking at late April or early May." Jenkins says they hope to have the album in stores on May 5, accompanied by a release party during which several local bands will perform selections from the record. For those who cannot wait that long, Jesus lives for a mere $8.91.
"It's hard to plan a CD release party," says Ken, "when you don't have the artist around to promote it."
Sooner than later, we'll run a proper review and feature in the paper version of Unfair Park. Till then, Jenkins and Albrecht explain why it has taken so long to get the album released.
Initially, this disc had been intended as the first of a three-album set, says Jenkins. The first was supposed to be "an explanation of where this music comes from," he says. "It was supposed to start off acoustic, then lead into more rocking numbers." He says Albrecht had envisioned the second disc as something more electronic in nature -- "like early Depeche Mode, early Joy Division." The third album would have been Albrecht's Exile on Main Street.
All that changed, of course, early the morning of September 3, 2007, when Albrecht was killed. He left behind half-completed songs, some recorded with Salim Nourallah and some with Deadman's Steven Collins, and copious notes about how he wanted the album to sound. (Carter is also credited as co-producer.) Ken Albrecht eventually asked bassist Dave Monsey to finish the production; Monsey took it to Los Angeles, where he asked former Earl Harvin sideman Dave Palmer to offer an assist. Ultimately, a number of musicians ended up playing on the album, among them Carter's roommate, best friend and Sorta bandmate Danny Balis; former Course of Empire drummer Michael Jerome; and The Deathray Davies' Jason Garner.
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Edie Brickell, with whom Albrecht had performed as a member of the New Bohemians since October 1999, is credited as the album's executive producer -- because she and husband Paul Simon helped finance its completion last fall.
"That was done in October '08, and a guy out in L.A. said there was interest in a label and could we give him till December," Ken says. "Then there was a wild story about a movie producer who liked it, and nothing came of it. Edie gave five copies to a person who works with her and Paul, and the music industry's just such a mess and nobody knows what's going on, so nothing came of that."
Eventually, Ken grew so frustrated he gathered together a handful of folks -- Jenkins, Double Wide booking agent Chelsea Callahan and Sorta drummer Trey Carmichael -- to help plot out a release of some kind, any kind. Which is how, last week, this enormous wall of sound crept onto iTunes. But, of course, better now than never.
But there is reason to buy the disc in May: Jenkins says the packaging is "extraordinary" -- it features artwork by Carter's girlfriend Ryann Rathbone and photos by Hal Samples -- and Albrecht says it features Carter's "handwritten lyrics, as well as the printed lyrics," in addition to the estimable list of credits not available on iTunes. Says Ken, "Carter had approved all the art work that Labor Day weekend before his death."