'Rave On Buddy Holly'

Jul 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Barbara Schultz



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  • 1. "Dearest," The Black Keys
  • 2. "Everyday," Fiona Apple and Jon Brion
  • 3. "It's So Easy," Paul McCartney
  • 4. "Not Fade Away," Florence & The Machine
  • 5. "(Youre So Square) Baby, I Don't Care," Cee Lo Green
  • 6. "Crying, Waiting, Hoping," Karen Elson
  • 7. "Rave On," Julian Casablancas
  • 8. "I'm Gonna Love You Too," Jenny O
  • 9. "Maybe Baby," Justin Townes Earle
  • 10. "Oh Boy," She & Him
  • 11. "Changing All Those Changes," Nick Lowe
  • 12. "Words of Love," Patti Smith
  • 13. "True Love Ways," My Morning Jacket
  • 14. "That'll Be the Day," Modest Mouse
  • 15. "Well All Right," Kid Rock
  • 16. "Heartbeat," The Detroit Cobras
  • 17. "Peggy Sue," Lou Reed
  • 18. "Peggy Sue Got Married," John Doe
  • 19. "Raining in My Heart," Graham Nash

M. Ward of She & Him produced the adorable song “Oh Boy” at Type Foundry (Portland, Ore.), the home base of engineer Adam Setzer. “Usually what we’ll do is start with rhythm guitar and a minimal percussion track and build on that,” Setzer says. “We just keep adding and layering; on this track, we added percussion, guitars, keys, and then when we have everything up, we start making choices and stripping it back.”

Setzer recorded to an Otari MTR-90 2-inch and used a lot of old-school mics, including an RCA BK1 for vocals, AEA R84 ribbons on the drum kit and a Coles 438 on guitars. “I’ll sometimes add a small-diaphragm condenser on guitars, probably an A-T 4051, just for a little more high end,” Setzer says. Zooey Deschanel’s vocals were recorded in one evening, with her singing the lead and backing “Oh Boys” in one take: “Oh boy (oh boy) when you’re with me/Oh boy (oh boy)…”

“She came in and it was one of those serendipitous things where it was perfect timing; we had just finished the rest of the track. We got her vocal on maybe the second or third take,” Setzer says.

Toward the end of Rave On Buddy Holly, Lou Reed got his hands on “Peggy Sue.” Like McCartney, Reed and his producer Hal Willner did their tracking in Avatar’s Studio A, in this case with engineer Marc Urselli. “I had listened to the original a dozen times to be prepared,” Urselli says. “But I knew we were going for the Lou Reed sound.” That means it’s dark, distorted and guitar-heavy, with pounding drums and Reed’s unmistakable half-sung/half-spoken vocal on top. “It was basically recorded all live, as Lou likes it,” Urselli says. “Lou doesn’t like iso booths so we set up his station facing the drums and we had Sarth Calhoun’s bass-synth station to the side. The guitar was too loud in Lou’s mic so we re-did the vocals in the control room.”

Many of the mics came from Reed’s collection: a Manley Gold Reference on vocals, and Shure SM57 and Coles 4038 ribbon on his guitar amp. Urselli tracked through the custom Neve in Studio A, using the onboard preamps for “everything.” A violin part by Laurie Anderson was overdubbed later. Urselli mixed the track on the Harrison 10B console in Studio A at EastSide Sound (New York City). “I used a little bit of compression [McDSP Channel G and DE555 de-esser], but I did all my EQs on the board,” Urselli says. “That Harrison board just sounds fabulous.”

Holly’s sequel song, “Peggy Sue Got Married,” fell to singer/songwriter/punk pioneer John Doe, who visited producer Joe Henry’s Garland House studio this past January. Doe and Henry arranged and recorded a powerful version where the moody music track and Doe’s voice build dramatically; the line about Peggy Sue getting married isn’t used until the end of the song, so that this somewhat lightweight update actually finishes with a huge emotional impact.

“Covers can be tricky when you try to make it your own,” observes Ryan Freeland, who engineered the session. “I think that structural decision to put the ‘Peggy Sue got married’ chorus bit only at the end, instead of repeating it where it would normally go, creates more of an arc.”

Henry assembled a band of some of his favorite musicians for the date: guitarists Val McCallum and Greg Leisz, pianist Keefus Ciancia, bassist David Piltch and drummer David Kemper. On electric guitars, Freeland combines a 57 and Royer 121. “On this song, I think the electrics are both hard-panned left and right,” he says. He records to Pro Tools, using Apogee converters and his trusty racks of pre’s and processing. “Joe and I use a real old-school approach to record-making: Put a great singer and a great band in a room and let them go,” he says. “It was a luxury to focus on just one song with musicians who are so great and give their all on every take.”

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