Posts Tagged ‘#vocalist’

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

As part of My Cover Tune Tuesdays, I wanted to do an acoustic version of one of my favorite Grateful Dead songs. The story I heard about this song is that Stella Blue refers to an old cheap guitar Jerry Garcia played when he was much younger. I tried to look up references but nothing conclusive so I stopped. I am not a reporter, after all.

In either case, this song has been an inspiration for me in many ways. As I get older, though, the message is much closer to home. I hope I will be able to dust off the strings for years to come, but I still find each moment I have to make and play music precious. Without it I would be insane, lost or dead (but not grateful)!

So I got out the Martin 6 string acoustic/electric guitar I got from my older brother and changed the strings. It was not enough to dust them off! Then I pulled out my Ovation 12 string acoustic/electric guitar and dusted off those strings. The Martin I ran a guitar cable to the Universal Audio Solo 610 mic pre-amp. After recording the main guitar track in Sonar by Cakewalk/Bandlab I used the Ovation 12 String guitar for a light/filler guitar track. I used a AKG C214 microphone plugged into the Solo 610 for recording the Ovation. Vocals used the same microphone and pre-amp set-up so it was a quick session.

All the years combine
They melt into a dream
A broken angel sings
From a guitar.
In the end there's just a song
Comes crying up the night
Through all the broken dreams
And vanished years.

Stella Blue         Stella Blue
I've stayed in every blue-light cheap hotel
Can't win for trying
Dust off those rusty strings just
One more time
Gonna make them shine. 

When all the cards are down
There's nothing left to see
There's just the pavement left
And broken dreams.
In the end there's still that song
Comes crying like the wind
Down every lonely street
That's ever been.

Stella Blue         Stella Blue 
I've stayed in every blue-light cheap hotel
Can't win for trying
Dust off those rusty strings just
One more time
Gonna make them shine.

It all rolls into one
And nothing comes for free
There's nothing you can hold
For very long.
And when you hear that song
Come crying like the wind
It seems like all this life 
Was just a dream.

To Stella Blue         Stella Blue

Songwriters: Jerome J. Garcia / Robert C. Hunter
Stella Blue lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Some of you may notice right away that this song is a little different.  The beat is not the same as many other songs.  I enjoy playing in different time signatures.  Not too weird, but I like different beats and even tempo changes if done right.  This song is played in 3/4 time rather than the more traditional 4/4 time. It gives it more of a waltz kind of feel to the measures.  This is a straight forward recording with me and my Ovation 12 string guitar.  There is a hint of a long reverb.

Castles     To me, this is a rather sad song.  I have seen many relationships that should last forever crumble in front of me.  People that were dedicated and adored each other turned to bitter enemies.  Mutual friends and family stuck with unpleasant decisions.  Broken hearts and lives.  Sometimes there are innocent and guilty, but not as often as you would think.  The rooms themselves seem to whisper a sad tale.  Even the pictures are affected by the loneliness and help tell the tragic but all too familiar tale.  Using common excuses as cliche’s the chorus sums it up fairly well while the verses bounce from past to present.

This is not about the relationships that start out with lies or Jekyll/Hyde waiting for you.  This is more about someone wanting to mold you.  Over powering or just with  persistence.  These extreme situations would quickly spin out of control.  Some that begin with love turn vicious.  And as a reminder these are people that professed they loved each other not long ago.  I don’t know how that is possible, frankly.   Best wishes to you if you have ever had to deal with this situation.

I kept hearing a melody line while reading the poem “Hearts Of Stone” I posted earlier.  It is a haunting melody in many ways.  The music behind it is sparse and supports the vocals with open space and fluid timing.  The music seems out of place at first as the lyrics are happy, hopeful and even loving.  On the other side of the chorus the lyrics take a darker look at the conditions many people live with.  The minor key and slow progression of the instruments come into play and help paint a portrait of dismal human experiences.

As with a number of my original recordings, I wish I could sing the piece with power and passion the way it needs to be sung to convey the ideas in my head, but this is probably the best I can do.  Close your eyes and pretend your favorite vocalist is singing.  That MIGHT help lol. Comments suggested a rock song for the lyrics and I agree.  I am playing with the idea and may have another version in the future.  For now, here is my eerie version of “Hearts Of Stone”.

Heart-of-Stone

MSK Yellowstone

MSK Yellowstone

00001341

Photo by MSK Yosemite

Burning Impressions That Last Forever                                 

“Single Desire” was written in a time when I must have had a lot to say.  The year was 1988. Once love has grabbed you it can burn deep.  No matter how you want things to turn out, sometimes you have no control on the direction they take.  You find yourself helpless at the time and unable to avoid mistakes that seem obvious even to you.  Single Desire tries to describe the condition when adoration is not reciprocal.  When you are not loved in return.  Only one thing matters and nothing you can do will make it happen.

