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The Albert Brothers are two recording engineer brothers, Ron Albert and Howard Albert, who are best known for their work on various recordings at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida, founded and owned by Mack Emerman. Ron and Howard Albert worked on two important double albums of the 1970s: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos in 1970 and the first album from Stephen Stills's group Manassas in 1972. The Albert brothers also worked on Crosby, Stills and Nash's 1977 reunion album, CSN.
Ron and Howard Albert also founded their own production company, Fat Albert Productions.
When the Albert Brothers began (circa 1967), recording techniques were a little different. Multi-track tape machines were just coming into common use thanks to the efforts of Les Paul and Tom Dowd. Recording consoles, power amps and speakers left a lot to be desired.
The European microphones in the studio, however, were of very high quality. Howard and Ron were instructed early on that those expensive mics were only for delicate orchestra recordings, not for loud rock.
Daytime recording was reserved for ad agency clients, so most of Howard and Ron’s experimenting was done at night (out of sight of the boss). Uncountable hours were spent experimenting and eventually the Albert Brothers' "fat" drum sound, achieved with condenser mics, was being heard all over the world.
The key to the Albert Brothers' sound was their "multi mic" concept of using a separate mic on every instrument.
Jerry Wexler (Atlantic Records president) and legendary record producer Tom Dowd were spending a lot of time in South Florida entertaining artists on "The Big A" Atlantic’s corporate sport fishing yacht). They used Criteria Studios for a quick overdub, and soon established a connection with Ron and Howard (who also enjoyed fishing).
The Albert Brothers have said "Tom Dowd gave us both his unlimited knowledge of producing records and the understanding of artists’ creative minds. It is a great honor for us to have Tom as our mentor and as our friend". As well as Tom Dowd, the brothers also worked with Karl Richardson and Chuck Kirkpatrick.
"Idlewild South" and "Eat A Peach" by the Allman Brothers Band are two of the early albums that Ron and Howard recorded. The first album the Albert Brothers recorded with Eric Clapton was Derek and The Dominos' "Layla". The Brothers also recorded the Rolling Stones and John Mellencamp. They also produced "Arms of Mary", a 1976 hit single by Sutherland Brothers and Quiver.
Sales of records recorded and produced by Howard and Ron have topped 100 million copies.
In 1987 Howard and Ron (along with their partner Steve Alaimo) formed two new companies. Vision Records, an independent record company offering national distribution to new and established artists including Betty Wright, Stephen Stills, Jimmy Cliff and Dion.
Additionally they opened Audio Vision Recording Studios (initially for their in-house use). Recently Audio Vision Studios was opened to the recording community, offering major labels, producers and local artists a state of the art recording facility.
Ron Albert, along with his older brother Howard Albert, make up Fat Albert Productions, a Miami based production and engineering team. In 1965, 16 year old Howie Albert was in a Miami Rock band named The Nightcrawlers, and Ron was their 12 year old “band aid” (roadie). They recorded the song “Little Black Egg” at Lee Hazen’s studio, which was released on Henry Stone’s assorted labels that year. By 1967, Lee received an engineering job offer in Nashville, and Howie was drafted into Vietnam. Having been a small part of the music industry, the 14 year old Ronnie naively went to Criteria Studios for a job, Miami’s only major studio at the time. He became their typist for the tape library, and the following year, filled in as engineer when owner/engineer Mack Emerman fell ill during a major job. After that, he became a staff engineer, earning his first gold record for Brook Benton’s “A Rainy Night in Georgia” in 1969. At the same time, Atlantic Records had just sold, and co-owner Jerry Wexler bought a weekend home in Miami with the money while remaining on staff. Atlantic’s staff producers Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin followed Wexler’s lead, and as a result, they began using Criteria studios to record for Atlantic, moving their permanently within time. As Mack Emerman retired from engineering, Ron became the primary engineer for the studios, and he hired his brother Howard once he returned home from Vietnam. The Fat Albert/Atlantic combination, along with equipment designer Jeep Harned, turned Criteria studios into the most renowned studio in the world. By the mid-to-late 70s, they had more singles in the top 10 charts that NY and LA combined, recording Rock and Disco legends such as Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, The Bee Gees, The Eagles, Jimmy Buffet, etc., and Ron and Howard negotiated to become partners in the company. In 1979, the Wall Street Journal reported the music industry was going into a recession, and labels decided to quit sending their acts to Miami to record as a way to save money. By 1983, Criteria was in debt, so the Alberts sold their share of the company with the intent to retire. By 1987, they realized they did not have enough to remain retired, so they teamed with Steve Alaimo, former co-owner of Henry Stone’s T.K. Records, and formed Vision Records. Vision initially focused on the alumni of Criteria and TK such as Betty Wright and Stephen Stills, but eventually gave in to youth culture and also released Freestyle and Miami Bass records such as Shana and Beatmaster Clay D.
Ron and Howard Albert are Analog Recording Kings Few cinematic moments feature such a perfect marriage of image and song as one in Goodfellas, with protagonist Henry Hill coked out of his skull and packing a bag of guns. As he tries, by car, to outrace a helicopter chasing him, a suspenseful swell of piano rises in the background before giving way to an epic riff that ratchets up the tension.
That song, of course, is "Layla," the major hit by Derek and the Dominoes whose popularity was seriously bolstered again in the Nineties by its appearance in the film. But what many of the song's fans don't know is that it was recorded in North Miami, at the famed Criteria Studios (now The Hit Factory). And the engineering and production team behind it was a pair of homegrown hit-makers, brothers Ron and Howard Albert.
