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Cool Blue Sky was formed in 1988 by Andy (A. C.) Arnold and Jim Behrens. Andy is a poet and graduate of the University of New Hampshire while Jim is a guitarist with many years of experience in the Boston music scene with The Memos. Originally formed to write songs and see what direction it took them, CBS eventually became a live band with a set lineup.

The early stages of CBS found Andy and Jim writing and recording demos on an 8 track Tascam deck with the help of many friends and colleagues including former members of The Memos and Kangaroo Kourt. Most notably at this time was the contributions of Dana Schmitz, former lead singer of The Memos and Kangaroo Kourt who lent his voice to numerous tracks as well as his guitar skills. Another contributor in these early days was Glenn Aarlequew, drummer from Kangaroo Kourt who played on most of the earliest recordings. It was in this formative period that Andy and Jim decided that many of their songs required a female lead vocalist. Dana Schmitz brought in a singer that he and Jim had known from their early days together in The Memos. Dana Maguvero provided lead vocals on 3 tracks and also introduced them to Annie Smith, who would eventually become the full time lead singer for Cool Blue Sky.

After releasing a self titled cassette in 1989, CBS moved forward with Annie as the lead singer and recorded two new songs for radio release titled “You”/”Fire out of Control”. “You” was submitted to a songwriting “contest” being hosted by ASCAP and it was chosen as one of eight songs to be showcased at a live workshop in Boston. The song was warmly received by the audience and panelists. This led to an invitation to join ASCAP. “You” went on to receive airplay on WFNX in Boston. These earliest recordings were produced by Alex Rodriguez, former guitarist and bass player with The Memos.

It was at this time that CBS made a decision to also become a live band and begin playing clubs in the Boston area. The band was formed by using the current studio lineup of John Riccardi (formerly of Kangaroo Kourt and Slab & the Tablets) on bass, Mike Mears a veteran of many Merrimack Valley bands on drums and backing vocals and Aram Krausen a student at Berklee School of Music on keyboards. Their first gig was at “Grovers” in Beverly, MA to an enthusiastic crowd including many friends and family who had never heard the band play live.

CBS continued to record and went into Rick Asmega’s “Reel Adventures” studio and put down two tracks titled “Pitcher of Milk”/ (It isn’t) Fair for radio release. This was the first set of recordings done outside of the 8 Track unit all previous songs were recorded on. Rick was easy to work with and many other sessions were done throughout the years. During this time the band became a cohesive group and began collaborating together musically and lyrically with a combined vision for the future. One of these first collaborations was a song titled “Tomorrow” with lyrics by Annie and music by John and Jim and was recorded at a studio in Worcester, MA. Another piece of music created at this time was “Skin of the Flea” with music by Aram and lyrics by Andy. This was Aram’s first song written specifically for CBS.

Annie had to step away from CBS for a period of time to deal with medical issues affecting her voice. During that time Nancy Brock was brought in to take over the lead vocal spot. Nancy had been vocalist for a Boston band called “Agint 99”. She also wrote many of her own songs and the band tried to find the right niche but in the end the chemistry wasn’t right and they parted ways. It was during this time that Jim, John, Mike and Aram began to hit their stride as a band and were creating new interesting music for the future.

In 1993, Annie came back to the band but unfortunately Aram had moved on. Paul Palumbo joined the band as a second guitarist and 6 new songs were recorded as a demo. The reunion would be short lived as Jim and his family made a career decision to move to Sacramento in late 1993. CBS last gig was played at “The Grog” in Newburyport, MA. In the years since, the core members have kept in touch and have had a couple of reunion jams where many memories and songs were played again.


Playlist: Click on song titles to hear music by Cool Blue Sky

Summer time, sweet summer time! This month won’t really feature anything new but it is what I’m calling a re-master of CBS greatest hits. Back in the early 2000’s when I had much of this music transferred to CD it was done by the boyfriend of a co-worker and in some cases he altered the sound to give more bass, etc. What I’ve really noticed is that some of the songs are a little “muddy” sounding because of that. So, what I’ve done is gone back and pulled out un-opened cassettes from the archives for the ones that we packaged for release and used them to create new “masters” so to speak. For the other ones, I’ve used the first generation copies from the studio.

What follows is the definitive “Best of CBS” collection from recording studios. There are a number of very good  songs that we never actually had the chance to record. I’d love to compile this all on a real CD with artwork and all of the trimmings sometime in the future. I’m titling it “Autobiography, The Best of Cool Blue Sky”

Fire out of Control- This was one of the first true collaborations between Annie, Alex and myself. We arranged it in Alex’s living room on acoustic guitar the day Annie and I took promo pictures. I left for vacation and when I got back we laid down the tracks and Annie did her thing. John Riccardi played bass, Glenn Arlequew played drums, I played guitar and Annie provided the vocals. Alex engineered and produced.

You- a great piece of pop music almost country rock in some ways. Selected as one of 8 entries to an ASCAP songwriters workshop in Boston and the first CBS song to receive airplay. It also received favorable reviews in local music publications. The musicians were the same as above with Aram Krausen providing the keyboards.

Swan- produced by Alex, this semi-biographical account of Marilyn Monroe has a haunting melody provided by Annie and beautiful keyboard work by Aram. I played the bass, acoustic guitar and piano. It is interesting enough that most people don’t realize there are only two chords in the song.

Small, Good Things- based on a poem by Robert Penn Warren, Andy created a beautiful lyric that is accentuated by Annie’s melody. This began the long standing lineup for CBS with Mike Mears on drums, John Riccardi on bass and Aram Krausen on keyboards. A remake of a song from our first tape updated to reflect how we were playing it live.

Good Girl Sequence #1 (dying)- known most commonly as just “Good Girl”, this was a favorite in our live set and recorded with just the instruments we used live no extra guitar parts. Annie provided backing vocals to give the song added depth. We were able to arrange our songs for the studio and live performance quite well so that we could pull them off without our fans noticing any difference.

Sarah’s Theme (Kissing)- simply know as “Kissing” this is also a remake from our first tape to reflect the direction we had taken the song. A piece of power pop with lead guitar provided by Alex. We found ways to go back to our early songs and make them new again. This song has a great hook and is very danceable.

(It isn’t) Fair- This is the only CBS song that I wrote both the lyrics and music for. Written about the guilt and anguish I felt with losing loved ones in my family. Guilt because I didn’t do enough while they were alive and anguish because some died before I ever knew them. I wrote this while looking at a picture on the while of my grandfather, which is a line in the song. Recorded at “Reel Adventures” in Salem, NH by Rick Asmega.

The Pitcher of Milk- A very simple piece of pop/rock with a deep lyric. This really began the collaborative efforts by the whole band. While I wrote most of the music and arrangement for this, it really is a whole band effort. Sometimes overlooked are small things like the little drum fill Mike plays at the end of the verse where he and John are completely in sync. Aram’s piano just floats above everything and surrounds the vocal wonderfully. My Jools Holland!

Tomorrow- If “Pitcher” was the beginning of collaboration, it was in full gear with Tomorrow. Lyrics by Annie and music by John and me, we recorded this unfinished demo at “Trax” in Worcester, MA. It was meant to be very “airy and open” with Aram filling the gaps.

Car Song- Recorded in the fall of 1993 after Annie’s return to the band, we were reinventing ourselves without Aram. Paul Palumbo joined the band as a second guitarist

Autobiography- from the same session as above, this was part of the new direction we were headed. Two guitars, bass and drums was a lot different from what I had been used to, but we found ways to make it work.

Pearl Grey- Although this sounds a little jazzy, this was one of our signature live songs. It was never finished but it still sounds pretty good and John and Mike lay down a solid groove and Aram played a nice solo. I really like how his keyboard compliments mike’s drum fills coming out of the solo.

Shaving-  this was another collaboration between John and I musically, but really everyone wrote their own parts. The keyboard is under-mixed and the solo is missing from the key change at the end, but still a very strong effort.

In a different light- I think this may have been the most beautiful piece of music we created. Small. Good Things and Good Girl are right there but this one just seems more complete. Everyone was on their game when we recorded it. Listen to John’s bass and Mike’s kick drum, totally in sync. This is no light weight ballad, listen to the lyric and hear what she’s singing about. It was never finished unfortunately, maybe someday.

Small, Good Things- The original version from our first tape and the song that brought us Annie as our lead vocalist. I still like this version a lot, it just sounds fuller and warmer. Alex did a nice job mixing and producing this.







Good Girl

Kissing

(It isn’t) Fair

Pearl Grey