IT HAD NEVER OCCURRED TO ME TO MAKE "A CD" BUT I THOUGHT TO MYSELF "WELL IT CAN'T POSSIBLY COST MORE THAN $1000" (HE WROTE LAUGHING TO HIMSELF BITTERLY)
ERIC ANDERSON / CATALDO
Eric Anderson Seattle, WA.
Cataldo takes the smooth sounds of jazz and the catchy, boyant feels of pop music and gently folds them together to create tunes to relax to and maybe shake your butt a little. Be sure to catch his performance at the Bumbershoot Music Festival this Saturday at 5:30pm.
Since this column is called Liner Notes I’d like to share a few albums who’s Liner Notes shifted my life in big and small ways:
Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald- (a greatest hits I don’t remember the name of)
I really liked vocal jazz growing up and it’s hard to beat Verve era Louis and Ella. I was so enamored with the recordings I started digging into who played in the band, an early foray into liner notes nerdery. It’s how I found Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, etc. I’m not a hard jazz head AT ALL but I started to draw a rudimentary constellation of who played in who’s band over the years. It remember being really intrigued and excited to realize that music has to be recorded by real humans with names, lives, and solo careers that extend beyond the household names I already knew.
Joni Mitchell- Blue
I remember reading the credits on this and seeing a bunch of names I recognized from CSN. Blue famously details Joni’s relationship with Graham Nash (at least in part) but I didn’t know that at the time. I had never heard of the now-iconic Laurel Canyon scene of the 1970s but I remember it dawning on me that bands spent time with each other and helped make each other’s records. Listening through my parents 1970s singer-songwriter collection the same names kept popping up over and over. Session folks like Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar, but beyond them the many famous names who showed up to play guitar, sing background vocals, and, I rightfully assumed, hang out. Their names and pictures weren’t on the cover but for anyone curious enough to read the fine print a secret world and social scene was waiting for you to imagine and interpolate. I knew I couldn’t time travel back to the 1970s but I badly wanted to be part of a similar crew.
Elliot Smith- Either/Or
When I was a teenager I had written and recorded some music on a primitive home recording system. For a forgotten tax-related reason my maternal grandparents generously gave each of their grandchildren $1000. When you are a teenager $1000 is a unfathomable fortune. It had never occurred to me to make “a CD” (it was 2003ish) but I thought to myself “well it can’t possibly cost more than $1000” (he wrote laughing to himself bitterly). I started pouring over liner notes and looking up all the technical roles. What does it mean to “mix” an album? What is mastering? I did some research and paid especially close attention to the names attached to records made in the closest metro areas to me: Seattle and Portland. One name that kept popping up was Larry Crane who ran Jackpot out of Portland, OR. Larry recorded some of Either/Or and many other fine records from the NW. I wrote him an email and not long after I was sitting in Jackpot where he very kindly marathoned his way through the mix so I would have to pay him the smallest amount of money possible. I think he was surprised to realize I was a teenager. Sometimes it still knocks me out how accessible the folks in technical roles are. The person who twisted all the knobs and set up the mics on records you love are usually an email or two away. Realizing if I saved up some money I could have access to the same creative tools as the indie rock bands I loved made a huge impact on me and, for better or worse, got me hooked on making records.
It’s not as easy to thumb your way through a credits list these days. However allmusic.com, while not perfect, is an amazing resource to cruise through. Go to your favorite records and see who played on them and recorded them. Click on their names, look at the other stuff they’ve worked on and get lost for a few hours.
FAVORITE RECORD STORE
Seattle: Porchlight, Golden Oldies
Not Seattle: Amoeba
FAVORITE CONCERT VENUE
Seattle: Neumos, The Showbox, The Paramount.
Not Seattle: The Ryman, The 400 Bar (RIP), The Bartlett, The Bowery Ballroom