Posts Tagged ‘#musician’

When we decided to be Personal Touch

As mentioned in the first post of this series, we played original songs in each set. Here is the only recording I am aware of for the song “For Those Who Wait”. We were touring in Corpus Christie Texas and I met with Ric in the afternoon to do a little practice and system fine-tuning. After we were settled he said, ‘hey, whip out the lyrics you are working on. I have a few chords I want to try. We worked for about half an hour going through his chords and arranging them into a song.

In very short time I came up with the melody and we were able to finish the song enough that we performed it later in the tour. I programmed the Yamaha RX7 Drum machine to fit the arrangement. Ann and I sang the lead vocals and Ric did everything else. In the picture above you can see the two silver discs on the lower section of Ric’s guitar. While playing guitar, he would touch one of the silver pads to make a cymbal crash sound from his drum machine and the other one triggered a pre-programmed drum fill pattern for each time he hit the pad. He also kicked bass pedals and triggered string or piano sounds. Pretty amazing when two out of three are just singing to get all that sound.

For “Those Who Wait” by Ric Ahlers and Michael S Kennedy

This is easily the best song I have co-written. Years ago I posted lyrics and said that I wrote this duo for existing country stars at the time. It was my hope to have Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers do this song. I think it would have blown the charts for the time. But who knows. I think we sounded pretty good.

Personal Touch as a duo with me and Ric Ahlers. Yes, he is that tall!

As a duo and later as a trio adding vocalist Ann Ellis, we tried to play popular current songs along with songs we wanted to play. As the Personal Touch we tried to play cover songs with an original flair. Often having Ann sing songs by male artists. She obviously had the best voice of the three of us so she often got the more challenging songs.

A much younger me (on the right) performing with Personal Touch

Continuing the 1st set Personal Touch gets creative with some cover tunes. I always tried to do something a bit different or fun, sometimes bordering on irreverent, with my harmonies or stage comments. For only three of us on stage we kept the music and the entertainment going. This was more of a country music fan setting so we played to the crowd a bit.

I had only been playing piano for about three months before we started booking local gigs. I owned my Arp Odyssey for a long time and used it for bass sounds and effects on my original recordings, but it only played two notes at a time! Then I purchased the new Yamaha DX7 programmable synthesizer. It was that purchase that started my musical career as a sound engineer and performer. Because I taught myself how to program the DX7, I was hired at a local musical instrument store. It is the little decisions that have the biggest impact.

In fact, the EV microphones we are using I won as a music prize from the old Swallen’s Department store where I purchased the Arp Odyssey. They had a local music contest and I entered a song called “Red On Your Blue Suede Shoes“. Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

The path to Peanut Butter Hill in Lindner Park covered in snow 2021

This is a song I co-wrote with a friend of mine from Xenia, Ohio. I sent him the basic tracks via the Internet and he uploaded to his home studio. Scott Hadley from “The Little Hippies” then sang the vocals and helped with arrangement to make this song click. Then he added keyboard parts and harmony tracks and sent individual tracks back to me……

To help me with this song I asked a friend and The Merchants of Death band-mate Mike Wheeler to play bass guitar. He is in Dayton and got the tracks back to me faster than I could have driven there and back! He has a way of finding grooves within the melody of a song that ties it all together.

I wrote “Peanut Butter Hill” on 1-21-2021 as I was walking through the woods near our home. I take walks in the same park almost daily now that I am retired. We spent a lot of time here when our kids were growing up. Walking past a steep hill in the park next to a creek I thought I should write a song about this park. (Well, what about?) As I walked I started thinking that this song is not about me but about the kids that tried climbing the bare-mud side of the hill. A fence stood at the top where the real path was and at the bottom of the hill was a creek that remained mostly dry. Soon the melody hit me and I knew this was a song about peanut butter hill.

Decades ago I challenged my kids and all the neighborhood friends to climb up the hill – but they could not use their hands! When they failed and said it could not be done, I put my hands in my pockets and climbed to the top. So did my daughter TK. The hill is not what it was back then, but I think we were the only ones to meet the challenge, but everyone had fun trying!

“Peanut Butter Hill”

Every musician hits a wrong note
You just try to do it at the right time.
The lyrics might ramble and get lost
You can be sure they end with a rhyme.

Dress it up in lights and fantasy
Fill it with glitter-truths and noble lies.
Pretty poems form a pleasant jingle
Packaged with a bow and ribbon ties.

Beautiful From A Distance
We desire what we see.
And only From A Distance
It’s easy to believe.

What seemed warm and delightful
Is now turned bitter and freezing cold.
It only happens when you get too close
Not sure I always knew that or was told.

Then you learn it’s a sale and not a gift
No surprise now they expect you to pay.
Payments for years turn into a lifetime
For the shiny bobble you’ll just throw away.

Beautiful From A Distance
Until you hand them your pay.
Beautiful From A Distance
You’ll just throw it away.

Every musician hits a wrong note
You just try to do it at the right time.
The lyrics might ramble and get lost
You can be sure they end with a rhyme.

Dress it up in lights and fantasy
Fill it with glitter-truths and noble lies.
Pretty poems form a pleasant jingle
Packaged with a bow and ribbon ties.

Beautiful From A Distance
Until you hand them your pay.
Beautiful From A Distance
You just threw it away.

After smoothing out the timing and lyrics to match the mood I was after for this new song, I wrote a melody that seems to fit pretty well.

I squeezed some of the lyrics as I mentioned and cleaned up the instrumental glitches (a technical term for anything that isn’t right) and added a few parts to the instrumental verison I posted earlier.

