One indicator of a potentially great sounding record is “Direct-to-Disc” – this means that musicians perform ‘live’ and directly cut to lacquer. Some of these D2D recordings – “For Duke” on M&K Realtime Records, the Harry James big band albums on Sheffield Labs and “Moonlight Serenade” by Ray Brown and Laurindo Almeida on Jeton, for example – were made in the 1970's and 80's and are rare today and extremely expensive if you can find one. D2D albums are necessarily extremely limited because there can only be one lacquer was made and used-up for production.
Put “direct-to-disc” and “Bernie Grundman” together, and we have a music lover's dream come true. Add one of our favourite musicians – Anne Bisson – into Bernie Grundman’s studio, mix-in the recording genius of Michael Ross and we have the makings of a new legendary album.
The man in the middle of it all - producer, mixer and engineer Michael Ross. Since this was a direct-to-disc recording, he had to mix 'live'. There's no going back with ProTools to fix problems, or autotune if the musicians are off key.
But before anything can be done, we had to first build a recording studio - in Bernie Grundman's mastering studio. Instruments had to be acquired - in this case, Bernie called up Steinway of Los Angeles and their response was "Sure, we have three you could choose from."
It was quite a thrill watching the engineers Michael Ross and Michael Aarvold work to wire everything up. All I did was to keep out of the way, and be there when someone asked, "Hand that thing over there to me please." In 6 hours flat, the "recording studio" was ready and waiting for the musicians to turn up.
The drums took over the Technical Workshop as they would need to be isolated from the very sensitive vocal microphone. But, they had an impressive array of microphones chosen with great care by Michael Ross. At the risk of giving away his secrets, he used a pair of vintage Russian tube Lomo microphones overhead to catch the "crystal clear cymbals" that audiophiles are so fond of.
Friday night, after a pizza dinner, the musicians get their hands on their instruments so that we can do a sound check to make sure that everything is working - all the microphones, mic-preamps, mixers, etc. etc.
Michael Ross is one of the most sought-after recording engineers in L.A. That's saying a LOT. Many of our reference albums in Genesis were recorded and/or produced by Michael. Even some of the movies that Gary used to demo Genesis Home Theater systems with during the mid-2000's were engineered by Michael - Drumline (with a 150 piece marching band!!) contains one of the most impressive soundtracks to be shown in a home theater demo. He's recorded and mixed hit albums and singles by Christina Aguilera and Diana Krall. Now he's recording and mixing for Anne Bisson in real time!
These were the two microphone picked by the Recording Engineer for Anne Bisson's vocals. Not content to just pick one mic based on his experience, Michael Ross brought in two - both vintage, both over 50 years old. Since they came from Oceanway Studio's legendary microphone locker it is already assured that they would be the best available. The microphones in Allen Side's collection are legendary among recording engineers.
The two microphones were the Neumann U67 and the Telefunken ELA M 251. For a female vocal, the U67 was picked over a U47 which would be more suitable for baritone/tenor ranges and would sound "bigger than life". The U67 more suitable for alto/tenor voices. Of course, every microphone is unique as is every voice, and one microphone might sound fabulous on one voice and horrible on another.
The second mic, the 251 is not as "legendary" as the U67 or U47 by a long shot, but that may be due to the fact that there were much fewer made, and they are currently more expensive. Recording engineers hold them in the same high regard.
One of the mics was picked, and the other moved away (but kept warm for back-up).
The piano received as much "love" as the main vocals - with a pair of vintage AKG Norelco C-12A microphones also from the Oceanway microphone locker. Using the legendary CK-12 large diameter capsule, it was made much smaller by using the NuVista sub-miniature tube instead of the 6072 dual triode like the original C-12. (I guess that only the crazy tube-heads like me would be interested!)
The piano used for the recording was another interesting story. The original plan called for a Fazioli piano. However, when the recording date rolled close, Bernie called Fazioli but they said their only loaner piano was being used by Herbie Hancock and he wouldn't return it. So, Bernie called Steinway of Los Angeles, and they jumped at the opportunity to get their piano featured in the first Direct-to-Disc recording in LA in anyone's recent memory. They even offered Bernie the choice of three pianos - one with elegant high notes, another with good bass, and a third that was rich and warm. No prizes for guess which one Bernie picked.
"Genesis is very honored to be a sponsor of this project. The Direct-to-Disc vinyl and potentially a Direct-to-2track reel-to-reel tape is being released under the Brilliance Music & Studios label."