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Classic Voices... Classic Sound




Take the classic rock voices of Mickey Thomas, Joe Lynn Turner, Bobby Kimball, Jimi Jamison, Glenn Hughes, Mike Reno, John Cafferty, Spencer Davis and Alex Ligertwood; mix them together with the blistering guitar work of Leslie West, Pat Travers and Dan Toler and what do you come up with? The Voices of Classic Rock. What else!

Together they are singers whose vocals have defined nearly four decades of classic rock. Collectively they enjoy 25 Gold Albums, 26 Platinum and Multi-Platinum Albums, 57 Top Forty singles, 25 Top Ten singles, and 10 Number One Hits (from both the Pop and Rock Charts). They are the original Singers ... of the original songs.

Originally an idea of Starship's lead singer Mickey Thomas and NHL.com Executive Producer and General Manager Charlie Schmitt, Rockforever.com, LLC / Voices of Classic Rock was founded in 1999 and is a comprehensive artist-owned digital record label, Internet music channel and live performance group.

When this collective of classic rockers decided to hit the road and take their performance to the stage, they enlisted the guidance and experience of veteran FOH and Systems Engineer John Muldowney. Muldowney and colleague Chris Lannon put together an incredibly simple yet powerful live recording system to capture the ‘Voices’ classic sound on tape … or hard disk I should say.

Muldowney is an independent engineer who has worked closely with the Rockforever.com team for the past year and a half, developing the FOH mix and recording the various factions of classic rockers for delivery at live concerts, CD recordings and streaming audio content. Muldowney also puts in his time with the Colorado based national sound company Audio Analysts. His FOH and System Engineering credits include, Bruce Springsteen, Shania Twain, Prince, John Mellencamp, Styxx, Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black and countless others.

I first met Muldowney in Lahaina on the island of Maui this January where he was engaged in mixing the Voices of Classic Rock at a taping for an upcoming VH1 Classic television feature, which should air sometime later this year. I was interested in the live recording set up he’s devised as a platform to get the Voices music to the masses via CD and streaming audio from the Rockforever.com web site.

Muldowney had this to say when I spoke with him on a warm, star-filled evening under the enchanting Maui sky at the Royal Lahaina Tennis Stadium during the taping of the Voices of Classic Rock show.

“The ‘Voices’ producer Charles Schmitt worked out a deal with the Kaanapali Beach Association to revive the Maui Music Festival. They’ve put together a three-year contract. We’ll tape the ‘Voices’ show this year for VH1 Classic and we’ll be back in the winter for the next two years to fulfill the other commitments.

Most of the shows we do are “run offs,” meaning we end up flying to the show and need a package recording system that can fly as luggage. Therefore the system has to conform to the airline industries size requirements concerning linear inches and weight. Yet the system has to give us the quality this project requires for the various forms of audio delivery we use.

The first project we did was on ADAT. After that, if we decided if we’re going to continue to do this type of work we would need to decide what format we want to work with. Chris immediately said when the MDRs are available we need to go with the Mackie hard disk format. And that’s what we’ve done.

The Mackie MDR hard disk system is certainly the best package we’ve found. We get 24 tracks with each unit and fly them as luggage with no extra charges. We can’t afford to ship six ADATS around to get 48 tracks. We easily and inexpensively ship two, 3-rackspace MDRs and get 48 tracks. By throwing an external drive into the external bay of the MDRs we get three hours of 24-bit recording. It’s really simple to change between drives. I just did this last night right between songs. I simply call up another project and bang; we’re off and running again. It’s flawless. The price of the drives is reasonable as well. To get 90 minutes on an IDE drive like that certainly beats buying tape. It’s easy to get IDE drives. Just go to your friendly Staples store or something similar and you’re there for around $180. They definitely serve our purpose of 24-bit, 24-track in three rack spaces…and are less than thirty pounds with three hours of recording time available!

We’ve used this system three or four times so far and the audio quality is really quite good. For the show I just lock the machines together and start them at the downbeat. Ninety minutes into it I change drives and record the whole show without having to stop machines. Locking two machines is surprisingly simple. Just a quarter-inch cable, set one machine for master and the other to slave, set the slave to follow time code and you’re off and running. I’m pleased. It’s nice to have such a simple tool to do such important work.

We’ve flown this system all over the country and it’s held up great. The machines get bounced around quite a bit during transport and still they work every time. Turn them on and there they are, ready to go. Which as you know is a very important factor. They have to work every time we boot them up.

We mix on a Mackie D8B owned by Chris Lannon in Boston. We use the Digital I/O Cards and just dump the entire stuff light pipe right into Digital Performer. We have two sets of cards. We use the Analog I/O cards for recording and the Digital I/O cards for the dumps. It’s really simple. The cards aren’t too expensive and they’re convenient and simple to use.

When Mackie came out with the MDR, it was as if they had asked us what we needed. This set up is actually perfect for our situation.

Check out the rockforever.com web site and check out the streaming audio or MP3 files available for listening. All the stuff that we do is untouched. There are absolutely no overdubs. And you know, a few mistakes exist here and there, but we aren’t particularly concerned with that. We’re not interested in presenting a polished performance. We want to convey the energy of the live performance as it was done. Check out Glen Hughes’ “Mistreated” or Alex Ligertwood’s “Winning.” Those are all cuts we’ve done this past summer with the Mackie HDR. Raw and live…the way it was performed. The Voices of Classic Rock. They are the original singers ... of the original songs. That’s what we’re all about.


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