Monday, July 4, 2011

Stay With Me

From the liner notes of
The Jerry Ragovoy Story: Time Is On My Side 1953-2003...

I have two favorite Rags stories and here's the first one: Frank Sinatra had booked a huge 46-piece orchestra session for a Reprise album he was working on. Three days before the session he cancelled, as icons are wont to do every now and then. The record company staff had a coronary - it was too late to cancel by union rules and a 46-piece session is mighty costly. They called all the New York producers who had current artists on Warner Bros/Reprise and offered them the three hour session gratis. It was not a throwaway because arrangements had to be written for 46 musicians and that, my friends, takes time. When they called Jerry, he took the session. By then it was Monday and the session was on Wednesday evening. He called his sidekick, arranger Garry Sherman, and the two of them dived into arrangement-land, eschewing sleep for a few days. The artist Jerry was attempting to record was Lorraine Ellison and she was prepped on the song as well. In those days there was no overdubbing and barely four tracks to record on. Jerry was lucky to have engineer Phil Ramone at his disposal that night. As they rehearsed the complicated arrangement, replete with rubato bars and high trumpet section notes, Ramone slowly put together a stereo monitor mix which he recorded right to a two-track recorder as well as to the four-track. "Take one," Jerry intoned from the booth, and with Lorraine singing live with the entire orchestra. They were off and running. At the end of the take, there were tears in a few eyes.

Sinatra's musicians had been indoctrinated into the Ragovoy Kingdom Of Soul in one take and Lorraine's vocal was a keeper. They took one more take to correct a lyric flub in the second line, but everyone there knew the first take was golden and the vocal track was corrected and spliced into the first take and 70 musicians and friends went home early that night. The stereo monitor mix is the track you hear on this CD and the one folks heard back then on vinyl. I'm sorry, I forgot to say the title - 'Stay With Me' - not a bad night's work.

Al Kooper
, 2008

Lou Reed - "If it was me I would have"