Amends... Stripped

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Amends... Stripped
AmendsStripped.jpg
Acoustic EP by Grey Daze
Released January 29, 2021
Recorded October - November 2020
Length 18:31 Minutes
Label Loma Vista Recordings, Concord Records
Grey Daze studio album chronology

Amends (2020) Amends... Stripped (2021)

Amends... Stripped is an acoustic EP by Grey Daze composed of five songs, released in January 2021. It follows the remix album Amends which was released on June 26, 2020.

Background

In February 2017, Grey Daze began working on re-recording some of their original work. Chester and Sean picked four tracks to begin working on. After Chester passed, Talinda Bennington gave Grey Daze permission to continue the project, which was released several years later, in June 2020, as Amends.

While re-recording material for Amends, Grey Daze had the idea to also work on some acoustic material at the same time because of how well-suited Chester's voice and the music were for softer arrangements.

Writing and Recording

Grey Daze described the EP, saying: "About Amends... Stripped: The band returned to the studio in October (2020), working with producer Billy Bush (Garbage, Muse) and a selection of alternate vocal tracks from Bennington. The concept of an acoustic release was something Grey Daze had discussed prior to the release of Amends, knowing that the songs present an entirely new aspect to the material and spotlight Bennington’s immense talent, something they'd only been able to witness in the studio."[1]

While the band was working on Amends... Stripped, they were also writing for their follow up album to Amends. Sean said, "We wrote the new album for the past 8 months, we just finished the writing about two weeks ago and now we are setting up to go into the studio in April and knock out the next record."[2]

Composition

Three of the tracks on Amends... Stripped were released as bonus tracks on various versions of Amends in 2020 - "What's In The Eye" and "Sometimes" were Target, Japan, and Saturn bonus tracks and "Soul Song" was a Wal-Mart bonus track. However, the versions on Amends... Stripped were mastered professionally, specifically for this release. For example, the "Soul Song" bonus track on Amends has audible crackling in the vocal track if you listen closely, whereas the Amends... Stripped version does not.

Like Amends, the Amends... Stripped EP includes alternate vocal takes from Chester throughout the release. All five songs have different vocal takes from the original album masters. According to Sean, the band already had versions of "Sometimes" and "Shouting Out" in acoustic form that the band "never did anything with." The other two songs ("Soul Song" and "Shouting Out") have alternate vocal takes from Chester that Grey Daze used.

The final song, "The Syndrome" (retitled from "The Down Syndrome") was an unlisted thirteenth song on 1997's ...No Sun Today and is an acoustic version which features only Sean playing piano and Chester singing. It was recorded in one take with no overdubs. The song features studio banter at the beginning of the track between the band. Mike Jones' (the engineer of the original album) voice can be heard saying "We're still rolling."[3] The rest of the banter is additional material not released on the original version - Sean says, "What happened to "let's keep going"?", Bobby says "One more time, if we don't get it this time it's scrapped", Mace says "No it isn't, no it isn't" and then says in a funny voice, "How many rolls does it take to get to the bottom of a track?" before Sean says "Ready? Here we go." Digitally, "The Syndrome" is listed as "Demo" instead of "Stripped."

Sean Dowdell said, "One of the more interesting things about working with such a great singer like Chester, is the more you take away from his surroundings, the more you get to appreciate and hear all of the subtle nuances of his voice. He was a very special vocalist with an amazing writing ability, and it was very meaningful for us to use these different vocal performances on the acoustic version of "Shouting Out."[4]

When discussing why they chose these five songs specifically, Sean said, "First and foremost we had acoustic versions of those tracks so it kind of chose itself *laughs*. When they wanted us to create some extra tracks for their resale partners when we were recording Amends, Tom came to me and said, ‘Look, in order for us to do distribution cells with Target, Walmart, and for Japanese release, we need to have one bonus track per per thing, do you have anything? What do you think?’ So I said, ‘Well, we have these old acoustic versions of these songs, what do you think?’ So I played them for him and he said, ‘Those are beautiful, let’s go re-record them.’ So we went in and re-recorded ‘Sometimes,’ ‘Soul Song,’ and ‘What’s in the Eye’ acoustically. We worked with Billy Bush on it, in East West Studios right after we did the Amends record. Once we put them out, Tom and I and Ryan Wooley were talking one day and they said, ‘You know, these songs are really special, we should do a whole album like this.’ I said, ‘Uh, we don’t have a whole album of acoustic version songs, but we have five or six.’ Then Ryan said, ‘Let’s do an EP.’ They put us back in the studio again with Billy and another producer named Esjay Jones and we did, ‘Shouting Out’. As we were going through the material, we found this really unique performance we had. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the multi-tracks for it, we just had a two track version of when we were recording a version back in 1997. I jumped on a grand piano and played a version of ‘The Syndrome’ with Chester sitting next to me on the bench and Bobby Benish picked up guitars and we ran through it a couple of times and we recorded it down to two track, and it is just a really cool rendition of ‘They Syndrome’ done acoustically. The tempo is really different. Its not perfect, you hear some tuning issues and Chester is not in perfect pitch throughout the whole thing and there is no layering of vocals, it is literally just us in a room, but it was really just a special performance they we decided to include on the Stripped album, and it gave us an opportunity to pay homage to Bobby as well, because Bobby is no longer with us. He died of a brain tumor in 2003. It gave us an opportunity to do something special for him and, in my opinion, keep something really unique and in tact of the original band."[2]

