Last September saw the release of 'Frankie Miller’s Double Take', an album of previously unreleased songs from Frankie’s demo archive.

Jerry Stevenson played a key role in the production of the album and used S-GEAR extensively. Jerry writes about this very special project...

 


Frankie Miller had a great career as a singer and prolific songwriter during the 70s and 80s. Many people consider him to have one of the finest rock and soul voices ever. He made ardent fans of many of his contemporaries in the business and as well as having a voice to die for he had many of his songs covered by famous artists worldwide. In the nineties Frankie was in America working with Joe Walsh on a new project when he had a severe brain haemorrhage which even after a long recovery has left him unable to sing.

Around four years ago producer David Mackay was talking to Rod Stewart and Frankie's name came up. Rod is a fan and asked if there were any unrecorded songs available so David said he would find out. A massive collection of home demo recordings came to light in lots of different formats and so a painstaking search was carried out to find good examples of the now obsolete recorders to enable the tapes to be played. The recordings were patchy but the vocal performances were stellar so David came up with the idea of remaking the tracks using Frankie's original vocals. The multi tracks were carefully bounced out to digital but much of the original recording quality was poor, they were only meant to be rough demos after all. At that point David contacted me to ask if I could clean up and salvage the vocals to make them useable, and so I started on what turned out to be the mammoth task of making the recordings clean and 'in time' enough to work with new recordings, plus generating click tracks etc.

As the initial tracks were being laid down, David had the brainwave of turning the album into duets with other famous names to broaden it's appeal and to use it to generate money for a music therapy charity that works with brain damaged patients, Nordoff-Robbins. More and more stars that were familiar with Frankie's work came on board as the news of the project spread, all giving their time for free. In the end the list reads like a who's who of contemporary music. Elton John, Joe Walsh, Steve Cropper, Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson, Kim Carnes, Bonnie Tyler, Kid Rock, Delbert McClinton, Huey Lewis, the list goes on- 19 tracks in all and another 20 or so not yet released.

After cleaning up the vocals, I had a big hand in the making of many of the tracks and played guitar on several of them alongside Bob Jenkins on drums from my band Be Sharp. I used S-GEAR exclusively for all my guitar and bass part recordings as did my mate, the very excellent Geoff Whitehorn, who plays some of the more rocky stuff like the Huey Lewis track. The sounds are totally convincing in my opinion. I ended up mixing over half of the album and also used S-GEAR during the mixes to re-amp some of the guitar tracks provided by other contributors if I needed to change the flavour of the sound to help it sit better it in the track. A subtle additional touch from the Duke and a new IR can work wonders even on an already amplified and miked up recording.



As the recordings progressed contributions were coming in from all over the world and it was a total blast to be listening to Joe Walsh's or Steve Cropper's individual parts and slotting them in to the track along with a vocal from Elton John for example! Huey Lewis and his horn section were another highlight among so many.
 
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Having used plug-ins for years for guitar recording I'm used to having to tweak for hours to get what I'm after. S-GEAR sounded great more or less straight away and all my guitar tracks use only the S-GEAR modulations, delays and reverbs, they blend perfectly with the effects used on other instruments in the arrangement. Working with software is perfect for me. Like many guitarists I think I usually gravitate toward a slightly more gainy sound than is right for the track. It helps with the performance, then while mixing I'll back it off to the absolute minimum that I can get away with. The song usually sounds a lot better with this approach. As the contributions came in the sonic picture developed slowly and it was easy to try different speakers and tones, in my opinion Mike's cabinet choices are perfect, usually with little or no eq. I used several guitars, a Tele, my custom guitar and a Les Paul... I think all sound on the money, and sit comfortably alongside contributions from artists using high end amps and mics.

Please check out some tunes and, more importantly, purchase the CD and the accompanying dvd documentary on the making of the album. David Mackay has devoted an unbelievable amount of time, years in fact. All the 'big names' donated their sessions for free. There are some great performances from all the vocalists and a wide selection of excellent songs from Frankie. I never tired of listening to his soloed vocal tracks while I was cleaning them up.  It was an honour to be involved.

- Jerry Stevenson