From the archives of the late, great Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, this feature is an interesting look at the studio approach for a legendary artist. This article dates back to the September/October 1971 issue.
The door of Studio B at A&M in Hollywood sports a sign which reads, “CLOSED SESSION - NO ADMITTANCE PLEASE.”
Inside, Carole King, looking much more like a friend that the superstar she is these days, is recording her third album.
At this writing her last album, “Tapestry,” has been #1 on the charts for twenty weeks.
The sign on the door is indicative of a refreshing professionalism going on in the studio. The people in there are working. Doing what they enjoy, but working nonetheless.
There is little of the temperament that often acts as an excuse for lack of skill. In the first two days of these sessions, eight tracks were cut for the album.
The pace obviously is very quick. It is quick not because the people involved are rushing, but because they are not fooling around. They don’t need ten takes to get a vocal part or a guitar lick right. They know what they’re after, and they get it.
There are no secret techniques being used here. The success of the albums is based on a combination of experience and openness.
“You have to be open to new ideas. I’ve been around this business for seventeen years, and I could be set in my ways. But that’s wrong. I’ll try anything. I learn something every day.” - Hank Cicalo.
Left to right, Hank Cicalo, Carole King and Lou Adler at work in A&M Studio B. (click to enlarge)
Hank is the engineer on this session, as he was on “Tapestry.”
His words are confirmed by Lou Adler, the producer: “I’ve only worked with two complete engineers. A lot of engineers are complete electronically but more important, there’s a disposition, a compatibility, and a knowledge and feeling for the kind of music we’re doing that’s necessary. Bones Howe and Hank are the only two complete engineers I know.”
What distinguishes Hank? His use of microphones, although not terribly strange, is certainly creative. He mikes the piano with a Sennheiser 421 D, inside and with the lid closed.
The piano is then enveloped with two covers. This is done for isolation’s sake, as Carol sings for the band during recording.
The bottom end of the piano is rolled off slightly to compensate for the boominess, caused by the piano being closed and covered.