Al Schmitt Bob Dylan Capitol Sessions Update 06-17-16

Stephen K. Peeples and Al Schmitt
Stephen K. Peeples and Al Schmitt, Capitol Studios, June 17, 2016. Photo: Paige Hagen.

Grammy Legend Confirms All ‘Shadows in the Night’ and ‘Fallen Angels’ Tracks are from 2014; Dylan Recorded Another 30 Standards in Early 2016

By Stephen K. Peeples

Bob Dylan Fallen Angels coverTwenty-three-time Grammy-winning recording engineer/producer Al Schmitt, who worked on Bob Dylan’s Capitol Studios sessions in fall 2014 and early 2016, confirmed that all 22 tracks released on Dylan’s “Shadows in the Night” album in February 2015 (10) and his “Fallen Angels” follow-up in May 2015 (12) were from the 2014 sessions.

One track now remains unreleased from 2014 and so do all 30 tracks from the second session, Schmitt confirmed in an exclusive interview with this reporter at Capitol Studios in Hollywood Friday, June 17, 2016, adding that he had no idea about Dylan’s plans for the 31 Capitol tracks in the can.

Dylan’s versions of standards from the Great American songbook are nearly all associated with Frank Sinatra. The 30 tracks recorded in 2016 are also standards, Schmitt confirmed off-camera.

Bob Dylan's Shadows in the Night

When first we spoke on Dec. 2, 2014, Schmitt said he had just wrapped up sessions in Capitol’s Studio B with Dylan, who produced under his frequent nom-de-studio Jack Frost. Dylan was backed by his “Never Ending Tour” road band – Charlie Sexton and Stu Kimball (guitars), Tony Garnier (bass), Donny Herron (pedal steel) and George Receli (drums).

RELATED: UPDATED: Bob Dylan’s ‘Fallen Angels’ Follows ‘Shadows in the Night’

Both “Shadows in the Night” and “Fallen Angels” earned critical acclaim and healthy sales by Dylan standards; “Shadows…” made the U.S. Top 10 albums and charted high internationally. He and the band have performed between half a dozen and a dozen songs from the two albums in his live sets in spring 2016, touring with Mavis Staples opening the show.

As we were setting up in Studio C for our June 17 interview, Schmitt mentioned he and Genewick had seen Dylan’s L.A. concert at the Shrine Auditorium the night before, and that the Dylan Capitol sessions were represented by about eight songs.

Toward the end of our interview, after talking about Schmitt’s production of Sinatra’s two “Duets” albums, we segued into Dylan and talked more about the Shrine show and the Capitol sessions.

Here’s a transcript:

Stephen K. Peeples: You told me that [Dylan] performed eight…

Al Schmitt: Eight of [the Capitol sessions] songs last night, and the people loved it, with all the yelling and the clapping. People really liked that stuff.

Peeples: Was the audience mostly older people our age, or were there some kids in there, too?

Schmitt: There were young people, yeah.

Capitol Records TowerPeeples: That really gives me hope because Dylan’s not a young guy. This music is not young. It’s like it’s being reintroduced, and young people are finding out about this stuff from an artist that they have a great deal of respect for.

Schmitt: I think that was one of the things he had set out to do – to bring these songs back, so that they don’t just kind of lay there. Bring them back and introduce them to a new audience. It’s great.

Those were some of the best sessions I have ever done. They were just a lot of fun – just great. Everything live… Everything was done at one time live, no earphones, and it was just wonderful.

Peeples: I wanted to ask this because you saw him live last night – did he have that mic setup in the middle of the stage…

Schmitt: It looked like he had two mics. In case he moves – is that the way that works? I couldn’t figure out what that was.

Peeples: I thought maybe you knew the answer.

Schmitt: No, I don’t. Then he was over at the piano, and his voice sounded great there, too. I know the guy that is the front-of-the-house guy, and we were talking to him and I never brought that up. Steve Genewick and I went. I never brought up why he had that setup. I assumed it was so that if he moved… with two mics there or something… I’m not sure.

Peeples: It’s fascinating.

Schmitt: I’ll have to ask him next time I talk to him.

Peeples: In the first session you guys did, there were, like, 23 tracks. Then 10 of them were released on the first album.

Stephen K. Peeples and Al Schmitt
Stephen K. Peeples and Al Schmitt, Studio C at Capitol Studios, June 17, 2016. Photo: Paige Hagen.

Schmitt: [And] 12 in the new album that just came out.

Peeples: Are those the same tracks that you recorded, or were they re-recorded?

Schmitt: No, same thing.

Peeples: Okay, because there’s some confusion about that, that when he came in for the sessions this year, that he re-recorded those.

Schmitt: Not true.

Peeples: Same 23 tunes?

Schmitt: No, we did 30 new songs.

Peeples: Oh, 30 more? Fantastic. So we have two albums already, so there’s another couple or few albums for us.

Schmitt: Who knows? I don’t know what he’s thinking of doing. He doesn’t tell me what he’s going to do. So, no.

Peeples: That’s pretty neat, because he’s really spent an awful lot of time on revisiting the things that were significant to him early on as he was getting his career started. Wow, that’s pretty neat. How many tracks did you guys record all together? 23 in the first session and 30 in the next one? Wow!

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Watch the Dec. 2, 2014 Schmitt-Peeples chat at Capitol Studios.

Click here for the complete Dec. 2014 transcript.

(Please note: Video and text are copyrighted 2014-2016 by the author
and not to be used in part or whole without his permission.)

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Grammy-nominated producer and Santa Clarita journalist Stephen K. Peeples was Capitol Records’ Editorial Director at the Tower in Hollywood from 1977-1980. Special thanks to Al Schmitt, Paige Hagen, Paula Salvatore, Steve Genewick and Uli Frost for their invaluable assistance with this article. Photos (c) Stephen K. Peeples unless otherwise attributed. Album cover images courtesy Columbia Records. For more exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews, subscribe to Stephen K. Peeples’ YouTube channel. For more info about Peeples, click here.

Article: Al Schmitt Bob Dylan Capitol Sessions Update 06-17-16
Category: News & Reviews
Author: Stephen K. Peeples

Al Schmitt Bob Dylan Capitol Sessions Update 06-17-16