Welcome to my most recent work. If you came here directly from the "Welcome" page you've missed lots of background but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy this section! Over the last few years I've spent a lot of free time learning how to do home recording. It's not a very expensive hobby and lots of fun. So what appears on this page are several "albums" or collections of songs that as time passed I used as material in my self-education process. I've included some technical notes about things I was trying to do or experiment with. Some worked, some didn't but I had fun!
This is kinda what it looks like . . . makin' the musical sausage!
Forrest 'n Me
First is is a CD I called "Forrest 'n Me." There are a couple of reasons for the name but essentially I've been blessed to be at the right place at the right time many times - in my personal life and in my professional life. These songs have only one thing in common - they were easy to play and songs I already knew. That allowed me to focus on the learning part of this process. Now I have to say that the vocals were not my focus - that was to play the music and learn how the stuff worked, so my apologies to those with sophisticated musical tastes . . . although it's unlikely anybody in that category is ever going to read/listen to this!
"Liner Notes" for Forrest 'n Me
"Secret Agent Man" was one of the first song's I recorded. It's a pretty simple tune and allowed me to figure out how to layer drums, bass, keys and guitar over my vocals. The guitar part is all played with midi keyboards - the sound is called "Hellspawn Guitar" - kinda fun.
"Runaway" is another cover classic that probably EVERY band I've played in did. Since I played baritone sax for many years, I think I got the "feel" of the bari pretty good. The synth solo was also a gas to fool around with. I also learned that if you throw in an occasional sloppy note it makes the brass sound more realistic and less "computery."
Well this probably isn't the version of "Money" you were expecting but I had fun with it too. Lots of these songs I double organ over electric piano. On this one I used a Farfisa type sounds with lots of "splattered" notes. There is also a great electronic "frying egg" sound I used. For some reason the horn fills, which come in later, start to sound like music from the Batman TV show (not the movies). I split the brass to the left and saxes to the right channel to give it more of a live sound.
"Honky Tonk Woman" is more of the doubled keyboards - electric piano playing the rhythm with two layers of B3 organ over the top. Probably the song I most like from these earlier recordings.
One of the great things about my family is that all my boys love music - they're all accomplished musicians (I've referenced some of that on this website). So on a few of these songs - like this one "Hard to Handle" and the next one "Help Me Rhonda" I recruited them for various parts, especially things I don't do well, like play real guitar. On a couple of these Wes plays some great guitar and James played the drum parts.
"Heartache Tonight" is a song I never played in any bands but always liked. So this version has some great (if I do say so myself) organ fills - especially towards the end. I also learned how hard it was to record natural sounding brass.
"Liner Notes" for "Second CD"
This is my cleverly titled second CD.
Okay, so how do you go about creating a recording like "The Night Before" you ask? Well, you start with finding sounds that you like - obviously you have to have some idea of what the final product will be like but often that changes along the way. This one started with the drum parts - they are actually a variety of loops available in Reason (one of the software packages that I use in recording) that I patched together and edited into a whole - so nobody I know nor I actually played any drums on this song. Then I added the electric piano rhythm part to get the bounce I wanted. Bass part was next, that was a fun part because of the natural chord line of this Beatles tune. They really were very talented! I added the lead vocal, then the harmony vocals. The lead guitar "sitar" part was almost an afterthought but really dresses it up. The interlude flute/trumpet part is my attempt to replicate the Sargent Pepper "Abbey Road" horn sounds.
"Midnight Hour" is a classic R&B tune, I think I did a credible job with the music. . . just not so much the vocals. Oh, well.
"Wild World" is a Cat Stevens song I decided to record cause everything I was doing was uptempo and rocking. Wanted a change of pace. This has some great rhythm instruments (listen for the sandpaper) with a simple guitar strum and electric piano over the bass. really like the way the keyboard solo turned out. Great sound - can't remember the name at the moment. Ended up with a strange solo at the end.
"Hit Me Baby One More Time" is a version I copied from son James' open mike night repertoire. I actually have no idea how this evolved as it did. It starts and ends with the lowest tone I could produce vocally in kind of a monk-chant thing with a deep bell. Promise no drugs were involved in the production of this song. The "chick" vocals are synthesized. The key solo is once again the famous Farfisa-ish sound.
"She's Not There" is a Zombie's tune I'd never played but always loved. This project gave me that opportunity. I like the music track - especially the guitar part. Unfortunately my voice is a full octave lower than the original so it sounds - ah different.
"Liner Notes" for "Under Construction"
Double Shot (of my baby's Love)" features #2 son James with me on the vocals and cowbell. This song is one of the classic party songs of the non-psychedelic side of the 60's. Got pretty close to the original keyboard sound and James really pumped up the vocals.
"Gimme One Reason" is how I would play if I ever had the chance to arrange for Tracy Chapman. It just screamed for an electric piano part, which I augmented with organ and then brass (distracts from the vocals!) Listen to the very end (give myself goose pimples on that solo!)
"Prince of Peace" is a song you've probably never heard. It was recorded by Leon Russell, Joe Cocker's piano player and a music force onto himself. Love the lyrics. Another of my favorite electric piano layering. Also has a tenor sax part I really enjoyed creating. I've alluded to it before but I think if you've played an instrument, sax or trumpet, it's much easier for you to play a synthesized version because you can "hear" more than notes, you can add the feel of the instrument.
"You're No Good" is a well-know Linda Ronstadt song. This is sort of a Santana-ish version. James' played the guitar and drums on this one for me! I met Linda a few times in the 60's right before her first hit record.
"Low Rider." Somebody will eventually listen to this and say "heh, that's funny/weird."
"Wild Night" is a Van Morrison song from after his years with “Them.” Particularly like the bass part. Also like the brass/sax parts. (Can you tell I'm listening to these as I write?)
