Friday, May 3, 2013

ZZ Topp: Eliminator, and Ardent - a recording Studio you should know

    This might suffice for a Funky Friday - Texas roadhouse style. The cover is what I will try to paint the next time I go to Bottle and Bottega - the BYO wine and painting party place.  Here is more about the record:  "Eliminator is the eighth studio album by ZZ Topp.  It was released on March 23, 1983, on Warner Bros. Records.  Recorded in Tennessee during 1982 - at the famed Ardent Studios (more below), the album was produced by the band's manager Bill Ham.  Pretty unique - in that most band managers are NOT record producers, at least on the engineering side of the glass.  On the cover is a customized 1930's Ford coupe.  Surely ZZ Top's most popular release, it ranks number 396 on Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.  As you read - it was made at Ardent Studios.

     "Ardent Studios was founded by John Fry and was initially a studio in his family's garage, where he recorded his first Ardent Records 45's.  In 1966 the operation moved into a new store building on Memphis' National Street, which was shared with a bookshop.  The original equipment came from the garage operation: an Altec (pre-Lansing) tube console, Ampex 2-track, Pultec EQ and Neumann mics - some of which are still in use today.  Tom Dowd was consulting with Auditronics on an early multitrack console for nearby Stax Records, and Fry ordered the same input modules for his second board.  Ardent became home to many top young producers and engineers such as Jim Dickinson, Terry Manning, Joe Hardy, John Hampton, Paul Ebersold, and later Skidd Mills, Jeff Powell, Jason Latshaw, and Pete Matthews.  In 1971, Ardent Studios moved to its present location on Madison Avenue, followed by the acquisition of 24-track recorders, bigger consoles and more gear.  Today Ardent has three studios equipped with large format Neve (holy crap - they have a Neve board?  Only four were ever made and Dave Grohl owns one!) and SSL desks alongside Pro Tools rigs, and is managed by Jody Stephens (also drummer for Big Star) -- an early Ardent group whose first two albums appeared on Ardent Records label in the early 1970s.

   All three Big Star albums were named in Rolling Stone's Top 500 albums of all time, and “In The Street,” from their first album, became the theme for “That 70s Show.”  Early on the studio recorded groups such as: Sam & Dave, Led Zeppelin, Isaac Hayes, Leon Russell and The Staples Singers, and in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s recorded James TaylorZZ Top, R.E.M., George Thorogood, The Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan, and Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  To date, Ardent has recorded over 70 gold and platinum albums and singles.

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