Here's a new featured song to celebrate the end of the month. In a way The Gadjo Ploughboys
(er... that's Playboys, dammit!) kicked off Steam Powered Studios online
adventures. Back in 2003, on Superbowl Sunday, we recorded a batch of tunes which hit
the net somewhere (Online Rock probably). Prior to that Mr Bobby and I
collaborated on a couple of songs which were posted to the old MP3.COM site,
and I had done some work with Dr Mo, but these were the first songs to appear on
a site called Steam Powered Studio.
At least, that's the way I remember it now. That's a Natural Fact with the Gadjos
featuring Trixi Greiner on accordion and vocals is listed as song #001 in the Steam Powered Catalog, and
although my memory of these things is hazy, I'm sure I numbered the songs according to
their appearance online, not according to when they were recorded. For anyone keeping
score we're up to song #280.
Coincidentally, I have a session with the Gadjos this very afternoon...
November 28, 2008
This is just amazing...
Thanks to WFMU I've discovered a band that would certainly have been on my
hit list if I had only known about them back in 1976. I admit it, I liked a lot
of what the so-called "prog-rock" bands were doing in the 1970's. OK, a lot of it
was overblown (Rick Wakeman of Yes claims that they were the model for
some of Spinal Tap), but some of it really did push the envelope of what could be
done with electric instruments and the pop song format, and many of the players were technically excellent.
I admire that. I've never had the discipline to be technically excellent myself- but
I do admire those who have those sort of chops. Especially when they can play with feeling.
I think this band Wigwam did just that. This is a "live, in the studio" recording. The
band is Finnish, I think- there's a lot more of their work (and work by other Finnish prog-rock bands)
on the tube... Also, check out a very good closeup of how to play a lead on an Arp Axxe (sorry
I sold mine now), and also, please help me identify that lead guitar. Is it a Hohner? A Hag?
November 25, 2008
Now that I've got a real site host, I get stats about my website. It can be a kind of
compulsion, reading the statistics every morning, but I am getting better. Whole
days go by where I don't check how many visitors Steam Powered had the day before.
This morning I noticed that the number two source for
links to my site yesterday was the Chinese version of Google.
Bai Du has a cute blue paw print
for a logo and according to Wikipedia started out mainly as an mp3 search engine.
Would any of our Chinese visitors
be kind enough to let me know what it was they were searching for? I'd love to discover that
someone here has a "hit" in China...
November 21, 2008
OK, my philosophy here at Steam Powered, such as it is, is that the future of
music is online. And in some ways that is true, but it's not necessesarily the way I had
heck, anyone can release their music online, and people tend to cherrypick
songs to load on their portables, so what's the point of making cds anymore? Just make singles!
I just ignored the whole idea of making a "CD" for the past 7 years or so, thinking that eventually
the world would come around. There's good reasons to not make CDs.
The band Squeeze said
Singles remind me of kisses
Albums remind me of plans
Albums are like that- they should have a structure, a flow, and the really good ones do. The
trouble is, the really good albums take a long time to make, generally, and they are
made best when the players have no day jobs. It's a full-time thing, making albums.
Singles, on the other hand, are a snap. You can make a single in one good evening. I seriously
doubt that Louie, Louie was part of a plan. With that in mind, I've been trying to make singles
for the past 7 years.
Ah, but meanwhile, almost everyone that comes in here wants an album when they're done. All
I want to do is make great singles, and I've been churning out albums by the score... well,
some albums, anyway. Now sometimes that's easy, like the Gadjo Playboys (who
have another one planned here, btw) and The Old Tyme Liberation Front, because they
do what they do basically without the need of production... but ordinarily, a
CD project is a major committment of time and effort.