"Liner Notes" for "On Down the Road"
I took a couple of years off from recording (and some other hobbies), to invest in the School of Public Health at Texas A&M where we've been since 2001. After serving as Assistant and then Associate Dean, I was asked to step in as Interim Dean for "a short while." Well that turned out to be more than two years and I won't get into details here, but took a lot out of me. Getting back into music was both therapeutic and challenging. You may notice the old voice is a bit weaker, but I think the music is just as solid. Picture I used is from my brother-in-law Dave DeFore's wedding in Colorado. The beard isn't quite as long today. Hope you enjoy these.
First up is "Lie to Me" a Johnny Lang song. He's a serious guitar player and you'll notice that I didn't even attempt to simulate what he was playing! (no point in embarrassing myself any further!)
Sam Cooke's "Another Saturday Night" is a great oldie - just felt like including.
James Taylor’s version of “Handy Man” has always been a haunting interpretation. Kind of a sadness underneath the otherwise light/bouncing lyrics and melody. I always think of James Taylor from a mellow perspective – not sure why.
“Help from my Friends” is based on the Joe Cocker “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” version. Saw them live at the Santa Monica Civic in the 1970’s – AMAZING musicians. Jimmy Gordon, part of the famous “Wrecking Crew” was the drummer – (he played drums on the Future Album and singles). This version doesn’t require much from the drummer and comparing my vocal to Joe Cocker is REALLY absurd (I don’t even try!) This song also demonstrates the difficulty of keyboard/computer-based guitar simulation . . . it’s tough.
“The Letter” by the Boxtops is one of those classic ‘Brown-Eyed Girl” type songs that shine in their simplicity. This version features brother-in-law Dave DeFore on the drums. (Nicely done dude!)
Okay, “Why “Won’t Back Down” Jim?” I don’t know, I was fooling around one night and started playing it and then turned on the recording equipment – ended up finishing it in one evening (maybe I should have taken longer, you say?” Well it is what it is. Fun. The way Tom Petty meant it, I believe.
Just added these last three. "Sundown" is a great old tune by Gordon Lightfoot. Wonder what ever happened to him? Heard this on the radio driving home and just had to try it! Next, Congo Square, is a Neville Brothers tune. Before listening to it you have to promise not to listen to their version for at least 90 days before or after listening to mine! Last is "Horse to the Water" a song by George Harrison. Sam Brown (she) sang it on the George Harrison memorial album (watch the video!)
Ok, I lied, one more. Rendezvous with the Blues is a sweet tune that got stuck in my head a while back courtesy of my long-time band mate Tim Elliott. This is a simple version good for a late night drive.
I've always loved Mustang Sally (especially The Commitments version but can't sing it so I found a "lounge version" and tried that approach. As always feedback welcome!
"Liner Notes" for "Fifty Years - Who's Counting?"
So this is an album of songs that make me think of my sweetie. We will celebrate 50 years of marriage on July 11, 2020. I can't capture with words what she means to me so best I can do is steal some from some amazing songwriters/performers. My apologies to all, but here ya go.
I'm probably in trouble for including this first song. It was a late night, after an Old Fashioned (or two) that I conned Miss Dawn into singing some harmony for me (Elton John's "Don't Go Breakin My Heart" with Kiki Dee joining him for the duet). About 2/3ths into it, Dawn loses her place in the lyrics and starts, well, filling in. It quickly became hysterical and it is without a doubt the most joyful piece of music I've ever played or participated in. Love you Sweetie!
Next two are classic Eric Clapton songs. I think “Wonderful Tonight” is an unappreciated song. Clapton is so well known for his guitar work and the blues/rock side of his music, that “Wonderful” and “Tears” don’t get recognized as beautiful works of musical art.
“Tears in Heaven” is, of course, by Eric Clapton. This version follows the arrangement of a live version where the lead vocal part is doubled by an acoustic string bass. I added a “regular” bass part but the simplicity of what Clapton did with the acoustic bass is just too elegant to ignore.
"Smooth" by Santana is perhaps a bit heavy on the chaka-chaka-shaka-shaka instruments, but too much fun to not play with. Figuring out the horn parts was challenging! I put it on here cause it just fits the mood.
"A Song for You" is one my favorite Leon Russell tunes. Hard not to get choked up a bit singing this and thinking about how much I love Miss Dawn.
So everyone of my "albums" (almost) has had a Beach Boys song - this one is "God Only Knows" - I think one of Brian Wilson's best. HARD to figure out and record! Dude's a genius. Dawn and I got to see him in concert at the Austin City Limits Theater Christmas of 2018. A remarkable experience – only seats 2000 and we were front row center. The good was we could literally see every expression on his face – the bad news was that much of the time he was expression-less and barely sang/played. When he “connected” it was amazing but much of the evening he was not connected. Sad.
"Liner Notes" for "COVID-19 Blues
So these are early "draft" versions - lots of room for improvement. I believe I was officially the last person to decide to spend some of my quarantine time recording music ( yeah, it's only a couple of songs, give me a break!)
Most people think of the lyrics when you mention Elton John, but that was actually mostly Bernie Taupin. Elton is a wicked musician and I've always particularly liked to intro to "Take Me to The Pilot." Just had to add it here.
This version of Stevie Winwood's "I'm a Man" was done by Chicago (before they added brass). It's really solid version (love the bass line). Of course it needs an actual singer but you'll get the idea. (Oh, I added some brass just cause I wanted to!)
"Whole Lotta Soul Around Here" is a song by Tab Benoit, one of my favorite guitar player/singers. If you're not familiar with Tab take a few minutes and give him a listen on Spotify or whatever. Great talent.