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Rock 06/07/2012

Rob Morsberger Sets Two Distinct CDs For 9/18

Rob Morsberger Sets Two Distinct CDs For 9/18
New York, NY (Top40 Charts/ Rob Morsberger Official Website) Rob Morsberger Sets Two Distinct CDs for 9/18. Prolific Period Follows Recent Diagnosis of Terminal Illness. 'A Part Of You' is Dedicated to Morsberger's Youngest Son; 'Midnight Garden' is a Song Cycle Written With Crash Test Dummies' Brad Roberts

In Rob's Words:
When I was hospitalized in September 2011 with a terminal brain tumor, I hoped that I would have time to finish the record I was currently working on, 'Ghosts Before Breakast'. And maybe, if I was lucky, I could squeeze out another, sixth album. Two days after brain surgery I was back in the studio and finished 'Ghost' in the month that followed. Then I started work on what became 'A Part Of You.' Musically, I had long wanted to bring together my work as a composer with my songwriting life, and many of these songs were adapted from instrumental scores I had composed for television. So there is a quirky chamber music sensibility here, in a departure from previous records that featured my longtime band. The album is dedicated to my youngest son Elan, whose hand I am holding on the cover. In the title track, I assure him that 'I will always be a part of you'. In another song, which features his (very contagious) laughter, I encourage him to laugh in the face of life's unfairness, and 'You Son', written with bassist Zev Katz, imagines the grown-up young man I am not likely to meet. The Russian Cartographer was a roommate I briefly had while in hospital, and I enjoyed imaging his story. 'An Inside Place' channels the words and feelings of my co-writer on that song, Anthony Rutenbeck, a person with autism. Other collaborators include Suzzy Roche and Brad Roberts (of Crash Test Dummies); our duet, 'The Man and The Birds' was the beginning of what became yet another new album, 'Midnight Garden'.

After finishing 'A Part of You', I was looking for an album project I could create quickly, given the circumstances. Brad Roberts had a pile of lyrics and we decided I would create a latter day song cycle with some 19th century models: Schubert, of course, with a nod to Stephen Foster and Gilbert and Sullivan. I had worked with Brad on the last CTD album, had toured with him a bit, and we were friends. His lyrics were so compelling, and so simpatico, that the songs seemed to write themselves. Sometimes a song would form in my mind as quickly as it took to read the words. 'Midnight Garden' is scored for our two voices, piano, and string quartet. It is an interesting hybrid, one part classical music, but definitely still connecting to the pop world. And with Brad's weird, wonderful, compelling voice, which I thought would work so well in this context. The lyrics that make an epitaph to this cycle are stunningly beautiful as well as a propos:

The far and wide,
The near afield;
The great divide,
The mighty shield -

The ship that's wrecked
Upon the shore;
The Flies, their Lords
The metaphors

The bride bedecked,
The nuptial couch;
The groom, erect
His shoulders slouched

The comfort in
The moon that shines
Distilled until
Of the Divine;

The nectar of
These last few drops
Before the final
Drizzle stops.

Morsberger will tour in support of the albums in September, with booking by Ted Kurland Associates.

Also in the works is a live DVD of Morsberger's CD concert at The Bitter End in NYC, tied to his acclaimed recent album 'Ghosts Before Breakfast'. Stream the full album, watch the Hans Richter video, as well as a behind-the-scenes interview with Morsberger, here:

Listen to the PRI/NPR NEWS/WBUR Here & Now

interview with Robin Young and visit Rob's updated Press Page ( for raves from The Philadelphia Daily News (, Boston Globe, USA TODAY, Blogcritics, The New London Day and more.
'Midnight Garden' was premiered in a live performance at Tarrytown Music Hall. Rob also premiered, with Jon Herington, a commissioned song, 'Mystic Redemption', in Mystic, CT. The town on Stonington, CT has named 5/31 Rob Morsberger Day in recognition of this performance and song - a great honor. Rob and band were joined in Mystic by Marshall Crenshaw.

The new Patti Smith album 'Banga' is now out, and features arrangements and keyboard work from Rob. Check out Loudon Wainwright III's beautiful new CD, 'Older Than My Old Man', which features Rob on accordion. Rob had the honor of arranging and performing on the Grammy Award-winning soundtrack album to Boardwalk Empire.

He is currently working on a new album from Willie Nile and two new recordings from Marshall Crenshaw.

Thomas Staudter interviewed Morsberger for The Croton Gazette:
ON THE BEAT - Benefit Concert(s) for Rob Morsberger, By Thomas Staudter
With the release of his new CD, Ghosts Before Breakfast, Rob Morsberger is undeniably at the top of his songwriting and performing career. He is also battling brain cancer, and though in possession of medical insurance, racking up the kinds of bills that independent musicians struggle to pay. I hope my readers will help support this wonderful artist and attend one of the two benefit concerts for him at the BeanRunner Café in Peekskill on Sunday, March 4.

