THE MAKING OF "Live at Carnegie Hall"
In March of 2015, while doing some sorting and organizing of Dan photos and tapes, I came across a DAT tape labeled “Carnegie Hall”. Dan once told me that before his performance there in 1979, his management team had asked if he wanted to record the evening. He’d declined, saying he was going to be nervous enough playing Carnegie Hall, plus his parents were going to be in the audience - knowing it was being recorded would only add more pressure. He told me he’d always regretted that decision; the concert turned out to be one of the highlights of his career and all he had to remember it by was a house system recording of it.
And now, apparently, I was holding that house system recording in my hand.
After he died, I saved most of the smaller components from Dan's ranch studio: reel to reel, cassette, ADAT, and compact disc recorders, so now I pulled out the digital audio tape deck, connected the USB audio interface to my computer, and sat back to listen.
From what Dan had said, I was expecting it to sound really bad: room hiss, audience noise, mic pops, feedback and fluctuating levels, but it sounded GOOD!
And, knowing of the advances in audio restoration in the intervening 36 years since its recording, I felt certain it could be made to sound GREAT.
I sent an MP4 of Song From Half Mountain to Irving Azoff, Dan’s lifelong friend, saying, "Irving, I just listened to the recording of Dan at Carnegie Hall, and I would love for us to release it. Irving listened, and agreed that it sounded really good, and by the way, his friend Ron Perelman happened to be the chairman of Carnegie Hall. Mr. Perelman answered my inquiry right away and offered to put us in touch with the appropriate people.
Next, we approached Sony, since they own the bulk of Dan’s catalog, and they wanted to hear all of the tracks. Two months later, they let us know that, while it sounded great, it wasn’t feasible for them to put it out, but they would help in any other way they could. Clearly, this would not be a big money-maker, but we felt strongly that it should be in Dan’s catalog, and I knew that the hardcore fans would love it.
I sent out audio restoration requests, figuring it would cost around $6,000. The first bid I got back was $40,000. Yikes!! The next bid was for $27,000 but they came down to $20,000. I ran it by Irving, who thought it was high, but I knew their work and believed they'd make it amazing, so he agreed. In August I sent a $10,000 deposit check and before long I got a restored/mastered CD.
I played the CD, and my heart sank. It wasn't what I'd hoped for, at all. I wanted the listener to feel like they were right there in the concert hall, so the big room ambience was very important to me, and it just wasn't there. I called Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering, who said he’d take a listen and let me know if he could do anything with it.
He asked if I had access to the masters, but, well, that was the mystery.
Dan said the recording was done on Carnegie Hall’s house system, but their archivist told me they don’t do house system recordings; never have. Sony Legacy didn’t have any record of a recording, and Dan’s road manager and management didn’t recall how it was recorded either. So, with no idea where the masters were, or if they even existed, all we had to work from was the DAT’s, which is a bit like taking a picture of something through a window. Luckily, our window was of good quality and fairly clean.
Gateway Mastering is only three hours away from me, so in May of 2016, I drove the precious tapes down and left them with Bob, who did indeed make them sound fantastic, for what I’d originally hoped it would cost. I wanted the entire concert to be left intact, including Dan's banter with the audience, so we made a lot of tweaks to where the tracks started and ended. For instance, it was important that the person who yelled out, “Play all night long!” just before Dan began riffing on an impromptu song called “All Night Long,” could be heard at the start of that track and not at the end of the track before it.
By October of 2016 the final Carnegie Hall CD master was completed.
Irving and I decided to release the double CD ourselves, under “Nether Lands Records.” I already had the album cover, an Andy Katz shot of Dan that I loved, but I asked John Kosh, who designed so many of Dan’s albums, to design the package and CD labels.
We had no images of the concert to work with, so I put out a request on Facebook for photos or memorabilia and was thrilled when longtime Dan fan, Jill Dolnick McGovern, sent us images of her concert ticket and the ad that ran in the New York Times (which, in a bit of serendipity, had been designed by John Kosh.) Poor Jill, she had just bought a new scanner and I pushed her skills to the max to get us some good quality scans: "Bigger, Jill, bigger!"
Irving asked Adam Flick, Brandon Rieck and Sali Kharazi to help with the production end of things, which was a huge help. So, two years after finding the DAT, the agreements had been signed, licensing and mastering fees paid, and the package and music files were on their way to be printed and pressed.
