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  1. #1

    The return of Ken Sands

    Spoke with my old friend and Motown colleague, Ken Sands last night. He agreed to come on the forum and speak with forum members. I can't think of anything Ken hasn't done as a top recording engineer From Artie Fields Productions, United Sound and, of course, Motown. Ken even offered his vast technical experience in assisting Milan Bogdan, Les Chasey and Ed Wolfrom in the construction of the Tera Shirma console.. The guy has pretty much done it all. Ken, it is a pleasure to have you with us again. Many thanks. Feel free to ask him questions.
    Last edited by ralpht; 06-25-2018 at 03:38 PM.

  2. #2
    Wow! Welcome Ken

  3. #3
    Ken is having a log-in problem. He will be available soon.

  4. #4
    Thanks, Ralph, for your help with the log-in. And again, thanks for your kind introduction. I think it's been a few years since I was on the forum. I really appreciate your creative juices. And hello to Tomato Tom! Just bought the new Lamont Dozier's CD. It brings back lots of memories. Lamont is totally awesome.

  5. #5
    Thank you for coming on the Forum, Ken. I have a few questions I would like to ask you, but I'll hold back for now and let the forum members have at it.

  6. #6
    Hi Ken......


    I remember the '60s as a teenager, but am not a collector.

    Never really got my head around the topic of white promo copies.

    If a single promo, would they differ from the official release? If so, reasons for that?

    If an album promo, were they in mono or stereo? Were the mixes any different from the official release?

    Many thanks!

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Sands View Post
    Thanks, Ralph, for your help with the log-in. And again, thanks for your kind introduction. I think it's been a few years since I was on the forum. I really appreciate your creative juices. And hello to Tomato Tom! Just bought the new Lamont Dozier's CD. It brings back lots of memories. Lamont is totally awesome.
    Ooh ken I have held off buying Lamont's new album but I think I will get it. I'm not a massive fan of the concept but with Lamont you can't go far wrong. He is, after all, totally awesome.
    Last edited by TomatoTom123; 06-28-2018 at 07:18 PM.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by westgrandboulevard View Post
    Hi Ken......


    I remember the '60s as a teenager, but am not a collector.

    Never really got my head around the topic of white promo copies.

    If a single promo, would they differ from the official release? If so, reasons for that?

    If an album promo, were they in mono or stereo? Were the mixes any different from the official release?

    Many thanks!
    Hi Westgrandboulevard,
    The single promos that were distributed to radio and TV stations were the same as the official release mixes. Some of the earliest promo records were actually cut directly on the recording lathe in the disc mastering room at Motown Center on Woodward Ave. These discs were coated with acetate with an aluminum base. The promo albums were stereo and they were again the official mixes approved by quality control.

  9. #9
    Hi Tomato Tom, You can always listen to short clips on Amazon before you purchase Lamont's CD. I was sold after I heard it. Also check out the Phil Collins music album, "I'm Going Back." It's wonderful!

  10. #10
    Hi Ken, I checked out the tracks on iTunes and liked some but wasn't too keen on others. I'm sure they'll grow on me. And as for Phil Collins' Going Back, I love that album!!! My favourites are "Too Many Fish In The Sea" and "Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)"!!
    Last edited by TomatoTom123; 06-29-2018 at 08:47 AM.

  11. #11
    Hi Ken, thanks for the info on promos!

    Were at least some of the single promos in stereo?

    For example, I have it in mind there was a stereo promo single of 'Heaven Must Have Sent You', by The Elgins?

    (Afterthought : or was that perhaps just for the early '70s reissue, when most singles were in stereo - ?)
    Last edited by westgrandboulevard; 06-29-2018 at 06:11 AM.

  12. #12
    Ken - I'd love to hear a story about your work on a specific recording that you feel your work really made 'click' -

  13. #13
    Hi Tom, The whole Phil Collins' album is my favorite. Phil could do no wrong when he had some of the Funk Brothers working with him. Ken

  14. #14
    Hi Westgrandblvd, The early single promos were mono only until the late 60's. The ones I worked on were in stereo. I was a recording/mixing engineer from 1966 until 1973. I was asked, but didn't go to LA. Ken

  15. #15
    Hi PeaceNHarmony, The first million dollar seller that I worked on was "Love Child." I did the strings, horns, and background vocals. I used close miking techniques for clarity. I think the string sound helped to make that song a hit. Ken

  16. #16
    Oh yes indeed Ken, those loud sweeping strings, and their eery pitch, do add much electricity and drama to the 'Love Child' rhythm track, particularly when heard over a transistor radio.

