Restor­ing stu­dios at Mus­cle Shoals to make sure last note hasn’t been heard

The Washington Times Daily - - Television - BY CHRIS TAL­BOTT AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jimmy Iovine and Luke Wood were so moved by the “Mus­cle Shoals” doc­u­men­tary, they’re putting up money to make sure the unique spirit of the Alabama mu­sic haven lives on.

The Beats Elec­tron­ics of­fi­cials are start­ing a pro­gram to re­fur­bish and up­grade two his­toric stu­dios in Mus­cle Shoals — FAME Record­ing Stu­dios and Mus­cle Shoals Sound Stu­dio — then will in­stall ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams to train a new gen­er­a­tion of pro­duc­ers, au­dio en­gi­neers and mu­si­cians.

“We want to look back at an­other Mus­cle Shoals re­vival based on what was learned in these stu­dios in the next five to 10 years,” said Mr. Wood, pres­i­dent of Beats.

Mus­cle Shoals, a quiet town in the north­ern part of the state, was a fo­cal point of the mu­sic world for more than two decades. The town of­fered a well­spring of lo­cal tal­ent that even­tu­ally got the at­ten­tion of the big­gest record­ing artists in the world. The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Wil­son Pick­ett, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Willie Nel­son and a sur­pris­ingly di­verse group of artists made some of the best mu­sic of their ca­reers work­ing with FAME owner Rick Hall and the mu­si­cians he as­sem­bled in a long, pro­lific run.

North Alabama re­mains a fer­tile mu­si­cal prov­ing ground, with a thriv­ing scene that in­cludes Ja­son Is­bell, Alabama Shakes and John Paul White, one-half of The Civil Wars. The Black Keys recorded their Grammy-win­ning al­bum “Broth­ers” there in 2009. It was the first al­bum recorded at Mus­cle Shoals Sound Stu­dio in 30 years. The build­ing had fallen into dis­re­pair, how­ever, some­thing Mr. Iovine and Mr. Wood dis­cov­ered while do­ing more re­search on Mus­cle Shoals af­ter watch­ing Greg “Freddy” Ca­malier’s doc­u­men­tary.

Beats, in as­so­ci­a­tion with the Mus­cle Shoals Soul Foun­da­tion, will re­fur­bish the build­ing and in­stall mod­ern and vin­tage record­ing gear so fu­ture stu­dents can learn old and new tech­niques in the art of sound record­ing. Mr. Iovine, the Beats co-founder and In­ter­scope Gef­fen A&M chair­man who got his start as a pro­ducer, feels that art is be­ing for­got­ten in the age of Pro Tools.

“It’s not as much about the build­ing. It’s the aes­thetic and the cul­ture we’re try­ing to main­tain,” Mr. Iovine said. “It’s been passed down. That’s why it’s so good to have these places around the world be­cause it’s a tribal thing, there’s a cul­ture be­ing passed down.”

Beats also will make up­grades to FAME where Mr. Hall, a pro­tege of Sun Records’ Sam Phillips, housed a se­ries of bands that helped write rock ’n’ roll, soul and R&B his­tory. One of those bands was the Swampers, whose mem­bers later opened the ri­val Sound Stu­dio.

Beats will of­fer suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cants the chance to work and learn in both stu­dios when the restora­tion is com­plete. A por­tion of hol­i­day sales of the com­pany’s au­dio prod­ucts will kick off the project.

Jimmy Iovine

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