Monday, April 14, 2008

Recommended Reading for Music Types!

I recently read the autobiography of Al Kooper ("Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards,") and I am currently reading a book by and about Phil Ramone ("Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music.") I highly recommend both books for musicians as well as producer/engineers.

Al Kooper is a colorful character, and his book is interesting just for the stories. Throughout his career, he has worn many hats, including that of songwriter, arranger, recording artist, sideman, producer, A&R scout, and probably a few more I have forgotten. He first came to fame as the organist on Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone," and it's fascinating reading how he actually got the gig!

He originally came to my attention as the producer of the Tubes debut album, but he is much more famous for producing Lynyrd Skynyrd's early albums, as well as being the guy who originally signed them. He is multi-talented, and a true "renaissance man." Unfortunately, that also means that has never fit into the "box" that the music industry and it's associated media likes to fit people into, which is why he never became a big star. I hope someday he will get the recognition he deserves, and I hope he lives to see it.

On a more personal note, I discovered that, until recently, he was teaching at Berklee, and he lives in the next town over from me. If I ever get to meet him, you'll definitely hear about it here!

Phil Ramone's book doesn't have as colorful stories as Kooper's does, but it is interesting just the same! Ramone (not a member of the Ramones, btw) was a classically trained violinist who started his career in the late 1950's as an engineer, and didn't really begin making his name as a producer until the 1970's.

I was most familiar with his production work with Billy Joel, but I was surprised to see some of the records he engineered in the 1960's. He worked on some of the Burt Bacharach records, and even recorded some landmark jazz albums, such as the Getz/Gilberto record. I was surprised to learn that I grew up listening to some of the records he engineered, such as Dionne Warwick's late-1960's work, produced by Bacharach (my mother had it on 8-track!)

Ramone's book describes his working relationship with Billy Joel and Paul Simon, as well as other artists. He also talks a bit about recording techniques, so it's essential for engineers. It's not necessarily an autobiography, in that it's more about his work than his life.

Get a signed copy of Al Kooper's "Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards" from his website.

Phil Ramone's autobiography "Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music" at Amazon.
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