I usually start a post like this commenting on where or when I got the book I’m reading, which is, in this case, Phil Ramone’s Making Records: The Scenes Behind The Music with Charles L. Granata. Honestly? I can’t remember in this case. The book came out in 2007 and I’ve had it in my garage for a while, so maybe it came from the discount area of Barnes & Noble or…who knows? What does matter, is that I moved this to the top of the To Read pile because, well, I wanted to.
I love reading books about music like Sonic Boom or Off My Rocker because everyone who was super into music has wildly unique stories about not just the making of records, but the people they worked with. As it happens, Phil Ramone not only helped revolutionize how records were made, but also worked on records by some of the most iconic and beloved musicians in the history of music including Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Barbara Streisand, Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Elton John and plenty of others.
Going into this book, I knew nothing about Phil Ramone, so it was amazing to go on a journey with him through his career starting out in NYC and moving on to becoming one of the most sought after producers in the world of music. I was sad to learn he passed away in 2013, but am very glad that he took the time to work on this book with Granata.
As you might expect, the real gems in this book come when Ramone remembers working with many of the memorable musicians mentioned above. I’m a big Sinatra, McCartney, John and Joel fan, but have started listening to more Simon, Burt Bacharach, Peter Paul and Mary records and definitely want to listen to Getz/Gilberto and a million other records because Ramone represented himself as a next-level expert who paid more attention to how musicians recorded than many others.
I will admit, though, that some of the early chapters of this book felt a little slow. Around Chapters (or tracks as they’re noted in the book) 3-9 get a bit bogged down with too much information about dealing with artists, in my opinion. Ramone talks about coddling them in order to get the best songs as possible, which makes perfect sense, but those chapters veer a bit too much into How To territory for me. If you feel the same way, I highly encourage you to keep reading, though, because every time I got a bit bored, he dopped in yet another amazing story.
From Chapter 10 on, I was riveted. That’s when he gets into the specifics of starting his own record company, A&R, and then specific chapters focusing on Bob Dylan, Simon, Joel, Charles and even working to make John F. Kennedy’s White House sound better!
If you have any interest in how records go from people playing on a stage to listening to tracks in your head, Making Records is definitely a must read!