After 25 years, Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb reunite for Guilty Pleasures, the long-awaited part deux to her multi-Platinum smash Guilty, which featured Gibb as producer, writer, backing vocalist and duet partner. The approaching quarter-century mark inspired Streisand to reconnect with Gibb, who, again, produced much of the album (Streisand and Jay Landers executive produced), sang two duets and added ample backing vocals.
From L to R: Julio Hernandez (bass), Dan Warner (guitar), Barry Gibb, John Merchant, Barbra Streisand, Doug Emery (keyboardist, programmer), Lee Levin (drums) and Richie Bravo (percussion)
Photo: Jay Landers
Engineer/co-producer John Merchant, who has worked with the Gibb brothers for more than 18 years, assembled an ace band of Miami-based musicians at Criteria Studios to track, followed by overdubs at Gibb’s Miami Beach facility, Middle Ear Studio. Gibb and Merchant then met up with Babs to record vocals at her Malibu, Calif., guest cottage, affectionately called Grandma’s House. “It’s really charming,” Merchant recalls. “The house was built in the 1950s and has a beautiful view of the Pacific, but we had to essentially create a studio.”
Merchant rented a 24-channel SSL AWS900 console, a Pro Tools|HD rig, various mic pre’s and found the exact Neumann M49 tube mic that Streisand had used on previous projects. Merchant also brought some of his and Gibb’s own toys, including the Chandler TG Channel mic pre and Groove Tubes ViPRE tube mic preamp. For the Grandma’s House sessions, Merchant recorded from the M49 to the Chandler to Apogee converters into Pro Tools. “No EQ, no compression, just flat to tape,” he says.
Streisand and crew then moved to — where else — the Barbra Streisand Scoring Stage at Sony Pictures Studios (Culver City, Calif.) to shoot interview and video footage for the DualDisc release, but emerged with a bonus track, as well. “It’s a great-sounding room with a beautiful piano,” Merchant says. “The song [“Letting Go”] is a simple piano/vocal. Barbra said, ‘Let’s do a pass of that!’ The first take was magic; now it’s on the DualDisc.”
Merchant mixed the album at Middle Ear, but not on its Neve Capricorn. “We recorded at 96k; the Capricorn’s maximum sample rate is 20-bit/48k,” he says. “We ended up mixing on the same AWS900 we used in Malibu! It’s pretty cool to mix an album on a board light enough to ship in a road case.”