Minor changes go on for a long time in the final tracking stage. A lot of it will not be used at all and some will be low in volume so as not to hear distinctly. But similar to color splashes added to the face in a painting, it can really bring out the rest of the ‘image’.

What You Want:

It’s a hand grenade of high frequencies
Placed right between your eyes.
Easy to guess now where it came from;
Years of rock and roll caught you by surprise.

So much harder just to sit and talk these days
In a thin blue funk of purple haze.
Forcing the rhyme within tired rhythms
Simple technologies each a new craze.

You’re in it. You’re on it.
But can’t admit that you want it.
You buy it. You waste it.
Much more than a phase. It’s the New Craze.

It used to take talent and a lot of hours
People loved you for who you are.
Now it’s the beautiful, the extreme
Making a grab for your last dollar.

You need a law degree, and some Marketing
Even web design or sound engineer.
Craft miraculous songs but it won’t matter
Without looks and cash there is no career.

You’re in it. You’re on it.
But can’t admit that you want it.
You buy it. You waste it.
It’s just the New Craze.

CRASH LANDING

I posted another you-tube segment of Crash Landing playing cover tunes at a gig in Cincinnati back in 2002. This is the last segment of the 1st set. I tried to break them up into chunks so they are not huge files.

I ran a straight line out from the mixing board. Few live recordings are perfect, and over the years I tried a number of ways to get a good mix. Keep in mind I record all the time so this was not a special occasion and I don’t even think I told the band members we were recording.

I am still collecting new photos from friends and relatives and will add them to future posts. So sit down and grab your favorite beverage and listen to a great live band!

Another addition for my Cover Tune Tuesdays project. For those of you just jumping in, I am not covering songs from well-known artists you have already heard. I wanted to play some of the songs written by people I have known over the years. I can pretty much guarantee none of us thought we would be famous authors – mostly because none of us tried to be. Like many others, we decided not to put in the eternal time, money and thankless effort necessary to ‘make it big’ in the music scene.

This is a song written by Tom Gorman, Lori Niemi and Tom Robinson. It was written in 1980 and has been recorded and performed by many people in the core group of songwriters I have mentioned previously in my posts.

This time I recorded the song using my Martin 6 string guitar. I usually use my 12 string but since my bi-lateral carpal tunnel surgery last year and plain getting old, it is hard for me to do difficult songs any more.

I used my Ovation 12 string for the 2nd guitar parts so I have not abandoned it completely. I use Sonar Cakewalk – now by BandLab as my recording software. The haunting melodic sounds are from a program called Dimension Pro. I sang and did a little harmony here and there but that is the essence of the mix.

Jackals cover performed by MSK


I would like to share some versions of this song with you and will post 2 other previous recordings. It is a good historical view. People change, equipment changes and the mood inspired by the song change over time.

          "Jackals"                                                           (C) 1980
Straight hollow blocks of buildings haunted with lives
Scanning you with hidden silence
They house the hungry Jackals who go prowling through the angled
Paths of night.
 
Watch out for the hungry Jackals, they’ll dull you with lies
Making like they’re you’re best friends, while they’re sharpening
Their knives.

 
Stalking unwary victims they sidle up
Cutting you with cultured voices
And punctuating death throws with a fluttering of gestures and a
Sociable smile.
 
Watch out for those hungry jackals they stalk in disguise
They clutch your hands with such courtesy but there’s murder
In their eyes.
 
 
Running that dreadful gauntlet every day
Mixed in with the gentle people
A Jackal sticks his paw as a cohort jabs a claw out as you
Hit the ground.
 
Watch out for those hungry jackals disguised as they are
They’ll send you out to save the world but you won’t get very far.

 
Watch out for the hungry Jackals, they’ll dull you with lies:
Making like they’re your best friends…….
Gary Jefferson on vocals
Bob Enderle on vocals

“Night” was written in 1980 by a good friend of mine. I have mentioned him before in earlier posts as TR. (Tom Robinson). This is a great song from the past. I loved playing this in our group or as a duo with TR. I love the rhythm and intro motif.

The subject of the lyrics are familiar to me. Driving at night. Getting away. Pondering life and eventual death in the dead of the night are right up my alley!

I recorded the guitar track and wrote the MIDI drum parts to fit the groove and the opening motif. Then I re-recorded the guitar and added bass guitar from computer modules. Then it was time to add vocals and do the mix. I hope you enjoy this gem.

“Night” (C) 1980 Tom Rominson

Night is a ride you just get in a car and go cruisin on. On past the light of the city lights to the cool dark air. Night is a plunge into twinkling depths that can still your mind. Washing your wounds in nature’s rain, her fountains everywhere.

So let the magic continue while you search for an answer within you. And see that swiftly you fly. ‘ ‘Cause we always knew you had to die sometime.

Taking a life is a crime and you know you’re the victim everyday. They gave you a name and a story, not they’re showing you the way. Day is a desert of calendar deadlines, your life an empty phrase. London Bridges falling down, and the rent you got to pay.

But they can’t poison your fantasy in this refuge from insanity. You’ll be here till you kill the lie. And we all know you’re gonna die sometime.

Night is a ride you just get in the car and go cruisin’ on. On past the light of the city lights to the cool dark air. Night is a plunge into twinkling depths that can still your mind. Washing your wounds in nature’s rain, her fountains everywhere.

And when the story is over you will sleep in fields of clover. But your dreams will keep the night-time sky. ‘Cause we always knew you had to die sometime.

“Night” by Tom Robinson