When Alan Parsons was a young trainee engineer at Abbey Road studios there was no ‘institute,’ no official curriculum, with tests at the end of every quarter. Training was centered around observation. Even asking questions was a potentially perilous exercise.
So one of many interesting aspects of the two Abbey Road MCTS video-on-demand packages is that this is essentially how engineers used to learn their craft ‘back in the day’.
Alan Parsons returned to Abbey Road to celebrate and reconnect with a place he’s often described as his musical-spiritual home. Prog Rock, too, is part of Alan’s DNA and the artist for Session 2 was Belgium’s Fish On Friday: a band of seasoned recording professionals led by Frank Van Bogaert, a seasoned studio owner and producer in his own right.
Progressive rock is going through something of a Renaissance at time of writing (2016), with artists, magazines (printed and online) and even charts all enjoying level of interest not seen since Yes got back together in 1989. Recording prog rock has always posed a particular challenge given the length and complexity of the material. It was interesting to see Alan’s reaction to the demo of The World’s A Stage (subsequently renamed In The Key Of Silence). Initially he wasn’t entirely sure what else he could bring to the track.
But that’s the interesting thing. Once the session got going Alan brought an immense amount to the track, not only making it sound ‘like a record’ but also a level of warmth and humanity that is all too often missing from any type of music recorded in the ProTools-submissive world we now live in.
In this fly-on-the-wall footage you get to see and hear the interaction between producer and artist, how problems and differences are handled and solved, what it takes to record a six minute plus track in multiple sections, the best instrumentation for a tracking session. Back in day, says Alan, bands would often require the multi-track be spliced, never mind the ¼ inch.
Over the course of this 2-day, almost ten hour process you’ll see how the drums and guitars are miked, what mic Alan likes to use on lead vocals, how he likes to set up the desk (‘straight line’ faders are always the intent) and much more. But the value lies more in observing the organic pace and process involved in a ‘real’ recording session in a ‘real’ (and it doesn’t get much more real than Abbey Road # 3, where Alan recorded Dark Side Of The Moon) studio. Even the Hammond used on this session was the same! “Oh yes,” he says when asked. “That’s Abbey Road’s Hammond. Always been the same one.”
This is not a ProTools training program. It’s not a tip-fest on compression ratios or snare drum EQ. This is the story of how professional musicians play together in a room, warts ‘n’ all. It’s not intended to be a replacement for the ASSR Art & Science Of Sound Recording video series, which is scripted and edited for the full wham-bam educational experience. With these videos the idea, and hope, is that you will learn by observation, simply by being there and seeing how the creative process unfolds, be it working out harmonies or making decisions about a guitar solo.
Sit back, watch, listen and soak it all up.