After posting about the album on Facebook, I got a comment from a man named Dennis Fite. It said, "Jean, I am excited that you have taken on this project and can't wait to get a copy. I had the pleasure and privilege to mix Dan's monitors on that tour."
I immediately sent him a private message, asking if he had any recollections of the recording of the Carnegie Hall concert. Dennis told me that Carlo Sound of Nashville was hired to provide the sound system for the entire 1979 Solo Tour. They weren't hired to record the performances, just to do the sound in the house and monitors, however, during the Carnegie Hall concert, PA engineer John Logan made a cassette tape recording of the show in case Dan wanted it.
Dennis wrote: "I remember that the evening was very special. Dan was very excited to be playing Carnegie Hall and having his parents in the audience. I mixed monitors and John Logan, also with Carlo Sound, was the house PA engineer. The tape of the Carnegie Hall show Dan had was John's house mix and came directly from his house mixing board. The guitar tech was Dan Murakami. The road manager was Charlie Fernandez. Dan was offered the use of Carnegie Hall's baby grand piano but declined the offer. When I asked him why Dan showed me, on its sound board, the signatures of all the musicians who had played the piano on stage at Carnegie. He felt a bit intimidated and said he would feel more comfortable playing his own.
During sound check Dan would stop playing a guitar and say things like 'awesome', 'this one sounds great', 'can't wait to play this one tonight'...he appeared to be feeling pretty good about the show. During the show Dan seemed to be pretty happy with his environment on stage...he would occasionally shut his eyes while playing or look over and smile.
Two factors very instrumental in my success with Dan's stage environment were Dan himself..a great musician that knew exactly what he wanted on stage and knew how to communicate that to me during sound check and Dan Murakami who always had the guitars tuned perfectly and would let me know of any potential problems that might arise. There seemed to be excitement and tension in the air as Dan was walking across the stage for his first song. With the first notes and lyrics of the first song, the tension dissipated and the excitement remained. From that moment on, it was his audience, his show, and his performance hall. It was a memorable show! I feel fortunate to have had a small part in it."
So, the mystery of who recorded the concert was finally solved!
Dan must have had the cassettes transferred to DATs at some point and put them away. I was upset that the CD package was already in production - it meant I wouldn't be able to include John and Dennis in the "Thanks" section.
The very next day, a small box of the CDs arrived via UPS. Excited, I pulled the plastic off of one of them. It looked fuzzy so I put some readers on and went to stand by a window. My heart sank. The photos were all pixelated! Instead of clean, smooth lines, the beautiful Andy Katz shot on the front cover had jagged, boxy edges. The Nether Lands logo on the back, already very small, was unrecognizable as teepee and moon. Besides the distorted photos, there were scoring indentations along the outside edges of the sleeves, where they were glued shut, and I found it a little difficult to get the CD's out of the center-opening sleeves without scratching them.
I didn't want to be a bad news bear, but there was nothing for it. I took photos and emailed them to Kosh, who was even more shocked than I was. In all his years of working on albums with artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, The Who, Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Buffett, and Electric Light Orchestra, he'd never seen this. I felt better after talking to Kosh and knew we'd get to the bottom of it. Sure enough, the next day Sali wrote to tell us that the printing company had accidentally used the wrong file to print from.
We discussed the awkward packaging and decided to go with a different format - one with the sleeve openings on the outside edge for ease and safety when removing the CDs. John was going to have to do a bit of reformatting of the package artwork so I asked if I could possibly slip two extra credits in? He said, "Sure, no problem." This album wouldn’t exist if John Logan hadn’t thought to record the concert through his sound board for Dan, so I was very happy to be able to include him in the credits.
The CD sold faster than we expected, so we made more and it sold out again. Audiophiles were writing to me, asking if we were going to put the concert out as an LP. Irving agreed that we should go ahead with a Collector's LP set. Bob Ludwig could remaster for the LP format, but Kosh was deeply embroiled in a film he was making so I was on my own for the packaging. It all came together in a 3-LP set, with memorabilia including Dan's hand-written lyrics, drawings, and personal photos.
I hope you enjoy the concert. It's Dan in his element, nailing every vocal, guitar, and piano part and chatting with the crowd. The only thing we cut was a couple minutes of applause before the encore; other than that, it's the full concert from introduction to last encore and everything in between.
So dim the lights, sit back, and imagine you're just a few rows behind Larry and Margaret Fogelberg, who were surely marveling at their talented son.
~ Jean Fogelberg