    I've read somewhere that the high solo note on the intro (Louvain Demps?) was unintentional, because it was originally intended to be sung in harmony - but that it worked, and was left on the recording.

    Is that a true account?

  17. #17
    Louvain, Jackie, and Marlene, the Andantes, always worked out the parts together with the producer on the background sessions. Louvain usually sang the top note of the triad background. I don't have any information that is was unintentional on "Love Child."

  18. #18
    Have now remembered the source, Ken. It was from Louvain herself (!), being interviewed on 'Good Day Atlanta' about a year ago. It was likely to have been posted here on SD.

    Also going with 'Love Child' - forgive my ignorance of drums, but what type of drum is that which 'slams' after the strings on the intro to the mono version...but then seems to be missing on the stereo version?

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Sands View Post
    Hi PeaceNHarmony, The first million dollar seller that I worked on was "Love Child." I did the strings, horns, and background vocals. I used close miking techniques for clarity. I think the string sound helped to make that song a hit. Ken
    Thanks, Ken - really interesting. Without a doubt that string section, and particularly the opening, drew a listener in. The strings on LC are almost like a second background vocal - will be interesting to hear more from you. Were strings of particular interest to you?

  20. #20
    Pistol Allen was using his standard Studio A drum set which was a wooden mother of pearl rogers set. Pistol kept them tuned to his liking. I worked on the strings, horns, and background vocals only. I didn't mix the final product.

  21. #21
    Yes, I enjoyed doing string sessions at Studio B with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with some of the best arrangers in the world. I did many of the string sessions when I was working at Motown.

  22. #22
    Hi Ken,

    I'm guessing many are unaware that you have also produced records. You are credited as producer on "I Think I'm Gonna Be Blue" by my good friend Larry Buford, and the alternative version by ex- Temptation Louis Price. Great song, lovely floating arrangements....

    cheers

    Mike


  23. #23

  24. #24
    Here's Larry's story on the song.....
    Rare Recording of Former Temptations Member Louis Price FoundApr 25
    Appeared on The Temptations' 'Hear To Tempt You' album
    By Larry Buford
    Photo: Louis Price

    LOS ANGELES, California (YN) - It was a night to remember: my friend and songwriting partner Louis A. Johnson – best known as co-writer on Anita Baker’s smash “Sweet Love” – had introduced me to Louis Price formerly of The Temptations [www.louispricemusic.com], and we were headed to ABC Paramount studios to record my song “I Think I’m Gonna Be Blue.” I had seen Price before on a TV special singing “A Song For You” when he was with the Tempts. His voice intrigued me, and now he would be singing one of my songs!

    The song track was recorded at Cloud Born and Sound Suite studios in Detroit with Detroit musicians. It was produced by Ken Sands and arranged by Rick Manassa. The tape had been sent back and forth between Detroit and Los Angeles at least three times. The last time had been to add saxophonist David Lamb who gave it that special something. As a matter of fact when I heard what he had done I considered leaving the song as an instrumental. That all changed with the thought of Price singing it.

    When everyone arrived – Price and background singers Brenda Lee Eager, Pat Henley, and Bob Henley – we all got acquainted and began going over parts of the song (we actually recorded two of my songs that night). Brenda Lee – best known for her classic duet with Jerry Butler “Ain’t Understanding Mellow” – suggested a different background vocal pattern than what I had in mind for “Think Blue.” I was excited to meet her and grateful for her input.

    As the engineer was setting up we ordered food for everyone, then got down to business – the proof of which is in the recording. That was in the spring of 1986 and when the recording session ended around three or four in the morning, I just knew I had something special right along with my co-writer Johnson who was eagerly anticipating the release of Anita Baker’s album.

    Meanwhile, things were pretty busy at Motown where I was under contract. I presented the song and did all I could to promote it, but somehow if fell through the cracks. Later that same year while going through a difficult relationship, I consoled myself (befittingly) by recording my version of the song and releasing it on my own record label.

    Recently while visiting Detroit where I had a lot of things in storage, I came across this wonderful forgotten mix of Price’s version.

  25. #25
    I told you the guy has done it all.

  26. #26
    Hi Mike, Larry Buford is a good friend of mine too. Larry is an excellent writer who I have had the pleasure of working with and enjoying his music. I'm surprised that Motown didn't produce this song with Louis Price singing, "I Think I'm Gonna Be Blue." Is Larry's music popular in the UK? You brought back lots of memories.
    All the best from Detroit, Ken

  27. #27
    Hi Ken,

    Larry would not be well known in the UK but "I Think I'm Gonna Be Blue" did bring him to the attention of soul collectors. It was issued on a CD, although allegedly without Larry's knowledge, and as for royalties...... The single is currently on eBay at $27 plus $17 postage and is collectible amongst the soul aficionados.
    Here's the CD in question, issued on Goldmine in the UK.

