Bernie Grundman Cuts Lacquers For Vanessa Fernandez's "When the Levee Breaks"

Lacquer cutting began Wednesday, Feb. 3rd for When the Levee Breaks Vanessa Fernandez's sophomore "triple A" Groove Note album.

Analogplanet recently reported on the unique planned "direct to lacquer" mixing process. Producer and Groove Note label owner Ying Tan had hoped to mix the record "live to lacquer" by parking a multitrack analog tape recorder-equipped remote recording truck outside Grundman's mastering facility and mixing the multitrack analog recording as Grundman had done years earlier for a Supertramp single that yielded spectacular sonics.

Unfortunately, the plan encountered major obstacles: the City of Los Angeles wasn't keen on having a large van parked on the street during rush hour, and refused to issue a permit (had it been for a major motion picture the permit no doubt would have been issued) and the insurance costs were prohibitive—as was the hourly rate for the truck rental, but that was a cost the producer was willing to shoulder to get the best possible results. Also considered was parking the truck in an adjacent unused parking lot and paying for a hole to be drilled into the adjoining wall so the cables could be run—and of course paying to seal it back up—but that too wasn't possible.

So, in the end engineer Michael C. Ross mixed conventionally to two track analog tape using United's (formerly Ocean Way) highly regarded mixing board. United is literally down the block from Bernie Grundman Mastering. Ross preferred it this way, and ultimately Tan agreed it was best. The sonic loss is minor but having as much time as needed to perfect the mix was major.

I got to hear some of the tunes cut to lacquer on Wednesday and the arrangements, performances and sonics are spectacular.

Much of the album, spread onto three 180g 45rpm records, is acoustic, but songs like "Kashmir" with Jim Keltner on drums, rocks out big time. These are fresh arrangements by guitarist Tim Pierce whose playing credits include session work withBruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Johnny Van Zant, Meat Loaf, Patty Smith, Joe Cocker, Michael Jackson, Joan Armatrading, Madonna, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Roger Waters, Eric Clapton, The Doobie Brothers, Elton John, Alice Cooper and others. The instrumental performances add new luster to the old chestnuts. Old fans will enjoy the new musical environment and some non-Led Zep fans will be won over.

Most importantly, Ms. Fernandez, a long time Led Zep fan, has the vocal chops and the sensibility to wrap her cords tightly around the lyrics and wring new meaning from them. From what I got to hear later on a lacquer, the performances and the sonics will drop your jaws and maybe even your pants!

Here's the YouTube video shot during the first mastering session:

Bob Levin's picture

I'd love to find a copy!

audiof001's picture

"Cannonball' from Brother Where Are You Bound' was done as a direct to disk 45rpm with and without vocal. It kicks serious butt.

Bob Levin's picture

I'm definitely going to grab a copy of that.

essmeier's picture

Look for the copy with the black cover; that's the one that's 45 RPM. There's one with a white cover that's cut at 33 1/3; those were promotional copies.

Both are labeled "direct to disc version", but the 45 RPM version is the better sounding of the two.


jgfergus's picture

Discogs has some for under $10!

theboogeydown's picture

Which Supertramp single are you referring to please? Also, when is this project expected to be released? Thank you

mraudioguru's picture will come out in April of 2016. Also from the other article:

The first 2000 copies pressed on TBA colored vinyl (need not be any worse, and possibly better than black). All will be shipped in sequentially serial numbered jackets with add-ons, inserts, posters and TBA other “goodies”.

Groove Note GRV1088 will cost $89.99.

Jack Gilvey's picture

"3rd rate musicians" at 0:38? Let 'em have it Mikey! :)

Michael Fremer's picture
Especially that "overrated" drummer Keltner!
mraudioguru's picture

It's Spring of 2016. So, maybe April?

Michael Fremer's picture
But definitely for Munich show beginning of May....
groovenoter's picture

Since the direct to disc mastering concept has been abandoned the SRP of the GRV1088 triple 45 rpm (six sides) has been reduced to $69.99.

Regarding release dates, the record is tentatively scheduled for release at the Munich High End on first weekend of May but that's going to be very tight. It will definitely be ready in time for THE Show Newport Beach in early June.

Superfuzz's picture

Nice behind the scenes look. I'm glad Groove Note decided to do it the "old fashioned" way, mix to 2 track tape and cut it, as the reduced price is easier on the wallet. I'm sure nobody will be complaining about the sound.

cvcgolf's picture

So how many songs will there be?.. Can you give us the song titles?

groovenoter's picture

Side A
Immigrant Song
Black Dog

Side B
Trampled Underfoot

Side C
When The Levee Breaks (acoustic)
The Lemon Song

Side D
Whole Lotta Love (acoustic)
Ramble On

Side E
Babe I'm Gonna leave You
Immigrant Song (Reprise)

Side F (LP ONLY Bonus cuts)
Babe I'm Gonna Leave You (alternate mix) ***
Whole Lotta Love (rock mix) ***

*** These two cuts will not appear on any digital format. They will be released on LP and reel to reel formats only.

my new username's picture

Such a mensch.

As an aside, it's astonishing the length to which Groove Note was willing to work to cut straight from the tracking session tape. Perhaps, now knowing the obstacles, that will open up other opportunities in the future.

$70 is more palatable for 6 sides. Selling direct would likely lower it yet further. Just a thought.

abelb1's picture

Looking forward to ordering the LP set, should be a great listen!

NordicNorm's picture

I'm curious to hear if anyone has listened to both the LPs and SACD? How do they compare?