Engineer John Neff and Journey Purchase Two Vintage Mic Recreations
Pictured (L-R) at The Plant in Sausalito are Neal Schon, Arnel Pineda, Jonathan Cain, and Deen Castronovo. Photo by John Neff.
The phenomenally successful band Journey has recorded a Greatest Hits album plus an album of new material with engineer John Neff and producer Kevin “Caveman” Shirley. Sessions took place with new lead singer Arnel Pineda at Sausalito’s famed The Plant recording studio ‘B’ and employed the new Telefunken | USA U47 recreation of the legendary vintage tube large diaphragm condenser microphone.
“We were set to go with the studio’s classic U47, recalls John Neff. “It’s a microphone that has played a key role in hundreds of gold and platinum albums, but when we set up we heard a strange high end whistling. I suspected the tube might be going bad and went into a near panic.”
“I’ve known Telefunken | USA’s founder Toni Fishman since he started the company and called him straight-away,” continues Neff. “We had a hand-picked U47 the next morning. Everyone was amazed, because it sounded better than how we remembered the vintage mic. No two old Telefunkens sound the same, and some of the vintage ones just don’t cut it as well as they did years ago. When I heard this new one, I realized that is the way the mic should sound. The band noticed the difference too.”
Today’s Journey is comprised of guitarist Neal Schon, keyboardist Jonathan Cain, bassist Ross Valory, drummer Deen Castronovo and lead singer Arnel Pineda, who has been a star in Southeast Asia for nearly two decades. While planning the new chapter of Journey, co-founder Neal Schon happened to find Pineda performing on YouTube and immediately contacted him to join the band. Journey’s new double album will also include a DVD concert disc and has already received a hefty advance order.
Neff describes the present lineup as one of the tightest bands he has ever recorded. Journey was originally formed in 1973 by former members of Santana, and enjoyed worldwide fame with such songs as “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Wheel in the Sky.” Various lineups with core members have appeared over the years with the present day incarnation creating interest among longtime fans and newcomers alike.
“Arnel is a very natural tenor,” says Neff, “And he has an incredible range. He doesn’t have to force a thing. I tried other mics but there was no depth of body to the tone. With the new U47 you could hear a big chest tone and Arnel just sounded huge on that mic. There was a great presence and depth in the upper bass / lower midrange. And remember, Arnel has really been belting it out in clubs for years and this guy delivers a physical SPL you wouldn’t believe. He has an amazing volume to his singing and the mic could totally take it.”
Recording engineer John Neff is well known for his recent 8-year audio stint with David Lynch for his films, commercials, websites, and music releases. Neff also engineered acclaimed solo projects for Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Additional credits include Willie Nelson, Buffy St. Marie, Ry Cooder, David Lindley, and many others. Neff currently operates a studio in San Rafael, where he recently mixed sound for the feature “Dark Reel,” to be released later this year.
At the conclusion of the Journey project, Neff purchased the Telefunken | USA U47M used on the album and the band purchased another for future projects.
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