Here’s a fun little artifact from the Where You Been So Long sessions: a version of the Leaving of Liverpool (MP3) without vocals.
When we record our tunes, we usually do the instrumental tracks as a group, and then overdub vocals. We had done this song a few times at Irish gigs and in our usual loud bar environments, and I had gotten in the habit of belting out the lead vocal Clancy Brothers style. It worked fine then, but when it came time to record the vocal in the studio, though, I became acutely aware of just how horrible I sounded.
We did it in ‘A’ because that’s the key it was in on the Dubliners record I learned it from1. But it’s below my range. And there were other problems beyond that. The big ‘F’ sound on the first word of the song (‘Farewell’) was causing me to lose all my breath pressure. By the time I got to the second big ‘F’ (on ‘far away’), I was sounding like a bagpipe that had been run over by a semi truck.
I did about a dozen takes that day, each significantly worse than the one before, and then gave up. We contemplated redoing it in a different key, or having someone else do the lead. In the end, though, we had Mike do this Karaoke mix of the tune for me to practice to. You can still hear a faint remnant of my original guide vocal, but, otherwise, it’s just the instrumental backing tracks and some of the solos.
In our next session, I tried a completely different approach, doing the verses as quietly as I could muster. We did the choruses en masse, with Ryan, Billy, and me around a single mic, and then double-tracked it. The two tracks were panned hard to either side, giving a pleasant big vocal sound. We also lopped out part of the first solo section, as the song had gotten too long.
The result seems to have been acceptable. I will always be immensely proud of the fact that it was played on RTE. Anyway, grab a bottle of Jameson’s and sing along.
The Leaving of Liverpool (Karaoke mix) MP3
1 Egads, that’s a lot of prepositions in one sentence… four counting the one that ends it. I am appalled.