Bridges Album Cover

Bridges Album Cover

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Beatles' new 2015 remasters

Everything on the Bridges album was influenced by The Beatles, directly or indirectly. The one degree of separation here is producer/guitarist David Spinozza, who played with every Beatle except George. Giles Martin (son of Beatles producer George Martin) has done an excellent job again in remastering the songs for the new cd/dvd release "The Beatles 1 (2015)." I'm not going to go into the technical aspects of mastering here but suffice it to say that with today's technology eq and other components can be controlled with such pinpoint accuracy that recordings can almost sound like new mixes.
I'm working my way through the album and here are some random observations: "Ticket to Ride" sounds great- the drums, particularly the snare, has some new presence, as does John's rhythm guitar. Without just cranking up the bottom end there is some new punchiness to this and others. "Paperback Writer" (always a weird mix from day 1) particularly sounds good in this regard- it's really gutsy; by far the best version out there now.
I'm sensitive to too much bass as a device but "Lady Madonna" is now thunderous on the low end, as is "Get Back" and they're both the better for it. "Get Back" starts to approach the sound of actually having The Beatles in the room with you if you really crank it up. "Madonna" packs more sound into a little over 2 minutes than almost any record that comes to mind. "Come Together" is thunderous- another "they're here in the room" moment. "Yesterday" sounds great, particularly Sir Paul's voice and guitar; the strings are hard panned to the side again but that's fine. "We Can Work It Out"? Never better. The only questionable move in the entire collection is a reduction of the harmonies in the "Ah, look at all the lonely people" bridge of "Eleanor Rigby," resulting in Paul's vocal (the melody) sounding louder on the right channel. And unless I'm mistaken here's a great little bonus for the really detail oriented fan: the fade out in "Hey Jude" is extended for just a second or two- enough to hear McCartney sing (very faintly) one last note that I personally have never heard on any previous version.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Elliott Randall

Elliott Randall was my first choice among the many great East Coast studio guitarists to play on “One-Eyed Jack.” I can’t even remember what I heard him do- I was certainly aware of his brilliant soloing on Steely Dan’s “Reelin in the Years” but I don’t think that was what I was thinking about when I asked for him. The main thing is I knew he could really rock and wasn’t afraid of huge distortion, whereas some of the other (equally brilliant) New York City guitar guys were more attuned to the RnB sound, where a very little distortion goes a long way. (A couple of the NYC greats didn’t like to play with distortion at all- to their credit they stuck to their guns and defined their own niche- one of a cleaner, sweeter tone.) But for me this song had to rock, and El was the man for the job. The session itself was a total joy; he was friendly, easy to work with; and accommodating  to my ideas and direction, while generously offering his own creative input.
I had very specific ideas about the solo section: I wanted a melodic idea with long sustain to state a theme, and then an “answering” phrase panned hard left; the theme again; and then a phrase panned hard right that would climb and end (presumably) on a high G note. El played the phrases first with long smooth distortion (I don’t remember how he got it, but I think there was probably a pedal involved) then the left and right solos. He came up with the left one entirely on his own, using the out of phase pick up position on his legendary 63 Strat. (I asked him later, like a pest, if I could try his guitar, and he said “I don’t usually do that but okay.” It was wild and distinctive- the frets were so huge it was almost like a sitar- if you pushed down on the string you could almost get different notes within one fret!) I was talking to him while he did the second phrase, he got the idea even better than I had envisioned: and immediately after nailing it, grabbed my hand and shook it, with a big smiling “Yeah!” I’m pretty sure he was playing through a Super Reverb (which is what he usually used, and David Spinozza often had his at the studio. BTW “Reelin in the Years” was played through an Ampeg BASS amp!)
The biggest surprise of the session came later when we were mixing. El had layered I believe 5 rhythm parts throughout the song from beginning to end, and the engineer Cliff Hodson and I anticipated that were going to have to do a lot of sorting, picking and choosing from among them. We looked at each other with amazement when we realized that they all ran like one cohesive unit- we didn’t even have to touch the faders! Those guitars sound like a force of nature during the last 4 bars of the track, and ultimately that’s how I would describe the consummate professional who played them, Elliott Randall.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

One-Eyed Jack

Today I posted this video on Youtube:
The process of recording "One-Eyed Jack" was rewarding and memorable for me in a lot of ways. We (David Spinozza, Al Gorgoni and myself) actually built the time into the album making process so that I could rehearse the medley "Three Gamblers" with the rhythm section (Barry Lazarowitz on drums; Francisco "Frankie" Centeno on bass) in the beautiful House of Music in West Orange, NJ the night before the session. It was a rare luxury to rehearse in Studio A where so many great recordings had been made, and we made the most of it. Barry had played on Janis Ian's huge record "At Seventeen" and also on my all time favorite Steve Forbert recording "Tonight I Feel So Far Away From Home," and I told him how much I admired his drumming on that (it's still one of my all time favorite "folk-rock" drum parts.) He surprised and impressed me by asking for, and working from a lyric sheet- the first drummer I had ever worked with who had done that. And I think you can really hear it in the end result- especially "One-Eyed Jack." He swaggers where the guy swaggers.
Frankie was his typical ebullient self; always easy to work with, bringing a lot of energy, good humor, and musical ideas to each session. (And dead accurate- never any retakes because of him.) On the tracking session I was playing an Ovation acoustic (which I think we miked, plugged in direct, and doubled.)
But the highlight of the song was the overdub session when we were fortunate enough to get Elliott Randall to come in. That session is worthy of a separate post, which I'll make in the near future...

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Welcome to the "Bridges" blog. "Bridges" is an album I recorded at the tail end of the golden era of singer/songwriters: 1978/79. It was produced by the legendary David Spinozza (producer of James Taylor's "Walking Man," and guitarist with too many studio credits to mention) at a cost of $83,000. The detailed liner notes are here in the right hand column, and a link to one of the songs, "She's a Ride" on YouTube is here too (with a blistering guitar solo in the outro by Spinozza, who also played the iconic solo in Dr. John's "Right Place, Wrong Time.") The album can be found in its entirety at the iTunes link over to the right. More info to come...