Stealing The Covers

A CD compilation by Rose, Thorne and Chloe Ventura.
Recorded in Austin, Texas, 2003.

Below are the liner notes from the CD. Click on the song titles to play the songs which are MP3 files.

The CD title has a double meaning. Given the picture, the 1st meaning is obvious. "Covers" also refers to musicians who "cover" (i.e. reinterpret) other peoples' music.


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OK, so it's been a long time that Thorne and I have been talking about making a Christmas CD together… or any CD. With the advent of digital recording it has become a lot less of a production to setup for a recording session (just turn on the computer and the mixer, run the recording software and you're ready to plug in and record!). Since Thorne has been recording digitally for over a year, the process has become familiar for him, so the decision became an easy one.

First came the process of choosing the songs. Several songs were listed and then scrubbed and some songs were added on a whim where Rose and Thorne looked at each other and said "Yes!" The result is a rather eclectic selection of personal favorites mixed with seasonal songs. Of course the list could have been 10 times longer, but we had to get the CD done in time for the holidays.

Then came the recording sessions. Thorne became the instrument guy, laying down the tracks and consulting with Rose to see how she liked them, making changes here and there, and then Rose (once she got over her Texas allergies enough to bring her golden throat into the studio) stepped in and wailed into the microphone.

Finally we were down to the mixing sessions. Thorne would cut a CD, and we'd go listen in our cars, on our computers, on other peoples' computers, making sure all the parts were audible and well-mixed, adding a little reverb here, some EQ and compression there, often going back to the computer and remixing.

So here it is - a long time in the making, a gift from us doing for you what we love the most. We hope you enjoy it.

With Love, Happy Holidays!


Thorne, Rose, Chloe and Frank:

Keyboard: Yamaha PSR-225 (pianos, strings, drums & percussion).
Guitars: Gibson Les Paul Standard (electric), Rickenbacker 360/12 12-string (electric), Ovation Adamus (electro-acoustic), Sigma CS-6 classical guitar.
Bass: Ibanez SR-1205 five-string electric.
Drums: all played on Yamaha PSR-225 (base tracks were sequenced and the rest are "finger drums": drum patches played by fingers on the keyboard where each key is a different drum sound.
Effects Boxes: Line6 PodXT on guitars.
Sax: "Chicago" Frank Chodacki

All instruments (except Sax) played by Thorne.
Vocal duties shared by Rose and Thorne.
Recorded and mixed digitally using 24-bits at 44.1 KHz.
Photography by Rick Willaman (TY TY TY!)
Liner Notes by Rose


Special thanks to Michael Hickman for the use of his great vocal mic and tube preamp, and to Frank Chodacki for his great sax work. Thorne wishes to thank Rose and Chloe for letting him hibernate in his music studio while laying down the instrument tracks and mixing everything. I wish to thank Thorne for staying up until 5 or 6am many mornings and for his resolve and determination to try to get it done in time for the Holidays.

The Songs

The Remix. After the initial release of the CD in December 2003, I decided I had a lot to learn about the digital mixing and mastering process. Since December I've spent a lot of time researching and experimenting. Hence I decided to release in May 2004 the remixed version of our album. Some of the major mixing issues I wanted to address are improving the clarity of individual instruments (partly achieved by improving the stereo imaging), better balance of vocal parts, and improving the dynamic range within songs and among all the songs as a record. I added only 1 new track and that was light strings in the verses of "Let It Snow". Except for "reengineering" some drum tracks (swiping and pasting drum sounds to improve drumming performances, aligning drum hits), no other instrument nor vocal performances have been altered.

Historically, remixes sometimes include "bonus" tracks. I decided to add one: "Pray". What listeners may find interesting about "Pray" is that there is only 1 guitar part (a solo starting at 2:16) that is played by me. All other parts are what are called "Acidized loops": bits and pieces of other peoples' performances (called "samples"), digitized and put into a format that allows one to "loop" the performance. Using audio sampling has become prevalent in Hip Hop and other modern music genres. Though I would happily debate the merits of composing a song from other peoples' performances as a valid art form, it does open up the possibilities for creating music, especially when one doesn't have access to certain instruments nor state of the art recording environments. "Pray" is my first contribution to the world of sampled compositions.

Thorne, May 2004
(remixes below were updated November 2006)

"Let It Snow"
"I Can't Look Down"
"New York State of Mind"
"Girls on the Beach"
"La La Means I Love You"
"Please Let Me Wonder"
"Silent Night"

Original Mix.

1. "Let It Snow". The tempo is of our choosing. The arrangement and chords were lifted from the album "The Temptations Christmas Card". It gives us that "Good ol' New York, falling snow feeling" and this is a Christmas album after all! We chose "Let it Snow" because it's upbeat and fun to sing. Although we didn't plan it this way, the final cut has a nice jazzy (Basia-esque) feel and some surprise impromptu harmonies at the end arranged by Thorne and me. Fellow IBM Jazz Band musician Frank Chodacki gives a wonderful sax solo.
Recorded 11/8/2003 - 11/23/2003. Sequenced drum loop, acoustic guitar, bass, piano, 1 track of finger drums (snare and kick), all vocals are Rose, Sax by Frank.

2. "Creepin" by Stevie Wonder from his "Fulfillingness First Finale" album. Well this song is just one of my absolute all-time Stevie Wonder favorites. I played this album when I was a teenager until the album practically fell apart. Thorne heard it for the very first time just one year ago (as we were driving to the airport LAST Christmas). He liked it immediately, so for this Christmas album it was a no-brainer.
Recorded 10/7/2003 - 11/1/2003. Sequenced drum loop, piano, bass, 3 classical guitars, 5 tracks of finger drums (2 shakers, bongos, ride and crash cymbals), strings, 4 vocals all Rose, 2 tracks of intro string swells with phase shifter.

