Jamie Saft - Loneliness Road
Jamie Saft - Loneliness Road
Loneliness Road is an album by keyboardist Jamie Saft, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bobby Previte with vocals by Iggy Pop featured on three tracks which was released on the RareNoise label in 2017.
Notes by Scott Hull
I have so much respect for each of the players on this record. Together we have worked on countless records through the 20+ years i've known them.
Jamie Saft, Bobby Previte and I go back a long way—to records made in the 1990s. Both are scary good at what they do. I like to think they think of me in the same way.
Steve Swallow and Iggy Pop don't know me as well as Jamie and Bobby, but I know their work very well and am a true admirer.
I’m reminded of a much earlier CD project when i first met Bobby Previte in my mastering studio. It was about 2000—maybe 2001—and I got a call from Jame Saft. .He and I had worked on several records before and he dug my work. But this call was different.
He said, "Dude, you have to help us out with this record.. It's Bobby’s record and it's not turning out right and, well, I spoke up when I shouldn't have and I was kicked out of the mastering room." He was pleading (and pissed) because he knew this was a really special record and he felt it wasn't being taken care of.
Calls were made and a deal was struck: basically I agreed to make some demo masters for the label to approve. And, if they dug it then I'd get the rest of the project. That project was The 23 Constellations Of Joan Miró byBobby Previte; the Label was John Zorn's Tzadik Records.
I knew John for many years from when I worked as an assistant on the records that John made for Nonesuch Records. But despite my efforts, we hadn't hooked up with me in the "big chair" until then. This record that Bobby made, and Jammie championed, started what turned out to be a glorious relationship with Tzadik music. Now more than 300 albums later I've mastered nearly every single composition, soundtrack, live performance, CD and Vinyl released by Tzadik. I owe that all to Jamie for putting us in the same room together.
So, there was no surprise to me when Jamie called me to tell me about this crazy special project that he, Bobby and Steve Swallow cooked up. It was a live in the studio recording— like NO technical studio tricks at all—it was all live played, top to bottom. Engineering was by the very capable Christian Castagno who had his hands full of faders while this was going down.
To the uninitiated, live in the studio recording means it was captured and engineered in one moment—forever fixed as that stereo recording. And for sonic integrity it was recorded live to Stereo 1/2" tape like all of the classic records were through the ages: Dylan, Miles, Sinatra, et al. It's super hard to do well. But, when the musicians and the songs are hot, there isn't any better way to communicate music to an audience, in my opinion.
This might have been a simple, almost ordinary (yet super cool) record if it weren't for a chance meeting and conversation with Iggy Pop who agreed to create vocal parts for some of the songs on this record. But to do that—and to persevere, the live vibe—Chris C and I had to undergo some seriously cool and old school engineer techniques.
First, a digital dub was made and sent to Iggy. He then created his performance which was also very spontaneously to match the band's vibe. He sent back to Chris the vocal track with timing cues so that it would line up with the tape. Then Chis combined the original mix (digital dub) and the new vocal and sent that to me. I then carefully recorded back onto tape and edited those recording with a razor blade right into the sequence with the original live-in the studio tapes.
For the hi-fi nerds out these, we made sure the tone and texture remained consistent, and we only used one generation of tape so that these tracks wouldn't be noisier than the others.
Then I worked to get this all-analog master project onto disk. The first day, I made ref disks. These were cut and then taken home by the producers and listened to for approval. Jamie attended the sessions just because it was cool, and he wanted to be here in case there were any decisions needed that might affect the outcome. I was glad he was here. But, as you'll see later, there is more to the story.
After a few tweaks and another visit from Jamie, we got a final approval on the sound and cut for this record. A couple of weeks later, Jamie sat with me in the cutting room as I cut the master lacquers. Everything seemed perfect and they were boxed and shipped to a record plant in Europe. But a few days later, I find out that there had been a misunderstanding and the label had changed the plans, and wanted the parts to go to a different pressing plant.
For any “ordinary record" we might have just told them to ship the lacquers to the other plant. But Jamie knew what I knew: that it wouldn't be the best possible if we did that. We would have to re-cut the record and make brand new parts because the first set had sat too long before being processed in the plating plant.
So, Jamie came down to Masterdisk from his home in upstate NY ( again) and we cut the masters a second time. This time we were psyched and we sent the parts out. And we waited. And waited… And finally test pressings arrived. But, along with the pressing came word that they sucked!