When a good friend has brain cancer, the imperative question at the start of every interaction with him or her is, How are you feeling? This is what establishes hope and acceptance moving forward. There is so much mystery and unknowing in terms of battling a major illness; each body responds to treatments differently, and so progress, or the lack of, in the fight to return to "normal" good health runs along a narrative arc, where each report becomes its own weighty chapter.

Rob told me this week he's feeling pretty good. "My kind of brain cancer inevitably kills you," he said, "so it's a waiting game and a matter of holding death off. I'm open to the possibility that I'll escape this fate, but few do." After surgery last September, Rob said his health greatly improved, and that he has his good and bad days. He is continuing to write and perform, having just completed a decent-sized tour.

Though Morsberger is well known in television circles for his soundtracks, most notably the quirky accompaniment for Nova scienceNow on PBS, he also earned a good deal of notoriety in the late 1990s Gotham music scene as the leader of the Robert Secret Band, formed with three top-notch players-guitarist Jon Herington, bassist Paul Ossola and drummer Robin Gould- whose credits stretch from Steely Dan to Levon Helms and Carly Simon.

Initially, Morsberger "hid" his leadership of his band (and thus adopting the moniker "Robert Secret") because he was starting to score music jobs for TV at the time and didn't want his pop music career to become an issue with future employers, he said. The band released two CDs—Waiting for Wood in 1999 and Relativity (Blues) the following year—and then Morsberger's television work picked up. It took several years for Morsberger to sneak away long enough from his so-called "day job" to write and record his third CD, A Periodic Rush of Waves, which appeared in 2006 and under his true name.

For Ghosts Before Breakfast, Morsberger first re-convened Herington and Gould, with Zev Katz and Paul Socolow splitting the bass duties, and at the urging of documentary filmmaker and fellow Croton-on-Hudson resident Dave Davidson, began work on the title track, which underscores a 1927 silent film by Hans Richter, an artist and one of the founders of the Dada Movement. In the chorus of the song, Morsberger sings, "Hello, everybody, there's no time for tears / Baby, it's a new life, everyday"—an easily understandable statement considering what this singer-songwriter is going through.

Elsewhere on the album—there's a spooky rocker featuring sterling instrumental breaks from Morsberger and Herington called "The Great Whatever"; a poignant power ballad about spirituality titled "Feather in a Stream" which brings to mind both The Beatles' "Let it Be" and Radiohead; a piano-led, heartbreaking country rocker about Charles Floyd, the only casualty on the Lewis and Clark Expedition (in which Morsberger sings, "Father I must go away now to the other side"); and "The Distinguished Thing," based on author Henry James's reported last words—there are enough explicit intimations of mortality and the singer's impending finality (much of it accompanied by jaunty melodies and sprightly rhythms) to make a listener wonder if Morsberger's illness directed the lyrical content and whether he was coming to terms with morbidity "in the grooves," so to speak.

But one of the remarkable aspects of Ghosts Before Breakfast, beyond the fact that each of the album's eleven songs is a gem, is the fact that Morsberger had the whole collection written before he became ill and was diagnosed with cancer.

"Looking back, I can see that I anticipated my illness with this record," said Morsberger, who noted that he'd just finished writing "Feather in a Stream" when he told that he had a grade 4 gioblastoma tumor, a malignant brain cancer. "In the hospital, I vowed to finish the record and once out worked hard to get it done." The subconscious connections between his songwriting and an illness not yet manifested are "things I know when I think about them are things I don't want to think about," Morsberger said. "I want to know I'll be walking away from this, and I don't want to say that I anticipated my own death."

Mostly, Ghosts Before Breakfast reminds me of Morsberger's prior album, Chronicle of a Literal Man, in that the songs are full of literary, historical and musical references. There's "Christina in Her Salon" is based on Sweden's androgynous queen in the 1600s, a look at Croton-on-Hudson through the ages in "The Wild Wind," life in the Manhattan fashion scene in "Celebrity Artist," nods to David Bowie, The Beatles, the Kinks, Elvis Costello and Elton John musically, a tune called "Rocket Science" that stands along with his old Robert Secret stuff, along with the aforementioned direct allusions to James and Floyd.

"I'm much less learned than people think," said Morsberger with a chuckle. Other songs on the album, like "Cobblestones" and "For Heaven's Sake," he noted, come from a more autobiographical place, but mixing up the subject matter lyrically is always his intention.

Originally born in Oxford, Ohio, Morsberger spent his teenage years in Oxford, England, where his father was the Ruskin Master of Drawing at the university there. He began playing the bassoon at 11 after giving up on piano lessons, and kept up music studies through Edinburgh University, all the while digging The Beatles and Bob Dylan. In college, he took up piano again and afterwards found work in various bands and as a dance accompanist. With a résumé sporting commissions for original scores with the Scottish Ballet and BBC Radio Scotland, he moved to New York in 1985 and slowly worked his way up as both a sideman and composer.

