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MP3 Big Apple Blues - Brooklyn Blues

A live studio electric Chicago Blues and beyond record by the very TOP NYC blues cats that is as authentic and driving as blues ever gets. Turn up loud and enjoy!

12 MP3 Songs in this album (49:23) !
Related styles: Blues: Chicago Style, Rock: Boogie Rock, Mood: Upbeat

People who are interested in Big Joe Turner Howling Wolf Muddy Waters should consider this download.

Liner notes

Brooklyn Blues is the culmination of a few blues musicians walking into a recording studio with their gear, plugging in and rolling tape. That of course, is an over-simplification of the recording process, but it’s all the listener really needs to concern themselves with.

Big Apple Blues is not a homage, but a continuation to the ‘living record’ of the Chicago-style electric blues of mid-century Middle America. The sound of this record didn’t have to be manufactured, it emanated from the hands and lungs of the musicians performing the essential American art form. The Big Apple Blues (formerly Stone Tone Blues Band) band walked into Excello Recording - a Brooklyn recording studio thick with vibe and history, past hallways stacked to the ceiling with vintage amplifiers - and made a record.

Brooklyn Swamp is in essence a live recording - notwithstanding the welcome addition of some piano and guest vocalists - with the emphasis being placed on fidelity. The word “fidelity” has multiple meanings among audiophiles and music archivists, and while this record hopefully fulfills their expectations of sonic precision, I’m writing about fidelity’s original definition:

fi•del•i•ty |fəˈdelətē|
1 a : the quality or state of being faithful b : accuracy in details : exactness

The fidelity of this record is a result of the musician’s determination to achieve this iconic sound. The production was kept in the analog medium not for the sake of replicating ‘old techniques’, but because of its tactility, the way the listener can just feel the groove.

The recording signal chain - ribbon and tube microphones feeding the transformers of Neve preamps and equalizers, and ‘golden-age’ vacuum tube-based signal processors rocking the meters of the Studer and Ampex tape machines - was built to a standard, not to a price. The combination of accuracy and sweetness maintained throughout the production of the record is palpable.

On a Friday night at the beginning of the new year, the band sauntered into Excello’s massive live room, over 1000 square feet of potential, with near 20 foor ceilings, 7 foot high custom made baffles weighing hundreds of pounds, instruments on stands and vintage keyboards lining the walls, and vibe for days.

Barry Harrison tuned the studio’s vintage Rogers Holiday drum kit as microphones were put on stands while two of the massive baffles laid horizontally on both sides of the kit. On either side of these baffles Zach Zunis setup his Fender Strat, going into a 1956 tweed and 1965 black-faced Fender Deluxe’s while Admir “Dr. Blues” Hadzic plugged his Fender p-Bass into an early ‘70s Ampeg V4-B pumping through an Ampeg 4x12 cabinet.

Across the room, looking straight at his rhythm section, Anthony Kane stood in front of a monitor wedge holding one of his harps, while to his right, his 1959 Fender Bassman was purring as the tubes warmed up. With all the heat emanating from the iron and tubes in these amps, it was easy to forget that it was the middle of January in New York.

In the center of the live room amongst the band, stood an 1950s RCA 77-DX ribbon microphone. When soloed amongst the 15 or so microphones on the Calrec console, each picking up a distinctive source or instrument, this particular microphone provided a thick and satisfying, yet indistinct picture of what was going on across the glass. However, when that antiquated piece of technology - consisting of a less than hair-thin corrugated aluminum ribbon suspended between two large magnets - was taken out of the mix, along so went the density of the mix. It can obviously be said that not only did that microphone make it onto the master, but that it became a central figure in the record’s sound.

The spacious sound of the Big Apple Blues record is due largely in part to the ‘bleed’ of instruments seeping into other microphones, of a band playing together in one room, with their sonic wavelengths arriving from across the stage to one point source. Though tape-based ‘slap delay’ and EMT plate reverb provide a beautiful augmentation to the mixes’ soundscape, it would fall flat without the full sound of the room providing the meat of the record.

The band returned to the studio in the middle of May to finalize Brooklyn Swamp. After pouring over the massive collection of music recorded earlier in the year, the band narrowed its selections down to a combination of 12 originals and reinterpreted classics.

With the addition of vocalists Christine Santelli, producer and engineer Hugh Pool, and keyboardist Brian Mitchell, the record transformed into the album we hear today.

Pool took a pass at the vocals on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor”, adding his rust-belt bred intensity and rasp to the record. Listeners will also notice the addition of maracas under the guitar solo, which Pool picked up mid-vocal take and ended up in the master.

While Barry Harrison’s voice takes charge on Big Joe Turner’s “Honey Hush”, the arrangement was revved up into a dance hall boogie featuring group claps and “Hi Ho’s”, and a multi-tracked shout chorus of Santelli harmonizing over top herself.
Brian Mitchell added underlying stride piano lines to the Fats Domino hit “Whole Lot of Lovin”, and an Alan Toussaint inspired back bone to the effervescent original “Who’s on Third (Duvel)?” instrumental shuffle .

This record exhibits that the word ‘analog’ is not only representative of the recording equipment, but more importantly to the analogous nature of these performances to those of Chicago’s Chess Records, especially Little Walter, Willie Dixon, Junior Wells and Howlin Wolf, down south to the New Orleans Big Beat of Dave Bartholomew.

All of the musicians on Brooklyn Blues are not just accomplished musicians, they are lifers to the blues. The residual memory of these musician’s performances is ingrained into the paneling of roadhouses and dives across the country and throughout most of the world, while holding life long affiliations with every reputable blues club in New York City. Each member has the very rare ability to take charge of not only their instrument, but of a band of equally capable musicians, and at any given moment turn a song into an experience. Turn up and enjoy the “Brooklyn Blues”!

- Nathan Rosborough, July 2010

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