CARUSO In the Face: 35th Anniversary Deluxe - Liner Notes
LISTENING BACK TO CARUSO
PART 2: RECAPTURING AN IMAGE OF YOUTH
Considering the typical terms of major label recording contracts, NOT being signed had one distinct advantage: we were the sole owners of all of our songs and tapes. Nobody outside the band had the rights to sell them, hold them hostage, or deep-six them by allowing them to permanently go out of print.
Over the past three decades, Iíve collected all of the CARUSO band's higher quality recordings that I could find. These tape reels were recorded on different formats, sometimes even conforming to a proprietary tape deck model. So in order to play or transfer the tapes, I had to locate compatible machines. Whenever I had time and money, I drove to different studios and transfer houses in the area and paid to have everything copied to a digital format, so that at some future date, the tracks could be loaded into professional computer recording software.
JUST IN TIME
Even though back then, I had neither the recording skills, the software, nor the studio money to do anything with the tracks, itís a good thing I preserved everything when I did. At some point, the tapes would begin to deteriorate and some of the old recording equipment might become more difficult or expensive to come by.
In the past few years, I finally felt I had the means, the time, and the experience to delve into this project. My first priority was to identify everything in the few-dozen reel-to-reel tape boxes, most of which were only partially labeled. I loaded each tapeís worth of digitized material into separate recording sessions, using Cubase Pro 11.
For some of the songs, I found multiple recordings. By listening and taking notes, I was able to choose and label the best takes by creating marker tracks within the recording software. Then I exported those markers to cue sheets and printed them, so that I could find each song quickly, no matter which recording session or tape it originated from. Finally, for mixing purposes, I created separate recording sessions of any individual songs that were contenders for this project.
If Joe Caruso hadn't taken recording classes at a Detroit studio, most of our live and home studio 4-track reel-to-reel recordings wouldn't even exist. Joe also conducted our sound checks and helped us get a solid drum sound when we played live. We all agree we owe Joe a huge debt for making us sound good.
When we recorded live, we had to fit a lot of instruments and vocals onto just 4 tracks. Any vocal or miked instrument contained audio bleed from the nearest amplifier, stage monitor, drums or cymbals. Horns were recorded with the vocal mics, making them virtually inseparable from any simultaneous singing. Bass was either recorded on the guitar track or the keyboard track. Sometimes effects were baked into a channel. Separation of instruments in general was going to be a challenge.
Besides the 1982 demo for The Long-Haired Girl, I also had access to the complete stems from the In the Face studio multitracks, which meant I could remix those songs, too. I only chose to do that with one song, She's a Sensation, and I included it as a bonus track, rather than replacing the original mix. See the Song by Song portion of the album liner notes for remix details.
Even with the best live representation of the song, if one instrument wasnít usable due to a technical issue, then any other instrument playing at the same time on that track had to be scrapped. Rather than leave those songs out, I remixed them. That allowed me to place new instruments or vocals anywhere I wanted in the stereo field, rather than hearing all instruments in the center of the mix. All this makes for more interesting listening.
I included some of Rob Caruso's interaction with the audience, to help you vicariously experience a CARUSO live show.
Choosing the songs, deciding on which takes to use, cleaning up the tracks, reducing noise, choosing which parts to keep and which to lose, writing and arranging additional parts, rehearsing and recording new parts, and preliminary mixing took considerable time. Technical hurdles, software learning curves, and creativity can all be time-hogs. Add to that the time it took to create all of the graphics and write the liner notes and Iíd estimate that I spent hundreds of hours in whipping this project into shape, even before final mixing began.
FINAL MIX TEAM
After I remixed the songs, I hired Kevin Holevar for the final mixing and mastering, so I could keep this project ďin the family.Ē Kevinís not our actual brother, but heís one of a handful of people who is like a brother to us.
In our early years, CARUSO traveled in concentric circles with one of Kevin's bands. In 1989, he recorded and played on the CARUSO album, I Love You... and Other Stories at his studio, Underground Productions. In the early 90s, Kevin played lead guitar for CARUSO. From 1997 to 1998, Kevin and I were in a band together, for which I suggested the name, HíOliver Twist. In 2014, Kevin recorded and mixed my album, Cardboard Vegas Roundabout, a months-long project. Soon after that, I hired Kevin as a consultant in reconfiguring my own home studio.
Another reason I hired Kevin is that he agreed to work on the sessions at my own studio. Since we get along famously and we use the same audio software, it was an easy decision for both of us.
Kevin used Steven Slate Audio VSX, a headphone and room modeling system which he brought to my studio on his laptop. After matching the software to our headphone models, we were able to monitor our mixes through a variety of virtual rooms and speakers.
He also used Rip X by Hit & Mix to separate some instruments that were recorded on the same track. It didn't work well in all situations, but it was helpful for some separation.
We worked in 7-hour sessions for five days. It was super enjoyable to work with Kevin again. But most importantly, he understands what CARUSO should sound like. He even got to add guitar parts to a few songs where we needed it.
So why bother working on an antiquated project thatís so challenging, time-consuming, and expensive?
Available on CD and digital on 04/07/23.
-- Dave Caruso