The first album in the series dropped Friday and was preceded by the single “Feel the Love.”
Hitmaker Brian Culbertson never imagined hanging with fans online would lead to something of a collaborative masterclass spawning an album trilogy, but that’s how “The Trilogy” was conceived. The first album in the series, an intimate, passion-themed set titled “The Trilogy, Part 1: Red,” dropped Friday from BCM Entertainment. Written, produced and performed by Culbertson, the multi-instrumentalist credits members of his Hang Club with helping him craft the tracks, title the songs, and even assist with the cover artwork via weekly members-only YouTube Live sessions.
As viewership for Culbertson’s Friday night Facebook Live show, The Hang, took off in the spring of 2020 while he was unable to tour, he hatched the idea of creating The Hang Club, providing exclusive perks and behind-the-scenes opportunities for tier two members and above, including access to smaller Monday and Wednesday night live streams via YouTube unlisted. The Monday night sessions evolved into somewhat of a masterclass at which “Professor BC,” as Hang Club members dubbed him, wrote songs with immediate input from the Hang Club.
“What was cool about it was I truly got instant fan feedback of what they were digging and what they may not like. I got to bring them along, educating the fanbase on what an early demo sounds like, which is nothing like a finished record. I had to educate everyone’s ears to understand where it starts - the beginning, middle and end - after it’s mastered and how it really transforms over time and gets better and better and better slowly. That’s been a fun part both from my side and for them,” said Culbertson about Hang Club members.
As he wrote more material, Culbertson began to notice that the songs emotionally fell into three distinctive categories: passion, melancholy and hope. Then he envisioned assigning a color scheme to each theme: red, blue and white.
“When I first started the process, I did not have ‘The Trilogy’ in mind. I was just writing new songs at that point. I started writing a bunch and it slowly came into focus that they all sounded sonically similar in terms of the production style. However, the feeling that you would get from the songs became clear in three distinct groups. For instance, on ‘Red,’ all those songs were clearly about passion and love. Some of the songs were melancholy, sad – really made you think…introspection. Then, the third section of songs were more fun, happy and hopeful. ‘The Trilogy’ mirrors a relationship arc. ‘Red’ is the steamy beginning, ‘Blue’ is the rocky middle, and ‘White’ is the ‘and they lived happily ever after.’”
“The Trilogy, Part 1: Red” is an alluring, atmospheric listen. The rhythmic grooves churn seductively as deep bass and captivating melodies bathe and caress body, mind and soul. Romantic and desirous, steamy and intense, sultry and sexy.
Keeping with the cozy nature of the material, Culbertson plays most of the instruments himself, including piano, keyboards, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond B3 organ, bass, drums and percussion, trombone, and even some guitar. The record includes contributions by guitarists Isaiah Sharkey, Randy Bowland and Darnell “Showcase” Taylor; bassists Alex Al and Rishon Odell, and vocalist Micaela Haley. Culbertson also surprises with dreamy, layered vocalese on “Infatuation” and a full lead wordless vocal on “Lost in You.” In fact, the latter made it onto the album at the urging of the Hang Club.
“I was messing around trying to write a cool-sounding track, thinking maybe one day someone would put lyrics to it. I had it in the vault for a while. One night, I played it for the Hang Club, and they freaked out. They loved it and said it should be on the record,” said Culbertson, who revealed that his vocalese will appear on all three parts of “The Trilogy.”
The first track from “The Trilogy, Part 1: Red” issued as a single is “Feel the Love,” a sensual instrumental R&B groove that opens the album and sets the mood for what’s to come.
An element that stands out while listening to the lavish sonicscapes that Culbertson constructed for his 23rd album is the lofty production qualities. The tracks are textured tapestries, intricate and lush yet still full of space. As a producer, Culbertson is in constant pursuit of new sounds, growing, evolving and elevating the listening experience of his albums with each successive recording.
“I’m trying to make music that is fresh sounding and hopefully has sounds that you have never heard before. But of course, it’s mixed with sounds you are familiar with, like my piano, Rhodes and organ…whatever it may be. But all the extra stuff around it, that’s where you can get really creative and look for unique and exciting sounds that take you somewhere new or somewhere else,” said Culbertson who has tallied close to forty Billboard No. 1 singles as an artist, songwriter and/or producer.
Culbertson is about seventy percent through the second and third parts of “The Trilogy” and will continue to rely on the Hang Club’s input to help complete the sets. The “Blue” album is slated to release on January 14, 2022, and the “White” album will drop on May 6, 2022. That will make it three albums – 30 songs – in an eight-month span. A challenge inherent with being so prolific is how to present all the music live.
“I will have released four new albums since I last toured (“Winter Stories,” “XX,” “Music From The Hang” and now “The Trilogy, Part 1: Red”), five if you count the ‘Soundscapes’ EP (a nature-themed foray into film music released last March). Therefore, I have a lot of new music to play on tour. The show is going to be full of songs that you know and love, plus some songs from the newer albums. Basically, a mix of the classics and a handful of the new stuff,” said Culbertson who just finished his third annual Chicago Jazz Getaway festival and will be out on a three-week concert trek in November throughout the South, Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest.
For more information about “The Trilogy” and Culbertson’s concert dates, please visit http://www.brianculbertson.com.
“The Trilogy, Part 1: Red” contains the following songs:
“Feel the Love”
“Just Let Go”
“Come on Over”
“Deep in the Night”
“Lost in You”
“One More Kiss”