The Four Songs EP Story
October/10/13 11:42 Filed in: Audio
The devilishly-cleverly-titled “Four Songs” EP was recorded in 1986 at Al Nalli Annex in Ann Arbor Michigan. It was a studio in the basement of that excellent musical equipment store, and as such they had nice gear in excellent condition. I had been working on these originals with drummer Donn Deniston and fellow bandmate John Spires as a trio side-project from our working bar band.
For the recording, Donn was drummer & recording engineer, and I wrote, played and sang everything else. It was recorded on ½” 8-track. No, not one of those eight tracks - the kind in the florescent green plastic sandwich-sized box, that you shoved into a dash-mounted player in your car. This, my children, was a half inch reel to reel from the ancient pre-digital, pre-internet times, and despite not being a 24 track it had fairly serious fidelity. Actually track width and tape speed were (and are) larger determinants of fidelity than the number or tracks. If you divide the 2” width of standard 24-track tape by 24, the result isn’t that far from ½” divided by 8 tracks.
Post production mix at The Old Schoolhouse with Pete Bankert of Rock City Studio - www.rockcitystudio.com.
The resulting cassette(!) was sent via Rob Nalli to Foghat’s peeps, who passed on it, as the 15 minutes of the “Rockabilly Revival” of the time had passed. Guess I was just ahead of my time.
In order to digitally remaster the material, I was surprised to find it harder than expected to get my hands on a half-inch 8-track recorder. Thankfully there is a local keeper of the analog flame, Steve Albini - perhaps best known for recording Nirvana’s “In Utero” album, (which was re-released in 2013 for its 20th anniversary). Not to mention member of Big Black and Shellac.
Steve’s studio in Chicago, Electrical Audio - www.electricalaudio.com has an awesome collection of analog machines. Resurrected from the vaults, I brought in the 8-track and ¼” 2-track masters, where they were slowly and lovingly baked in a low oven to help prevent shedding and were then transferred to digital at 24/88.2.
These aren’t exactly hi-fi recordings (by modern standards) in terms of the sounds we put into the board, but ½” 8-track analog is a marvelously elastic and wide-bandwidth format, (even by modern standards). The drums and mics were good (sorry – can’t recall what they were) but most importantly were played by a guy who could play, man. The guitar and bass were Fenders, running through the then-ubiquitous Scholz Rockman. Between that and the big, gated reverb on the drums, the sound fairly screams, “that’s 80’s baby!”. Not namby-pamby.
I hope to have the time to monkey with them some more in the near future. Donn wasn’t satisfied at the time with the lone drum groove throughout “I Give My Heart”, and drum replacement technology has grown exponentially since then. Any paid downloads will include updates to future versions. Let me know if you have any interest in downloading a high-res version and I’ll post it.