Portrait of the artist as a nice man.
Grammy-winning record producer/engineer Ramone has twiddled the knobs for some of modern music’s biggest-selling, most influential performers: Barbra Streisand, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Paul Simon and Carly Simon, among others. Considering his ability to connect with both his artists and the listening public, it’s not unfair to call him a recording-studio genius. But unlike many studio greats—yes, we’re talking to you, Phil Spector—Ramone is a sweet, compassionate gentleman who puts his artists’ happiness and comfort first. “I’ll do almost anything to please a client,” he writes. “Bring in comfortable furniture, put up special lighting, make sure that we have yellow jelly beans, or brown M&Ms.” Little wonder, then, that his memoir is warm and welcoming, the literary equivalent of sitting in the living room with your coolest uncle—who just so happens to have some awesome stories about how he cajoled Frank Sinatra into waxing his finest late-career recording. One of Ramone’s vital themes is the importance of the composer. “My career as an engineer and producer coincided with one of the most profound periods in pop music history: that of the contemporary singer-songwriter.” That being the case, it’s unsurprising that Ramone writes about his troubadour hyphenates with reverence and humility. For example, even though he played a vital part in writing and arranging some of Billy Joel’s most enduring albums (52nd Street, Glass Houses), Ramone humbly deflects credit, another one of the qualities that makes this book so affably readable. He also provides plenty of technical information about mixing and engineering, but it’s delivered in such an approachable manner that it will appeal to casual listeners and studio nerds alike.
What it takes to make a hit record—and to handle success with grace, class and humor.