Someone pointed out (this, November of 2012) that they were curious to hear other Christmas songs that I might have done. Well, here are some of the earlier ones. Memory fades fast but I will try and give you whatever info I can. Whenever they are available, I will give you both AAC and MP3 versions. Simply put: MP3 is fine for most folks and AAC is a better file sonically, but no worries if you aren’t sure what to do with it.
I hope you enjoy this music. I have to warn you right up front that this is NOT just Christmas Music, but… Tracks 1-7 are indeed all Christmas Songs for your Holiday listening pleasure. So, if you want to avoid my self indulgence, you can hit the Eject button after Track 7. However, I am pretty proud of what’s happening on Tracks 8-13. Some of those I wrote, some were borrowed and I recorded those to have some fun with the process and because these songs and I have a history together. A LONG history together.
New addition November 14, 2012. I recorded this a while back and just re-recorded the vocal (testing out some microphone mods). Words by Timmy Meir, Music by James Taylor
1. Cheer (Words/Music Todd L. McCagg 2010) I did write this one in 2010. I did all of the instruments, including the slide guitar solo, all vocals, and drum loop editing.
2. Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth (Larry Grossman, et al/David Bowie) Nick and I did this one together a couple of years ago (memory is a bit shot so can’t pin down the year). I did all of the instrumental tracks. Drum loop editing and drum programming by me.
3. It’s a Season Thing (Words/Music Todd L. McCagg 2008) Again, memory fails, but I think the date is right. I did all of the instrumental tracks, lead and backing vocals. That’s Scott on the lead guitar solo and I did the drum loop editing. This song is about all of the memories of Christmases growing up on Seley Drive in North Babylon.
4. Crimson and Evergreen (Words/Music Todd L. McCagg 2009) That was only last year so I DO remember the year. I did all of the instrumental tracks, lead and backing vocals and drum loop editing. Crimson and Evergreen is about my family and my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins Paul and Pattie and our trips, as kids, to Radio City Music Hall in the “field of stone”, NYC.
5. Mary Did You Know? (Mark Lowry/Buddy Greene 1984) Nick and I did this one in 2007? at the request of my wife Louise. A great Christmas song that I really wish I could say that I wrote, but alas… I did all of the instrument tracking and drum editing. Obviously Nick and I shared the vocals.
Did You Know? MP3
6. What Christmas Means To Me (Stevie Wonder) Now as much as I love most “popular” Christmas music, every once in a while one just hits you. Being a huge Stevie fan, I had to do this one. I think I did this 3-4 years ago. All instruments, drum editing and vocals by me. Amazing guitar solo, so it must be and IS my brother Scott.
7. River (Joni Mitchell) This one is almost ALL Nick from 3-4 years ago. Not much to say. A great Joni song and a great version of it. My only involvement was laying down a bass line this year and doing the remaster. How he could have done everything from mandolin to piano to vocal and leave out a bass line (being a virtuoso bassist himself) is beyond me.
8. Time Will Tell (Words/Music Todd L. McCagg 2008) Mood is typically my inspiration to write songs and this should be evident. I did all of the instrument tracking, vocals, and drum editing. Incredible lead guitar work is, of course, my baby brother.
Time Will Tell MP3
9. Show Me (Joe Tex 1966) Any CD is made that much better by the addition of a Joe Tex tune. I did all the instruments, drum editing, and vocals.
Show Me MP3
10. Flying High (Words/Music Todd L. McCagg 2007) Again, these dates are questionable. This was inspired by my memories of driving in the car with the Doobie Brothers playing way too loud on the stereo. I did all of the instruments, vocals, and drum editing. Sorry for the redundancy, but the great lead guitar work again… Scott McCagg.
Flying High MP3
11. The Letter (Wayne Carson Thompson) Not that this song had to be redone. I mean, the Box Tops version was amazing enough (it helped win a talent show for my band The Dimensions back in something like 1966-yes we are that old!). The Joe Cocker version (with probably more credit due to Leon Russell), ditto, amazing. That guitar hook/riff in the beginning is ripped off from Leon Russell’s piano licks in the Cocker version. Always used to fool with it on the guitar and just felt compelled… Me on all the instruments, vocals, and drum editing. Guitar solo by Scott McCagg
The Letter MP3
12. You’re Not Alone (Words/Music Todd L. McCagg 2008) This goes along with my “mood swing” theory of creativity. It’s dedicated to a great friend Stuart Spector (bass and guitar builder and fly fisherman extraordinaire). He is one of those guys that you could call and ask and he’d be there on the next plane. I did all of the instruments, lead and backing vocals, and drum editing. Awesome guitar solo is my brother Scott. Thanks to Stephen Lay for the killer B3 organ solo.
