Bridges Album Cover

Bridges Album Cover

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Elliott Randall

Elliott Randall was my first choice among the many great East Coast studio guitarists to play on “One-Eyed Jack.” I can’t even remember what I heard him do- I was certainly aware of his brilliant soloing on Steely Dan’s “Reelin in the Years” but I don’t think that was what I was thinking about when I asked for him. The main thing is I knew he could really rock and wasn’t afraid of huge distortion, whereas some of the other (equally brilliant) New York City guitar guys were more attuned to the RnB sound, where a very little distortion goes a long way. (A couple of the NYC greats didn’t like to play with distortion at all- to their credit they stuck to their guns and defined their own niche- one of a cleaner, sweeter tone.) But for me this song had to rock, and El was the man for the job. The session itself was a total joy; he was friendly, easy to work with; and accommodating  to my ideas and direction, while generously offering his own creative input.
I had very specific ideas about the solo section: I wanted a melodic idea with long sustain to state a theme, and then an “answering” phrase panned hard left; the theme again; and then a phrase panned hard right that would climb and end (presumably) on a high G note. El played the phrases first with long smooth distortion (I don’t remember how he got it, but I think there was probably a pedal involved) then the left and right solos. He came up with the left one entirely on his own, using the out of phase pick up position on his legendary 63 Strat. (I asked him later, like a pest, if I could try his guitar, and he said “I don’t usually do that but okay.” It was wild and distinctive- the frets were so huge it was almost like a sitar- if you pushed down on the string you could almost get different notes within one fret!) I was talking to him while he did the second phrase, he got the idea even better than I had envisioned: and immediately after nailing it, grabbed my hand and shook it, with a big smiling “Yeah!” I’m pretty sure he was playing through a Super Reverb (which is what he usually used, and David Spinozza often had his at the studio. BTW “Reelin in the Years” was played through an Ampeg BASS amp!)
The biggest surprise of the session came later when we were mixing. El had layered I believe 5 rhythm parts throughout the song from beginning to end, and the engineer Cliff Hodson and I anticipated that were going to have to do a lot of sorting, picking and choosing from among them. We looked at each other with amazement when we realized that they all ran like one cohesive unit- we didn’t even have to touch the faders! Those guitars sound like a force of nature during the last 4 bars of the track, and ultimately that’s how I would describe the consummate professional who played them, Elliott Randall.

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