When the other person learns that type of control is in their hands, they have power that can turn lovers insane.  He/She can make the helpless romantic into a tool that can be discarded when no longer useful.  There is no cost to them.  Displays of charm and hints of affection can destroy all resistance and common sense in the admirer.

We need to wait until the fire burns out completely before we can stop following and finally walk away.  The problem is there is usually very little left to walk away with.

I tried to give this song a full arrangement as powerful as the lyrics (or the idea behind them) felt to me.  I knew I could not sing it the way it required so I called my  good friend and band-mate Gary Jefferson as I have many times over the years to do the vocal tracks.  My wife Ellen does the chorus ‘response’ vocal parts.  I used my keyboards and MIDI tone generators to do all the instrumental tracks including the drums, strings, brass and bass guitar parts, and invited my buddy Shawn Anderson to come over and lay down the lead guitar tracks. Harlen Lee, another great friend of mine, came in and added additional guitar parts.  I really like the bass guitar line, and think the strings add movement and dramatic accents to the song.

Please give “Single Desire” a few plays to let it sink in and I hope you enjoy.

I’ve admitted in earlier posts that I observe people a lot, and that I get a number of ideas for songs from watching other people;  friends, family, co-workers, I steal from them all!  I can empathize with people as they face challenges and triumphs in life.  I try to understand what it feels like to be in those situations even though I myself might not be directly affected by them.

I also have some rather obvious political points of view.  I can understand why there are those that do not always agree with my positions but in many cases I can still understand theirs.  In this song I basically insult every group I can think of!  As you are more than likely in at least one of these groups I apologize in advance.  In a lot of ways, this song summarizes the items on my Love – Hate list.  I hate things that should work but do not, and I really hate personal and corporate greed.  The song uses a lot of references to things we would hear on the news, although it was written a long time ago.  Unfortunately most of the issues are the same today!

Recording this song took a LONG time.  We did rough mixes here and there changing this or that, but it did not feel right from beginning to end.  Eventually, I think we rearranged some of the chorus/verse structure and it just fell into place.  For some songs this is the agonizing part;  all the components are there and sound good, but the piece as a whole just does not grab you.  I might have even tried changing tempo on this one to get it right.

If this is not the first song I did using my new Alesis ADAT recorder it was one of the first.  I was also transitioning from the Atari computer to a Windows machine, so not everything went smoothly!  I played electric guitar on this one (I have a few guitars and do not know which one was used for each song but my guess this is either my Ibanez or a Yamaha 6 string) and did all the sequencing and drum tracks as described earlier.  My wife does the vocal main lines.  Using the limiter/compressor chain I described from other songs the vocals are recorded so they stay soft and spooky and a little eerie as the lyrics become more and more cynical.  A bunch of family and friends came in and did the voice add-ons.  You can hear both our daughters, my co-writing brother and a few neighbors help out with the spoken parts.  I ‘sing’ the chorus.

The bass line in this one is particularly cool because it is my Oberheim Matrix 6 synth and it has this patch or sound that continues to play an arpeggio (sequence of predetermined notes) as long as you hold a key down.  So the bass lines are done by holding one note for a while but hearing many notes played.  We even got to play with one of the audio samplers from the music store and used it to trigger the ‘broken word’ parts.   Once we got the arrangement right it was just fun to ‘decorate’ the basic tracks and add a little movement to the mix.   Have fun with this one.

As we moved the song “My Heart is Silent” forward, I wanted to give you an update in the process.  New chord structure keeping some of the vibe from the first version and new vocals and you can see how quickly songs can change from the original concept.  The last version had a female vocalist and this time we hear from a friend of Mack.  His name is Carlos and he has a smooth ballad vocal style. Again, this is the first vocal attempt to give us an idea how the song feels with a male vocalist and more of a structured feel to the verses. 

 We decided to go with a spoken intro for the first verse.  I like the way it opens the song and allows us to build the vocals as the song progresses.  Oddly enough, a lot of the lyrics went back to the original as the song structure fit the words a bit easier.  We also considered doing a male-female duet.  No final decision yet and we are still thinking about back-up vocals to enhance some of the lines from each verse to drive the end of the song as it builds up.   

 I added MIDI string parts after the piano intro.  The drum parts and bass guitar are also all MIDI generated coming from the computer.  I added a low-key rhythm guitar part during the chorus and later verses.  Once we have the vocal parts finalized we may add other instruments as the song progresses toward the end.   

