LOS ANGELES: Feb. 1, 2016 — When mastering engineer Brian Lucey of Magic Garden Mastering got the call to work on a new live album featuring Ringo Starr to benefit the The David Lynch Foundation, it was exactly the kind of challenge he relishes. Released last month on Communion Records, Ringo Starr: The Lifetime of Peace & Love Tribute Concert captures a January 20th, 2014 performance at LA’s El Rey Theater honoring Starr along with a host of guest stars. The performances include some of Ringo’s biggest hits from his solo career and with The Beatles.
The Stars Align
“This record featured players like Peter Frampton, Don Was, Joe Walsh, Steve Lukather, and Kenny Aronoff — and that was just the backing band, so I knew the performances were going to be incredible,” reports Lucey, who had previously worked with David Lynch on his own-recorded output. Mixed by the legendary Bob Clearmountain, the production side of the album had an impressive pedigree as well. The challenge for Lucey was bringing the heart of the record as close as possible to the listener and, creating a seamless flow between tracks amidst changing vocalists.
Established in 2005, the David Lynch Foundation aims to fund the implementation of the scientifically proven stress-reducing Transcendental Meditation technique for at-risk people such as underserved inner-city students and veterans with PTSD. Ringo Starr is a long-time practitioner of Transcendental Meditation, having studied with the other Beatles under Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi in the 60s, and has lent his support the David Lynch Foundation’s fundraising efforts.
Bringing Life to Live Music
Lucey, a musician himself, who has studied and worked with the legendary Robert Fripp, emphasizes musicality over clinical impartiality. On Ringo Starr: The Lifetime of Peace & Love Tribute Concert, he knew there would be sonic constraints that he needed to work within. “There’s an expectation of realistic frequency balance on a live record that you have to respect,” he observes. “But many live records are done in an overly clean and sterilized way.” Lucey found plenty of room to push sonic boundaries, where others might have been inclined to ‘play it safe.’ “There’s no reason why a live record shouldn’t come across like being at the event,” Lucey says. “I like low midrange and low end, and I look for ways to push that part of the spectrum because that’s the part that the listener can really feel,” he explains. “It gives a record that powerful, connective quality that I think is really important.”
Getting to the Heart of “Peace and Love”
“The more I worked on the record the more it revealed the true nature of the evening, which was incredibly joyful, and powerful,” Lucey says. He was committed to bringing out the most exciting elements of special guest performances by stars like Betty Levette, who brought the house down with her rendition of top hit “It Don’t Come Easy.” The order was modified from the live performance, so Lucey also had to maintain a realistic sense of flow. “You have Brendan Benson, Ben Harper, Ben Folds, and of course Ringo all on there. And, there’s Joe Walsh’s guitar tones, which you could hear a mile away,” Lucey adds, “but getting his voice and guitar, which are both very high-mid aggressive, to fit on a record with all these other singers took some finesse.”
“Originally we intended releasing the music for broadcast only,” said David Lynch Foundation, Creative Director, Mindy Ramaker. “But, we were so pleased with the audio recordings we thought it would be worthwhile to mix and master them for an album release to raise funds for DLF – and, Ringo liked the idea. Brian Lucey did a wonderful job capturing the giving spirit of the evening and creating something that can help spread DLF’s and Ringo’s message of peace and love throughout the world.”
Mastered for a Lifetime of Listening
Lucey emphasizes that his goal is not to simply normalize the audio. “It’s not a matter of homogenizing, it’s really a maximization of each individual song while at the same time making sure it gets along with its friends on the record.” It is his strong adherence to this ethos that allows a live record such as Ringo Starr: The Lifetime of Peace & Love Tribute Concert to feel part of a body of work that includes hit studio records such as The Black Keys’ “Brothers” and The Arctic Monkeys’ “AM.” “What’s consistent about my work is that there’s a harmonic quality that invites people to connect,” Lucey says. “Whether it’s a live or studio record, my job is to help draw the listener in and ensure that the record can stand the test of time. It has to be exciting now and it has to still sound good in 20 years.” The album is available only in digital format and can be purchased on Amazon and iTunes.
Photos: 1. Magic Garden Mastering engineer Brian Lucey
2. David Lynch Foundation Ringo Starr ‘Lifetime Of Peace & Love Tribute Concert’ album
About Brian Lucey and Magic Garden Mastering: Beginning in the East Village, at 19, Brian was a professional musician (guitar, voice, piano). Moving on as a student of Robert Fripp and Guitar Craft through his 20s, he became a tracking engineer, mixing engineer and eventually a producer of organic music (Ampex MM1200 2” tape). Mastering came last, and his collective previous experiences all play into his uniquely musical take on the craft. Originally from the great music city of Columbus, Ohio he now works out of Los Angeles.