Over the last 15 years or so I have recorded dozens of cover songs, just me sitting in the living room with a guitar, Audacity running on my laptop, and the Macbook's built-in little microphone as the mic. I don't know much about recording and mixing, but I've found it therapeutic to take a break of 30 minutes here and there and just record a song that I like, each track in one take. However it comes out, that's how it comes out. They were never meant for public consumption, of course, but I include a few of them here with all of their imperfections in hopes that it will inspire you, too, to find time to make a little music as if the world isn't listening—just because it's worth doing in its own right. Being is showtime!
0:00 1. "Times Like These," The Foo Fighters
4:06 2. "Love, Love, Love," The Mountain Goats
7:14 3. "Red Right Ankle," The Decemberists
10:15 4. "Charlie Darwin," The Low Anthem
13:45 5. "We Both Go Down Together," The Decemberists
THE LIVE COVERS AS PARTS OF SHOWS
Sometimes there are live recordings made of lecture-performances. Sometimes not. Over the years it has strangely been the case that the audio is spotty at best. But it's all been fun! The video below features four show performances.
0:00 1. "Five Years," David Bowie
This is from the first time I ever mounted a lecture-performance: "The Mourning Show" at DePaul University in 2006. Bob Valgenti is on drums. Bill Martin is on bass and backing vocals. I'm playing guitar and singing. I'm grateful to Bob and Bill for taking a chance on doing something new and strange with me.
3:58 2. "The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)," The Decemberists
This is the only selection where it's just me playing by myself. This song was part of the 2016 lecture-performance entitled "Animal, Monster, Mineral: Environmental Ethics Beyond the Life-Death Binary" presented as a university-wide colloquium at Dominican University. Everyone in the audience got to take home a special rock that was passed out right before I performed this song.
8:29 3. "Pale Blue Eyes," The Velvet Underground
One of my favorite Lou Reed songs was part of the lecture-performance, "The Zombie Apocalypse and You: Memory, Mourning, Nostalgia, Consumption" presented in 2017 at Lebanon Valley College. The band, "Yeti Sandwich 4.0" is: Justin Morell, guitar; Peter Behr, keyboards; Thomas Carley, bass; Bob Valgenti, drums; H. Peter Steeves, guitar and vocals.
14:46 4. "CPR/Claws Pt. 2," Typhoon
This is one of my all-time favorite songs. It was composed by Kyle Morton. As you'll hear, the recording is a bit messed up. The mic on the vocals was turned down somehow for the performance, and the video (from which this audio was taken) cuts out in parts. What a shame that it happened during such a beautiful song (you should go listen to the real version by Kyle and Typhoon right now!). But such is life and such is art. We had less than half an hour to rehearse, me meeting most members of the band for the first time about 40 minutes before showtime. But that was always part of the fun of a gig at LVC: Bob Valgenti put together great groups of student musicians and we had instant bands for shows playing music with ultra-minimal rehearsal. Seat-of-the-pants is where it's at! At any rate, this is from 2012 and "The Money Show," another colloquium presentation at Lebanon Valley College. The band, "Yeti Panini," is: Bob Valgenti, drums; Matthew Houston, percussion; Rachel Lightner, acoustic guitar; John DiCocco, electric guitar; Cedric Sanchez, keyboards; Mark Sweeney, bass; and H. Peter Steeves, vocals.
You know that music is going to be great when the first thing the artist does is apologize. But hey, I say I'm Sorry a lot. So: I'm sorry for all of the inadequacies you will experience if you play the video below. Back in 1990 I recorded a solo-album of original music entitled "Social Ontology Disorders." It took all of southern Indiana by storm. And when I say "all" I mean an area with about a 10 mile radius around Bloomington (where I had just started grad school). And when I say "storm" I mean it sprinkled a little bit on a handful of people. There were 15 tracks, 10 of which are included here (and yes, my photo was supposed to be upside down on the album cover—it was the start of the '90s! alternative!). All 15 songs were recorded over the course of one fall weekend in my bedroom using a rented 4-track cassette tape recorder and rented bass, keyboards, drum machine, and microphone that were picked up at 8:00 p.m. on Friday and all due back to the music store by 9:00 a.m. Monday morning. I had my own electric guitar from Sears and a Cort Earth-900 acoustic parlor guitar (which I still have). It was my first time using a 4-track, and it was pretty exciting. Nearly every song is basically a "first take" on each track. There were so many different tracks that I didn't have much time to remake things. Since that time I have accumulated many other original songs, but I've never recorded them. Also since that time all of the cassette tapes with the master copies of that first album have warped and even partially melted. It happens to the best of us, I guess. Even the Mona Lisa is falling apart. You'll hear the result of that entropy on this video. Sometimes there's a break where I had to splice the tape; other times you can literally hear the tape warp and the music slow down. I tried my best to get a digital version of it all, but it wasn't possible. Some of the songs were just completely lost. And others sound like they were recorded underwater or engineered by someone who has no control over the movement of his hands. The bass on "Noah Sinned" is so warped that even trying to "auto-tune" it couldn't quite get it in tune today. So: apologies. But again, the point, I think (I hope!), is not about perfection. The point is more about just making some art—making time to make something. Warts and all. And I hope that's what you'll do now!
0:00 1. "After the Fall"
4:34 2. "Cowboy Blues"
7:04 3. "Immanuel"
9:52 4. "Noah Sinned"
15:14 5. "Crawl"
17:45 6. "Catbird Seat"
23:55 7. "A...."
28:40 8. "Train on the Track"
31:22 9. "Nothing on My Mind"
35:45 10. "Pachelbal Cannonical/The Kingdom of Heaven"