PC with Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 audio interface running Cakewalk SONAR X3 Producer (all effects "in the box" using SONAR's plug-ins). Avantone CV-12 vocal mic, Audix drum mics for toms, Shure SM57 on snare, AKG D112 on kick, spaced pair of Avantone CK-1s for overheads. Gibson Les Paul and Fender Strat through Marshall JVM tube amp, recorded direct via XLR emulated output; Yamaha Absolute Birch drum kit.
Production Notes & Credits:
"Little Black Dress" is a straight ahead male vocal rock song. Brent wrote, performed, recorded, mixed and mastered it all in his "humble home studio". As Brent put it, "I played all the instruments and vox, no loops or samples -- I'm old school."
Reviewed By: Marty Peters
Recording: Summer's here, children, just in time for Brent's full-tilt boogie Spotlight! Full of fun, energy and innuendo, "Little Black Dress" is a throwback to the era of Brownsville Station, ZZ Top, Cheap Trick, bell bottoms and muscle cars. Picture "That '70's Show" with a better soundtrack and that's what's cookin' here.
The fact that Brent actually played every instrument one at a time with no programming to be found, while making the final result sound like a veteran 4-piece rock band, makes the entire effort that much more impressive. So grab your (old-school!) pencils and paper -- it may be summer vacation but the lessons are never over in recording class!
Right from the start, Brent hit a home run by combining two different tones, along with some heavy panning and subtle volume differences, to give his intro electric guitars their own identity and domain. We have advised this technique many, many times through the years, and it's rewarding indeed to hear it in practice.
The lockstep bass and drums follow next with all the swagger you could ask for, great big fat bass tone, meaty kick and a nice snappy snare. The real fun, however, starts at the 00:43 mark with a short effected-vocal breakdown, followed by the best ZZ Top sound in decades. Holy crap, Brent, the electric lead guitar tone on the solo is so Rev Billy G. it hurts! Absolutely in the top five of all the lead guitar sounds we've heard in our seventeen-plus years at Readers' Tapes. Oh, and the playin'... killer double guitar fills and a sick solo. Dude!
Additional goodies include the beautiful tom fills (excellent tones and panning) along with the slight delay applied to the lead vocal here -- a perfect example of restraint when applying processing, as well as a reminder that reverb is not necessary in every vocal situation.
Suggestions: As we have pointed out with regularity, the majority of submissions to Reader's Tapes come from one man/woman band scenarios. While this situation (combined with modern recording gear) allows for an immense amount of freedom in many aspects, it can also be difficult, particularly where things like drum programming are concerned. It is rare indeed to hear a solo effort with such a "band" vibe, but Brent has pulled it off with skill and taste.
Taking a page from the AC/DC - Bad Company - ZZ Top handbook, Brent has learned AND applied what precious few do these days, namely to keep it simple. The power and energy in "Little Black Dress" comes from minimal, killer-toned sound sources, played well/panned well and given a huge amount of room in the stereo field. It worked for "Back in Black", "Can't Get Enough", and "La Grange", and it works equally well here. So the next time you get ready to stack that ninth guitar overdub on your track in progress, stop for a moment and give Brent's little number a spin. Class dismissed.
Summary: Fire up the Camaro!
Contact: Brent Enman, firstname.lastname@example.org