 So what do you think?  Male vocalist, female or duet?   

 What other instruments do you ‘hear’ in the final version?  Saxophone?   Brass? Orchestral?  Lead guitar? 

 Do you like the spoken opening verse rather than jumping straight into the melody? 

 Here is the latest rough mix of “My Heart Is Silent”. 

A Song in the Making Part III

A Song in the Making Part II

A Song in the Making

While performing with my last cover band, Crash Landing, we played local clubs, festivals and private parties.  In this picture of a live set up, you will see a fairly standard rock/blues/country/alternative/jazz band stage arrangement;  drums center rear, Lead Vocalist center front.  Keys (and/or rhythm guitar) on the left as you look at the stage and the lead guitar player on the right.  In smaller clubs the keyboards get crunched back in the corner next to the drummer……  no sour grapes here!  Bass player close to the drummer. (either side doesn’t really matter)  In reality, most bands will not practice in this configuration, but this is the way most of us play out live and we are quite used to it.  In our case, Crash Landing has a number of vocalists.  All but the drummer sings in this band.  The bass player takes front stage position and sings a number of lead vocals.  So does the guitar player.  You can see where the microphone stands are placed for the vocalists.  Close up pictures later in this series will show other microphone positions for the instruments.  These are good places to start.  If you have limited time or setting up for a number of bands in an evening, you go with the standard format and shape the sound from the board as much as possible.  Knowing or having experience doing the quick set-up successfully a few times you will see the standard configuration and mic placements work well for the vast majority of performances.

We can also see the positioning of the vocal stage monitors across the front of the stage.  There are various thoughts on how to set these up but the differences can seem minor.  For this many vocalists across the front, this spacing and direction worked fairly well.  The drummer and/or other non-vocalists might also need monitors.  (it would not be unusual for the keyboard player requiring a monitor to hear the keyboards and a vocal mix if they sing)  This stage size gives players room to breath AND hear.  When inside on a smaller stage, everything seems to collide and jumble.  Outside you can hear yourself play much better (depending on the sound engineer, of course) and at times you might actually struggle just a little to hear the other players!  Take two steps closer to them and they are plenty loud.  This should be an easier situation for a sound engineer.  If I had to do a first gig in my life as a practice run, I would want to do an outdoors gig.

Crash Landing

Thinking about a recent post where we shared our first concert experiences, I was reminded about my first concert to see The Grateful Dead. I was fairly young and the environment was overwhelming and exciting.

We used to play one of their songs called “Mr. Charlie”. The Grateful Dead are off beat by nature and this is one of their songs most people have not heard.  I recorded this cover song a couple years ago and decided to pull it out of the ‘deep-freeze’ and post it for the fun of it.

When I was in cover bands, we were pretty much forced to play main stream or currently airing songs.  I would suggest the unknown songs often but understood when we played only a few.  This one never got the approval either, but the core group used to warm up on this one and I just like the flavor of the song.

Credits to The Grateful Dead.  This is my Ovation 12 String guitar and I do a little harmony.  Hope you have a little fun with this as well.

Years ago when I was still learning to play guitar; I know, we are always learning! In this piece, my great friend and musical soul mate Tom Robinson is playing guitar and singing. I play around with the harmony, not knowing exactly where this song is going as we play off each other’s ideas as the song ends. This is another very basic living room recording but I simply love the song and the textures we created around the basic outline of the song. I hope you enjoy it as well. There are a number of inside jokes and references people might not totally understand, but I don’t think that will interfere too much.When I contacted them recently for correct song credits the answers were definite with options available for future adjustments. Tom Gorman and Tom Robinson [for all intents and purposes…] wrote the lyrics. Music by Tom Robinson. For a little more history I will include a portion of the conversation for historic kicks and giggles.

(Co-authors) Tom Gorman to Tom Robinson:

It was I July or Aug of 77 at your apartment. ….. Your stereo wasn’t working, and you were tinkering with it. You began to make progress and said “We got the capability . . .” For whatever reason, that inspired me, and I wrote most of the words to the song, including most of the refrain. ….. You came up with the lines about (mutual friends). I had written “We’ve got to feed our habits now” but couldn’t think of anything else. You changed “habits” to “rabbits” and added the line about rounding up the steer. At a later point, you put it to music and added “Thinkin’ about our doodely doom” and “weekend in the womb.” You also gave it the title “The Round-up.” The illegal beer was the Millers that (we) managed to score on a Sunday when it was illegal to sell it on Sunday.