Neil Young is recording an album that will include songs with “big band arrangements,” according to music contractor Gina Zimmitti, who is involved with the project, and who posted photos and wrote about the sessions on the Facebook page for her company, Gina Zimmitti Music Contracting.
Zimmitti wrote that at one session, the musicians played “awesomely loud big band arrangements.”
Young has used an orchestra in the past, most notably on the songs “Expecting to Fly” and “Broken Arrow” recorded with Jack Nitzsche that appeared on Buffalo Springfield Again, and on the Harvest tracks, “A Man Needs A Maid” and “There’s A World” which Nitzsche recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra in London.
Violinist Marc Sazer has participated in at least one of the recent sessions and wrote on his Twitter page, “Recording with @neilyoung, great to have a great choir live in the room with us!”
Neil Young project today. Arranger/ conductor Chris Walden. Contractor Gina Zimmitti pic.twitter.com/cAkkAEciRH
— JoAnn Kane Music Svc (@JKMSlibrary) August 21, 2014
The album is titled Storytone, according to arranger/conductor Chris Walden, who posted that information on his web site, along with a release date of November 4, 2014, but has subsequently removed that info from his site and replaced it with “untitled” and “2014.” Of course Neil Young is known for changing things at the last minute, so it’s possible that the title and release date could change, or even that Young could decide not to release the album at all.
Walden, according to Wikipedia, is known “for writing big band and orchestral arrangements for recording artists such as Michael Bublé, Diana Krall, Jennifer Hudson, Paul Anka, and Christopher Cross. He has been an arranger for ‘American Idol’ since 2007 and has worked for producers like David Foster, Phil Ramone, and Tommy LiPuma.”
The possible album title, Storytone, apparently refers to a rare early electric piano that Young may be using on the album.
On the Piedmont Piano Company website is info about the Storytone piano pictured above:
This is an extremely rare and historically important instrument. The Storytone piano was built in 1939 in a joint venture between Story & Clark and RCA – the piano has normal strings and action but no soundboard – the sound is amplified by pickups and a speaker system making it the world’s first practical electric piano. The sound is very beautiful considering its design during the infancy of amplified instruments. As you can see the design is striking – art deco at its most radical.
Sessions for the album have taken place at Sony Pictures Scoring Stage and at EastWest Studios, both in L.A., during the last two weeks of August. Young concluded a tour of Europe with Crazy Horse on August 8 of this year.
Niko Bolas, who has worked with Young on such albums as This Note’s for You, Freedom and Living With War, is producing, according to Gina Zimmitti.
On August 19, Zimmitti posted:
“We don’t feel cheesy calling this one a ‘precious moment,’ and posted this photo:
On August 23, Zimmitti wrote:
“2nd day of recording with Neil Young and producer Niko Bolas – this time for some awesomely loud big band arrangements by Chris Walden composer-arranger ! — with Chris Walden at EastWest Studios.”
She also posted this photo on August 23:
On August 27, according to Zimmitti, Young and the orchestra were back in the studio for more days of recording, this time working with arranger Michael Bearden.
Bearden has worked many successful musicians including Madonna, Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, Chaka Kahn, Patti Austin, James Ingrahm, Babyface, Lenny Kravitz, Yoko Ono, George Benson, Natalie Cole, Anita Baker, Edie Brickell, Nancy Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Liza Minelli and Michael Jackson.
Speaking to Billboard earlier this year, Young said, “I have new songs that I’m working on, and I haven’t stopped doing that. I do it when I feel like it and I’m collecting them. And sometimes I play them live before they come out as a record, and because of the way everything is people hear them before they come out, on the Internet. But I still feel like I’m gonna make records of them.”
One song that Young performed live numerous times this summer with Crazy Horse in Europe is called “Who’s Gonna Stand Up And Save The Earth?”
“I’d like to make a record with a full-blown orchestra, live – a mono recording with one mic,” Young told Billboard. I want to do something like that where we really record what happened, with one point of view and the musicians moved closer and farther away, the way it was done in the past. To me that’s a challenge and it’s a sound that’s unbelievable, and you can’t get it any other way. So I’m into doing that.”
However based on the photos, these sessions utilized numerous microphones. Oh well.
Some of Neil Young’s fans are skeptical regarding the project.
At Steve Hoffman Music Forums, a fan using the name “P(orF)” wrote, “It’s sad because I’ve been listening to him for 45 years, but my only reaction when I hear he’s doing a new recording is ‘What’s the gimmick this time?’”
And “Babyblue” added, “Yep, more and more Neil seems to be more about the gimmick than the actual music. I can see how this could happen to a veteran musician (especially a creative and eccentric one like Neil). It probably keeps things interesting. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always produce good music.”
But there were fans who defended Young. “Six String” wrote, “I’ll wait until I hear the music before passing judgement. It’s only a gimmick if it doesn’t work…”
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