For More Than Only Tonight

Released by 31days records in April 2013. Liner notes.

Stehen Ackles: For More Than Only Tonight

In September 2012, Stephen Ackles was remembering how this album got underway. His new, Dutch manager, whom he had met at a Jerry Lee Lewis concert in Germany two years before, introduced him to producer Andilon Lensen as he really wanted Stephen to do an album with him. He told him about the great work he had done for Timi Yuro, and as soon as Stephen heard Lensen’s work, he immediately became interested in the idea of making an album with him, simply because Lensen could hear things that Stephen couldn’t, and showed him things he had never thought of. It is why Stephen ranks Lensen as the best producer he has ever worked with in his entire career.

It is also why Stephen regards this album as his return to the musical enthusiasm he had lost from constantly touring and performing hundreds of concerts around Norway, Europe and the United States. Despite his previous success in the Norwegian record charts with Hey You, One For The Moon and Betina, a string of hit albums, numerous music awards including three nominations for the Norwegian Grammy, and working on a number of occasions with such legendary names as Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sir Elton John and guitarist James Burton, he was still feeling disillusioned and uninterested in performing music either on a stage, or in a recording studio. And yet, it was the one thing he loved most and held closest to his heart.

The inspiration he found from listening to music legends like Elvis Presley, Ray Charles and Jerry Lee Lewis, but later lost, was quickly restored when he stepped inside the Jottem Studios in Holland on 24 May 2011 with Andilon and his manager, Jeroen Kerstjens, to start to work on recording this album. One of the first tracks to be worked on was the Blues classic, Don’t Deceive Me, originally recorded and written by Chuck Willis, and later covered by Little Milton in 1967 on the famous Chess label. It is the latter version of the song that has long been a favourite of Andilon Lensen. The original song ran for just over three minutes, but this version, created by Lensen, runs even longer, for a further two minutes.

Another tribute song to be selected for recording, was the cover version of Elvis Presley’s In My Way, which Elvis originally recorded in November 1960 for his sixth film, Wild In The Country, that was released into cinemas the following summer. Stephen first heard the song, not in the movie, but when it first appeared on Elvis For Everyone in 1965, almost five years after it had been recorded. Even today, it is probably one of the least heard Presley songs, and it is for that reason, Stephen chose it for this album.

Time in a Bottle is another of Stephen’s favourites, that became a must to include on this album. It was originally a hit single for singer-songwriter Jim Croce, who had written the lyrics after his wife Ingrid told him she was pregnant with his son, Adrian, in December 1970. It appeared on his 1972 debut album You Don’t Mess Around with Jim. ABC Records originally did not intend to release the song as a single, but when Croce was tragically killed in a plane crash in September 1973, the song’s lyrics, dealing with immortality and the wish to have more time, came across as if he had a presentiment. Ever since Stephen heard it, he has always wanted to make his own recording of it, so when it came to selecting songs for this album, and because he always thought it was such a great emotional love song, he didn’t want to pass on the opportunity of recording it, not only for himself, but also for his fans.

Much the same as Love Is Cruel, which was the lead promo single for this album, and still considered by many, to become a worldwide hit, features Larry Campbell playing six guitars. Larry, heralded as one of the greatest guitarists ever by Bruce Springsteen was a member of Bob Dylan’s ʻNever Ending Tour’ band from 1997 to 2004, and is said to have contributed heavily to Dylan’s 2001 album Love and Theft, with its expansion into the realm of Western Swing and other ground-breaking areas for Dylan. He is also said to have had a profound effect on the tightness and well-rounded sound of that period’s live performances, in part due to his years of experience producing, arranging, and freelancing with a rich variety of styles. His unique style of playing is something that is very evident in Stephen’s rendition of this beautiful song.

Of all the songs on this album, Stephen calls Satan a gift from heaven. It is probably the one song, Stephen admits, that has been opening doors that had been closed for years. His performance of the track at Trygdekontoret evoked such outrageous response and tweets that Thomas Seltzer and VG journalist Anders Giæver wondered if this was the best performance on NRK ever. It was a theory that was confirmed when several television programmes included the song in their annual review.

Overall, for Stephen, and his fans, this album is the start of his next chapter in music and life. He hand-picked all the songs and every one of his recorded performances comes directly from his heart, already echoed on a music video for Thinkin’ It Over’ written by British singer-songwriter Shawn Harvey, who was thrilled to learn that Stephen had recorded his song for this album. Indeed, with such a marvellous array of songwriters, an undisputable top notch band behind him, the help from backing vocalists, musicians, his producer, the sound-engineers and the label guys from 31daysrecords, Stephen Ackles serves up a fine mix of rootsy pop music to give the listener an intense and multi-flavoured musical journey. This is true Norwegian Americana by the Tennessee Viking like you have never heard before.