BtP e-talked to Chris Michie, Technical Editor of Mix magazine, about his memories of the Edmonton sessions
When Chris Thomas showed up at AIR in late '71 or early '72 with the tapes for the Edmonton album I’d pretty much lost track of him. He had already produced about six albums at AIR (with Climax Chicago, Procol Harum, The Mick Abrahams Band, and Quiver; the Quatermass sessions were abandoned when keyboardist Peter Robinson became ill), but he also went out on tour with Procol Harum as their live sound-mixer and was not sighted at AIR for months at a time. I had heard nothing about the Edmonton shows in advance, and discovered very little about them during the remix sessions. I was probably in one of my more self-absorbed phases.
However, I do remember that I was the tape-op for the overdub session at which Dave Ball replaced a guitar solo (on Conquistador, I think). Because all of the 16 tracks were full, his new solo had to be dropped in over the original guitar track – and then dropped out again on cue at the end of the solo. It was a fairly risky maneuver, and Dave only got a couple of shots at it. I don't know if the new solo is much better than the original, but there must have been some reason for fixing it. Because of the onstage leakage of the guitar (and everything else) into the orchestra mics, one can probably hear the ghost of the original solo.
Another flub that needed to be fixed was one of Gary’s vocal lines in In Held 'Twas In I. Chris Thomas had been supervising the recording in the Wally Heider mobile and, at the end of the concert, came out on stage to ask the band to repeat certain numbers in an effort to get better, or at least clunker-free performances. So the audience was treated to an encore performance of a good part of the concert they had just heard; I think the band played some or all of In Held 'Twas In I a total of three times. In any event, in all of the usable recorded versions of In Held 'Twas In I, Gary sang "the cloud crapped" instead of "the crowd clapped," but because of the lack of available tracks (and the nigh impossibility of recreating a matching vocal sound) it was not feasible to replace the offending lines.
The Edmonton sessions must have included a day or so of rehearsal, some of which might have been recorded, though I don’t know if any of the rehearsal tapes were used for the album [now available as bonus tracks, here]. I get the impression that the project was something of a nightmare (read GB's diary!), since the symphony players had no experience of (and not much interest in) playing in time with a rock band. As the recordings make abundantly clear, the orchestral percussionists, reading from a score, were consistently behind the beat, sometimes grotesquely so (the cannon shot in A Salty Dog, for instance). I think BJ had a set of car rear-view mirrors fixed up on his drum kit so that he could watch the conductor, but they can’t have helped very much. However, technical shortcomings aside, the album was a great artistic success and I believe that it sold considerably more copies than any other PH album.
Index for Chris Michie pages