Something didn't go right in plating and there were a lot of bad noises on the test pressings. After a call from me and the label, the plant made a second attempt to get clear results. But that didn't turn out ANY better. We were told that the only solution would be to re- cut. So, Jamie again came to Masterdisk (starting to see the pattern right?) and we cut the record again.
By this time I was almost able to cut it by memory. But several months had gone by and, wouldn't you know it, I made a mistake and didn't get one of my settings correct. The result was good, but not 100% perfect, and i told Jamie that I couldn't send it out. So, that set of parts didn't go out the door. But I re-re-recut them the next day and we were hopeful that the plant would get it right this time.
Many weeks passed waiting and the new test pressing arrives and…no joy. The tests were better in some respects but even worse in others. They even picked up an out-of-round issue on this set—one side had a “wow”. It was pretty noticeable and pissed Jamie off to no end. "How the f@#k did they do that?" It was awful and the label, Rarenoise - Giacomo Bruzzo, had to make the really hard decision. Everyone knew this was going to be a stellar record. But how was the label going to afford to repeat the process again? And what to do about the pressing plant that got it wrong twice? Would there be any refund?
We came to the conclusion that the onl way to make this work would be to send a new set of master lacquers to the plant that we sent them to in the first place. Arrrrgh!. Can you believe it? You can 't make this stuff up..
SO... ( you can guess it from here ). Jamie arrived at Masterdsik (by now he had a favorite sandwich that he'd order from the deli in my building, and a favorite spot on the roof of the building to enjoy his recreational smoke) and we cut the masters one more time (with feeling!). And then we both prayed that these masters would get to the plant In one piece and we could just get this project finished somehow.
I personally contributed a lot of my time to this proejct and the label went way into their pocket to make the record the way they wanted it to be. And the powers that be allowed this record to finally be pressed into plastic. And it was a glorious day.
Jamie returned to Masterdisk one more time to hear for himself on my turntable how this record sounded, and he was loving it . He could not belive the relief , nor the journey that it took to get it done. I was very happy with the way this pressing came out. And i was not surprised when Michael Fremmer of Analog Planet gave it a Very Very High rating for both musicianship and technical merit.
This was a monster of a project—one that none of us will forget. It could have easily been mediocre from the beginning.
Oh, I failed to mention that Jamie played the piano on this record with a recently broken arm. He was in deep pain. But the music moved him through this record, one that almost killed all of us in the process.
I hope that you all enjoy this record as much as we do. Thanks to Jamie Saft, Boby Previte, Steve Swallow, Iggy Pop, Chris Costagno, and Giacomo Bruzzo of Rare Noise Records for allowing this masterpiece to reach the public's ears.
About This Record
Potterville International Sound
September 28, 2017
Recorded and mixed direct to 2 track analog at Potterville International Sound, NY. Iggy Pop vocals recorded at Elite Music Studios, Miami, FL.
Vin Cin, Rafael Pereira,
Lacquer Cut by
Graham Schreiner, Vanessa Saft
Jamie Saft - piano, organ
Steve Swallow - bass
Bobby Previte - drums
Iggy Pop - vocals (tracks 4, 9 & 12)
Don't Lose Yourself
The Masterdisk Review
Loneliness Road had me reaching for my thesaurus to find new words for intimate, close, warm, dark, and heady. Iggy Pop appears on three tracks and the results are more aesthetic than lyrical, with the punk-rock journeyman channeling a deep, brooding version of himself through the lens of Saft’s compositions.
But the instrumental tracks are so personal, I ended up making a playlist of just the instrumental pieces so the intense close-knit feel of the musicianship wouldn’t be interrupted. Steve Swallow--a musical hero of mine--is masterful in both his tone and phrasing. The connection between Swallow and drummer Previte seems to generate its own gravity, pulling Saft into an orbit that is less edgy and more intimate. You can hear the trio listening to itself; picture the kind of full-body-lift-and-fall that signals a downbeat when your hands are busy. I felt physically warmer the more I listened.
But maybe that’s where the Iggy Pop tracks find their purpose, keeping the listener from getting too deep under the blankets and sweltering--or sliding too deep into the bath and drowning. “Don’t Lose Yourself,” indeed, though the world-weary delivery suggests it’s already too late.
In this case, it’s a good thing
- Justin Poroszok