Showing posts with label studio musicians. Show all posts
Showing posts with label studio musicians. Show all posts

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sound Man by Glyn Johns

It's rare that I have found a recent work for this blog that isn't a rock star memoir. While Glyn Johns had a very brief career as a singer (with modest success in non-English speaking Europe), he is known more as a producer and engineer. He had the great fortune of being present at the creation of many now-legendary albums. Can you imagine hearing Led Zeppelin for the time ever, before the records are even pressed? Johns has this enviable place in history, and when you pick up Sound Man (AMZ) you might expect a vivid portrait of 60s and 70s rock as it evolved and how the people who created the sound lived.

You do find it, to some extent. As Johns explains in Sound Man, he came to music with the intent of singing and performing when circumstances led him to the engineer's booth and kept him there for better part of four decades. This book, though, is more technical than dramatic, with Johns focusing less on his personal life (and therefore his relationship with many of the players) in favor of the mechanics of recording music. If you'd prefer to know the equipment and recording methods used to create Let it Be and Sticky Fingers you struck gold. If you want eyewitness accounts of groupies and candy bar urban legends...sorry. At best, you'll receive hints of behavior in the studio and notes on personalities Johns liked and disliked. He doesn't seem afraid to call out a unpleasant person or his opinion of how Phil Spector "puked all over" Let it Be.

If the science behind recording music fascinates you, you will enjoy Sound Man. You won't find any more personal insights on your favorite musicians that can't be read elsewhere, but the light personal touches and style of the book make it easy and interesting to read.

ARC received from the publisher via NetGalley

Rating: B

Kathryn Lively is an author and book blogger.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Best-Kept Secret by Kent Hartman

While searching for a Monkees biography for a timely review, this title popped up in the recommended widgets. I had known for some time that the Monkees did not play in the studio for their first two albums, and it occurred to me other groups of the day would have made use of studio musicians. That the majority of the best-known songs recorded during rock and roll's first few decades had been performed by a core group left me wanting to know more, and author Hartman's meticulous biography of "The Wrecking Crew" traces their history from the days when popular music shifted from deep-voiced crooning to raucous rockabilly and on through the eclectic seventies. Some names are familiar, others not so much, but in a way that is probably fitting, given that the music (no pun intended) seemed to take center stage.

Kent Hartman's account of this group's evolution in The Wrecking Crew (AMZ) puts focus on a number of players, some within the crew and others the peripheral movers in the music business who benefited from their skills. Some names may be familiar with students of early rock -- drummer Hal Blaine who coined the moniker, the lone female Carol Kaye, and the rare crossover success story, Glen Campbell. For much of the 50s through the 70s, when singing groups tended the dominate the charts more often than actual bands, the Wrecking Crew handled the majority of studio performances, including songs by Simon and Garfunkel, Sonny and Cher, The Beach Boys (some of the crew would actually tour as ersatz members), The Monkees, The Grass Roots, The Fifth Dimension, and so forth.

The Wrecking Crew presents the evolution of the rock era through a series of vignettes that paint a colorful picture of the industry -- from tales of Sonny Bono's ballsy maneuvering into the business to dealings with the enigmatic Brian Wilson. The book presents a most fascinating history.

Rating: A

Kathryn Lively is a mystery author and book blogger.