So after having the drums, bass and guitar sorted it was time to get the star of the plate into place, the vocals. When Robert Plant recorded ‘Black Dog’, ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘Rock n’ Roll’, he was in his early 20’s and at the peak of his powers. One of the most iconic and formidable voices in the history of recorded music to try and emulate! We had my long time friend Tony Hollis who still has an amazing voice even at 55 years of age to work with, but what a challenge? Tony really rises to the occasion in a live environment feeding off the crowd and is vibrant on stage as you can see from a recent gig at the Top Pub (Byron Bay),
but how would he fare in the recording environment? We were about to cross that bridge. ‘Before and after’ hairstyles below haha.
We had an 8hr session booked and mistakenly believed we would smash it out in this time. We found however that it would take 3x that dedicated time to complete to our satisfaction what we had set out to achieve. The great news is that we were ahead of the game and contingency time is one thing I have learned to be invaluable in my career. Very rarely do things go to plan, so ensure you plan for such! To say that some of the vocal parts performed by Robert Plant are challenging is an understatement, especially if your vocal range is not firm and solid in the higher registers. Tony can hit these pitches when motivated, so our challenge was to get him into this zone. I feel that my worth as a producer came to the fore here. We had two advantages: I have known Tony for 15 years so there is little that we do not know about each other and I have a sterling knack for pitch and hearing whether something is ‘on’ or ‘off’/’sharp’ or ‘flat’ (Shay has similar skills). The fact that I was working with a dear friend enabled me to be honestly critical and have that criticism received gracefully with trust that it was valid. A quick clip of Tony having kittens below (all makes sense in the mix)!
Our first session took place on a Saturday when Tony had been at a funeral the afternoon before catching up with long lost friends and if you ever meet Tony you will understand…the man can talk! He arrived not feeling confident in his voice but we were able to get a fair bit down with the exception of the higher pitched phrasing. We booked a few morning sessions, but this proved fruitless as he works till 12am and was tired and not ‘on song’ during these early sessions (pardon the pun)! So followed two more weekend sessions till we had what we needed. Our greatest and most frustrating challenge came in one of the sessions from our headphone sends, which we just assumed we had mastered? Our issue (which took hours to rectify), lay with the headphone pre amp (another valuable lesson learned via the hard road).
Yes we had some challenges with the artist and the process, but we have what we need. We are mindful that our reference tracks are the ‘actual’ tracks’ and as such will be under much scrutiny, but watch out because we are now mixing and the finished product will be EPIC!
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