Behind the Needle is retelling of a recorded work from the eyes (and ears) of the Producer. These Producer’s Notes highlight special moments in the mix that a casual listener might not notice.
Radio 45’s first single is a song written by John Ellison. There’s a book about him on Amazon.com that is — well — some kind of wonderful indeed (pun intended). Made famous by Grand Funk Railroad — and even covered by Huey Lewis and the News — “Some Kind of Wonderful” is a classic rock song that has dominated airwaves for decades. John Ellison has earned his spot in West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.
It’s a risky tune for R45 to re-imagine — but we had some ideas to enrich the track while keeping true to the spirit of the well known Grand Funk recording. We felt we could breath new life into it when experienced on modern listening devices, which is what we’re all about.
We start the song off (0:01) with a single guitar note and a synth shimmer effect both played by Scotto. This immediately sets up the listener with something new and interesting to enjoy. The shimmer effect is elusive by design, and while it returns for each and every chorus it always fades away after a brief appearance.
The signature bass guitar and drum groove everybody knows so well is then revealed. It’s built on a tight, thumping, staccato bass line that Scotto loves to generate when Danny is on drums — and you can hear that tight bass groove at every live show they do together.
Danny’s “soulful powerhouse vocal” 1 starts up next — and reminds us all what a great song this is. Danny nails the vocal in a way that early reviews called “refreshing vocals that dare to belt and let it all hang out”. “The vocalist’s personality really shines through.” 3 We agree on both counts.
Enter the infamous guitar player only known to us as “CHAZ” — laying down two rhythm guitar tracks — once for each ear. Panned hard right / left in the stereo field, CHAZ gives a rock-solid rhythm performance that’s in precise lock-step with the bass guitar and drum kit. Early reviews referred to the groove lock as “the measured precision of seasoned veterans.” 7. Groovy!
As the first verse is concluding and leading us into the chorus, CHAZ erupts with a pair of perfectly placed riffs. Early reviews called them “tasty lead licks that stand out as sparkling highlights, almost leaving me wanting more of a showcase in that department.” 2
These riffs oscillate right and left in the stereo field to build interest, and were also referred to in early reviews as “well placed guitar bites panning left to right to help build up the energy” 4. In our mind we hear them as Eddy Van Halen meets Grand Funk Railroad magic “guitar ditties”. These magic offset riffs “play about” in your left ear and right — and then fall to unison in both. Tasty!
The elusive synth shimmer effect is back and evaporates almost immediately as Danny lays into the chorus lyric. Danny sings all 4 harmony parts to perfection, using a stack of six vocal tracks. For now the vocal stack is locked in the stereo field — cemented in various positions left and right. By the end of the song individual harmony parts move across the stereo field in real time — right to left and back — a true headphone moment.
The chorus ends with a gentle electric distortion swell by CHAZ. It appears in the far left, and as it moves to the right the stereo field the pitch falls — as if subject to the Doppler effect. “Thank’s CHAZ, we’ll see you on the next chorus!” it seems to be saying.
As the second verse matures Danny gets to let loose on his “powerhouse” vocal. He punches up a few words for dramatic effect — and adds some smooth harmony and unison parts.
Meanwhile, CHAZ is amping up his “well placed guitar bites” in ways that play nicely off the vocal. Very cool. The performances by Danny and CHAZ play off each other so well you might suspect these musicians are related.
The bridge is upon us — and Danny takes us there asking if “anyone has a sweet woman like his.”
Under the vocal — but on top of the rhythm guitar / bass guitar / drum groove — a Hammond B3 organ lights up played by Scotto — with glorious stereo Leslie sound in full motion. Moments later Scotto engages a particle accelerator that builds under Danny’s vocal — both exploding into the climax of the song.
The songs peaks with Danny looking for affirmation that, yes, indeed, others have a sweet woman like his. We stay authentic to the song’s original vibe here. It’s perfect — no production notes here — we’re just enjoying the vibe like any other listener. Actually — there is a production note: We’re giving the Pro Tools De-Esser module a good workout here.
As the song finishes out it’s prime time for some signature R45 re-imagination.
The Hammond B3 is there — Leslie in tow. The always-interesting yet annoying-elusive synth shimmer effect is back — adding a special shine to the groove. And it sticks around this time.
About the time the same time the elusive synth shimmer re-appears, the background vocals take flight. Now moving back and forth in the stereo field in real-time, three different editions of Danny backup his lead vocal. The backings vocal slowly glide back and forth in the mix until the song fades away. It’s a great way to end the song as we fade out — and is delightful in headphones.
The Radio 45 goal is to breath life into great songs — re-imaging them for modern audiences. We strive to honor a song’s original vibe, while simultaneously executing a “signature take” on it — a must for a cover song to be worth it.
One of our favorite early reviewers sums up our take on this classic song like this:
“Capturing the attention of a listener is difficult these days, but when you hear a classic re-imagined properly, you can’t help but be satisfied. Radio 45 have done their job!” 5
That made our week.
1,2,7 "soulful powerhouse vocal", "tasty lead licks stand out as sparkling highlights" from a review by Mike Hand, Virgin EMI Records, Montreal, Canada 3 "the vocalist’s personality really shines through" — Chip Dominick, Before and After Music Group 4,5 "well placed guitar bites panning left to right to help build up the energy","Capturing the attention of a listener is difficult these days..." — Jesse, Studio Owner, Audio Engineer, Saskatoon, Canada
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