On Monday I debuted a song written by me in the early 1990s, and recorded by Jay Semko of the Northern Pikes this year — part of my crazy project to persuade my musical heroes to record my songs. Yesterday, I shared the lyrics.
Today, with no small degree of trepidation, I am releasing the original recording that I did well over 20 years ago. I’m going to stop apologizing for the muddy sound quality and the poor playing and singing, and describe how I did this and what you’ll hear.
I did the recording on a cassette-based TASCAM recorded that allowed me to lay down as many as eight tracks. I played and sang everything and take full blame for the whole thing. On this recording you will hear piano as well as an acoustic guitar (a three-quarter-size guitar with nylon strings, which helps explain the sound quality). Since I lacked any vocal effects, I tried to make up for it by simply double-tracking every vocal line. Put simply, I sang and recording each vocal line twice. You will also hear background vocals in a couple of places — something Jay Semko could not pull off as a solo musician doing a live recording. Because it’s three-part harmony and I am double-tracking the vocals, that’s six of me singing there. (The mere thought of it is enough to make me second-guess publishing this.)
Astute musicians will notice a few differences between this recording and the one by Semko. In addition to the piano and the harmony, you can hear that our fingerpicking styles are different. I use standard alternate thumb picking, while Semko uses a rather unique style that he hilariously described to me as a “mutant form of fingerpicking.” It’s actually very interesting and creative. Also, you may notice that his vocal line is occasionally a smidgen different from my original, and at least one of the chords is changed.
Oh — and also, my version is horrific and his is awesome. (Nothing gives you appreciation for a good recording of a song as much as a bad one.)
One final note, about the band name. I called my “band” (which was just me) “Mangled Grapes.” I was a fan of the Grapes of Wrath as well as the Northern Pikes, and the name was a tribute to the Grapes as well as to the fact that I was mangling the songs. In keeping with my penchant for double meanings, I consoled myself with the idea that even mangled grapes can sometimes develop into fine wine.
And sometimes, they just remain mangled grapes. Which is as good a lead-in as any to my version of “Creation”:
As a reminder, for comparison purposes, here is the version recorded by Jay Semko: