For this month's MP3 featured at my Audio Page, I'm very excited to unearth a recording that I made exactly eleven years ago...one of my favorite moments of my recording career! And a recording that has never been heard by the public until now.
Back in the early '90s I became a big fan of singer/ songwriter/ instrumentalist Lisa Germano. I was familiar with Lisa's violin playing on records by John Mellencamp and the Indigo
Girls, and I was thrilled when, in 1992, I came across her indie debut solo album "On the Way Down from the Moon Palace" in a CD store in Eugene, Oregon. I loved the record, and the amazing drumming by fellow Indiana rock legend Kenny Aronoff. My favorite song from the CD was the kickoff track, a mid-tempo garagey rock tune called "Guessing Game (or The Music Business)."
As the 1990s progressed, I loyally followed Lisa's career into the major labels, and through a series of excellent albums...all of which were a big influence on me as a young songwriter and recording artist.
In the Summer of 1999 I embarked on the recording of my Sound Theology album, and I purchased a Sony Minidisc 4-track recorder on which to make the project. Before I began tracking my own album, I wanted an occasion to test drive the new recording machine.
At the time I was active on a Lisa Germano discussion email list called "Sycophant," and some of the participants on the list began discussing the idea of releasing a Germano tribute album. Somebody volunteered to collect the cover tune submissions, and somebody else even designed a CD cover for the forthcoming tribute album, to be titled "Stand Not Amazed."
I still have a .jpg of that CD artwork sitting on my computer from way back in 1999...I have no idea who designed it, but I always really liked the image. Surprisingly, there's even an online archive of the Lisa Germano email list discussion regarding the tribute project, viewable here. This tribute album possibility was the perfect chance for me to test my new 4-track recorder, so I set out to record my favorite Lisa song, "Guessing Game" in September of 1999.
At the time I was renting a rehearsal space and office in a giant old warehouse on First Avenue in Maywood, IL, on the West side of Chicago. I had my drums, Hammond organ, and guitars set up at all times, and was also babysitting a giant Marshall stack guitar amplifier that was owned by Beki Hemingway's guitarist Randy Kerkman.
I put two or three mics on the drums (all fed into one channel on the 4-track), sat down, and played the song as best I could while imagining the guitar parts in my head. After one take, I sang and played acoustic guitar into a single mic. For the 3rd track I played bass, and for the 4th track I played my Fender Telecaster through Randy's Marshall amp (copying Lisa's original violin lines) and then punched in overdubs of Schoenhut toy piano wherever there was room on the electric guitar track. Boom...four tracks and the song was done.
I mixed the tune and sent it in to whoever from the email list so that it could be compiled into the Lisa Germano tribute album. Alas (as far as I know), the online discussion faded away at about this time, and the album was never completed or released. So my version of "Guessing Game" sat unheard for years. Although that recording never saw the light of day, it was a great warm up and education regarding the use of the 4-track, and later that same month I was recording such future Sound Theology hits like "Workin' My Commitee" and "Carol of the Bells."
I've been tempted many times in the past decade to release "Guessing Game" on one of my own albums. Back in 2005 I realized that its mix could be improved, so I had my friend Scott Malchow do a little EQ and compression on the recording which made it better...this improved version is the one I'm releasing now. It never did find a home on any of my albums, however.
Back in 2003 I saw Lisa Germano on tour, and talked to her briefly after the show. I had burned her a CD of this cover version of "Guessing Game," so I gave it to her. I wonder if she listened to it? I wonder if she liked it?
To hear my version of Lisa's "Guessing Game" go to my AUDIO PAGE to get the MP3.
And compare it to Lisa's original version, which has been posted on YouTube, below.
I love love love this song, and never get tired of it.