Apple iMac with Apogee duet interface running Apple Logic Pro 9, iZotope Ozone 5 (mixdown and mastering), Toontrack EZdrummer, Native Instruments Session Horns (played on a M-Audio KeyRig 49 USB keyboard controller), and Synthogy Ivory II Grand Pianos (controlled by a Roland A-88 MIDI master keyboard). Mics: Mojave MA-200 (guitar and vocals), Royer R-121 (banjo), sE Electronics Reflexion Filter portable mic isolator. KRK KVXT4 monitors, Tech21 SansAmp Bass Driver (for bass track, played direct).
Reviewed By: Marty Peters
Recording: Catchy, catchy tune, John, with a refreshingly upbeat lyric (harder to do than one might think!). As for the recording itself, the Mojave MA-200 mic marries up really well with the lead vocal, and even better on John's acoustic guitar. The acoustic has a beautiful feathery tone that fits beautifully in this context. We also like the choice of the Royer R-121 ribbon mic for the banjo. The ribbon's inherent lack of high frequency range is perfectly suited to combat the strident nature of the banjo, in our opinion.
John used his Tech 21 SansAmp to fashion a nice round faux acoustic bass tone, and we love the choice and sound of the "upright piano" from the Synthogy Ivory II Grand Pianos/Roland A-88 keyboard combination.
Now for the flip side. The harmony vocals had a fairly brittle sound through our monitors, and also were presented too loudly in the mix. While the drum programming was fine in terms of tone (it's very hard to ruin the sound of EZdrummer), there were several rough patches in the timing. We also felt that the song could have been more successful without the simulated horns and the congas, which were muddy and distracting to our ears.
Suggestions: As most of you loyal readers out there have probably surmised, the vast majority of our submissions to Readers' Tapes come from one man/woman band operations, also known in these parts as the "wearers of many hats". With that in mind, Engineer Hat John has made many fine decisions with his recording, including mic selection, and EQ/ambience, and Player Hat John has laid down some nice tracks.
Our suggestion is that Producer Hat John revisit his mix and re-evaluate the sum of its parts. It is oh-so-tempting to add onto arrangements these days, particularly when there is no outside producer to advise you, but you need to be sure the stuff your adding aids the song. If, after review, John is still committed to the horns and congas, we suggest that he spend some time on their tones, as well as their place in the mix as a whole.
Summary: A fine summer soundtrack that needs some decision-making.
Contact: John Lewitt, email@example.com