13. Nothing To Say (Words/Music Todd L. McCagg 2006) I saved this one last as it is actually in the reverse order of things that I have written/recorded. I wrote this for Louise. It’s about me never wanting to spend much time on the phone, thus “nothing to say”. But I, and all of you guys out there with great ladies, have to say, before you hang up, you have to say “it”… I Love You. This was the first song that I wrote since I wrote what I to believe my only “original” song back in oh… 1969 or so. I was alway busy playing other people’s music that I never had much time for original work. At the time I was doing a lot of recording work with my good friend and musical compatriot, the Good Doctor, Dr. Stephen Lay. Stephen is the Music Director of our church and it has been my honor to work with him. That’s him on the virtual Steel Drum Solo. Guitar solo, again, is by Scott. I did all of the other instruments, lead and backing vocals, and drum loop editing.
Nothing To Say MP3
A few words on the process. All of the recording is done here in Ellicott City, Maryland in “the studio” (aka “the basement”). I use a variety of microphones many of them I have modified to recreate the quality of microphones from days gone by. My favorite vocal mics actually use vacuum tubes! My most recent A/D conversion is done through an Apogee Ensemble into Logic Studio Software (by Apple) running on a maxed out Apple iMac 27” sporting a QuadCore 2.93 Intel i7 with 8 GB of very fast RAM. My monitoring setup is a Blue Sky Sat II system with a 12” subwoofer. Mastering software is either Logic Studio native or IK Multimedia T-Rax.
Most guitars and basses are run “direct” in to the A/D device and then shaped/modified through software rather that mic’ing amplifiers. I own and play several Spector Basses, my bass(es) of choice. Guitars range from a garage sale Kramer Focus (which I actually got for free) that I used for the electric slide guitar solo on Cheer to a killer G&L ASAT Classic (Leo Fender’s last guitar company before his passing). The acoustic guitars range from Godin steel and nylon string acoustic electrics to some raggedy “orphan” guitars that I have resurrected, rebuilt, and made better than what you can buy at most music stores.
The guitar solos that my brother Scott has always been so generous in providing are done via email. Once the song has taken shape, I send him a digital “scratch” file (typically MP3 but some of the newer formats are an improvement over MP3) of the song with tempos and key. He then, using his own computer music studio, creates a digital file of just the guitar solo and emails it back. It is then blended into the final mix. Some of the guitar “sounds” are those created by him while others are shaped here, digitally to provide the desired effect.
Keyboards, most notably, pianos are not pianos at all but MIDI keyboards that provide a digital stream that acts sort of like a digital “player piano”. I/we can access anything from a harpsichord to a bass trombone via the virtual instrument on the computer. I do play some of the MIDI things myself but Stephen Lay is someone upon whom I rely heavily and he and I use a similar system to that noted above with Scott’s guitar work. I email him a “scratch” recording and he will email back a MIDI file that is incorporated into the project. Many thanks to the people at TruePianos and the IK Multimedia folks for the Sample Tank XL(which provides many of the virtual instruments).
“Drum Loops” and a few words on that. I do not, can not, have not, and will never be able to play the drums. Can’t draw either. So… enter “virtual drummers”. How great is it to fire up a piece of software and have Steve Gadd (Paul Simon and others) be your own personal drummer? Or Luis Conte (James Taylor, etc.) as your conga player? Most of the drum tracks I use are purchased from a company called DrumCore (Submersible Music) which can be tempo adjusted, cut, clipped, pasted, and made into my own. These are REAL drummers that recorded these loops in a studio and are available on DVD. That is why the drums don’t sound “canned” even though they could be considered as such. Some of the drum parts are also “step entered” or programmed by me using sequencer software. The rumpapumpum snare drum on Little Drummer Boy was done thatway.
Well, all of that aside. I truly hope you enjoy the music as much as I enjoyed making it. After all, what is a starving artist without an audience. Thanks for volunteering.
A Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all with love from our basement to your families this and for many years to come. Thanks for listening! My love to you all. Todd (Nick McCagg, Scott McCagg and Stephen Lay too!)