New version due Oct. 4.
Fiona Apple fans are already familiar with the material that makes up the artist's third Epic album, "Extraordinary Machine," having spread leaked early versions of the tracks across the Internet while waging a campaign to force the label to release them. But on Oct. 4, Apple will instead issue an entirely new version of the album, on which she has been quietly working while the controversy raged.
Two cuts -- the title track and "Waltz" -- are holdovers from the Jon Brion-helmed sessions that leaked earlier in the year. Another, "Parting Gift," is a new solo piano-and-vocal tune captured on the first take. The rest of "Extraordinary Machine" was produced by Mike Elizondo and Brian Kehew and is made up of the other nine songs that made the rounds online.
Earlier this year, fans seized upon the notion that Epic had rejected the original "Extraordinary Machine" and organized a Web site (FreeFiona.com) and a protest outside the company's New York office in the hopes of bringing the album to the marketplace. But in truth, Apple was not happy enough with the Brion-produced versions to release them. In April 2004, she sought out Elizondo, who played bass on two songs from her 1999 album "When the Pawn...," to help her re-imagine the material.
"That's essentially what we did up until a few months ago, when she felt like everything was ready to move forward," Elizondo tells Billboard.biz. "I have a studio at my house, so we added all of her piano, her vocals and live drums to the things I'd already created from scratch using programmed beats. Rather than experimenting in the studio, we tried to get blueprints for each of the songs and then once everything was ready to move forward, we went in and did the finishing touches."
Although he listened to the original versions once or twice "just to get the scope of the arrangement and the melody," Elizondo says he has not "gone back and compared each song. But, there's definitely some things that are far-out experiments and things that turned out really exciting."
"All in all, it's a Fiona Apple record," he continues. "She has a very distinct style of writing and her melodies are amazing. Her chord progressions are incredible. It's not a drastic departure, but within that, there are some elements you might not have heard on a previous Fiona Apple recording."
The confusion about what exactly was going on with "Extraordinary Machine" was complicated by the fact that neither Apple nor Epic made any public statements about the situation. Elizondo acknowledges it was an unusual environment in which to be working.
"My own personal feeling was, on one side, it was a little disheartening knowing there were these versions of the songs out there while we were working on the record," he says. "But on the other side, I looked at it as, it was very admirable she has this amazing core of fans. The way they interpreted it was, the label isn't putting out her record, so we're going to do it for her. That's very admirable. But as time goes on, these fans will understand this is the album she wants to put out."
The first "official" taste of the new album will be available later today (Aug. 15) on Apple's Web site, which will be streaming "Parting Gift" and "O, Sailor." The tracks will be available for purchase tomorrow via Apple's iTunes Music Store.
And while no details have yet been nailed down, Apple looks ready to return to live performance for the first time in years.
"She's expressed a great deal of excitement with the finished product," Elizondo offers. "I've offered to put a band together as well as be a part of that band myself on bass. I've already put out some feelers to local musicians in L.A. that would probably comprise the band I'm thinking of. But there are no performances set in stone. A lot of this material is very much rhythm section-oriented. The parts will really lend themselves to being played live. It will be a lot of fun."