Dan Fogelberg ~ Live At Carnegie Hall
In March of 2015, while doing some sorting and organizing of Dan photos and tapes, I came across a DAT tape labeled “Carnegie Hall”. Dan had told me that before his performance there in 1979, his management team had asked if he wanted to record the evening . He’d said no, he was going to be nervous enough playing Carnegie Hall, plus his parents were going to be in the audience - knowing it was being recorded would only add additional pressure. He’d always regretted that decision; the concert turned out to be one of the highlights of his career and all he had was a house system recording of it.
And now, apparently, I was holding that recording in my hand.
I’d saved most of the equipment that Dan had used at the ranch studio over the years: reel to reel, cassette, ADAT, and compact disc recorders, so now I pulled out the digital audio tape deck, connected the USB audio interface to my computer, and sat back to listen. From what Dan had said, I was expecting it to sound really bad: room hiss, audience noise, mic pops, feedback and fluctuating levels, but it sounded GOOD! And, knowing of the advances in audio restoration in the intervening 36 years since its recording, I felt certain it could be made to sound GREAT.
I sent an MP4 of “Song From Half Mountain” to Irving Azoff, Dan’s lifelong friend and manager, saying, "Irving, I just listened to the recording of Dan at Carnegie Hall, and I would love for us to release it. What do you think? Is this possible? Would Carnegie Hall let us?” (I was a little excited.) Irving agreed that it sounded really good, and by the way, his friend Ron Perelman happened to be the chairman of Carnegie Hall. Mr. Perelman answered my inquiry right away, giving me the fee amounts and offering to put me in touch with the appropriate people when we were ready.
We approached Sony, since they own the bulk of Dan’s catalog and they wanted to hear all of the tracks. Two months later, they let us know that, while it sounded great, it wasn’t feasible for them to put it out, but they would help in any other way they could. Clearly, this would not be a big money-maker, but we felt strongly that it should be in Dan’s catalog, and I knew that the hardcore fans would love it. Irving began shopping it around to other record distributors.
I sent out audio restoration requests, figuring it would cost around $6,000. The first bid I got back was $40,000. Yikes!! The next bid was for $27,000 but they came down to $20,000. I ran it by Irving, who thought it was high, but I knew their work and believed they'd make it amazing, so he agreed and in August I sent a $10,000 deposit check and arranged to have professional transfers sent to them. I waited and waited, then Christmas came and went, and I didn't want to push because they are always busy with big name acts, but then in March I wrote, only to have them tell me that
I had the files sent again, double checked that they'd received them, and before long I got a restored/mastered CD. I wasn’t happy with it.
I wanted the listener to have the sense that they were right there in the concert hall, so the big room ambience was very important to me, and it just wasn't there anymore. I called Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering, who said he’d take a listen and let me know if he could do anything with it . He asked if I had access to the masters.
Well, that was the mystery.
Dan had said the recording was done on Carnegie Hall’s house system, but their archivist told me they don’t do house system recordings. Sony Legacy didn’t have any record of the recording , and Dan’s road manager and management didn’t recall it either. So with no idea where the masters were, or if they still existed, all we had to work from was the DAT’s, which is a bit like taking a picture of something through a window. Luckily, our window was of good quality and fairly clean, but up close and personal would have been better.
Gateway Mastering is only three hours away from me, so in May of 2016, I drove the precious tapes down and left them with Bob, who did indeed make them sound fantastic, for much closer to what I’d originally thought it would cost. I listened intently, making a few tweaks to where the individual tracks started and ended. For instance, it was important that the person who yelled out to Dan, “Play all night long!” just before Dan began riffing on an impromptu song called “All Night Long”, could be heard at the start of that track and not at the end of the track before it. By October of 2016 we had the final Carnegie Hall master completed.
Irving and I had decided to release the double CD ourselves, under “Nether Lands Records.” I already had the cover worked up, from an Andy Katz shot I loved, but I asked John Kosh, who designed so many of Dan’s albums, to design the package and CD labels. Kosh said we should have a logo for Nether Lands Records, for the back of the CD package, and I immediately thought of a photo I have of the teepee Dan lived in while the ranch was being built.
I scanned the photo and made the teepee the “A” in Lands, and put a shot I’d taken of a full moon behind it.
We had no images of the concert to work with, so I put out a request on Facebook for photos or memorabilia and was thrilled when longtime Dan fan, Jill Dolnick McGovern, sent us images of her concert ticket and the ad that ran in the New York Times (which, in a bit of serendipity, had been designed by John Kosh). Poor Jill, she had just bought a new scanner and I pushed her skills to the max to get us some good quality scans, ("Bigger, Jill, bigger!")
Irving asked Adam Flick, Brandon Rieck and Sali Kharazi to help with the production end of things and at last, afer two years of prodding the project along, the package and music files were finally on their way. The agreements had all been signed, and licensing and mastering fees paid; I felt a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Ah...
After linking to this page in a post on Facebook, I got a comment from Dennis Fite. It said, "Jean, I am excited that you have taken on this project and can't wait to get a copy. I had the pleasure and privilege to mix Dan's monitors on that tour."
I immediately sent him a private message, asking if he had any recollections of the recording of the Carnegie Hall concert. Dennis told me that Carlo Sound of Nashville was hired to provide the sound system for the entire 1979 Solo Tour. They weren't hired to record the performances, just to do the sound in the house and monitors, but during the Carnegie Hall concert, PA engineer John Logan made a cassette tape recording of the show in case Dan wanted it. As it turned out, Dan did want the tape.
So, the mystery of who recorded the concert was finally solved. Dan must have had the cassettes transferred to DATs at some point and put them away. I was bummed that the CD package was already in production - I wouldn't be able to include John and Dennis in the "Thanks To" section.
The very next evening, in fact, a small box of the CDs arrived via UPS. Excited, I pulled the plastic off of one of them. It looked fuzzy so I put some readers on and went to stand by a window. My heart sank. The photos were all pixelated! Instead of clean, smooth lines, the beautiful Andy Katz shot on the front cover had jagged, boxy edges. The Nether Lands logo on the back, already very small, was unrecognizable as teepee and moon. Besides the distorted photos, there were scoring indentations along the outside edges of the sleeves, where they were glued shut, and I found it a little difficult to get the CD's out of the center-opening sleeves without scratching them.
I hated to be a bad news bear, but there was nothing for it. I took photos of the pixelated images with my cell phone and emailed them to Kosh, who was even more shocked than I was. In all his years of working on albums with artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, The Who, Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Buffett and Electric Light Orchestra, he'd never seen this. I felt better after talking to Kosh and knew we'd get to the bottom of it the next day, when L.A. woke up. Sure enough, the next day Sali wrote to tell us that the printing company had accidentally used the wrong file to print from.
As long as they were going to re-print, we discussed the package and decided to go with a different format, one with the glue scores toward the center, and the sleeve openings on the outside edge for ease and safety when removing the CDs. John was going to have to do a bit of reformatting of the art so I asked if I could possibly slip a couple of extra thank you's in? He said, "Sure, no problem."
Don't you just love happy endings?
I hope you enjoy the concert.
~ Jean Fogelberg