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  28. #28
    FYI here's a track written and performed by Larry as tribute to David Ruffin...


  29. #29
    Hi Mike, I called Larry last night and we caught up on the news. Thanks for sending Larry's song for David and the UK compilation. Someone on E bay will be making money on Larry's music. I wish he could as well as Larry's a talented guy. How did you meet Larry? Ken

  30. #30
    Hi Ken,
    I have a question for you. I know certain engineers and producers sort of click and work well together. This was the case with my brother and Frank Wilson. Did you have a favorite producer to work with, and if so, why.

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by ralpht View Post
    Hi Ken,
    I have a question for you. I know certain engineers and producers sort of click and work well together. This was the case with my brother and Frank Wilson. Did you have a favorite producer to work with, and if so, why.
    Hi Ralph,
    My favorite producer was Norman Whitfield. I liked Norman's creativity and he appreciated my critical input. We worked together on numerous number one hits from the Temptations and Marvin Gaye. Norman was bigger than life and I was pleased to be a part of his success.

  32. #32
    Hi Ken

    I’m honoured to be able to interact with someone who was behind so many tracks that I love.

    The Duplicate Master Number for “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye credits you with being its recording engineer. Do you have any memories of recording that track, and do you have any insights into the stereo mix by Cal Harris, which is unusual in both its panning and EQ, and which folded down ever so nicely for the 1968 mono single?

    Many thanks,

    Sotosound

  33. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by Sotosound View Post
    Hi Ken

    I’m honoured to be able to interact with someone who was behind so many tracks that I love.

    The Duplicate Master Number for “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye credits you with being its recording engineer. Do you have any memories of recording that track, and do you have any insights into the stereo mix by Cal Harris, which is unusual in both its panning and EQ, and which folded down ever so nicely for the 1968 mono single?

    Many thanks,

    Sotosound
    Hi Sotosound,
    Thanks for your interest in my work. I was pleased to call Marvin my friend. Marvin was one of most talented singers and producers who I worked with at Motown. There was nothing unusual about the recording of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" that I remember, but then it was 50 years ago. Cal Harris was the head album mixer and my boss at Motown during my early years. Lawrence Horn who hired me left with HDH. Cal used to pan some things hard left and hard right, but other tracks half way in between so the mono would sound well balanced.
    Ken

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Sands View Post
    Hi Sotosound,
    Thanks for your interest in my work. I was pleased to call Marvin my friend. Marvin was one of most talented singers and producers who I worked with at Motown. There was nothing unusual about the recording of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" that I remember, but then it was 50 years ago. Cal Harris was the head album mixer and my boss at Motown during my early years. Lawrence Horn who hired me left with HDH. Cal used to pan some things hard left and hard right, but other tracks half way in between so the mono would sound well balanced.
    Ken
    Many thanks for this insight.

    And that's why it was possible to lift "Grapevine" from "In The Groove" as it was and without needing a remix.

    Cool.

    I understand from many sources over many years - including SDF - that this approach became necessary at Motown when the whole record industry moved away from releasing entire albums full of dedicated mono mixes. Instead they had to produce stereo mixes that also folded down reasonably well into mono.

    And this explains why it took 40 years for me to establish that there wasn't a dedicated mono mix of the track.

    Many thanks again.

  35. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Sands View Post
    Hi Ralph,
    My favorite producer was Norman Whitfield. I liked Norman's creativity and he appreciated my critical input. We worked together on numerous number one hits from the Temptations and Marvin Gaye. Norman was bigger than life and I was pleased to be a part of his success.
    Norman Whitfield would perhaps be my favorite but I also loved Frank Wilson. Whitfield, though, was 'more different-er' and I still love listening closely to his productions.

    Now, about microphones ... you said that you close-miked the LC strings, etc. Judy Collins has stated that she tours with a specific vintage microphone. Did you have access to, or favorite, microphones? And if so, what was/is it about those that you prefer?

  36. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by PeaceNHarmony View Post
    Norman Whitfield would perhaps be my favorite but I also loved Frank Wilson. Whitfield, though, was 'more different-er' and I still love listening closely to his productions.

    Now, about microphones ... you said that you close-miked the LC strings, etc. Judy Collins has stated that she tours with a specific vintage microphone. Did you have access to, or favorite, microphones? And if so, what was/is it about those that you prefer?
    The mike I used for strings and horns was a Neumann Model U 87 which had good articulation in the high mid-range. This was also the mike I used for lead and background vocals. Originally, early on, I used a tube style Neumann U 67 which had almost the same response. The other mike that was used was a Neumann KM 86i which was the younger brother of the U 87. I liked the U 87 best.

