Ethan Miller's Reviews > Are We Still Rolling?: Studios, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll - One Man's Journey Recording Classic Albums

Are We Still Rolling? by Phill Brown
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Aug 07, 11

Read in August, 2011

This is a good read for people who spend a lot of time in recording studios or want to find out a few anecdotes and tales from behind the closed-door sessions of some of the most legendary recordings of the last 55 years. Phil Brown worked with Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Robert Palmer, Bob Marley, Nilsson, John Martyn and the list goes on and on. "Are we still rolling?" mostly reads like a day planner with personal anecdotes to each entry and gives a general sense of the events, a taste of the experiences of the sessions in recalled snippets of conversation, vibe, vice, battles and triumphs in a conversational/ journal-like tone. Brown does get across the feeling that the studio experience for an engineer (especially as a lifelong career) is a dark and complex lifestyle filled with endless hours of high level focus and brain numbing concentration on endless repetition in which there is no acceptable margin of error. And that is before you bring in the egos, the artist in-fighting, the managers, the A&R, the drugs and the label bosses. He conveys the sense that very often for all those directly involved in making a great record the process can easily become an obsession instead of a construction and the process and completion of "good artistic work" can create black holes in the psyche of those involved. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the long chapters about the singular and beautiful Talk Talk albums "Spirit of Eden" and "Laughing Stock" which Phil engineered and produced. He spends more time in the book on these two sessions than any other work (and he also spent more time literally working on these albums than anything else in his career) and his pride and pain of these two great works rings the loudest and they are indeed great chapters. For Talk Talk fans that have always wondered in what simple and beautiful way those two albums must have come into the world these chapters are a dark revelation that make Steely Dan's legendary obsession with perfection and detail seem easy going and haphazard in comparison. “Are We Still Rolling?” is a great book for the studio coffee table, the dashboard of the van on tour or anyone with a tape op subscription.
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