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I guess it’s no secret that I’m a pretty big audio junkie and when it comes to recording things my curiosity seems to be insatiable. Ever since we started doing our little experiement, I’ve become obsessed with the idea of recording sounds. So this book was right up my alley and it’s one of the more candid looks at the art of sound recording.
For those who don’t know the name (and I was one of them), Bruce Swedien is a five time Grammy award winning audio engineer who has worked on almost all of Michael Jackson’s seminal recordings, including the ground breaking “Thriller” album. I don’t know where you were in 1984, but I remember “Thriller” hitting like a damn hammer when it hit the airwaves. To this day, it has one of the most distinctive sounds and it’s sonic impact has not diminished one bit over time. That sonic impact is the direct result of Bruce Swedien’s work and in his book “In the Studio with Michael Jackson”, he tells you exactly how he did it.
If you’re a gear head and are interested in the tools of the audio trade, particularly those now classic analog pieces that were used in the early eighties, Bruce devotes a section dissecting everything from the microphones used to the compressors and reverb units that went into creating some of the best sounds laid to tape. If you’ve ever wondered how the “Thriller” album comes by that distinctive sonic presence and how it has managed to retain it’s poignancy over 25 years later, Bruce devotes page after page to the subject. For the aspiring audio devotee, the secrets that Bruce reveals so willingly and candidly are akin to going to school with the most gifted teacher you can imagine. With little held back, Bruce paints the picture of a group of creators at the top of their game and invites you along for the ride.
However, if audio isn’t your thing but you just can’t get enough of Michael Jackson, then this book relates some very interesting and endearing stories regarding the King of Pop. From candid stories about the recording and creation of his greatest songs to tales of the young man’s interaction with other musicians and fellow pop stars, Bruce tells them all with a warmth and honesty that is rare in any book on Jackson. If you’re looking for any of the “freak show” accounts of Michael Jackson’s life, you won’t find it here. This book is a simple testament to Jackson as an artist and it really gives you a window into a master craftsman at the top of his game.
A physical copy of this book may be a bit difficult to get your hands on, if you’re interested. The book was published around the same time that Michael Jackson died and was criticized for “cashing in” on the pop star’s death. As such, many stores either didn’t carry it or the supply they did have was bought up in a hurry in the wake of Jackson’s passing. I found mine at a local half-price bookstore and this might be where these things show up after Michael Jackson fans realize it’s more about recording than a biography. If you don’t have one of those near you, I know Amazon has it here: In the Studio with Michael Jackson (Book)
For those of you who consume your books digitally these days, you can also find it for the Kindle here.