Ahhh, so where am I going with this? The point is, everybody still thinks in terms of
albums, even though it's not the most natural or convenient way to make music. I was
struck by this fact once again, when the wonderful WXPN aired an announcement that
they were looking for local music. Yeah!, I thought, a good shot at exposure! Oh,
but then they said just send us three of your CDs for our consideration... I mean,
what? I need to have a CD to be considered worthy of airtime? OK, I understand that this
weeds out a certain number of "loosers", but still, come on, xpn, join the 21st century
After a week or so of snarling and gnashing, I've come to the conclusion that maybe I should
generate a "cd" to send to WXPN. And maybe some other people would like that idea too,
because then they could say, Oh, I've got Jeff's second cd on my i-pod, or something.
(hey, a guy can dream, right?) So saying, if you're a sponsor in good standing,
here's a list of songs for you to download and burn to make your very own Jeff Coleman cd.
1 -Mad Romance
3 -Save to Serve Her
5 -Crossing State Lines
6 -The Complicated Kid
8 -Drivin Rain
9 -A Blues
10 -Keeping Time
I sort of like this order. Any of you who have been paying attention will know that some of these
recordings go back over ten years. Some are from this past summer. There's really no
sense here that his reflects my "current ideas about music", which is what you
normally expect from an album. The trouble is, I can't sit comfortably in one genre.
I like a lot of different styles. And this "album" is what I think are some of the best
attempts I've made to fit into the various genres that I like.
(many of you will probably object to including the long, spacy Crossing State Lines, but for some reason if
that song isn't in the mix the CD falls apart. I don't know why.)
(Bungi is listed as a Stokers tune, btw, but it's really just me)
(I'm open to suggestions for a name for the CD)
November 19, 2008
The Ralph Toro project continues. Ralph is one of those guys who made some
very good music back when. He actually took a band to Cali to try and get signed at one point,
did some recording, but the band broke up, you know the story.
Ralph came back home and played some more. I worked on one of his projects, engineering
a recording at a studio Jim Hodgkins (AKA The Wizard) had up near Akron. It was
my first venture working in a "real" studio- thanks, Ralph.
The years rolled by and Ralph decided he had enough of the music game. A while back
he came to me to have some of his original music transferred to something more permanent. Ralph
had a whole shopping bag full of cassettes, but Ralph is particular about his music, and
so there would only be one song from here, another from there that he considered worth saving.
(Me, I'd have saved everything, because that's just the way I am.)
A while more passed. Ralph recently came back with some more cassettes that he wanted songs
from, this time he was going to put them all together to make a CD for his buddies. I think
I've persuaded him to let me post them here on Steam Powered, but Ralph is kind
of shy about that sort of thing. I don't know why he should be- the songwriting and
playing and singing is certainly respectable, and as time goes by and I listen to these songs
more and more I am beginning to "get" the Ralph Toro thang.
One of the first comparisons I draw is to the band Spirit- not so much for the
song structure as for the basic sound. There are solid 70's rock grooves and riffs
going on. There is piano and Hammond organ as well as electric guitar, and over it all
is Ralph's upper register crystal clear vocal. Ralph man, you coulda been a contenda!
Ralph is not into the computers so I'm not worried that he will read this and be embarassed. He's
also become a studio sponsor, but I'll have to send him his newsletter via the US mail...
November 17, 2008
I'm a walking antique.
I remember the first computer that came with a mouse. It was remarkable- pointing and clicking!
A "GUI"! Oh how we played and played...
The daughter of that original machine is sometimes up and running in my studio even now.
I still think the Mac Plus is kind of neat. For one thing, it's absolutely silent. It has
a crisp little black and white screen that is easy to read, and it's small and it's all
in one box, so it fits about anywhere.
All that potential, and then the industry took a complete wrong turn. Big, loud boxes
that took up entire desktops became the norm. And we were chained to them! Computers had
their own furniture. They generated their own ailments. Oh sure, we could watch crappy
looking videos on them, and listen to music through crappy little speakers (sold seperately).
But baby, the thrill was definitely gone.
Until today. This thing is the ipod Touch, as you probably already know. It is
easily as much fun as the original Mac 128. Now, the main reason it's so much fun wasn't really
around back in 1984. This thing rocks because it's a portal into the net. One that you can
carry in your pocket, read in the john. It's the net where you are, not where your computer furniture lives.
