Patches of Blue was recorded at Pine Street Studios, here in Hamilton, ON with producer Mike Birthelmer. Mike cut his teeth as an engineer at Grant Ave. Studios, during the Dan Lanois era in the ’80s. There in that studio, Eno worked on his ambient music projects, which led in turn to Dan being introduced to Peter Gabriel — and the rest is history, with Lanois eventually becoming the most sought-after producer in the world, working with U2, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and many others.
In 1974, my band Simply Saucer recorded six studio songs at Master Sound Studios in Ancaster, ON in the basement studio the Lanois brothers had in their mom’s home. Well, playing keyboards and doing string arrangements on Patches of Blue was one Ed Roth, who was a producer at Grant Ave. Studios for the Lanois brothers, and playing electric guitar for me was Brian Grifith, who was a favorite session guitar player used by Daniel Lanois. Brian is our own local guitar phenom; a winner of multiple awards here. He played on Willie Nelson’s Teatro (also produced by Lanois). My drummer came out of the Hamilton blues scene, having played with Crowbar (you may have heard their hit record “Oh What a Feeling”) and also the drummer for King Biscuit Boy, who Keith Richards called “the best white blues harmonica player in the world.”
Colina Phillips, the songstress on five of the songs, was an A-list session singer who had worked out of the big Toronto studios, a jazz/soul vocalist who recorded with everyone from Bruce Cockburn to Alice Cooper to Anne Murray, soul singer supreme Jully Black, and many others. Mike Birthelmer put me in touch with Bill Dillon, a local guitar player who had an impressive resume — he’s recorded with Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson and Dan Lanois. Mike Trebilcock, a Juno award winner with his former band the Killjoys, sang harmony on the rest of the album.
So we assembled an impressive cast of supporting musicians, and with the addition of Kevin Christoff from Simply Saucer on bass, everything was in place…and to think that when I first knocked on Michael Birthelmer’s door my intention was to record a solo acoustic record live off the floor with no additional instrumentation. Things can certainly evolve in the studio!