My Favorite Recorded
By Orleans – Ride (click for link)
“Heaven” was written by me, Lance Hoppen, Bob Leinbach and Larry Hoppen. As I recall, Lance and I did most of the lyrical work to drag it across the goal line. Recorded at Paradise Way in Saugerties, drums by Eric Parker, lead vocal split betweeen Lance (verses) and Larry (choruses and fade), it is in my opinion one of the best things we have done.
One of the few solos of mine that does not employ a strat, this one is played on a Roland PG-380 synth guitar physically patterned after a strat and set up perfectly by Harvey Citron. The three-pickup electric guitar output can be mixed onboard with however much one wants of the synth patches. As I recall, this was mostly just the guitar, 10-52 as usual, through my Matchless, with just enough imitation flugelhorn mixed in behind it so that it sound fuller, and the sustain goes until I take my finger off the string.
Please listen all the way to the end; that’s when the whole band and I really take off. One of the best things we’ve ever done. Enjoy!
By Orleans – Waking and Dreaming
I was going to stay off the beaten path, but this is a solo I get a lot of questions about. Larry Hoppen and I first met playing harmony lead guitar at a jam session in NYC, and we had a blast doing it for years. This is easily the best known example of that.
After the track was cut on the third try, with Jerry Marotta on drums and Wells Kelly playing percussion, Lance Hoppen on bass and Larry and me both playing rhythm (me the Chuck Berry variation and him the percussive chops) and after the upbeat Fender Rhodes part, we plotted a solo that would get attention. I played first, lower melodic voice, with Larry coaching me from the control room and suggesting what to keep and what to punch in over.
Once my lead was finished, he had the hard job. Larry learned my part one or two bars at a time, and played harmony above it. I sat in the control room and did the same “it’s good up the the fourth bar, let’s punch in on the downbeat” or whatever moved the ball down the field. Eventually his high guitar harmony was just right, a third, fourth or fifth harmony to mine and had his stamp on it despite being constructed to match mine. Learning to do the song live was a bear. Today, Fly and I play the same parts as closely as possible. Thanks, Larry and RIP. You too, Wells.
By John Hall Band – All Of The Above
By Bonnie Raitt – Takin’ My Time
I was in LA to master Orleans’ first LP, and Bonnie asked me to bring my guitar and play on her new record. I showed up at Sunset Sound with my strat, and there was Bonnie with the second engineer. I learned that she was being produced by Lowell George until they had a falling out and Lowell quit along with his friend John Haney, the First engineer. In retrospect, after seeing the love and respect between them, it seems ludicrous.
I said, “Somebody has to be in charge and help get the best performance out of you.” Bonnie said, “What about you?” I had produced a couple of records, so we decided to try it for a week, and if she was happy we would draw up a contract.
Bonnie was in love with this Martha and the Vandellas song, and wanted to do a funkier, bluesier version. Bonnie on acoustic, Freebo playing some playful funk bass, Jim Keltner struggling up to his drum stool from the floor leaving his bottle of Jack, and Bill Payne sitting at his Wurlitzer waiting to see where the spaces were going to be before jumping in, me on my strat doing rhythm and lead on the same take. As I recall this was two takes, one for the body of the song and a second where the fade disintegrated into a breakdown with interplay between all the players and Bonnie’s voice. We spliced the playful fade onto the body of take 1, and that’s the record. Oh, and I did the 3 part backup vocals in three takes. Long story, magic night.
By Seals and Crofts – Down Home
Number 5 in this list of recorded solos I count among my best work, all with very talented artists, is the one on Hollow Reed, from Seals and Crofts’ “Down Home” LP.
John Simon asked me to join them in Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco along with Harvey Brooks on bass, Paul Harris on organ, Greg Thomas on drums, and Simon on piano. Jimmy and Dash played inspired guitar and mandolin, and their song moved me to play slide on my Strat through a Leslie organ speaker, after processing by a Dynacomp and an echoplex, all governed by a volume pedal.
It was a wild combination, and the only time I’ve ever made that exact sound. Amazingly, they loved it and I have heard from many guitarists about it. This was before Summer Breeze and all their great hits, but it’s worth digging back for.
By Jackson Browne – The Pretender
We were label mates on David Geffen’s Asylum Records, and had done some touring together, so I was happy to get a call to play on this track. I showed up with my strat, listened to the song and track in the control room while learning it. The engineer plugged me straight into the board so I could hear myself, maybe with a little compression. I listened to the lyrics and changes, and when Jackson said “Here’s your solo,” I played.
I didn’t know the red button was on. The plan was to plug into an amp, get a sound, and do more takes until i had the perfect one. The only problem was, I had already played the perfect one with no amp. As I recall, we sent the signal out to the studio, through an amp, and then run the overdriven sound back to the recording machine. Then I played unison with myself an octave down, which is mixed a little behind the original track. It worked!
By Taj Mahal – The Essential Taj Mahal
(click for link)
John Simon recommended me to Taj, and I wound up touring all over the states with his big band, featuring Howard Johnson leading an incredible tuba section, who all double on other horns.
I learned this song long before I met Taj, and loved Jesse Ed Davis’ guitar work. We recorded a double LP at the Fillmore East and West called The Real Thing. I got to follow in Jesse’s footprints on this track, now rereleased on The Essential Taj Mahal & Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal.
By Little Feat
(click for link then track 2)
Next bit of studio guitar playing I am proud of is on Little Feat’s All That You Dream.
Paul and Lowell asked me to join them in the studio, and it turned out the engineer was the guy who recorded me doing 12 songs in 12 hours in Baltimore when I was 18, the legendary George Massenburg.
I’m playing my ’56 strat into some amp they had, doing the trills and answers between vocal lines. The solo is Lowell, Paul and me all together.