Wednesday, December 6, 2023

A Journal of a Song Being Recorded

A Journal of a Song Being Created

I thought I would take you through the process of how I made my latest creation, "You Need Love (Don't Throw Your Life Away)".

For the last few songs I produced lately, I took partially produced things from 10-13 years ago on GarageBand and followed them through to completion, or I used midi tracks from Noteworthy Composer to begin a project. But THIS time, I decided to create something totally from scratch.

"You Need Love" was something I had written while the band was up at the Mellos in Vermont. I have a distinct memory of showing a group of them, and Chuck T. saying, "Ah, you get to all the cool riffs first!". Yeah, that's a pretty cool riff on that prechorus, Chuck! So simple yet effective. No idea how I 'got to it first'!

Standing So Cold in Your Winter Life
Don't know where it came from, but I know why; it was to reach out to our modern situation. The song's thought is to reach out to all of us awash in a culture that leaves us all drowning in stimulation, & simultaneously substantially isolated. This is FAR more true now than it was then, with our ubiquitous cell phones and such. The answer is, of course, THE Answer, Who is the Person of Jesus Christ, especially in the means He gave to solve this, Communion. Jesus is Love. Basic Good News in a time crying out for It.

Inititally, I was thinking that I was going to do all of this myself, with no outside help. My first step was to create brand new base scratch tracks on Noteworthy Composer for bass, drums and rhythm, putting vocal simulations over them to make sure I had them lined up, so it would match with what I heard in my head.

I then exported audio by making MIDI files for each of these elements and uploaded them as tracks into a fresh GarageBand project on my miraculously revived ancient MacBook. At this point I uploaded and transformed the rhythm tracks, assigning amps & tone settings for the bass, drums & rhythm piano. I then plugged in my Squier Strat knockoff and started creating guitar tracks. I created a 'Brit and Clean' rhythm guitar track and an 'Echo' track for guitar extras. I stereoized and doubled both and kept improving the blend and tone. In tone, these tracks remind me of George's guitar on "Nowhere Man".

Vocals? Are a real problem! We live in a tiny prefab trailer type place and there is rarely a moment when I can record in-the-air. But one day, the moment came; no machines were running, the dog was gone on a long walk, everybody was either gone or napping. I plugged the mic into the computer and just let her rip. I believe what you hear is a second take for lead vocal and just one take for the back vocal. Later I added that "Jesus is Love" you hear at the end, and was able to cut-and-paste a few things I needed. Thank the Good Lord I got it in!

I then created tracks from the GarageBand recordings by exporting mp3s. I then uploaded those tracks on my regular, non-ancient computer and uploaded them to the Audacity app where I can more easily mix and 'master', so to speak.

I then created a mix, adding some elements at this point in the process, such as limiting, amplifying, noise reduction, normalizing and compression for some things. At this point, Mike expressed an interest in doing something on this, perhaps with Greg, so I sent them a demo.

Mike & Greg - unlike retired me! - are very busy working men! So it took awhile, of course. After a few months, Mike was able to get me some sweet piano & synth tracks. It took me some tries but I got it mixed in. Mixing is hard! Lots of learning going on for me in all aspects of this. 

I had been sending demos to my friends at AVA, and they expressed strong interest in getting it on there this month. Greg said, well, why don't you just send in what you got for now, and we can always add a lead from him and more live instruments later. Greg had sent me a play-along acoustic track at one point that I actually did mix in. 

At the same time, I was inspired to create a matching video. My wife helped me design the cover. 
You put all that together and what have you got? This is the result:

"You Need Love" Video

I actually think this is a crucial message for NOW.

Friday, September 22, 2023

How Did You Record This?

 How Did You Record This?

Enter the King of Glory 

CLICK above to hear on ReverbNation

After putting out the "Enter the King of Glory" classical instrumental on my ReverbNation site, I got a question from an admin on the "Catholic Music Insiders" FB site. He asked, 

"What a great instrumental. Did you record it on an organ, or is it a midi?"

Well, that's an either/or question. BUT it's not as easy as that to explain! I thought an extended article was the way to make clear what happened. Let me go through that process.

First of all, it's based on a four-part choral "Credo" or Creed with orchestra that I wrote about twelve years ago. At that time, I mapped out the sheet music for what I heard in my head on Noteworthy Composer and produced a primitive MIDI version so it could be heard. This is what that sheet music looks like on the program: 

And so it sat for all these years. Then, last week, I had an inspiration to get pro level orchestral 'voices' or sounds to make it sound more like a real classical concert. I've found a 'formula' lately to get good results on some of my creations. So, I created MIDI tracks for each vocal part and for the treble and for the bass orchestra parts. I then transferred these tracks to the GarageBand app (on the ancient Mac that is somehow still working!!).

