Multi-Platinum selling Producer Ted Carfrae talks about producing on Doris Day’s latest album “My Heart” and gives a track-by-track appraisal!August 26, 2011 7 Comments
Over the last 30 years, Ted Carfrae has been a prominent name on the UK and USA music scene having produced, engineered and mastered many hit records for Universal, EMI and Sony/BMG. He has to date achieved Gold and Platinum Sales Award status and worked with singers as diverse as US Seventies icon David Cassidy, Crooner Engelbert Humperdinck, the great Cilla Black, British Soul Queen Jaki Graham, Classical singer Katherine Jenkins and pop artists, Sheena Easton, Jane McDonald and Liberty X amongst many others.
In 2010, Carfrae got the green light to start work on “unfinished” recordings which GRAMMY award-winner Doris Day had cut during the mid-1980s with her late son Terry Melcher. Carfrae injected new orchestrations into the project and used his artistry and skill as an experienced record producer to create a series of sparkling recordings ready for release. A selection of the completed songs were then hand-picked by Ms. Day for inclusion on her latest album “My Heart”.
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH TED CARFRAE:
When/how did you first discover Doris?
I’ve always loved Doris Day – my mum and dad were huge fans and I remember seeing Pillow Talk when I was a kid growing up in Singapore in the early sixties, it was probably one of my first ever trips to the cinema and I’ve loved Doris ever since. Her music was always around when I was growing up so I don’t remember a time without Doris Day’s music playing, either through her films or her massive hit singles. Being asked to produce this album is truly a privilege and an honour.
What about Ms. Day do you admire most?
I admire just about everything about Doris Day, her incredible personal courage and of course her sheer talent – she is a truly gifted and unique talent as well as being a very genuine person – I like that quality best about her because what you see is what she is, she’s amazing.
How did you come to work on Doris Day’s new album project “MY HEART”?
I was initially approached by a dear friend of mine from LA called Jim Pierson, Jim and I have worked on a lot of projects together over the years and when he mentioned the possibility of working with Doris Day a couple of years ago, I happily agreed to be a part of it as it was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.
What skills/expertise did you bring to the album?
My whole background as a sound engineer and producer is based around working with great vocalists and I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with and learned from some of the finest voices in music history, a diverse range of vocal styles from Ella Fitzgerald and Julie Andrews to the late, great Freddie Mercury and it really doesn’t get better than that. I also learned the tricks of the trade from incredible record producers such as George Martin [Beatles] and his sound engineer Geoff Emerick, I was like a sponge in those early days, and I still use the techniques that were passed on to me so by these legends on every album I have ever made so I guess, to answer your question, the skill and expertise I have is the experience to know instinctually, when I am faced with a perfect vocal take and then what to do with it. In a nut shell, that is what I do.
Many fans will be familiar with “unfinished” versions of the new songs which feature on “MY HEART” as they originally surfaced during the eighties on Doris’ chat show for cable TV. Please explain some of the creative and technical hurdles you had to tackle to make the recordings fit today’s “mainstream” pop market.
When Jim sent me the original mixes early on, I noticed that they were very synthesiser based and both Jim and I agreed that we wanted to change that, to strip the arrangements down and start from scratch if needed to create a more open and intimate soundscape. The first thing we did was to transfer the original 24 track master tapes to ProTools so that I could audition each single track very closely and carefully assess what needed attention. When the multitracks arrived for me to listen to, I really didn’t know what to expect but I was very clear in my mind from the outset that I didn’t want to make a record that sounded vastly different from previous Doris Day albums, while at the same time I wanted to make an album that would stand up in today’s music marketplace. Ultimately, the glue that held everything together was Doris Day’s incredibly beautiful voice and the general direction of the album was pretty much dictated by her performances. I started by listening to each vocal on its own and then I would bring in the existing elements one at a time so that I could make a decision about what did and didn’t work for me. From there I looked at the arrangements and would possibly edit those around if necessary and then I enlisted the talent of some great musicians in Nashville and the UK and we started to fill in the gaps. On some songs I decided to replace virtually all the instruments as in the case of ‘You Are So Beautiful’. The vocal was somewhat different from Doris’s earlier recordings, she was vulnerable and intimate so I wanted to preserve that intimacy and keep it very simple and understated. My pianist James Baker delivered an incredible performance and we added a new bass guitar and a single acoustic guitar.
One of the main technical hurdles I had to overcome was microphone spill. Doris recorded most of the vocals live with the musicians in the studio so she would have been behind a screen of some kind, separated to some degree but not isolated and of course her microphone would naturally pick up the other instruments in the room. On this particular track, the acoustic guitar must have been directly next to Doris because the spill on Doris’s vocal track was considerable. My task was to very carefully and painstakingly restore all the vocal tracks to eliminate as much spill as possible without touching the vocal itself, this was at times very challenging but certainly worth the hours of restoration work that took place.
Who else did you involve on the project?
My Nashville-based music partner CJ Bloggs was involved. We collaborate through my company TCM Music Group (www.tcmmusicgroup.com) and on this project we enlisted some great Nashville musicians including my long time pianist James Baker. James is simply one of the most instinctual musicians I have ever worked with and he is so versatile he can play anything I throw at him, his performances on ‘Daydream’ and the previously mentioned ‘You Are So Beautiful’ are superb. I also got to work with another mate, Hugh Burns, he is probably best known for his incredible acoustic guitar work on George Michael’s ‘Jesus To A Child’ single. Hugh is so original and gets totally absorbed in the work and he played some great guitar licks on the radio friendly lead track ‘Heaven Tonight’– it really is a hit song so I hope people will get behind it and request it on their local and national radio stations around the world.
What is your favourite new song on the album and why?