(no, I never owned a laptop- too clunky for me)
That there picture is my ipod displaying a page from Ulysses. It can hold a
lot of books, and music, and video, and those don't require a live connection to the net. But it
really shines for email. Instead of making time at specific times of day to check my accounts,
(which I often forget to do), I
can just whip 'er out whenever there's a free moment and take a look.
There are some fun little aps for the studio as well. A metronome, with a nice, flashing screen that
keeps time. Tap to enter the tempo. Cost me $.99. There's a mono synth ap that I can't wait
to drop into a tune. A stopwatch, a calculater, a notepad- I used all of these the other night
while burning some backups. And with another purchase I'll be able to record to this thing as well.
Did I mention that it's completely silent? And very small? And that the touch-screen operation
is as exciting as the mouse used to be? Point and click? Hell, just point, basically.
There has to be a but, and so here it is. Can't cut and paste easily. It doesn't support Flash.
Typing long messages is sort of a drag. But overall, its strengths more than make up for the
things it isn't good at doing. And it can only get better...
(for the full-size image, click the photo. Not bad advertising art, I think...)
November 14, 2008
Citizen Steely Dan is a pretty fine box set, if you don't have all those Dan records
already. I only had two, on vinyl, so thanks, Brian, for sponsoring the studio
in this way. Not only are the songs great, the sounds on the records are classics,
good for "tuning in" my ears for mixes.
Now, to deconstruct the lyrics of Brooklyn...
Hey, how about a new featured song? We haven't heard from those krazy kidz in the
Old Time Liberation Front in a while. Here's The End of All Things,
which is kind of appropriate for this time of year...
November 10, 2008
Studio monkeys Heather and Dave. You could cut the tension with a knife!
Heather is really impressed with the Steam Powered Studio. Especially the "vocal isolation booth/laundry room".
(sorry I didn't get a better picture of these guys, but I didn't want to break the spell...)
They were here yesterday recording harmony vocals for Kreggers'Still Makin' Sunshine.
I've got a ways to go before that one's ready to release. If it's new music you're looking for, then go check out
They've addded a couple well worth hearing... follow the
what's new link.
November 08, 2008
I recorded some hand claps (simions say "hands clasp!") and refined the vocals a bit-
now it's easier to get lost in the beat.
There's a dance that goes along with this one. I think it will be in the video eventually...
It's a small world here online. I've been running a studio in my basement for about
8 years and now I find out that there's another studio I'd never heard of before that's within
walking distance. I only found out because of an online "friend requester" who had
a link on his page.
Now, it's true that these other guys run with a different pack. I mean, I don't actually have
a pack, so I guess it's not suprising that I never knew about
the jazzers down the lane. Here's the link...
Yeah, isn't that a great name? I hope we can start some sort of exchange program, because it looks like
Jim Easton has a nice big room to play in- something sorely lacking at Steam Powered. I'm not
sure what I can offer in return- maybe my mad skilz on accordion?
November 06, 2008
I'm grateful to Dave, the one who plays bass around here sometimes,
for selling me his beautiful powder blue Yamaha bass. I played it tonight on
my song Storybook. It's a rough mix at the moment, but I got a lot done.
I recorded some vocals (never satisfied), some kick drum, and that bass.
I like playing this bass. Vera- the powder-blue electric bass!
November 02, 2008
Kregger's CD project got a boost with another Jeff Gibble lead, this time
on Still Makin' Sunshine. Jeff says he played about a hundred leads before he was
happy with the version he sent us here. All I know is that it's mighty fine.
I'll be posting up a version as soon as we shag out some of the vocal parts...
Meanwhile, my comment in a series about songwriting being run by the New York Times has brought a
bunch of downloads of my song Orgy of Hate. I assume it was a positive response because
most of the people who clicked on my link came back and clicked on it again. Now, I hope they can
find the Steam Powered home page!