To get an orchestra sound, I decided to take the treble part and make it a brass ensemble. I then panned that to one side and replicated it with a woodwind ensemble panned in the other ear. LOVE how that sounds! I then did the very same idea for the bass clef parts using cathedral organ on one side and plucked harp on the other; I think this gives it both a clear attack and a rich sustain. Wow! (I wasn't able to easily pan on GB, so I saved that for the next step.)

The next step was the vocals, and I ran into a brick wall. All the vocal sounds I could find were quite unsatisfactory. Maybe someday I can get live Soprano/Alto/Tenor/Bass voices to record, but that moment was not then or now. Then someone chimed in with a remarkable insight. Why not make this a pure instrumental that proclaims what the sounds speak. It sounds like the high royal entrance of the Ultimate Glorious King. Why not just make it all instrumental and let it speak that? Of course, that's right! Brilliant! Maybe someday I can get the Credo version recorded vocally in Latin, or even write more Mass parts. If any reader feels so inclined please go for it!

So, I used the "Smart Strings" voice on GB to approximate each part into violin, cello, etc. as seen here. 

I then created exportable tracks for each of these. I also created a single track with the four vocal tracks together as "String Ensemble". These nine tracks I then loaded up on the Audacity app on my regular computer.
Here I find it easier to do things like pan, add effects or mix. I panned the four individual string parts as if they were in order of front of you, with the ensemble mix centered. Each orchestral pairing was panned harder to each side. The general reverb I added was like "Church Hall" just short of "Cathedral"!

All in all, I was pretty amazed by the result. It really does seem to foretell how the King of Everlasting Glory, the Bread of Life, the Lamb of God WILL return to the center of his altars one day soon, with his Queen Mother seated at his right as in David's kingdom. And of course we think also of His final triumph at the End of Days and the Eternal Glory that we experience now through His Great Gift.

Friday, August 11, 2023



Hey, Mark Lajoie here.

We have now, after 47 years, put out an album of live performances! It took me awhile to figure out how to revive and/or enhance some of these. Several of them were recorded & salvaged by Joe Prunera and given to me many years ago and I had posted some of them on ReverbNation, hidden within the backlog of our many songs. Recently I began working on the live material; eventually, I had the idea that others should hear them. I'm no producer, and these are not of ideal quality for sure, for instance, "Roll the Rock Over" cuts off at the end; but it's undeniably a treasure to have these gems available to admire.

Some of the recordings capture the genesis or earlier version of the songs, like "Prodigal Song" or "Great Rock Road". Others are missing something in the mix: you can't hear the bass or the piano, etc. But each of these captures some of that live magic that we undeniably had, and the powerful strength of expression in that Best of All Messages.
On the cover you see our classic bus that took us to so many of those performances. We stopped doing regular concerts in the early 90's. The first song, Love in Arms, is actually pretty recent, recorded by Jim at our 2014 concert at St. Peter's for the Mellos. The others range from 1982 or so to a reunion concert in 2004. 
The cuts flow immediately from one to the next:
1. Love in Arms
2. Roll the Rock Over
3. Prodigal Song
4. Carry On
5. Gigue de Lajoie/Do You Understand
6. Don't Run Away
7. Step Down
8. I'll Survive
9. Great Rock Road

Go to our LinkTree to be directed to your favorite listening source, although it is not yet released to Apple:

What a JOY to hear this! Let us rejoice!

Peace & Love & JOY,
Mark Lajoie

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Great Rock Road!

  Great Rock Road!

(This post is based on the original post about the classic live early 80's version of "Great Rock Road" put out July 15, 2010. CLICK the title to listen to a brand new mix treatment!)

{NEW! Great Rock Road VIDEO!}

It seems like this song is fitting perfectly with "Cast Your Soul" and the Mt. Carmel connection we noted last time. In the killing desert-dryness that sin and death is, there is a very Sure Way that leads to refreshing Living Waters. 

This song, believe it or not, came from the name of the road Dave & his family lived on for a while! (Most all of us got stopped in the speed trap the police had near there.) I said it, "Wow, Great Rock Road; sounds like a song." Everything sounded like a song, I guess. Plus, I managed to get the word "roll" in there with "rock" and "road". Lots of lyrical fun with a very strong underlying spiritual reality.

The biblical imagery that came to mind was the "great highway" in Isaiah's book of Consolation. God was going to make a road for the people to come back to Him from the Exile, lower the hills, fill in the valleys and so on. Of course, typologically this also refers to Our Loving God coming to us in the Incarnation to be Our Way out. Jesus talked about his yoke being easy if we let God make the way for us. This is the idea in this song. The way out of this desert valley of tears is the way of holiness rooted in Jesus who IS the Way, the Living Waters.

One memory with this is doing it at the Hartford Civic Center; I believe it was the show we did the whole "Prodigal Daughter" theme. Anyway, I remember the sound crew positively loved this song and they actually came to tell us about it. I remember there was tape of this version at one point and, boy, was it tight and it really rocked. We used to joke that we were all 'playing lead' during the lead.