  37. #37
    Ken, I do seem to remember that you were in the studio quite a bit with Norman. Yes he was a good producer. No doubt. And one of the things that makes a producer good is that he listens to his engineer. The guy isn't sitting there just to push the record button but, like yourself, able to offer some insight to the production that the producer would be grateful for. I've seen that happen many times.

  38. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by ralpht View Post
    Ken, I do seem to remember that you were in the studio quite a bit with Norman. Yes he was a good producer. No doubt. And one of the things that makes a producer good is that he listens to his engineer. The guy isn't sitting there just to push the record button but, like yourself, able to offer some insight to the production that the producer would be grateful for. I've seen that happen many times.
    Thanks, Ralph, for recognizing the importance of the recording engineer in his role with the producer. I enjoyed working with Frank Wilson, Berry Gordy, Johnny Bristol, Hank Cosby, and others. It was also a pleasure working with you at Motown. I regret not moving to LA when I was asked. Family obligations kept me in Detroit so I went to work at Artie Fields' Productions where I recorded "Midnight Train to Georgia" with Gladys Knight.

    I had lunch today with another former Motown recording engineer, Steve Smith. Steve did go to California to work for A & M Records with Herb Alpert. Norman Whitfield also used Steve independently to record the group, Rose Royce, who sang "Car Wash." Steve has been living back in Detroit for several years.
    Last edited by Ken Sands; 07-05-2018 at 04:52 PM. Reason: misspelled word

  39. #39
    Ken, good to know Steve is around. I always liked the guy.

  40. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Sands View Post
    The mike I used for strings and horns was a Neumann Model U 87 which had good articulation in the high mid-range. This was also the mike I used for lead and background vocals. Originally, early on, I used a tube style Neumann U 67 which had almost the same response. The other mike that was used was a Neumann KM 86i which was the younger brother of the U 87. I liked the U 87 best.
    Now as regards Norman Whitfield - were you quite involved with any of the Temps psychedelic-era recordings? I just love that period. Listening yesterday to the 2-cd 'Psychedelic Soul' Temps compilation I'm impressed once again by the beauty of these dynamic recordings -

  41. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by PeaceNHarmony View Post
    Now as regards Norman Whitfield - were you quite involved with any of the Temps psychedelic-era recordings? I just love that period. Listening yesterday to the 2-cd 'Psychedelic Soul' Temps compilation I'm impressed once again by the beauty of these dynamic recordings -
    Tell me which songs are on the compilation and I'll tell you which ones I worked on.

  42. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by ralpht View Post
    Ken, good to know Steve is around. I always liked the guy.
    Ralph, how about we get together with Steve for lunch some day soon. Life is short, we'll eat dessert first and remember the good times.

  43. #43
    Ken,
    That sounds great but may have to hold for a while. Having some leg problems at present making walking a little iffy at times.

  44. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by ralpht View Post
    Ken,
    That sounds great but may have to hold for a while. Having some leg problems at present making walking a little iffy at times.
    Ralph,
    Both Steve and I have a few problems too, but I could pick you up if you can't drive. Give me a call when you want to go and I'll contact Steve to see if he's available. And a happy, blessed belated birthday to you!! Ken

  45. #45
    Fascinating thread guys. You know how much of a Norman Whitfield fan I am, so this is all wonderful to read.

  46. #46
    Ken, do you remember if you worked with me on the My Friends project. Seems to me you did.

  47. Welcome ken.

  48. #48
    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    Fascinating thread guys. You know how much of a Norman Whitfield fan I am, so this is all wonderful to read.
    I'm a huge fan of Norman Whitfield too. It was an honor and pleasure to work with him. What is your favorite song of Norman's? My favorite is one that I worked on, "I Can't Next to You."

  49. #49
    Quote Originally Posted by ralpht View Post
    Ken, do you remember if you worked with me on the My Friends project. Seems to me you did.
    Yes, Ralph, I did work with you on that project. Did Harry Balk ever tell you it was finished? Spoke with Jim Vitti yesterday. We laughed about buying United Sound that's up for sale for $1.5 million. Ha Ha Ha! Maybe your remember he was the chief engineer at United. Jim is still hail and hearty. He may join me for breakfast tomorrow. I enjoyed the tour of Terra Shirma. You have some great stuff on Soulful Detroit...sure brings back tons of memories and familiar names. I sure do miss those times.

  50. #50
    Quote Originally Posted by Jasonaldean View Post
    Welcome ken.
    Welcome to you too, Jason!! Your name is familiar. Do I know you?

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