There are three favourites for me, ‘Heaven Tonight’, ‘My Heart’ and ‘You Are So Beautiful’ – if I had to choose one of the three I would probably choose ‘Heaven Tonight’ because it is so different from anything Doris has recorded before and it’s catchy and infectious. I love the arrangement and Terry and Bruce’s backing vocals are wonderful. It’s such a good song so fingers crossed that some DJ somewhere in some radio station champions the track and it becomes a massive hit, it really deserves to do well. I also have to mention in the same breath that ‘My Heart’ is so sublime that I never tire of listening to it over and over again – it’s another classic.
How is “MY HEART” different from Doris’ earlier studio albums?
I guess the one thing that makes this album different is the overall sound. This album is less orchestral and definitely has a pop influence but having said that, it is unmistakably Doris Day at her very best so this album will sit well with her back catalogue and I think there is something here for everyone.
How would you describe to reader’s the overall feel and sound of the new album?
This album has a pop influence primarily because it is less orchestra based than previous albums. I wanted to inject something fresh and contemporary while at the same time I wanted to retain the quality and richness that Doris Day records are renowned for. I think we have successfully struck the right balance and that is evidenced by the fact that the three early recordings included on the album sit so well with the new ones.
What is your proudest or happiest memory from the entire “MY HEART” project?
Without doubt this has been a real highlight in my career and I am as proud as can be to now be officially associated with Doris Day forever – how fantastic is that? It has been such an amazing experience that to isolate just one particular part is pretty much impossible but I particularly enjoyed Doris’s hands on involvement from start to finish, she chose all the songs that would be included on the album, she approved all the final mixes and mastering so to have Doris so directly involved was absolutely fantastic. For me personally, I always enjoy the final mixing stage best,I suppose it’s because all the hard work of recording and decision making is done and dusted and I can sit and relax in the studio by myself and piece everything together and bring the music to life, it really is the time when I am truly happiest and in my element.
What next for the hit producer and mastering engineer Ted Carfrae?
Good question, I of course hope to do more projects with Jim in the future but currently enjoy working with CJ promoting the TCM Music Group. Additionally, to that my mastering website (www.tcmmastering.com) is going from strength to strength because apart from working on some great music, I also get the chance to meet some wonderful up and coming artists and producers from around the world so all I can say is that I feel so blessed to have had so many wonderful opportunities come my way and look forward to the future.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank some people without whom this album would have not been possible. Firstly to Doris and Terry for recording these wonderful performances all those years ago, to Jim Pierson for having the vision and allowing me to take part, to my music partner CJ Boggs and all the brilliant musicians in the US and UK who were all as excited as I was to be involved, to Sony UK, to all the incredible artists, producers and engineers I have been lucky enough to work with over the past thirty odd years who so generously taught me everything I know about making music and finally to Paul Carfrae-Maddox without whom I would simply have no career. I am forever in your debt.
Sincere thanks to Ted Carfrae for doing this Q&A interview for “Discovering Doris”.
TED CARFRAE’S TRACK-BY-TRACK APPRAISAL:
- HURRY IT’S LOVELY UP HERE – This song was featured in one of Doris’s 1970’s television specials and I’ve always loved the song. Here, I remixed the song especially for this album from the original multitrack masters.
- DAYDREAM – This was a huge hit for the Lovin’ Spoonful in the sixties and I think Cass Elliot also had a hit with it, it’s a great song. We re-recorded the whole backing track on this one and the band got a great vibe going.
- THE WAY I DREAMED IT – This is a song written by Terry Melcher and Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys. The original version was pretty much a demo but Doris’s vocal was perfect. We re-recorded this one at our studios in Nashville TN with my engineer CJ Boggs at the helm as always.
- HEAVEN TONIGHT – I really love this song and I’ve never grown tired of it even though I must have heard it hundreds of times during the recording and mixing process. This is one of the songs that were buried under a ton of synthesizer sounds and I was delighted to discover the wonderful rhythm tracks that lay beneath, with the exception of the new guitar parts we used the original rhythm section, with a great arrangement and impeccable vocal, this is a real departure from anything Doris has ever recorded before. I really hope this song gets to radio and becomes a huge hit for Doris and her legion of fans around the world; both she and her fans deserve it.
- MY ONE AND ONLY LOVE – I believe this is Doris’s favourite song from her early sixties duet album with André Previn. The original stereo mix had the lead vocal panned hard right so the vocal came out of the right side speaker only and this made it quite difficult to segue into the album so Jim Pierson and I decided to re-mix the song from the original master tapes and this brand new mix fits perfectly on the album.
- MY HEART – This is another Melcher/Johnston composition and it is one of my favourite songs on the album. It’s a timeless classic and Doris once again delivers one of her finest and most heartfelt vocal performances ever. It’s simply stunning and I hope the fans embrace it and request it is played on local and national radio stations because it is another potentially huge hit.
- YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL – This really is such a special track because of its simplicity featuring just bass, piano, acoustic guitar and vocal. Doris is wonderful on this song and it’s a perfect example of ‘less is more’.
- DISNEY GIRLS – I’ve always loved this song, originally a hit for the Beach Boys and this is another one that emerged and surfaced through a plethora of synthesizers. Again the vocal is perfection itself as is the arrangement with Bruce and Terry supporting Doris beautifully on backing vocals and the strings are wonderful.
- MY BUDDY/HAPPY ENDINGS – This is a very special inclusion on the album because Terry Melcher performs the song and it clearly has a special significance for Doris personally, originally recorded as a demo for Doris to record during the various recording sessions that took place in Hollywood and Santa Monica throughout 1984 and 1985, for one reason or another Doris never got around to recording it. Doris recently recorded a special spoken intro for the song that is very touching and evokes her personal feelings about the song and more importantly Terry himself.