Born and raised in South Florida, the two men have been, over the past 40 years or so, responsible for the production or engineering of some of rock's biggest, most classic tracks. And now, at the dawn of increasingly digital recording technology, it's about time these unsung analog heroes get their due.
"I think we have 40 gold records to our name and about 30 or so platinum," says Howard Albert, lounging in the studio he and his brother now own, Audio Vision in North Miami. Some of the records hang framed on the walls in the studio's reception area; they're everywhere, and there are so many that the brothers have lost an exact count. In the Seventies, Miami put out more Top 10 records than New York and California combined, says Ron Albert.
The famous "Fat Albert" drum sound they created in the late Sixties was a big part of it. A young and inexperienced Howie placed separate Neumann, AKG, and various condenser mikes on each tom, snare, kick, bass, and cymbal of a drum kit. It's a method that studios around the world now copy and that engineering textbooks now teach. But at the time, nobody had ever before multi-miked a drum set.
"One of the things we had was a studio without any clients, so we had a lot of time to experiment," Ron recalls. "And as we got a few clients, we started getting recognition for it. The Rolling Stones and Eric Claptons and the Stephen Stillses of the world were coming for our drum sound.... It became the 'Miami Sound' because we were in Miami making it."
"Ron and I work as a team together, and the two of us were much faster than one person could be, and we could get a lot more done on the board," Howard quickly adds. "There was no automation, there was no digital, there was no Pro Tools, there was no goin' back, and there was no total recall — there was no nothing. You recorded it and if you didn't get it right the first time, it was gone."
The Albert brothers are quick to point out, though, that their thirst for innovation was nurtured by their mentor: the late, great Tom Dowd, the first producer to ever splice audio tape. If you've seen the movie Ray, you will remember Dowd as the legendary Atlantic Records producer who pioneered the use of sliders instead of knobs on audio mixers. But later, as the Alberts worked with him, they would get in on the ground level of a number of other recording innovations.
"You know, Tom actually had the second multitrack tape machine — him and a legendary person by the name of Les Paul. Les Paul and his wife Mary Ford were making records and they were just the two of them and they needed to have a way to overdub, which wasn't invented yet, so Les Paul invented a term called overdubbing," Howard says. "He had Ampex build him a tape machine that allowed him to record a track and go back and record another track. It was an eight-track tape machine, and Les Paul and Tom Dowd developed that technology for multitrack recording."
"We were actually there on the ground floor of it," Ron says, "although not in the very early stages. But by the time it got good enough to actually be able to use on a regular basis, we started developing. We started [with a] three-track [machine], then four-track, and then eight-track and 16-track."
"Then the 24-track, 48-track, and then locking up two 48-track machines, and then we went to Pro Tools," Howard finishes.
So, despite their love of analog, the Albert brothers have fully brought themselves into the Pro Tools-based digital domain. But with hip-hop now the dominant form of music being recorded in Miami, they're still something of a throwback.
"Being studio owners, we've been dealing with all the major hip-hop acts, but as far as actually producing or making those records, we don't really get too much involved with that," Howard says. (Audio Vision counts Lil Wayne as a client.)
The Alberts still prize innovation and count open-mindedness as the number one quality for success in the industry today. "You've just got to listen to more music and different styles of music and keep plugging at it," Howard says, "and hopefully you'll come up with something that's unique and your own style and you'll be the next superstar." Article by: Jacob Katel
The Albert Brothers Discography at Criteria Recording Studios includes: Abba, Jack Adams, Aerosmith, Steve Alaimo, Aftermads, Monty Alexander, Allman Brothers Band, Gregg & Duanne Allman, America, Ann-Margaret, Patti Austin, Art in America, Average White Band, Russ Ballard, The Band, Count Basie Orchestra, Basilio, The Beach Boys, Barry Beckett, Bee Gees, George Benson, Chuck Berry, Jeff Buckley, Bush, Regina Belle, Bow Wow Wow, Elvin Bishop, Black Oak Arkansas, Blood Sweat & Tears, Barry Blue, Kylene Brandon, James Brown, Brownsville Station, Dave Brubeck, Jimmy Buffet, Bus Boys, Bobby Caldwell, Mariah Carey, Vickki Carr, Cameo, The Chamber Brothers, Carol Channing, Harry & Tom Chapin, Chic, Chayanne, Collective Soul, David Coverdale, Eric Clapton, Petula Clark, George Clinton & P - Funk Allstars, Joe Cocker, Wayn Cochran, Mark Colby, Alice Cooper, John Cougar, The Covergirls, Lamont Cranston, Rossington Collins Band, Comateens, Dave Crawford, Pablo Cruise, Delany & Bonnie, Rick Derringer, Derek & The Dominoes, John Denver, Dickie Bettes & Great Southern, Dion, Dixie Flyers, Danger Danger, David Bowie, Placido Domingo, Tommy Dorsey, Ian Drury, The Eagles, Duke Ellington, Keith Emerson, Emmanuel, Gloria Estefan, Extreme, Don Felder, Jay Ferguson, Firefall, Fleetwood Mack, Foreigner, Dan Fogelburg, Ivano Fossati, Frankie & the K.O.’s, Aretha Franklin, Gang of Four, Jerry Garcia, Art Garfunkel, Siedah Garret, Bobbi Gentry, Phil Gernhart, Giant, Andy Gibb, Debbie Gibson, Jackie Gleason, Benny Goodman, