I’ve been studying different styles of modern reggae for the last several months. I’ve always liked reggae but never got into it. But as my older kids listen to a lot of it, it was inevitable that I’d catch the bug.
Most of my familiarity with reggae is the old school stuff from Marley and Tosh and others. But this new stuff, has taken reggae and expanded it, crossing borders between Pop, Hip-Hop and R & B. Also, while the basic rhythms are retained in the newer styles, melodies have also become very rhythm-centric. It’s pretty amazing, and some of it is extremely musically complex and sophisticated.
I’ve written reggae songs in the past, but they followed the old-school patterns, and I’ve been itching to write more modern stuff. But I was admittedly at an impasse. Well, the other day, I came up with a riff that I laid down, but couldn’t find the words. So I thought I’d practice a bit and see if I could convert an existing tune into a reggae version. For some reason, “Baby Got Back” came to mind. Here it is:
When I told my son what I was intending to do, he laughed out loud, and said, “Well Dad… it could be cool if you could pull it off.” I think I did. More importantly, I wanted to give justice to the original. It’s such a fun tune that I wanted to capture that fun in this one.
As far as equipment was concerned, here’s what I used:
I’ve taken a bit of turn with my approach to writing music as of late, especially with my lyrics. Admittedly, for a long time, I was influenced a lot by producers who were in the music industry, and I’d try to be “clever” with my lyrics. I realized that I’m just not that clever, so now, I just write down what comes to mind and what works – for me.
In any case, I came up with this song this evening. I was in a rather pensive mood, thinking about my marriage and how it has changed over the years, and then a melody came to mind, and then a chord progression. This is a simply song with me singing over a single guitar (my Squier CV Tele). I guess you could call it a love song, but it’s more of a song of understanding where my wife is coming from – at least I think it’s where she’s coming from. 🙂
Sometimes when I’m just messing around, I play something that sticks with me. This song was like that for me. I had the day off from work today, and went into my man-cave to play around. I was thinking of a blues waltz that popped into my head, and wanted to track it so I wouldn’t forget. Surprisingly enough, I started composing the song on the piano. But as I played it more and more on the piano to get the song down for tracking, It just didn’t feel right, so I tracked the rhythm track on guitar. Also, I was originally going to add lyrics. But as I played through the melody I had in mind, it sounded so good with just a finger-picked guitar that I decided to forgo the lyrics altogether. This is the result:
Mind you, I tried the song with three different guitars before I found the one with just the right chime. I thought my Strat would do it, but it sounded a little flat. Then I tried my ’59 Replica because it has a bit brighter voicing, but that didn’t quite sound right to me either. So I took “Katie May” out of her case (she was custom built by Perry Riggs of Slash L Guitars), plugged her in, and smiled. That was the sound I was after!
As far as amps are concerned, I used my Hughes and Kettner TubeMeister 18 using the built-in RedBox DI, and both guitars were recorded silently. This amp just hasn’t ceased to amaze me the more I use it!
It’s funny how my song writing has taken lots of twists and turns in the recent past. For years, I did nothing but religious music (I’m still writing those kinds of songs). Then I went through a phase where I was exploring my emotions and relationships in my life. But lately, I’ve taken to writing stories; letting the music dictate the subject matter to me.
This latest song actually started out as a rework of another I wrote several years ago about a young hottie I happened to dance with at a bar. Musically, the song was pretty good, but structurally, it just didn’t work. But as I worked on this song, even though there was a sense of “sexy” in it, it just didn’t feel like a “hottie” song. In fact, I started thinking about “007” films.
Then suddenly I found myself writing about a Bond on a “hit” and what he actually felt about it; what he felt about his job in general. The lyrics sort of took on a life of their own. Admittedly, the lyrics you’ll see below aren’t the original lyrics. The first set of lyrics didn’t seem to hold together well, so I swapped out some stuff and re-ordered a couple of the verses.
Anyway, give it a listen…
Note that this is the completed song after I tracked the instruments a couple of days ago. Didn’t change anything with respect to gear:
Amp: DV Mark Little 40 Head into an open-back Avatar 1 X 12 with a Jensen P12N speaker
Rhythm Guitar: Slash L Katie May into a Voodoo Labs Micro Vibe
Lead Guitar: ’59 Les Paul Replica into a Vox Big Bad Wah
Bass: Squier “P” Bass
I have to admit that I’m particularly pleased with the lead I played. I’ve never used a wah in any of my recordings up to now, and frankly, I was a bit nervous using it. But once I started playing, I forgot about my trepidation and just let my fingers do the talking. And to be completely honest, that was my first take of the lead after practicing over that section of the music trying different things for a few minutes. I figured I’d just throw the dice and see where the lead took me.
That was one of the few times that I felt truly “connected” when I was playing. Connection is a totally different state then concentration. It’s hard to explain. Let’s just say I was hyper-aware of everything around me when I was playing, and inherently “knew” what I needed to play when I played it. Normally when I’m recording a lead break, I’m pretty focused and admittedly I’ve got my solo worked out ahead of time. But this time, I only knew where I wanted to start with that double-stop bend; after that, all bets were off. I just felt my way through the solo. I guess that comes with trusting myself and my ability. It was very refreshing!
I know, I’m being a little long-winded, but I suddenly got on a philosophical bent somehow – maybe it’s the great wine that I’m drinking (Picchetti Winery Red Pavone Table Wine – 50% Cab Franc/50% Merlot). In any case, circling back to what I’m writing nowadays, for the first time in a long time I’ve been enjoying what I’ve been writing. I think it comes from not really caring where my music takes me. Like playing, I got better once I got over trying to play to a specific style. Once I realized that I liked to play and sing all sorts of stuff from rock to opera, my musical abilities progressed at a fast clip.
So it is with my music writing. I used to think that certain subjects were off-limits, or rather, I would limit myself to writing about just certain things. Then when I told myself to just be a storyteller, I just started writing about what came into my head. It didn’t matter what it was about. With this latest song, it’s actually pretty dark. Though the focus of the 007 movies is on the action, the guy’s a killer. He’s given various assignments, and they usually involve knocking someone off; and at times with a fairly glib attitude. And that’s what I wanted to portray in the song. In the end, his targets are just names on a list. Yeah, kind of dark…
Anyway, here are the lyrics to the song:
The Hit: James Bond’s Lament
Searching for the right moment
to cross the room
I’m drawn to the heat
of your smile
like a moth flying
into its doom.
I feel the weight of this metal
it’s smooth and it’s warm
a dark legacy that I leave
and I know that
I’ll never be mourned
No warning it’s the end of the line.
Your world is shattered in the blink of an eye.
no words of comfort that I think I could say.
it’s just another day…
You may not think you deserve this
but you know very well
there aren’t any angels in this game
and it’s likely
we’ll end up in hell.
It’s not a question of duty
to some majesty
The next name on the list
is all that matters to me
I have several friends and acquaintances who, after their breakups or divorces, went on a bit of a tear on electronic dating sites and seemed to go through women – quickly. I used to tease them that they were fast becoming lotharios. But they always had a reason for not committing. So I wrote this song from their point of view. It’s called “The Lothario.”
Here’s the final mixed version. For the guitars, I added just a little high-end boost to make them stand out a bit more, but I kept their levels pretty much the same.
In any case, here’s the gear I used:
Guitar: Slash L Guitars “Katie May”
Damnation! That guitar played just slightly dirty through my little 18-Watt Plexi clone sounded absolutely incredible! Didn’t have to EQ it at all. Katie May was set to the middle position (both pickups), but in single coil mode so I could get a bit of that Strat Position 4 jangly sound with the dirt.
I was originally going to add a clean guitar track on the left side of the mix, but started noodling with my amp much more overdriven, and decided that I wanted to give the song a bit more of an edge than what it had. So I added it in plus some really simple, but thematic lead breaks over the main riff.
Amp: Aracom VRX18
This is a VERY special amp to me, and while I don’t gig with it much, this amp with its tube rectifier has a very distinctive tone and dynamics. Standard VRX’s (18 and 22) come with a solid state rectifier – that’s not bad. My 22-watter has one. It just has more attack, and I wanted the feel of bit more sag as I was playing a bit behind the beat.
But being a Plexi-style amp, cranked up, this amp has a big sound, and on the “lead” track, I had to make sure I was doing a lot of palm muting to tame the overdrive a bit. But it turned out awesome!
Bass: Ibanez G-10
Cheapo, but it totally serves my purposes.
Here are the lyrics:
I was just a regular guy
…at least I thought I was
going day to day through life
All I wanted was to pass the time
…just doing my thing
You live your life and I’ll live mine
Then I saw her and she turned me all around
Don’t know which way is up or down!
Wasn’t looking for a good time
it must’ve come from outer space
all I know is that she launches
my heart into the sky
But I know I shouldn’t get too high
too much risk of falling
so I’ll enjoy the warmth I’m feeling inside
Enjoy her till it’s time to say goodbye
Please don’t judge me too unkind
…I know how it must look
But they shouldn’t be surprised
I never mean to make them cry
…the truth just hurts
But I have to draw the line
I don’t need no one to
spend their life with me
But I don’t mind the company
I wish she wanted just a good time
and be satisfied with that
but I know that what she wants is more
than what I had in mind
So we can have ourselves some good wine
and compelling conversation
and we’ll enjoy this warmth we’re feeling inside
Enjoy it till it’s time to say goodbye.
Spent so many years in losing myself
Not about to apologize
Though I haven’t put my heart on a shelf
I’ve just had to take the time to realize…
I just want to have a good time
don’t want no one depending on me
as if I have to fill up their lives.
So if you want to have a good time
Kick off your shoes and just go with it
enjoy this warmth we’re feeling inside
Enjoy it till it’s time to say goodbye.
June 19 marks my 20th Wedding Anniversary. Yeah, it’s a big one, but unfortunately, it comes at a time when we will have spent our discretionary funds on a family vacation at the end of June. We’ll hopefully be able to do something in August, but in the meantime, I thought I’d write my wife a song and present it to her at my gig on the 21st. 🙂
This is the first song where I’ve made pretty heavy use of metaphor; something I’ve struggled with over the years. Somehow, I got the inspiration to create some good verbal imagery. In any case, here’s the song:
I played all the parts except for the drums which is a loop. The acoustic was my Yamaha APX900 – miked with a ribbon mic. For electric, I used my ’58 Fender Champ with my Timmy overdrive, and my R8 Les Paul. I tried to keep everything pretty simple. Kind of like that small combo sound. 🙂
The version of the song that’s played here is about the fifth version since the initial. It’s not that I changed lyrics or anything, I just tightened up the arrangement. One drastic thing I did was create much more drama by leaving out instruments in crucial parts – especially the beginning of the song. I was feeling that the original arrangement was a too much of a wall of sound, and I wanted to have areas where the song “rested.”
BTW, here are the lyrics:
Do You Remember
by Brendan Delumpa
Do you remember
when our rose began to bloom
and we danced within
the fragrance of new love
[But petals fade
dry up, fall to the ground
but the mem ‘ries of our flower
still live on
Do you remember
when we planted little seeds
and they grew into
the garden of our lives
We’ve known the struggle
of clearing out the weeds
and though we’ve missed some
we see our garden thrive
I’ve heard you say
that life takes you away
though I’m missing you
I see the reasons why
But just look back
and see all that we have
and stood the test of time
it’s why I’m still here at your side…
Do you remember
how we’ve sailed in bitter winds
driving us against the currents of our love
though angry seas
try to throw us from our way
our course is true
we’ll never run aground
We’re always looking to tomorrow
That doesn’t mean that we let go of our past
And though the years have had their
ups and their downs
It brings me peace…
Just having you around…
Talk about serious writers block! The music came to me first with this song – as it usually happens – and when I wanted to put words to it, thinking that I wanted to make a political statement, they just wouldn’t come. Then as I was driving to a company dinner event this evening, I started daydreaming about sipping some suds in my backyard, sitting next to my wife, with the kids playing in the yard, then the words to the chorus just popped into my head! When I got home, I wrote the verses and bridge in 10 minutes. Here’s the song:
For guitars, I just used “Katie May,” my brand new guitar hand-built by Perry Riggs, owner and luthier of Slash L Guitars. Man, that guitar is such a dream to play. Even with humbuckers (Lollar Imperials), I love the single-coil-like tones I can get with this with the maple/mahogany neck. The guitar was plugged directly into my Aracom VRX18 amp. The guitar tracks are not processed nor EQ’d at all other than adding a touch of reverb. It’s a heavenly tone, if I may say so myself.
Sipping’ on a cold one
on a Sunday afternoon
Thinkin’ ’bout my children
oh they grew up way too soon
looking at all I’ve had to sacrifice
There is no way that I would compromise
My family love,
it’s a faithful love
It’s the only thing
that helps me rise above
My family love
it’s a faithful love
It’s the only thing
that helps me rise above
rise above the world…
People said I’m crazy
there was so much I could be
no point in explaining
of how my family defines me
No words can tell of all the joy they bring
they fill my life and my heart sing
So much could bring me down
There’s a world full of problems all around
enough to bring me to my knees
But I don’t care because I have my family!