He added, ""Sometimes" off the acoustic record Stripped, speaks to me in a way that it never spoke to me before. There is something really special about the strained section underneath his voice the very last part of the song that gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. "Soul Song" was my favorite song on Amends, so I am probably biased about that version, and I also don’t want to pick the same song on both records. That’s a weird little character flaw I have I guess. Also the acoustic version of "The Syndrome", just remembering what it was like to record with Chester and Bobby at the same time, and they are both gone now. That song holds a special place in my heart, but if I have to pick one, it’s "Sometimes". For Chester, that is a tough question because I am not in his mind. I think he would appreciate, "Shouting Out", because it was one of his favorite songs that he wrote the lyrics a hundred percent on and it feels like a bit of an apology from beyond. There are a couple of songs we do that do that, but I just feel like that song maybe might speak to him a little bit louder than everything else at the moment."[2]

Release

Amends... Stripped was released digitally as well as on three different vinyls - grey (limited edition; exclusive to the Loma Vista Recordings Store)[5], clear (limited edition of 350; exclusive to Revolver Magazine)[6], and black.[7]

The band added, "The vinyl release includes a trio of '90s era interviews with the band from the now defunct Phoenix alternative radio station, KEDG." In the interview, Chester and Sean talk about their influences and the beginnings of Grey Daze.

Tracklist

Standard Edition

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1 Shouting Out (Stripped) Chester Bennington Cass Dillon 3:21
2 Sometimes (Stripped) Bennington 3:21
3 Soul Song (Stripped) Bennington 3:58
4 What's In The Eye (Stripped) Bennington, Dowdell 3:25
5 The Syndrome (Stripped) Bennington 4:13

Personnel

Grey Daze

  • Chester Bennington - vocals
  • Sean Dowdell - drums and backing vocals
  • Mace Bayers - bass
  • Cristin Davis - guitar

Additional Musicians

Production

  • Lyrics by Chester Bennington and Sean Dowdell

Management

  • Rene Mata - A&R
  • Ryan Whalley - A&R
  • Tom Whalley - A&R
  • Jeff Worob - legal

Artwork

  • Anna Strelkova - Official Listening Experience Illustrations

Promotion

Grey Daze began teasing the EP on December 9, 2020 on social media with a video of the band in the studio, saying, "Different takes, different performances of Chester, a new emotional dynamic... We broke it down to its simplest form. "Amends... Stripped" 1/29/21. #foryouchester"[8]

The next day on December 10, the band announced the "Shouting Out" (Stripped) release and music video: "We are excited to announce that ‘Shouting Out’ Stripped is out tonight at midnight! It was very meaningful for us to use these different vocal performances that we had of Chester on this track Tune in tomorrow at 6 AM EST to watch the video!"[9]

Amends... Stripped was officially announced on December 11, 2020 by Grey Daze (via Kerrang) for a January 29, 2020 release.[10]

On January 21, 2020, the band announced on social media: "We are so excited about Amends... Stripped coming out this Friday! To celebrate, we’re hosting a special listening experience the day before release filled with moving artwork, exclusive interviews, insights from the band, and, of course, new music in honor of Chester. Tune in 1/28 at 1pm PST on the Grey Daze YouTube Channel."[11]

Reception

The EP was released to favorable reviews.

Kerrang gave it 4 stars of 5 with writer James Hickie saying, "Given the assumed scarcity of further Grey Daze material, this EP featuring acoustic versions of five tracks from Amends was a logical next step. These refined arrangements place even greater focus on Chester’s efforts, in an age when isolated vocals from classic tracks are a big draw on YouTube and other social media platforms." He added, "The EP's final track, "The Syndrome," is poignant not just as a monument to Chester’s prowess even at the demo stage, but because in its opening seconds we get to hear him in the studio – young, happy, and alive. And that’s what this EP and all of the music Chester made does: it makes him live on forever, immortality through art, in our hearts and minds, but first and foremost in our ears, reachable whenever we need him."[12]

AllMusic's Neil Z. Yeung gave the EP 4.5 out of 5 stars, writing, "As if the overwhelming emotions and cathartic release of the full-length Amends were not enough, Grey Daze's acoustic reworking Amends... Stripped should have fans of the late Chester Bennington reaching for the tissue box once again. Just five tracks long, the EP takes some of the best moments on Amends and, as the title suggests, strips them of the studio bells and whistles, revealing a more bare-bones approach that centers on Bennington's huge voice and passionate delivery. Raw and vulnerable, these selections hit a nerve similar to Alice in Chains' MTV Unplugged set or Chris Cornell's live Songbook. The sparse "Soul Song" devastates like a eulogy, just as the urgent "Sometimes" hits so hard one might forget it's acoustic. Meanwhile, "The Syndrome (Stripped - DEMO)" is the roughest around the edges, ending the EP on its most exposed note. Curious listeners should still start with the LP that was released in 2020, but once that's been digested, Amends... Stripped serves as an extra potent dose of mournful celebration of a voice gone too soon."[13]

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References