In 1990, Morsberger was hired as a songwriter for Famous Music, the publishing division of Paramount, and began to craft a number of songs about science. Years later, the experience would prove valuable when he started writing for NOVA and later NOVA scienceNOW, where he appeared as a Musical Correspondent singing about the prime numbers and statistics, among other subjects.

A stay-at-home dad throughout his career, Morsberger has managed to find the necessary balance between a devotion to his family and the requirements of his career has been a challenge. His seven-year-old son Elan was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and has needed several major surgeries and long hospitalizations. Morsberger and his wife Lisa, a flutist and music teacher (she plays on Ghosts Before Breakfast), have three other children from previous marriages as well. A bunch of new songs, he said, are about Elan.

"I don't know how he does it," said Peter Calo, the Croton-based guitar ace and Morsberger pal who is behind the benefit concerts on Sunday. "His music, the writing, vocals, production—it's all coming together for Rob. He's on a mission now and really focused. It's remarkable, and we're all pulling for him."

Respected critics weighed in with early raves for 'Ghosts Before Breakfast.' In her USA TODAY Listen Up Music Pick, Elysa Gardner highlighted the mournful song "Cobblestones," praising it as an "exquisitely plaintive postcard from a lonely foreigner"

And, in his expansive write-up via syndicated tastemaker outlet BLOGCRITICS, veteran critic Jack Goodstein said the album is nothing less than "true art."

Watch Morsberger's in-studio performance and interview, via ABC-TV affiliate WHAS, during a recent tour stop in Louisville:

by Nick DeRiso, 1/2012
PEEKSKILL PATCH - By Jessue Jafet, 2/28/12 preview article here:

Long known as a literate songwriter with a taste for eclectic source material, Morsberger stretched even his own boundaries on 'Ghosts'. As he wrapped up work on the CD this past Fall, headaches and dizziness prompted him to see his doctors:

"As I was finishing off the record I unexpectedly received a diagnosis of grade 4 Glioblastoma…the worst manifestation of the most malignant kind of brain cancer. This is not a survivable illness. When I was in hospital having surgery in late September, it really hit me how much of this record clearly anticipated my illness…particularly the song 'Feather in a Stream'. I realized that, deep down, I saw this coming and it came out in my writing. And, surrounded by other suffering people, of course I thought of the song 'The Great Whatever' - particularly as I felt so close, at all times, to a god I can't and don't wish to comprehend. But clearly, this is god's path for me now. I'm ready for wherever it leads me, and I know I, and my family, will be OK."

Morsberger's long-time band joins him on 'Ghosts': Robin Gould on drums, Jon Herington on guitar, with Zev Katz and Paul Socolow sharing the bass chair.

Morsberger remains undeterred in the face of the news - his focus is now on his family, his health and his art. His goal is to create and release as much new music as time allows, and his hope is for as many people as possible to become familiar with his work.

His last CD, the extraordinary 'Chronicle of a Literal Man', was featured in USA TODAY, via PRI/NPR, M Music & Musicians Magazine, and in numerous other outlets. Read some of the reviews, here:

The NY Times profiled Morsberger in 2006:

Watch videos of Morsberger performing, here:
Rob Morsberger is known for his wonderfully twisted perspective, lyrics that are never dumbed down for the listener, and an ear for complex melody. His songs are characterized by their esoteric surprises and their unwavering intelligence. Though Morsberger has rightfully drawn comparisons to Tom Waits, Rufus Wainwright, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Robbie Robertson and Warren Zevon (mixed with a touch of Randy Newman's absurdist wit,) he came into his own on 'Chronicle' and extended the feat on the recent 'Ghosts Before Breakfast'.

Rob Morsberger is a singer-songwriter and classically-trained composer. His last album,'Ghosts Before Breakfast', was featured on PRI/NPR, in USA Today, The Philadelphia Daily News, Boston Globe and more. Writing in the Boston Herald, renowned rock critic Kevin Convey praised "the kind of hyperliterate, pop-inflected singer-songwriter outing that went out of style when Warren Zevon died. And…he can write a hook that could make angels weep." As a sideman/arranger, his credits include Patti Smith, the Grammy-winning Boardwalk Empire soundtrack album, My Morning Jacket, Crash Test Dummies, Marshall Crenshaw, Willie Nile, Jules Shear, Loudon Wainwright III, and more.

On September 18, Rob will release two new albums: 'A Part of You', his sixth studio collection, and 'Midnight Garden', a collaboration with Crash Test Dummies' Brad Roberts,

A leading composer for PBS, his scoring credits include Masterpiece Theater, NOVA and Frontline. He was composer for the award-winning PBS series NOVAscienceNOW for its first five seasons.

Born in Ohio, Rob grew up in Oxford, England and studied composition at the University of Edinburgh. He lives with his family in the Hudson Valley, just north of New York City.

Morsberger is managed by American International Artists:

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