Covering The Sparks – Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth (Video)

In early December I watched a documentary on the band The Sparks. Don’t know them? They have been around for about 50 years and have helped change music several times. The band is really two brothers, Ron and Russell Mael. They have a distinctive look (Paul McCartney did an impression of Ron on his Coming Up video. Russell sported a new hair cut in the late 70s that was copied by everyone, from Duran Duran to Depeche Mode) and a distinct sound (usually odd!). All of their songs have a twist or a joke to them. I would say that they are much easier to enjoy if you get the joke…

I have always known about the band but rarely heard them. In fact, I think I heard their Propaganda album twice when I was a teen and based most of my knowledge of the band on that, even though they are the truest musical chameleons of all time.

Anyway, back to the documentary – When they played the song “Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth” it was like rediscovering an old friend. Sure, I had only heard it twice, but it was deeply embedded in my psyche. And so it became an earworm…

When most people get an earworm, they suffer. Me? I make a recording.

I quickly learned the song (it is pretty simple), transposed it to a new key so I could sing it (Russel can sing very high and uses high falsetto), did a little arranging and recorded it. I loved the arrangement, but hated the vocal. A few weeks later I decided to rerecord the vocal part. Although it was better, I still didn’t like it.

Last week I was playing with recording tools and decided to do a new mixdown of the second set of vocals (still original instrument tracks). It is amazing that changing the mix slightly changed the final recording so much! OK, I still hate my voice, but it is better like this.

By the way, I did not do any pitch correction at all on the voice. Most songs today are so over-autotuned it drives me crazy – it sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. I did play with autotune, and it was barely noticeable (didn’t make it better) until I passed a threshold and suddenly it had the fingers on a chalkboard sound I hate so much. Yes, I could have done some simple pitch correction to one or two sour notes, but I didn’t really think of it until after I had already posted the third video. After that, I experimented a little and it did help without making it worse, but I didn’t want to put up a fourth version, so I left it alone. Next time…

OK, sorry about all of that. Here is the video

(Click here if you don’t see the video below)

Hope you enjoyed (despite my voice ;) )

For the curious – All of this was played on a Sequential Prophet Rev 2 and a Behringer Poly D with the drums coming from an Arturia Drum Brute Impact. I played the drums manually in one pass – I did the drums last and discovered that I was slightly ahead of the beat for the entire song, so the drum machine was off… back to the drawing board and time to actually play the drum part ;)

27 thoughts on “Covering The Sparks – Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth (Video)

    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Pitch correction, and perhaps even a little auto tune isn’t always bad, but it is so, so over used. Even really good singers use it today, and not just use it, but have it set so you can hear it. Yuck. lol. OK, I’ll stop now. I’m sure you hear enough of it from Kevin.

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  1. Resa

    I quite enjoyed this, Trent!
    Your voice is fine! Auto tune… overused by rappers. However, it suits their need more than being used in a melodic song.
    I’ll have to check out the docu. I’m not sure I know who they are, but when I see the docu, it might be a remembering moment.
    Have you seen the docu Laurel Canyon? Fantastic!

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Thanks! Unfortunately, pretty much all pop music uses autotune these days, even great singers overuse it to fit in.
      The Sparks docu is great. I missed the Lauaul Canyon one when it hit the local theater. I really want to see it! Love all of those bands that were part of that scene.

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  2. marina kanavaki

    What a song! I love Sparks… It’s not easy to sing this either! Well done, my friend.
    As for the drums…. I always do that and then… I usually have to re-record everything to sync them! But you know what… so what?!!!!! ;-)

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    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Thanks! Yes, Sparks is great, and this is one my favorite of their early songs.
      I’ve always been awful with drums! I’ve had the Drum Brute for two years and just really started playing with it two months ago… I’m about to the point of giving up and using something like EZ Drummer… There is an app in Cubase that is like that and I’m going to play with it. Anyway, I could started over with the tracks, or tried moving everything a quarter of a beat to synch up, but doing the quick, down and dirty manual drums worked for this test ;) Right now I am takign everything I do as an exercise to help me learn these tools.

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  3. Susanne

    Thanks for sharing! I like it! But pitch correction? I didn’t know it existed. You see how competent I am with studio work and modern music, haha! In my world you just sing and that’s it.
    Anyway, keep your videos coming!

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    Reply
    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Thanks!
      Pretty much all music today has some type of pitch correction, with a lot of artists using autotune, even those who are actually great singers, and most do it live as well, so they sound like the record. Each era has a unique sound, and one of the reasons today’s music sounds like today’s music is autotune – it actually changes the quality of the voice. Autotune is like using a sledge hammer (still done a lot!), but it is possible to use pitch correction tools very surgically, just changing one note at a time, and keeping the performance. Anyway, a lot to modern recording and producing!

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      1. Rebecca Cuningham

        Yes, music is such a satisfying medium! I’ve been working on a flamenco song I wrote in December. I’ve recorded singing it a couple of times but my equipment is basic and it sounds more breathy than I’d like. May need to break down and buy a microphone!

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. trentpmcd Post author

          Sounds like you are having fun with it. If you are recording straight into a computer, they have decent usb microphones from cheap to professional. I know the frustration of not liking your voice – ugh, some day I may take singing lessons, but for now I just hate every recording I do.

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