Posted tagged ‘Jane McDonald’


November 4, 2011

Ted Carfrae, My Life In Music: The Making Of Jane McDonald’s ‘Inspiration’ Album – Part 2

In Part 1 Ted Carfrae recounted his initial meeting with Jane McDonald and the steps that lead to recording the ‘Inspiration’ album.

Part 2 Getting it all together – Recording the album…..

At the same time as working on the arrangements with Mike and Ian, I was finalising recording dates around Jane’s hectic concert schedule, selecting all the session musicians, booking recording studios and hand picking sound engineers.

R G Jones Control Room.

We recorded the album at my all time favourite studio, R G Jones in Wimbledon, South London. I loved everything that came out of the studio and I particularly wanted to work with their house engineer, Gerry Kitchingham assisted by John Brant.

Engineer – Gerry Kitchingham.

Gerry has engineered many hit albums and singles for artists such as Cliff Richard, Barbara Dickson and many others. And in my opinion, I still think he is the best vocal engineer I have ever worked with. He has incredible ears, a unique talent and the clarity and depth of his mixes is second to none.

Ralph Salmins, Pete Murray & Frank Ricotti.

I assembled the finest session musicians I could lay my hands on….. many of them went on to work with me on all my subsequent albums. These include the great Ralph Salmins on drums, Pete Murray on keyboards and Frank Ricotti, arguably the best session percussionist in the business. On background vocals we had Sue Ravey and Sue Drake, both long time friends of Jane’s – wonderful people and of course two great voices. I also asked my dear friend, soul superstar Jaki Graham to join us and with me as the male element, we had our choir.

I remember we would all meet at my house and rehearse the background vocal parts, all chipping in ideas. I just remember that collectively, we all made such a great sound, really big and powerful. I wanted this album to sound big and lush with great brass and strings complimenting Jane’s incredible vocal skills.

We started recording in February 2001 on the rhythm tracks with Jane on guide vocals. Jane McDonald never gives a mediocre performance and even when singing guide vocals, she put everything into her performance. I distinctly remember that the second song of the first day was called ‘Maybe This Time’ from the show and film,’ Cabaret’. It was so incredible because the atmosphere was electric, all the musicians locked in the zone and for me, Jane gave one of her best ever performances. Her vocal was so perfect that we ended up using her guide vocal in the final mix because it was an unbeatable performance.

All producers dream of those moments when everything comes together to create something special and even today when I hear that song, it takes me straight back to that amazing day. Jane is not only a great singer but also a gifted songwriter and we chose to include two of her songs on the album. The first is a firm favourite with her fans called ‘The Hand That Leads Me’ dedicated to her mother Jean and the second song called ‘Winner’, both perfect songs for Jane’s powerful vocal delivery.

We also enlisted the services of large string and brass sections comprising; fifteen violins, three viola, three celli, string bass, three French horns, three trumpets, two trombones and one harp. Woodwind instruments; flute, penny whistle and saxophones were played by my mate Paul Fawcus, truly one of the best musicians I have ever worked with. It was a big band indeed, forty-five musicians in all so it really doesn’t get better than that. We recorded over three days before we started recording lead vocals.

R G Jones Live Room.

I always make it a rule to record vocals without anyone else in the room, in this case it was Jane, my two sound engineers Gerry and John and I, that’s it. The reason is that with other people in the room, it is harder for singers to relax and of course there are constant distractions and opinions and the only opinions I am interested in are those of the people involved.

We create a vocal booth in the middle of the main studio space where there’s lots of air. I have always found purpose-built vocal booths a real pain because for me the vocal always sounds boxy and restrictive. Vocals and microphones need air around them to soar and I also want my artist to feel free with lots of space to express themselves and the lyric. We added subtle lighting that was relaxing and just created the perfect atmosphere – and off we went.

