This year's Grammy® Awards fete, held at the cavernous Staples Center in Los Angeles on February 27, proved to be a highly entertaining, if rather long, affair. The televised part of the program (which followed an hour and a half of awards in “lesser” categories, presented off-camera) offered a whopping 17 performances, from U2's inspirational opening number “Walk On,” to scantily clad divas bumping and grinding through “Lady Marmalade,” to the down-home singin' and pickin' of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? troupe, to violin master Joshua Bell's sparkling take on tunes from West Side Story. There was something for almost everyone, plus the usual assortment of beautiful and frightening outfits, snappy and inane stage banter and — a Grammy tradition — a heartfelt harangue from NARAS chief Michael Greene. This year's target for Greene's ire — the criminals among us (yes, you!) who illegally download song files from the Internet.
As expected, U2, Alicia Keys and O Brother, Where Art Thou? were the big winners of the night. For a complete list of winners and plenty of photos, go to www.grammy.aol.com/awards/grammy. Here at Mix, we like to salute the evening's victorious producers and engineers, so join us as we clink champagne glasses with some of our industry's best!
RECORD OF THE YEAR
“Walk On,” U2
Produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno. Engineered and mixed by Steve Lillywhite and Richard Rainey.
After taking home the Record of the Year last year for “Beautiful Day,” many (myself included) thought U2's chances for a repeat were remote. The album that includes both of those songs, All That You Can't Leave Behind, also won Best Rock Album.
O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Various Artists
Produced by T Bone Burnett. Engineered by Mike Piersante.
A bit of a surprise in this very competitive, star-packed category, but richly deserved nonetheless. O Brother is a true music business phenomenon: Who would've guessed two years ago when the Coen Brothers were making their quirky, comic, depression-era retelling of Homer's Odyssey that its bluegrass, blues and old-timey soundtrack would become a multi-Platinum sensation?
“This was really a huge passion for T Bone from the very beginning,” engineer Mike Piersante tells us. “He knew he wanted to do something special, and when we were doing it, we could tell it was special, but, of course, we never could have guessed that it would have that kind of popularity. After we finished it, we were so excited. Then, the film was well-received at Cannes, and the soundtrack came out and that was well-received, too, and T Bone told me, ‘You're going to win a Grammy!’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?!’”
The album was mostly recorded at Sound Emporium in Nashville “using beautiful analog equipment,” Piersante says with a laugh. “We wanted to keep everything as pure as we could. In fact, there were several things that we recorded for that album that we cut using an old RCA ribbon mic and a preamp direct to tape — no EQ, no compression, no reverb. Three or four pieces got mixed that way as well, including Ralph Stanley's ‘O Death.’ That went flat because it was perfect the way it was.” The album was mixed at Sunset Sound.
Asked backstage at the Grammy's about the album's wide appeal, T Bone commented, “People have tried to pigeonhole this stuff as bluegrass or traditional. But, really, this is music for people who like music. Not everybody does. Music annoys some people. They just don't care for it. But if you like music, chances are you like this record.”
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, NON-CLASSICAL
T Bone Burnett
T Bone was also honored at the Grammys for his work on Down From the Mountain — a live CD featuring songs from O Brother, Where Art Thou? and other traditional American tunes — which snagged the Best Traditional Folk Album trophy. Last year, he also produced a fine album by his wife, Sam Phillips, called Fan Dance.
T Bone and Mike Piersante recently finished a new Ralph Stanley album, and they've been immersed in recording songs for the soundtrack of the forthcoming film Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. “That's been a really interesting project,” Piersante says. “It jumps all over the map, from '30s Cajun music to '40s big band, to hip hop, pop songs, Bob Dylan…” Sounds like another winner.
BEST ENGINEERED ALBUM, NON-CLASSICAL
The Look of Love, Diana Krall
Engineered by Al Schmitt. Produced by Tommy LiPuma.
Al Schmitt is certainly no stranger to Grammy trophies — he has a room full of 'em, accumulated during a long and brilliant career. And this is the second straight he's won with the talented jazz singer/pianist Diana Krall. “We recorded the vocals and rhythm section live at Avatar in New York,” Schmitt told us a few days after the Grammys. “Then we went to London and recorded the London Symphony in The Beatles' old studio at Abbey Road, Studio Two. After that, we came back to L.A. and did a couple of fixes in Capitol Studio A, and then I mixed it at Capitol Studio C on a Neve. Actually, all four boards in the different studios were Neves.”
Schmitt, who has worked with Krall on her past five albums, agrees with Grammy voters that this one was special: “There was a feeling to it, a certain mood, all the way through that was really, really nice. It's the kind of record you want to put on at night, kick off your shoes; it's very relaxing. It was a beautiful record. This is really Diana's time.” Next up for Schmitt and Krall is a Christmas album (to be cut in the summer, of course) and then “we'll do another record that will probably be a little more jazz.”
REMIXER OF THE YEAR
Deep Dish was honored for a remix that was a true worldwide smash, Dido's lovely “Thank You.”
BEST MUSICAL SHOW ALBUM
Album produced by Hugh Fordin.
The Broadway smash was a shoo-in to win. “This is a thrill,” Fordin said backstage, “but don't ask me for Producers tickets — I can't get them for you.”
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, CLASSICAL
German producer Manfred Eicher works on both jazz and classical albums for his own label, ECM Records. Eicher earned this year's Best Producer Grammy for five ECM New Series albums released in 2001: Morimur: The Bach Project; Joseph Haydn: The Seven Words; Leo Janácek: A Recollection; the Heinz Holliger opera Schneewittchen; and Verklarte Nacht — compositions by Sándor Veress, Arnold Schoenberg and Béla BartÒk.
BEST CLASSICAL RECORDING AND BEST OPERA RECORDING
Berlioz: Les Troyens
London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Colin Davis, conductor. Produced by James Mallinson. Engineered by Simon Rhodes.
A triumph for the new independent LSO Live label. The French opera was recorded live at London's Barbican Centre using Abbey Road's mobile unit. Producer Mallinson commented backstage at the Grammys that LSO Live “is a label totally created, run and managed by artists. I think that strikes a chord with many people. Classical music is not well-known or promoted these days, so a label like this clearly satisfies a need.”
BEST ENGINEERED ALBUM, CLASSICAL
Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story Suite
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Joshua Bell (violin). Engineered by Richard King. Produced by Steven Epstein.
Three-time Best Engineered Album nominee Richard King admits that he was nervous at the Staples Center, “but fortunately, they give out the engineering awards first, so then I could relax and enjoy the show. I'm still in shock that I actually won.”
The CD was cut over the course of four three-hour sessions at AIR Lyndhurst in London. “I like that room a lot,” King says. “It has a sort of close, direct sound because the floor space isn't very large, but combined with the high ceiling and the balcony, it has great natural reverb. It takes a little work, and it can be a bit quirky, but it sounds really nice.” Typical of classical work, the orchestra played each piece several times, then there were various small sections that were re-done, before it was edited and mixed at Sony Studios in New York, King's home base.
King was actually a double-winner on Grammy night: In addition to his victory in this category, he and producer Steven Epstein were given trophies for their work on the Best Soundtrack Album winner, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which was recorded in Shanghai.
The King-Epstein team is currently working on an exotic project with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, recording music from and inspired by the ancient trade route known as the “Silk Road,” which stretched from Japan to Italy hundreds of years ago.
Blair Jackson isMix's senior editor.