This wonderful book tells the story of master engineer/producer Al Schmitt's career, along with many of his thoughts about the art of making records, with a smattering of interesting photos to boot. I'm not sure I need to remind the readers of the artists Al has worked with, but names like Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Ray Charles, Jefferson Airplane, Neil Young, Lady Gaga, Duke Ellington, and Diana Krall might do the trick. As a youngster he experienced his uncle Harry's studio in New York City and eventually ended up there engineering after a stint in the Navy. We follow Al through NYC studios (with Tom Dowd!), and then to L.A., where he flourished at Radio Recorders and RCA. Stories of working with composer Henry Mancini abound, much to my delight!
Along the way we find out which microphones and gear Al has enjoyed over the years, and we learn some of his studio techniques and how he listens to music and recordings. Valuably, Al explains to us what he expects in great recordings and performances. I love how the technical side of making records is explained in this book. Rather than dumbed down (or outright inaccurate) as some biographies of our peers are, there's real information about the process, and the gear, but not at the expense of a good read. Al's opinions are obviously worth considering and getting them in print here is perfect. Many thanks are due co-author Maureen Droney, the Recording Academy's Managing Director of the Producers and Engineers Wing. As a recording engineer and former studio manager, she knows the business and the life and helps bring Al's session tales into focus with confident writing and pacing. If I have any complaint, it is that it's a relatively short book (159 main pages), and I wanted to hear more of Al's thoughts and stories. A great read; buy it now.