Finding something for the pro audio person in your life is never easy, so here’s a compendium of books and DVD/Blu-rays we’ve reviewed this year on the PSN Blog. There’s everything from autobiographies to documentaries, and from how-to to history. The links go to the full reviews or author interviews so that you can figure out if—just like those lime green sweaters on sale at the dollar store—they’re a good idea or not.
Review: Behind the Boards II
Riding off the success of his first edition, author Jake Brown recently released Behind the Boards II, the second volume of accounts by record producers and engineers on the making of some of music’s greatest hits, offering a mix of interviews and narration that reveal how famous songs like The Eagles’ “Hotel California,” Elton John’s “Rocketman,” and Lou Reed’s “Take A Walk On The Wild Side” were created.
Review: Sound Man
Legendary producer/engineer Glyn Johns’ autobiography Sound Man is filled with cool stories about creating classic albums with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Clash, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, The Eagles, Neil Young, The Steve Miller Band and many, many more. The tales are fun, but there’s also a lot that audio pros can learn from Johns’ book. Here’s just 10 lessons we took away from Sound Man.
From The Beatles’ Abbey Road to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon to his own hit albums, legendary producer/engineer/musician Alan Parsons has made his mark on music history. In recent times, however, when he hasn’t been mixing at one desk, he’s been typing at another, co-writing The Art and Science of Sound Recording, an in-depth book on the entire music production process. Parsons and his co-author, Julian Colbeck, sat down with PSN at the 137th AES Convention for a spirited chat on mentoring, EQ’ing overheads and why George Harrison took too long to record guitar solos.
Interview: Bruce Swedien on Compression, Mentoring and his New Book
Legendary recording engineer Bruce Swedien might be best known for his work with Michael Jackson—he recorded all of the late singer’s prime solo work, including the best-selling album of all-time, Thriller—but to stop there would sell him short. Having recorded literally dozens of other household names, won five Grammy wins and received 13 nominations, the man has a heck of a lot of knowledge, and that in turn led him to write three books to date—including his latest book/DVD set, The Bruce Swedien Recording Method, which we chatted about in this interview during the recent AES Convention.
Review: Social Media Promotion for Musicians
Don’t let the title fool you. Social Media Promotion for Musicians is for anyone in the music biz who’s an entrepreneur—which is to say, it’s for everyone in the music biz. This how-to manual is just as relevant for producers, engineers, studios, regional sound companies, gear houses and others enterprising audio pros as it is for bands that want to push their next gig.
Review: Mad World—An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs that Defined the 1980s
New Wave of the early 1980s may be best remembered for its synthesizers and sleek fashion, but its also marked a turning point where music technology stepped into the spotlight. It’s no surprise then that the new book, Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs that Defined the 1980s, captures plenty of in-the-studio stories as it interviews a list of acts that reads like a typical hour of MTV circa 1985, including Duran Duran, New Order, Tears For Fears, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, INXS, Simple Minds, Human League, Howard Jones, ABC, Depeche Mode, A-Ha and dozens more.
Review: The Worst Gig
Everybody from Rush and The Sex Pistols to Owl City and Fitz & the Tantrums shares their worst road stories in helpfully titled sections like Wrong Venue, Insane Fans, Dangerous Malfunctions, Nature’s Wrath, Violence and the self-explanatory Oops.
Review: Down The Rhodes—The Fender Rhodes Story
In 1942, while training with the Air Force, Harold Burroughs Rhodes created a laptop keyboard from scrap plane materials he found around the airfield. His intention for this keyboard, now known as the Army Air Corps Piano or Xylette, was to create a smaller, more portable piano to use while teaching injured soldiers during WWII to play as a form of musical therapy, but the invention would carry on to become one of the most revolutionary instruments in the music industry. Now that story has been captured in the sumptuous Book and Blu-ray set, Down The Rhodes: The Fender Rhodes Story.
DVD / Blu-rays
Review: Muscle Shoals
The documentary Muscle Shoals, recently released on DVD, Blu-ray and digital services, digs deep into joy, pain and all the other messy, human stuff that came along when a sleepy Alabama town, population 8,000, became a musical prism that focused Sixties and Seventies R&B music into a colorful, blinding light. Dozens of artists weigh in, sharing their insights and experiences recording there, like Aretha Franklin, Bono, Alicia Keys, Steve Winwood, Gregg Allman, Clarence Carter, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Cliff, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett and others.
When Scandinavian director Antonio Tublen’s 2013 film LFO came across my desk, I wasn’t sure what to expect—the film’s synopsis gives you a brief idea of where the story is headed, with a introverted scientist experimenting with sound waves until he makes an astonishing discovery, only to have his experiment unravel out of his control. But even with that description, I was expecting more of an evil-experiment-gone-wrong scenario versus the psychological themes of morality and megalomania centered around this lonely main character.
Review: Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me
Some artists are forever associated with certain studios. You can’t talk about the Beatles without bringing up Abbey Road. Any look at the Beach Boys’ career will bring up United Western Recorders. Prince? Paisley Park. Run-DMC? Chung King. And as the recent documentary, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, shows, it’s the same thing when it comes to Big Star, the legendary “lost” pop group of the 1970s whose story has always been tightly intertwined with that of Memphis, TN’s Ardent Studios.