TED CARFRAE, MY LIFE IN MUSIC: DAVID CASSIDY ‘THEN AND NOW’ – PART 2
Ted Carfrae, My Life In Music: David Cassidy ‘Then And Now’ – Part 2
With all the backing tracks now finished it was time to record David’s vocals. It was a little awkward to organise the vocal sessions because David had two or three days with me in London before he had to return to the US again, so we were under some pressure to get his vocals done in time.
David’s vocals would ultimately be recorded in two studios. He told me about an amazing studio owned by a friend of his, top songwriter and record producer Terry Britten. Terry is one of my all time heroes, a real inspiration to me for many years and I jumped at the chance of meeting and working with him.
Terry Britten Wrote Songs For Tina Turner, Status Quo, Michael Jackson and Sir Cliff Richard.
Terry’s incredible studio in Richmond, Surrey called ‘State Of The Ark’ is to this day the most amazing studio I have ever worked in. It is special because it is filled to the brim with the most amazing collection of original classic vintage equipment and microphones that I have ever seen. And at the centre was a classic EMI TG12345 console 4 that Terry had rescued from a barn in France, brought back to the UK and restored to its former glory.
This sixties valve desk didn’t have traditional faders, it had vertical curved slides that were really great to use and the channel strips were made up of a simple compressor, some basic in-line bass and treble EQ, some phase control and that was just about it. The beauty of this desk is that when you play anything through it, it immediately pulls everything together, it sounds warm and authentic and with the racks of other vintage compressors and processors to choose from, I was completely in my element.
The first day I arrived at the studio I was greeted by Terry himself, who is a real gentleman and this is also where I first met his sound engineer Chris West who would go on to work with me on many subsequent albums. We tried out several of the vintage microphones on offer and ended up using a vintage Neumann U48 valve.
State Of The Ark’s Selection Of Vintage Amps.
Unfortunately things did not go to plan. David had contracted a virus and vocals were not going too well. His throat was swollen and sore, he was quite ill. We had the doctor come in and after a couple of days it became very evident that I was going to have to make additional plans to record vocals when David was feeling better, there really was no choice.
Of course this change to the schedule was crucial because I knew that Universal was firming up their release and marketing schedules that included TV advertising and promotion and of course without the finished record, the release date would be delayed and that was not an option.
After pressing on with the vocals and finally getting some good takes, I decided that I would have to meet David in the US at a later date, to complete the three or so remaining vocal sessions. David was going to be in New York on business so we decided to record the remaining three vocals while he was there.
Very quickly I needed to organise a studio at very short notice. Universal booked my flights and hotel and before I knew it, my bag was packed and I was on a plane and arrived in New York on 7th August 2001…..just a month before the awful 9/11 terrorist attacks.
This was going to be very tight. I still had three vocals to record and only one day to do it before catching my return flight home the same night and at this point I didn’t know if David was going to be well enough to sing.
Actually, a really funny thing happened to me as I arrived at my hotel in New York that day. I was staying at the Soho Grand Hotel, a really beautiful original art deco building. When I checked in, I could see that there was a sizeable film crew, lights and lots of glamorous people standing around.
After I checked in I went to the elevator to go up to my room. The elevator door opened and there inside as I got in, were the four ladies from Sex and the City. They looked amazing and said hello to me and asked what I was doing in New York hearing my English accent, I told them I was working with David Cassidy and they went crazy, ‘We love him’ they said. And with that the door opened, they said goodbye and that was it.
I was stunned, I immediately ran into my room, called my office and said ‘You won’t believe what just happened to me’ – it was a really bazaar moment, one of many during the making of this album.
David Cassidy, Ted Carfrae and Mike Tocci.
The next day I made my way to the studio and met with my engineer Mike Tocci and assistant engineer Jonathan Adler. I managed to book only a few hours studio time at the famous Electric Lady Studios in the Village, famously owned by Jimmy Hendrix.
In fact, we recorded in what was his bedroom. The studio was really colourful, lots of Hendrix murals plastered on the walls and our studio was situated on the top floor of the building. There was a new SSL desk, Pro Tools rig and a nice size room so we were set and it was just a matter of waiting for David to arrive and I just prayed that he would be well enough to finish these songs.
When he arrived, clearly David was feeling much better and he was thankfully on top form and we set to work knowing that we only had a few hours before I had to catch my flight back to the UK.
I had decided to bring backing tracks with me to work with, mainly due to the lack of time I had to prepare for the trip. The songs we recorded were ‘Rock me Baby’, ‘Cherish’ and a new song called ‘Lyin’ To Myself’ written by David and his wife Sue Shiffrin.
Thankfully it all went well, David left for his next appointment, Mike Tocci burned off a couple of data discs with all the complete vocal sessions for me and I was on the road to the airport. I was finally back on track, recording was now complete and I was ready now to start mixing as soon as I arrived back in the UK.
The State Of The Ark EMI TG12345 Mixing Desk.
The album was mixed entirely at ‘State Of The Ark’ with Chris West engineering. To make life easier, Terry also had a Radar 1 in the studio so we were able to slave his machine to mine with time code so that we could sync and lock the two machines together and play everything back at once, this way we effectively had a 48 track playback machine which was great.
The console didn’t have as many inputs as we would have liked so Chris very cleverly balanced and grouped the strings and brass together and brought those into the console as stereo left and right channels. The best thing, as I have said before about this desk, is that it naturally pulls all the elements together so mixes came together very quickly and the sound is wonderfully
warm and transparent. The lack of processors built into the desk meant that we could keep everything really simple and direct and this is where the attention to detail when recording really paid off.
The arrangements were perfect. Everything was recorded properly at the right levels. All necessary repairs had been made so by the time we came to mix the album, there was nothing to worry about and we could really enjoy it.
Ted Carfrae At State Of The Ark Studios.
Of course mixing was live, any changes during the mix were done by hand. There is no kind of automation available on this desk, no instant mix recall options. So Chris and I would rehearse moves and then record time and time again until we got it right. For me this was probably the most enjoyable part of making the album and it was an honour to be working with an engineer like Chris who taught me so many new tricks of the trade, with both of us working together side by side using our combined skills to the max and coming out of it with a beautiful sounding album that I am so proud of.
We mastered directly onto ½ inch tape running at 30ips and often we would record in sections and then edit the actual master tape. The album was finally finished and it went on to become a massive hit album around the world.
For me personally it was the beginning of a wonderful period in my career filled with so many wonderful people, places and memories and when I recount these great experiences, it reminds me of just how blessed I have been to have been given these wonderful opportunities.
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