A Map of the World

Here’s a new version of a song I’ve recorded a few times since writing it back in the 1990’s. It’s part of my quest to get a “best” version of a few older songs based on current technology, and my handle on it, while I can still attempt singing them prior to the eventual “aging out” on that front. Of course, I still have new stuff in the can, which I’ll concentrate on a bit more now that this one’s done and dusted.
This was originally something that owed a bit stylistically to one of my favorite bands from that time, XTC. The lyrics have to do with change, it’s fairly constant nature, and how we might deal with that occasionally pulling the rug out from under us. My last version prior to this one actually got a lot of plays and likes on soundcloud when I posted it there in about 2014. It’s kind of my “greatest hit”, at least with some people. We’ll see how this version fares in time, but I think it’s an improvement over my earlier visits to the tune.
The guitars (electric, steel string acoustic, and nylon string acoustic) and bass are real, and are played into the Line 6 Helix Native plug in. That said, I played around with them as follows:

  • I put the nylon guitar, which is there as the 2nd solo instrument, through an Electro Harmonix Ravish Sitar ahead of my audio interface. That led to a pretty vaguely South Asian sounding instrument. A fretted Sarod, maybe?
  • I put the final electric guitar in the solo through a Boss DD-7 Digital Delay pedal into the audio interface too in order to get what’s sort of a “backwards guitar” effect.
  • The electric rhythm also went through a good old-fashioned Dunlop Cry Baby wah-wah pedal, and then into the audio interface.
    There are a couple of different Cubase synths throughout. You’ll hear Halion synths as an organ, and quasi-shehnai; and Mystic with a repeating motif. The solo synth part is played in Padshop. I tried to make these softsynths and the solo guitars somewhat multi-culti to hopefully take us around the world while we ponder the map. Finally, the vocals also went through the Helix Native before some additional Cubase processing.
    I hope it has some appeal to those giving it a listen, and thanks in advance for any impressions and suggestions.

Anyone wanting to hear the previous version from about 10 years ago, it’s still running on soundcloud, and here’s the link to it:

Hi John, I listened to the new version, and I thought, this is a really good song, with a really good sound. Then I listened to the older version, which I don’t think I’ve heard before, and I thought, I can see why this got so many listens! I like the drums a lot better on the older version, and it really propels the song. Also the mix of the older version puts your voice in a better place.

To be honest, I don’t see why you would want to improve on that song, it’s really pretty excellent. And to be clear, your voice is still good, so it’s not that! But I understand that you might want to give it a different feel. In which case, I could suggest you try to capture the punchy drums of your earlier version. And the bass. The drums on the new version sound more in the background. And the voice is more up front.

Really good song.

Thanks, Leon, and I’m happy to hear that the “old vocal pipes” still have a bit left, and that you had such nice things to say about the song itself.
I forgot to mention before that the drums on the older take were a pattern on a Boss DR-880 drum machine. I actually used that on this new version too, and tried to duplicate the sound. Being lazy, I’d never named or saved that particular pattern there, so this was the closest I could get to it. I think the tempo is slightly different on this new version, and I added the percussion that opens the song via Groove Agent. For some reason, the DR-880 made it very difficult to edit this song because the quantizing somehow didn’t sync with the tempo registered in Cubase.
I’d recently played the old version for a friend who’s an absolutely excellent guitarist and all around musician. He’d remarked about potentially improving that version by having a more prominent vocal. This new version was motivated a lot from that conversation-along with the “bells and whistles” that newer versions of Cubase, and more facility with it could bring. That older version was done with Artist 5, and this newer one with Pro 11.
I also had felt that older version had a really cool bassline, but that it didn’t leave much space, and was a little bit unrelenting. That’s why I tried to leave more space in this newer version, and to incorporate the double stops that are now there. I also had a lot of fun with the solo section on this new version, and felt it was a bit truer to my idea for the song than the older guitar solo had been.
I will play around with the mix a bit more to see what I can do with the drum/bass mix. Thanks for your time listening and the suggestions.

I would say, there’s no such thing as a cool bass line not leaving enough space. A cool bass line is more important. And the earlier version has a very cool bass line. Everything else should make space for such a cool bass line.

I do agree with Leon’s remarks. Get the drums more punchy and bring the bass more proeminent in the new version. That said, i prefer the overall sounds & shapes of the new one.

Really good one, John.

Wish I hadn’t read Leon’s comment about the new version vs. the old before listening to them.

Well, now after a few days listening with fresh ears and mind starting with the latest version first. Agree about the bass line. It could be more prominent. The rhythm guitar sounds quite a bit like a funk guitar but it is too reverberant in my opinion. There are other instruments which seem to have a fair amount of reverb. I would go with a nearly dry rhythm guitar sound to keep things from getting messy. The tune reminds me from Talking Heads. When I listened to the new version after listening to the old version first, I did not like the vocals so much but this time the vocals seemed quite ok on the later one too.

Over to the previous version. The bass line might be bit too upfront here - somewhere in-between would be best. I think both versions are suffering from the amount of simultaneous things going on.

The tune is highly original with a very special atmosphere.

Comparing the two versions I would say drop the new version. Sorry if you had a lot of work on the new one? But the older one sounds way better and does more justice to this song. I would suggest to make the vocals stand out more in this mix. It will be way better than the new one!

Thanks so much for taking the time to listen to both, and for your thoughts about each. I can’t revise the older one at all at this point. I lost the files in a big computer problem several years ago. I’d really only included that for anyone to hear what the song once had been since that version was still up on soundcloud. I’d hope to do something that was better recorded with this new one, and to deal with my own thoughts that the older version didn’t really have enough “space” in the arrangement.
The idea of simultaneous things going on has been a pretty constant observation made about music I record. I’ll blame that on being a total “one man show” in these ventures and not involving someone like an outside producer or engineer. I’ll also cite my own listening habits in my formative years in the 70’s to Prog and Fusion-there often was a lot going on at the same time in some of that music. Your point about the amount of reverb on individual instruments is well taken, and I’ll consider that along with the idea of trying to boost the bass and drums a little more in some future re-mix.
Thanks again for the overall positive tone with which you seem to have heard this song.

Okay, and thanks for checking in. No time wasted working on the new one. It was fun, and I’m happy with it. The older one was cool for me when I did it too, and I’m thankful to have the prerogative to go back and revisit things again at times.
For what it’s worth, I often try to listen to something here on the “made with Steinberg” board to music and recordings made and posted by those who comment on my own work. That gives me a little insight into the genre of music and skill set of the person who’s written something relative to my own output.
I looked back a couple of years here to locate something of yours, but I didn’t have any success. finding anything except for a few somewhat dismissive comments you’d left about other people’s work.
If anything you’ve done is here, please point me towards it.

Well, this thing about a multitude of instruments and musical ideas coinciding happens to me constantly and I also get similar feedback regarding my own work :smile:

Sometimes it is a blessing to not run out of new musical ideas, themes and parts but maybe it is sometimes hard to know where to stop.

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