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Liquid Mix Builds A Modern ‘Brick House

New York (May 5, 2009)--Producer Allen Morgan was thrilled when he was contacted by The Commodores to do a remix of their 1977 hit, “Brick House.”

Allen Morgan with his
Liquid Mix set-up.
New York (May 5, 2009)–Producer Allen Morgan was thrilled when he was contacted by The Commodores to do a remix of their 1977 hit, “Brick House.”

“I had done some work for Dolly Parton,” he recalls. “Her manager is friends with the Commodores’ manager, who thought a remix would be a great idea. I met with the band in Las Vegas and they thought it was a great idea.”

The new remix proved to be an opportunity for Morgan to use his Focusrite Liquid Mix to accentuate the old-school vibe of the song, using vintage compressor and EQ emulation plug-ins while also introducing modern elements with the Liquid Mix’s modern emulations.

Morgan took the roles of producer and remixer, with the goal of creating a modern, club-friendly take on this classic funk/soul single. Lead vocalist/drummer Walter “Clyde” Orange says the band wanted the remix to be “very different. We’re an R&B/pop band, and we wanted to do something that’s ‘not us.’ Music has changed.”

The challenge was to turn this classic tune into a modern piece that captures the attention of both old and new audiences. “It’s a real honor to work on a song like this,” says Morgan, “but at the same time, it’s a lot of pressure. All over the world, everybody knows ‘Brick House’ and I wanted to honor the original while making a remix that holds its own.”

Morgan had full access to the band itself as well as the multitrack tapes. Recording took place in stages, all in the digital realm. The current band of Orange, William “Wak” King and J.D. Nichols did vocals, with studio musicians handling the instrumental tracks. As producer, Morgan traveled to Washington, DC to capture the tune’s signature horn sound courtesy of the Pietasters, an area ska band.

For the remix, Morgan used the Liquid Mix to create compressor/EQ audio chains that were true to the song’s 70s roots, with a mix of tube and solid state gear. He added the Liquid Mix plug-in to virtually every element, plus the final stereo mix. Among the EQ emulations used were the Brit Desk 5 (SSL G Series 6-band EQ), Trany 4 (API 550b 4-band EQ), and Old Tube 1 (Pultec EQP1 3/4-band EQ), paired with compressor emulations including US Vintage Tube 1 (Fairchild Model 670), Copy Cat (Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor), and Stellar 1 (1176LN). Morgan’s audio chains for lead vocals, backing vocals and horns are available on the Focusrite website.

“It’s no secret that the vintage stuff just sounds better. If it didn’t, there would be no market for it and it wouldn’t be called vintage; it would be called obsolete,” Morgan explains. “Obviously, I have my favorites. I really love BritDesk5. It’s based on the 6-band EQ of an SSL G Series console. I use that all the time.”

For the final mix, Morgan rented a bare room in an L.A.-area mastering house and brought in his personal system, an Apple computer running Steinberg Nuendo software, augmented by an RME Digiface soundcard, Novation ReMOTE 25 Midi controller and his Liquid Mix. “For a remix like this, the track count is insane, maybe up to 120. You have 20 tracks of horns, 12 tracks of vocals–it adds up pretty quickly. That’s where Liquid Mix comes in. I have all my favorite audio chains saved for instant recall, and it gives me 32 tracks of 24-bit, 48 kHz of DSP to use on my audio groups without loading down my computer.

“Liquid Mix is one of my go-to tools,” he summarizes. “It gives me access to all the vintage analog gear I love, anytime and in any location. Plus, I love the fact that it’s also a control surface. I like mixing with my ears, not my eyes, so I love having the ability to make changes without using a mouse.”

“For me, this is a whole new sound, and it is exciting,” says Orange. “This version of ‘Brick House’ sounds good, feels good, has a positive vibe, and is a whole new avenue for the Commodores. The electronic instrumentation puts a great twist on our music. Now, not only are the lyrics captivating, but the sound is as well.”

The Commodores’ “Brick House” remix is scheduled for worldwide release this coming summer.

Allen Morgan