Classic Tracks: Gary Wright's "Dream Weaver"

Dec 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Matt Hurwitz

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Gary Wright

In April 2009, at a party inside Capitol Studios in Hollywood honoring his late friend George Harrison, Gary Wright found himself chatting at a table with Grammy-winning producer David Foster and legendary session drummer Jim Keltner. “Wow, it's the rhythm section for ‘Dream Weaver,’” he recalls saying. “We all laughed.”

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LISTEN:
"Dream Weaver" MP3

Thirty-four years earlier, Wright was with the same pair at Armin Steiner's Sound Labs Studio in Hollywood, recording what would turn out to be one of the first — if not the first — all-electronic keyboard pop albums, The Dream Weaver, whose title track would become Wright's signature hit. The song rose to Number 2 in 1976, the album Number 7.

After spending several years in the late '60s as keyboardist (and lone American) with UK band Spooky Tooth, Wright went out on his own in 1970, appearing on Harrison's seminal All Things Must Pass LP and recording several solo albums for A&M Records. Wright briefly re-formed Spooky Tooth with guitarist Mick Jones, but the band finally split up for good in 1974, after which Wright signed a deal with Warner Bros.

While Spooky Tooth had made its name in progressive rock, and his first two solo efforts, Extraction and Footprint, had been rock-oriented, Wright had always longed to produce an R&B disc. “I'd always had a really strong R&B influence in my life,” he says. “Even though there is a similarity in blues and some R&B, guitar riff-wise, I had really always, in my heart, wanted to focus more on rhythm and blues.”

Upon returning from England, Wright rented a house in his native New Jersey and began composing songs for what would become The Dream Weaver. All of the tracks were written on keyboards — with the exception of “Dream Weaver,” which he wrote on guitar. So Wright — armed with an arsenal comprising a Minimoog, Hammond organ, Clavinet, Fender Rhodes and an ARP String Ensemble — began recording demos onto a Revox 2-track reel-to-reel deck. An Echoplex provided the delay so key to what would be the Dream Weaver sound.

Wright's connection to electronic instruments actually began in the final stages of Spooky Tooth, which is when he bought a Minimoog. “I was just starting to get into the technology,” he says, “but since Spooky Tooth was more of a rock band, I couldn't get totally into it. I was just unbelievably fascinated by the Minimoog.”

Being sans drummer, Wright used a Univox Rhythm Ace to keep the beat, and the device actually remained a part of the final recordings. “It's like a little percussion section,” he explains. “Roger Linn used to come to a lot of my concerts and hear the Rhythm Ace. Shortly thereafter, he made the Linn Drum Machine,” a key component of many a small studio for years to come.

After recording a half-dozen demos, the composer played the tapes to a Warner Bros. exec, who was as taken with the tracks as they were. “He said, ‘You gonna do anything else?’ I said, ‘I don't think so. I don't think it needs guitar.’ At that stage, I was kind of off guitars. I had played so much with guitar-heavy bands, I said, ‘I'll just leave it as it is and do an all-keyboard album.’”

While playing on Peter Ivers' Nirvana Cuba, on which Wright's sister, Lorna, was singing backup, Wright met guitarist/producer Jay Lewis, who had more recently taken on engineering duties. “Gary came to the studio where we were recording, we hit it off and he asked me to do Dream Weaver with him,” Lewis recalls. Though Lewis was not overly familiar with the types of electronic instruments Wright would be using, Wright notes, “It was new ground for him, too. He just looked at them from an acoustical perspective. And he had really good ears.”

In the spring of 1975, Wright and Lewis booked a week at Sound Labs to do basic tracking. “There was a pile of hit records coming out of there and had been for years,” Lewis notes. The studio had a large room for tracking, along with a smaller room for mixing and vocals/overdubs. “Everything there was really top notch — you walked in the door and you were ready to go.”






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