Watching Gladys Knight sing "Midnight Train To Georgia" the other night on the PBS Capitol Fourth special got me thinking about Ed Stasium, who's one of my all-time favorite mixers. Ed has done some great records with The Smithereens, the Ramones, Motorhead, Soul Asylum, Living Color and Mick Jagger among many others. Here's a part of an interview that we did for my Mixing Engineer's Handbook where Ed talks about mixing the Gladys Knight and The Pips hit.
Have you noticed any changes over the years in the way things are done, or the way you do things?
Ed Stasium: Yeah, especially with the onset of the computer. I do a lot more riding of things, especially the vocal, and doing little different effect changes. It makes life easier in a way, but then it makes life more complicated because you can do so much more. It depends again on what you’re doing. The Living Color records were very complicated. We had a lot of different effects on the verse, different effects on the vocal, that kind of great stuff. When I mixed Midnight Train To Georgia back when I first started, we did that on a little 16 input, 16 track in somebody’s basement in New Jersey. The drums were all on one track and you just made sure you got the vocals right.
I remember the tracks were really packed on that song, so I just brought things in gradually. We started off with the piano, added the guitar, added the Hammond. But now, I’m riding every snare drum hit to make sure it cuts through, every little guitar nuance, little cymbal things, and the kick in certain places. I’ll be riding everything.
“Midnight Train” sounds so clean.
Ed Stasium: That was a great console; a Langevin. I don’t know whatever happened to it. I don’t know where it came from, but it was in Tony Camillo’s basement studio in New Jersey that we recorded that stuff on. The vocals were done in Detroit. I’m sure the drums were only on one track or two tracks at most. The Pips were double tracked. You know, Gladys is right up in the front. We didn’t use many effects on that because we didn’t have any effects. It was a little basement studio and all we had was a live chamber that was the size of a closet that was concrete with a speaker in there and a couple of microphones. That was the reverb on that record.
Here's a bit of Gladys and the Pips singing "Midnight Train" and it's a knockout. The Pips were a lot better than they ever got credit for, and Gladys smokes this TV track.
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