Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music
Whether you have dabbled in music production or have trouble figuring out how to work a five-disc changer stereo system, you will find Making Records down-right digestible. Record producer Phil Ramone talks about producing music casually and without the jargon you might expect from the man who reinvented the art of recording bands, presidents, and Frank Sinatra.
It's a man writing about what he knows, and the formula just works here. It's as though you're hanging out with a really cool dad who, while mixing you a white Russian, offers up tales of how, before the days of digital reverb, he built his own echo chambers underground and once recorded Billy Joel playing a pair of high heels to achieve what would be the flamenco-sounding bridge on "Don't Ask Me Why."
Throughout Making Records, you're brought into the trenches for situations that sound as strenuous as they are surreal. You get a good sense of what it's like inside the sonic lab when masterpieces lay malleable in their most fetal form, vulnerable to the whim of the audio sculptor. Ramone and his pre-digital recording world solidified pop cornerstones such as "I Say a Little Prayer" and was also pivotal in crystallizing ambitious undertakings such as Paul Simon's The Rhythm of the Saints.
The hairy ordeals and not so smooth recording sessions with bigheaded prima donnas make for juicy reading. Ramone gives a remarkably entertaining play-by-play of Sinatra's Duets recording sessions, where "Mr. S" walks off the set without recording a single note and returns a day later asking, "Why am I recording these songs again?" During the Blood on the Tracks sessions, the cryptic and barely communicative Bob Dylan blew through sessions like cheap Taiwanese cigarettes, then disappeared into the void.
Ramone's gentle diplomacy is emphasized in a chapter about Ray Charles and the recording of Genius Loves Company, where Phil juggled a star-studded roster of guest appearances, including Elton John, with a frail, ornery, and barely available Charles. Throughout the book Ramone candidly opens up, taking many comedic detours-such as describing his use of Chinese food as collateral for Joel's backing band.
Albeit focused on the process of recording music, the book never strays from its heart-the awe of creation and the roller-coaster ride of translating vision to vinyl, or whatever media you prefer. Making Records is a hit, baby.★