Jane absolutely loved working this way and I always made sure that her vocal sessions were a relaxed as possible, but I also demanded perfection and I am known for being a task master when it comes to recording vocals. I am always striving for a vocal that moves me, preferably to tears. I want real, genuine emotion and I want to feel the lyric so I would often direct Jane so that she could open up and deliver a killer vocal and this album contains so many killer vocal performances.

Jane McDonald – Inspiration.

On the odd occasion Jane and I would disagree. Nevertheless, I’d ask her to re-do a line again and she would nail it. I did push her sometimes to the brink but I think she would agree that it was worth it. One such vocal session that stands out in my mind was Jane’s version of the ‘West Side Story’ classic; ‘Somewhere’. The arrangement is so dynamic, it starts off very quietly and it required Jane to be equally as quiet and controlled and then she had to slowly build  her vocal throughout the song until she could finally belt out the big notes at the end. On top of that very real pressure and concentration, I wanted her to put in all the emotion of the lyric and I was very clear about what I wanted and I knew very well what Jane was capable of.

I know Jane found this track above all others very challenging but  I think she would agree that it was really worth the effort and for me, it is arguably the best ever performance of this song. Her vocal is quite simply a masterpiece taking the listener on a journey or wonder from start to finish and together with Gerry Kitchingham’s amazing sound scape, it is one of my proudest achievements as a record producer.

Kevin Metcalfe-Mastering Engineer.

The album was mastered by another dear friend called Kevin Metcalfe. Kevin and I go back to the very early days, in fact I spent six months training with Kevin ‘The Master’ and I owe everything I have learned about mastering to him. Kevin has mastered all of my albums for me because I trust his judgement and skill and it seems only right that he is involved in everything I do.

I would like to thank Jane McDonald. Jane, I want to thank you so much for believing in me all those years ago and giving me the chance to show you what I could do. I have very fond memories of meeting you on trains, in hotel rooms, after concerts just so we could talk about songs and music. I think you are an incredible artist and I sincerely hope that one day, you and I will get the chance to work together once more.



October 28, 2011

Ted Carfrae, My Life In Music: The Making Of Jane McDonald’s ‘Inspiration’ Album – Part 1

In Part 1 of 2 Ted Carfrae of TCM Music Group recounts his initial meeting with singer Jane McDonald and the steps leading to recording the ‘Inspiration’ Album…..

For those who don’t remember, Jane McDonald was one of the first big stars to emerge from the then new reality television format, in a programme called ‘The Cruise’. The programme featured several characters and Jane was one of the ships entertainers. She was followed from her first audition to headlining the main stage where she learned her craft as an entertainer.

Of course Jane was already a seasoned professional, having worked for years as a singer in local working men’s clubs around the Wakefield area and she even supplemented her income by working as a DJ in nightclubs around the country.

I first met Jane when a friend of mine, PR Nick Fiveash, asked me if I would be interested in producing music for all of Jane’s television appearances. These tracks were all programmed and I worked with a lifelong musician friend Stefan Heller. The first time I met Stefan was at CTS studios back in the seventies and we have remained friends ever since. I also recorded a few tracks in the studio with Jane including versions of Aretha’s ‘Respect’ and the club classic ‘It’s Raining Men’.

This led to my first big production job, recording the music for Jane’s first concert video. By this time, Jane had finished the TV show and was a well established star after having reached No1 in the charts with her first album entitled ‘Jane McDonald’.

The video was shot at a beautiful theatre in Stockport on 12th September 1999 and I mixed the music with a friend of mine called Junior Giscombe. Junior was a pop star in his own right and had a massive worldwide hit with his single ‘Mama Used To Say’ which has now become a soul classic. We recorded the concert using the ‘Manor Mobile’, a huge truck with a full recording studio in the back.

The studio was fantastic and had everything that you would find in a regular recording studio. The engineer was a chap called Richard Bradford who I had not met before and he was assisted by Shaun DeFoe and Alex Goodson from the Manor Mobile team.

An Early Manor Mobile 24 Track Studio.

