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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

10 Must-See Studios Before You Die

Conway Studios Garden image
The garden surrounding Conway Recording
I was talking to a friend about the studio business in Los Angeles the other day when the conversation drifted to a very famous studio that was slowly being phased out (guess which one below). That got me thinking about some of the great studios that I've worked in over my career as well as some others that are on my bucket list. I decided to make a list of the 10 studios that I believe everyone connected with recording should visit at least once.

Actually there were many more than 10, but these are what I consider the top 10 that come to mind.

1. Abbey Road (London) - The center of the recording universe for decades, the studio that everyone most wants to visit, and what many feel has always represented the epitome of recording excellence.

2. Capitol Records (Los Angeles) - All you have to do is walk down the hallway and see the huge pictures of Frank and Dean and the realization of the studio's history hits you. Great sounding rooms, not to mention the famous echo chambers. Major construction in the area might seriously affect the studio in the near future.

3. Sunset Sound (Los Angeles) - One of the first independent studios anywhere, it's been the home to hit makers since the early 60s. I went to the 25th anniversary party a number of years ago and they played the hits that were made there in the background for four hours and never repeated one.

4. East West (Los Angeles) - Once part of Bill Putnam's United Western (also one of the first indie studios), the studios have remained basically the same since Bill designed them.

5. Oceanway (Los Angeles) - The other part of United Western and until recently, owned by Allan Sides, the studio is now owned by Gower film studios and its future is in doubt. See it while you can.

6. Electric Lady (New York) - Jimi Hendrix's personal studio. His vibe is still there. Enough said.

7. The Record Plant (Los Angeles) - It's not at the original location anymore, but it's still a legend just for the who's-who list of clients.

8. Henson (Los Angeles) - The former A&M Studios located on the old Charlie Chaplin film lot, Henson is one of the few large facilities left. Once again, the home of legends.

9. Conway (Los Angeles) - Mostly under the radar, Conway has been the home to music celebs for decades. You can't beat the beauty of the tropically themed grounds around the studio, which makes it one of a kind.

10. Avatar (New York) - Formerly the Power Station, Avatar has been the home to East Coast hit makers for decades, as well as the place where many of today's most influential engineers got their start.

That was an easy 10, and we didn't even get to Nashville, Memphis and the rest of London, as well as some of the famous studios that are now museums like Motown, Sun and RCA Studio B. Plus it was very LA-centric. Forgive me, my studio friends, if I left your favorite off the list. If you guys like this one, I'll post a second one soon.

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Reb said...

I visited RCA studios on west 44th Street in NYC before they closed. It had a distinguished, vintage vibe. Studio A could fit a 100 piece orchestra - felt like an airplane hangar.

Met Branford Marsalis, who was recording that night, and watched the session for a while.

The engineer showed me their mic collection (don't recall the models) - "Elvis used this one on...", "Sinatra used this for...", "Ella liked this one" etc...

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you put Conway on this list. It's not really well known among musicians, it seems.
I haven't been to any of the others, but I was lucky enough to spend some time hanging out, and recording at Conway (it was a fluke), and it was such a great vibe, and the people were so nice(we weren't even paying customers!).

Anonymous said...

What about Westlake Studios in Hollywood? Studio D was built to record "Bad" and is essentially designed by Quincy! A list clients still go here on a daily basis.

Trev said...

I'm guessing England only got one mention because you haven't yet seen the awesomeness of my stone room?


Anonymous said...

I've been to, or worked at all, except Avatar and Electric Lady. Oddly enough I started my recording studio journey in NYC.


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