Neither One of Us
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To me Gladys Knight is one of the great singers in American pop music. The rhythm and the final vocal were already done when I got called for this. I remember the producer calling me in Lake Tahoe to work on this project. I told him I was on vacation and that I would be home in two weeks. He then said “Artie this record is all about what you do. I’ll wait for you.” How flattering is that?
I asked him to mail me a copy of the rhythm track and the vocal so that I could listen to it before I returned from vacation. To anybody reading this, you must know that when I heard it for the first time up in Lake Tahoe, I had goose bumps and started to cry. I swear that’s the truth. The combination of that great song and her emotional vocal just put me away. I could not get over her performance. When I returned home I started to work on it that night. I couldn’t wait to jump in and start writing. The ideas had been floating around in my brain for two weeks.
The most important thing an arranger must do is never ever get in the way of the singer. I always keep that in mind. I very carefully moved the string lines around her vocal at times, and just gave her very simple yet full support at other times. As her energy changed so did mine. I always listen to lyrics before I write a single note. To me that’s real important. I need to know what the song is about. Only then can I color the arrangement with the right emotion.
I used a good size string section of sixteen violins, six violas and six cellos — a total of twenty eight strings. When you use a section of that size, you more than just get the sound of the instruments. I think you actually move the air in the room. That’s why you place the microphones up above the orchestra. You are actually recording the sound in the room as well as the instruments. Symphony orchestras are recorded this way. It allows the sound to develop and become full and rich as it is being picked up by the mics. I also used a French horn very sparingly tucked way under the strings.
One final note… on the session when we listened back to the final take of the orchestra and Gladys for the first time, an interesting thing happened. All of the musicians, engineers, the manager of the studio, and a few others stood there and were totally hung out to dry from the emotion of it all. To me when people react in that manner, you just know your instincts were right. I could have paid off my mortgage had I sold tissues that evening.