The thing that stood out for me was the  mix. I remember mixing the soundtrack at the Manor in Oxfordshire in a big field surrounded by pigs, and potatoes in huge piles around us. So there we were, sitting in the back of a truck on a beautiful, hot and sunny day, with the back open, pigs running around foraging with music playing at full volume – all very surreal indeed. The video went on to become a massive seller and this was the start of my serious working relationship with Jane.

Soon after the video was released, Universal contacted me and asked if I would be interested in producing Jane’s next album. This was my dream come true to finally get the chance to make a proper album with a proper budget.

Making an album is a very complicated process and I usually spend around three months preparing every aspect of the production. The process always starts with a series of meetings with the record company to discuss and agree a concept. Then I have to put together a detailed budget and present that to the company. Once accepted, there is the legal side that needs to be addressed and this is where my manager usually steps in to negotiate my fees, royalties and then I start work on putting the project together.

The start is always about the material we are going to record. Jane was on tour so we met in many hotel rooms around the country, or I would join her on the train where we would discuss songs and ideas. Jane was always very creative herself and had lots of ideas that she wanted for the album.

Mike Alexander And Shirley Bassey At Rehearsal.

We decided to work with Jane’s concert arranger and conductor, Mike Alexander. Mike was Shirley Bassey’s conductor for many years so I knew his work well and loved his arrangements. He had also worked with Liza Minelli and Ray Charles, so I couldn’t have asked for a more experienced partner to work with.

Once we had selected the songs, the next step was to start work on the arrangements. I am very hands on with this part of the process. So I went and stayed for a week in Birmingham and visited Mike at his home each day where we would work together in his studio creating ideas and demos that I could play to Jane.

I remember it as being a wonderful experience and I was constantly singing my ideas to Mike. We would sometimes jump up and down with excitement when we created something that made our hair stand on end. I’d call Jane and play it down the line to her and all three of us would be screaming, it really was a joyous time and really creative.

Mike taught me such a lot about composition and arranging music and that knowledge has stood me in great stead ever since. So thank you Mike, for that. We even wrote two songs together in an effort to write a real old fashioned standard and one day when our collective schedules permit, we’ll get round to recording them.

Jane Singing Live On Stage At One Of Her Many Concerts.

The other great arranger on the album was Ian Hughes. Ian was originally brought to my attention by Nick Fiveash. He is a music arranger for top West End shows and I think worked with Jane on some of her TV shows. Ian is a lovely man to work with and his string arrangements in particular are so brilliant and imaginative – truly inspirational and he has since done some great arrangements for me on several projects.

Next week, recording starts at RG Jones Studios…..


July 7, 2011

TCM Mastering – Latest News: Exclusive Doris Day BBC Radio 2 Play

World Exclusive First Play Of The New Doris Day Song ‘Heaven Tonight’ – On Paul O’Grady’s BBC 2 Radio Show.

On Sunday 3 July 2011, British fans of Doris Day had an absolute treat as they were given the first listen to one of the all-new songs from Ms. Day’s upcoming album ‘MY HEART’. Sony Music UK released to British radio the catchy ‘Heaven Tonight’ which was written by Beach Boys’ legend Bruce  Johnston.

Doris Day’s – ‘My Heart’ On Paul O’Grady’s BBC Radio 2 Show.

The previously unreleased recording received its first play on BBC Radio 2 during Paul O’Grady’s popular Sunday show at 5pm (UK time). For  those who do not know, O’Grady is one of Britain’s best loved comedians and television presenters. He is also known to be a huge admirer of Ms. Day so it seems entirely appropriate that he was bestowed with the honour of  launching her new album.

The new release – ‘MY HEART’ features new production work by the acclaimed multi-platinum selling producer Ted Carfrae who is best known for his work with David Cassidy and Engelbert Humperdinck as well as British singer Jane McDonald.

At the moment TCM are offering a RED HOT SUMMER DEAL – Ted Carfrae owner and founder of TCM Mastering and TCM Music Group will mix and master a track for £175.00 inclusive. For more information please contact TCM by clicking here.