Studio v LivePaul, · Categories: Alumni and other friends, Amusements, General
Was just at a house concert/jam where the players were Will McFarlane and Armand Lenchek. This was serious stringbending live music with a good blues. In the course of the evening, Will was talking about the difference of playing in the studio and playing live. Basically with the earphones on, you play subtlely and with more details and more cleanly than you would play live. In fact, if you are playing to a big house (say touring with Bonnie Raitt, Will’s example), you are playing LOUD and with no understated sounds at all. And you have to be more reactive and even a bit well sloppy (although I don’t think Will would call it that) and ready to vary wildly from the original song if needed.
This reminded me of the time a few years back that Sally, Tucker and I were living in Paris for a week or so. We were there during the Bastille Day celebration. The little fountain at Place de la Contrescarpe where we were staying was converted into a bandstand. We went down to hear the music expecting to hear something French. But the band turned out to be a very hot but very tight coverband doing American Rhythmn and Blues. One particular introduction and song stick in my mind: Chancion de James Brown – J’me un Sex Ma Chien (pardon my poor French). The band launched into a perfectly executed version with mixed French and English lyrics of Sex Machine, but it seemed so wrong. The band was too exact and too tight to ever be the JBs (especially the version that cut SM in 1970 with Bootsy Collins and his brother Catfish and the wonderful Fred Wesley). I was used to the live swinging funk of the JBs recording. The French band was exacting — so exacting that it sounded wrong to me — not just the Sex Ma Chien instead of Sex Machine, but the whole of the sound. The excitement of the JBs was replaced by precision that missed the point of it all.
Will was explaining how the limits of tape to record certain sounds required that session players learn to play within the limits or that devices called limiters would be in place to pull down a shouted vocal that would have gone off the tape. The French band was clearly playing within the limits. No one would ever accuse the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, the Godfather of Soul, Mr. Dynamite of staying within the limits.