Musically, this is a classic rocker, no doubt with all the 1-5 chords, but there are also a couple of nifty key changes and some of that major-minor back-and-forth action going on. Sure the chorus is repetitive, but sometimes a battle cry is exactly what is called for.

This live version is an earlier one.  Later, we cleaned up the intro; we got rid of that twangy vamp on D and made some other arrangement changes.  In particular, Greg & I on guitars and Dave on bass got really tight after this time. You may notice the 'Boston'-style pick-dragging on the strings the guitar used to do at the end.  In this version, I have been able to highlight the bass and drums. You can clearly hear those plastic "Roto-Toms" of Tony's drums (you can also hear them well on the chorus of "Love's Beginning"). Dave's 'walking' bass is delightfully 'running' here with some semi-chromatic funkage.

Funny, one time, John (Henry) took a stick of underarm deodorant and wrote something like "Anti-Evil Roll-On" playing on the words of the bridge, "I need to roll on"! We love puns.

Good times...thank the Lord for this greatly hopeful message so perfect for now.

Mark L.

Monday, July 17, 2023

The Living Waters Connection to Mt. Carmel!

The Living Waters Connection to Mt. Carmel!

Elijah had predicted the drought would last three and a half years. (That's HALF of SEVEN, the number of the Covenant, showing how it had been broken in two!) It was a symbol of the spiritual drought of Israel, where her leaders had sinned, separating themselves from the Source of Living Waters, turning to idols & power & pleasure.

But now, Elijah had defeated the prophets of Ba'al and Jezebel, confronting King Ahab. Now, as he prayed at Mt. Carmel he saw "a small cloud as a man's hand rising from the sea". This was the first sign of the coming rains that would wash away the dryness, bringing back faith


Centuries later, the early Christian Fathers saw the connection to the Messianic prediction in Isaiah 45:8, when the ultimate Drought would be decisively slaked by the coming of the Messiah: 

"Drop down dew, you heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down the Just One: let the earth be opened, and bud forth a Savior".

The small cloud which brought this Living Waters was universally associated by the early Fathers with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Messiah, raining down the Just One. This was the origin of the mendicant monks who gravitated to Mt. Carmel, the Carmelites, honoring Mary as the one who bore for us life-giving grace in Jesus the Lord. We in Living WATERS can FLOW with this apostolic insight!

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Cast Your Soul!

 Cast Your Soul!

July 13, 2023
The past two days, I took some old tracks I had put down in GarageBand many years ago and created this demo. I did it by myself, recording guitar and vocals. I wrote this song in January 1973, right after my 'conversion experience', when I came back to the Lord & the Church as a teen. I used to take the LONG walk over the long bridge in Augusta over the Kennebec to go to Cony high school. I saw some birds flying overhead and wrote this.
Memorial Bridge in Augusta where this song came

{I was hoping Mike could add some keyboard to this, and it may be part of a future worship album. I have decided to release it as is to digital distribution under my own name; this is the first time I have ever done this. Please pray that all be according to His Will.}

I re-worked the lyrics yesterday a bit to emphasize that the 'little bird' was really ME! I was so lost, lonely, cut off by sin from the Source of Living Waters. He called out to me in my sorrow and brought me back by Confession to a totally fresh, new way, proving to me just how deep is "the Spirit of This Love". This can be you, too, if you are that lost & lonely little bird. 🙏

I pray this blesses you! #CastYourSoul #LivingWatersMsc #WashYouClean

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Well Done Good & Faithful Servants

Well Done Good & Faithful Servants


Some of us LW types communicate via email. Tony has now begun writing us some thoughts from daily prayer, just as he so often lead us in the past. This week he wrote this to us in response to watching the Lonely Dancer video:

I just yesterday watched the Lonely Dancer video, produced and directed by our Mary G., in 1996, still up on YouTube.

My initial thoughts were to celebrate Mary's creativity and artistry, so here it is: Mary took the command to go proclaim the Gospel into her own heart, and used her gifts and talents to knit together her art with her community to create visual tapestries, whether they be digital or live drama skits.

My deeper thought was to consider the stock that she was hewn from....her dad Joe, and her mum Edna.

Joe and Edna together had a long list of social justice activities that they were associated with....especially feeding people.

I loved Joe's deep voice, which at first sounded like a growl, but was usually punctuated with a deep laugh.   Edna was very concerned with feeding people, including the occasional starving artist at the Gillis dining table.

Joe was also on the Oblate Prayer Group Haiti Mission.  He took a trip to Haiti in the 1980s, accompanied by 'St Bernard of L.' and 'St Irene of T'. 

All of them have left us, to be together on Heaven's shore.  We'll be with them all again, someday.

To them all, we say, well done, good and faithful servants.


We love these thoughts, so filled with gratitude! And we are forever grateful for Tony. Let us pray, as we should, for the Eternal Rest of these friends we remember who are such great gifts to us! Requiscat in Pace

Lonely Dancer Enhanced Audio
Lonely Dancer Enhanced Original Video