Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Larry Levine: Gold Star recording engineer who played a crucial role in the building of Phil Spector's 'Wall of Sound' 





Genius sound engineer Larry Levine passed away on his 80th birthday last Thursday.  Obits in the Independent and the L.A. Times stress Levine's work with Phil Spector, but Levine built far more than a wall of sound -- he crafted the whole edifice that is depth and imagination in pop-music recording.








Just noodle around a bit on his Web site  and you'll see what I mean.


        


After engineering dozens of singles (from "He's A Rebel" to the ultra-perky "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" to gotta-dance "Da Doo Ron Ron" and on through "Chapel Of Love" (the first rock single with really serious bass), he settled down with Spector a couple years later to cut a few more... oh, just "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and "Unchained Melody" and "River Deep Mountain High" -- amazing.


Rather than kick back and rest in the rock world, in 1964 Levine took up with some trumpeter guy named Herb Alpert, suggesting he record "A Taste of Honey" for an upcoming album. Not a bad idea. I think that album, and subsequent Tijuana Brass / Baja Marimba Band / A&M records, did more to sell hi-fi to Middle America than all the 1812 Overtures and train whistles that Audio Fidelity ever mustered up. And when we turned up the TJB all the way, the parents -- not even grumpy Bill Hampel -- didn't yell; they smiled a bit: nice music, clean horns


We twelve-year-olds fought over the album cover, and fortified the family stereos in anticipation of Sergeant Pepper and Jimi Hendrix.


Thanks, Larry; it would have been a lot tinnier without you... 


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