TED CARFRAE, MY LIFE IN MUSIC: KIKI DEE ALBUM MASTERING PROJECT – PART 2

Ted Carfrae, My Life In Music: Gus Dudgeon, Me And Kiki Dee – The Rocket Records Remastering Project Part 2

TCM Music Group’s Ted Carfrae continues from last Friday’s blog with his recollection of working with Kiki Dee and Gus Dudgeon…..

Bernie, Elton and Gus.

Apart from the aforementioned unreleased albums, of course there were the tapes for the four classic albums; 1973’s ‘Loving & Free’, 1974’s ‘I’ve Got The Music in Me’, 1977 ‘Kiki Dee’ and 1978’s ‘Stay With Me Baby’ produced by my all time favourite engineer/producer, Bill Schnee.

Gus and I spent a few days pre-mastering ideas, playing around with digital mastering equipment we had borrowed and decided to burn off a set of CD’s and live with them for a few weeks and then come back to finish off and make any changes that were needed.

Both he and I had other commitments to attend to so we said we would touch base soon and sort out a date, shook hands and said our goodbyes. That would be the last time I would ever talk to Gus because unfortunately, he died in a tragic car accident along with his wife a week or so later.

It was an awful shock to everyone who knew him. I didn’t know Gus that well, only a couple of years and more work colleagues I guess, but he was an amazing presence in this industry, a true original character and I feel blessed to have worked with him because he filled the place with laughter and was a complete joy to be around.

Naturally, the mastering project was rightly shelved, I packed the tapes away and returned them to the warehouse and put the DAT and CD transfers in a drawer where they stayed.

Some years later I decided to move out of London and relocate to a beautiful village in Kent and while building my new studio, I stumbled across the masters I had done with Gus in a drawer. Quite by chance, Kiki Dee was playing in concert at my local hall with her long time music partner Carmelo Luggeri so we decided to go along and see the show and if there was a chance, I would mention the masters I had done with Gus.

The show was fantastic of course and after the show she was busy signing autographs so I decided to leave it. For about a week after the concert, these tapes were on my mind. I eventually decided to contact Kiki direct to see if she wanted to have them and maybe she could use them. Within days Kiki called me back, we met for lunch and a friendship began. She told me that Elton had actually given her ownership of the master tapes so over a period of months, we toyed with the idea of trying to get all the albums properly released.

I contacted a good friend of mine at EMI called Steve Davis and arranged an initial meeting with him to discuss my ideas and straight off he was interested and wanted to meet Kiki. We set the meeting up and after a lot of discussion over the following months, the deal was signed.

It was quite a unique deal in some ways because not only were EMI going to release all five original albums on CD for the first time, but they were also going to re-release  Kiki and Carmelo’s latest album, the excellent ‘Walk Of Faith’ along with earlier albums, ‘Where Rivers Meet’ and ‘Naked’.

All the albums were scheduled for release in the spring of 2008 with me acting as executive producer for the project. I decided to approach the mastering from a fresh perspective and enlisted the talent of Geoff Pesch at Abbey Road Studios in London.

Kiki and I worked hard on finding some great content for the CD booklets. She arranged for all of her photo shoots to be shipped in from the Rocket archives and there were some real treasures along with thousands of newspaper cuttings of her massively successful US tours and interviews. I arranged for literally hundreds of previously unseen slides to be transferred to disc and Kiki and I spent weeks picking all the photos specifically for each album booklet.

I have to say it was such a fun time sitting alone with Kiki ploughing through all of this stuff, listening to all the anecdotes, it was an amazing time. I then enlisted the talent of another dear friend, journalist Chris White to write the new sleeve notes and in April 2008 all of Kiki’s albums were finally released by EMI and I strongly recommend them all.

Speaking of anecdotes, Kiki told me a fantastic one about my all time favourite vocal on her classic recording of the song ‘Stay With Me Baby’.

Evidently, back in the late seventies when Kiki was living in LA, the song was released as a single and she ran into Patti Labelle at a party and Patti told her it was one of the best vocal performances she had ever heard and it deserved to get a Grammy, praise indeed. Well it didn’t win the Grammy but it is to this day a master class vocal performance and for me personally, I distinctly remember listening to Kiki’s version of this incredible song all those years ago when I was a young assistant engineer and it set the standard for the level of feeling, power and production I wanted to achieve on my own records someday and that still stands today.

Over the years I often refer to that one track as a supreme example of the perfect vocal take, full of passion and feeling.  If you don’t know Kiki Dee’s music, do yourself a real favour, get the albums off Amazon and  listen to one of the best voices of all time.

Next Friday…..Cilla Black Beginnings Revisited.

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