3. "ABC"/"Entangled" by Genesis from their "Trick of the Tail" album. We both love this song because of its beautiful melody and great, simple harmonies. But the lyrics are especially interesting. They offer a tongue-in-cheek look at what you might experience as you lie helpless in a hospital bed as doctors and nurses move and talk about you. We'll leave it up to you to imagine that the bed is either in a hospital or, as Thorne prefers, a mental institution.
Recorded 11/11/2003 - 11/20/2003. Four 12-string guitars, 2 basses, 2 vocals by Rose, 1 vocal by Thorne, strings with phase shifter, 1 track of finger drums (shaker).

4. "Can't Look Down" by Alan Parsons from his "On Air" album. Dedicated to anyone who doesn't feel better when told more accidents occur driving cars. Rose and Thorne just love the musical power and the eerie guitar solo.
Recorded 11/22/2003 - 12/20/2003. Sequenced drum loop, DX7 and CP70 pianos, bass, 6 tracks of finger drums, 6 guitars, strings.

5. "New York State of Mind" by Billy Joel from his "Turnstiles" album. This arrangement was lifted from Barbra Streisand's album "Streisand Superman". The ending is our own. We love and miss New York. We always say, "We're from New York, we only live in Texas." Recording this song definitely made us feel closer to home.
Recorded 11/24/2003 - 12/21/2003. Sequenced drum loop, piano, bass, 3 tracks of finger drums (brushes, snare and crash cymbal, rim taps), strings, electric guitar, "real" sax by Frank Chodacki, Rose and Thorne on vocals.

6. "Girls on the Beach" by The Beach Boys from their album "All Summer Long". Thorne is a huge Beach Boys fan and spent a lot of time figuring out the intricate harmonies. Brian Wilson rules! It took Thorne 31 mixes, listening over and over to each mix in his car on the way to work and back home again to get it just right.
Recorded 5/15/2003 - 9/5/2003. Sequenced drum loop, bass, acoustic guitar, 2 electric guitars, 8 vocals by Thorne and 1 vocal by Rose, 5 tracks of finger drums (2 tracks of fills, 2 tracks of snare, ride cymbal).

7. "La La Means I Love You" by The Delfonics from their "Beg, Scream and Shout" record. Fairly faithful to the 1968 original except transposed down a 3rd to make it easier to put a little soul into that white body. Thorne gets to show off his falsetto.
Recorded 11/30/2003 - 12/9/2003. Sequenced drum loop, piano, strings, bass, 4 vocals, 3 guitars, finger drums (snare, ride cymbal and toms)

8. "Please Let Me Wonder" by The Beach Boys from their "Today!" album. This recording was made on a 4-track minidisk recorder. Although not as good a production as the other songs, it's such a pretty song that it was a shame to leave it out.
Recorded 11/6/2000. Sequenced drum loop, finger drums (celeste, snare, crash cymbal, tambourine, cowbell), bass, 5 vocals (4 Thorne and 1 Rose).

9. "Silent Night" (traditional). Completely our own arrangement. This song reminds me of when as a youngster, my mom would put on that Christmas album and my sisters, mom and I would sit around singing the songs, word for word. Now that's a warm memory…
Recorded 11/26/2003 - 12/20/2003. 12-string electric guitar, 6-string electric guitar solo, bass, 2 tracks of finger drums (congas, kick and rim tap), strings, vocals are all Rose.

10. "Jingle Bells". Chloe makes her singing debut. She may not know all the words, but with 2 musical parents, it's just a matter of time before she comes into her own musically, or throws every guitar in the house into the trash.

Afterward by Thorne

I've received several questions about "finger drums" and what they are. Imagine yourself sitting at a piano and playing some piano keys. What you hear when you press the keys are different pitches - you play a C note and you hear a C pitch. With finger drums, if you were to play a C, you would hear, for example, a snare drum instead of the pitch C. The B below that C might be a ride cymbal and the Bb below that might be a kick drum. Since every piano key is a different drum sound, by using your fingers, you can play drum patterns as if you were sitting at a drum kit. And that's what I did to record drum fills, crash cymbals, celeste, bongos, brushes, etc. My PSR-225 keyboard has the ability to be a drum synthesizer.

When I started recording each song, the very first track I recorded was a pre-programmed, very simple drum pattern that I used to keep the tempo. I played the drum pattern on the PSR-225 and let it run for as long as the song would be. When I recorded the next track, usually the piano, bass or rhythm guitar, I played with the drum track (that is I "jammed" with myself). The song evolved as I added additional tracks with new instruments. After all the instruments were recorded, the vocal tracks were added. So every time I added a new track (instrument), it was like I was jamming with one more person than before (and they were all me!). One interesting result of this process is that the playing on all subsequent tracks was influenced by what I had played on the previous tracks. In retrospect, I could have created better arrangements if I had planned them out before I recorded any tracks. BUT! I really like the improvised feel that pervades the album as the result of not doing a lot of planning. I did, however, go back to some songs and add instruments to make the songs more musically interesting. Since this metamorphosis could go on indefinitely, it is part of the art to know when to say "stop, this song is done!" In the case of this collection, that stopping point was mandated by our wish to get the CD into our families' holiday stockings. More music from the Austin Venturas is sure to come! (February 2004)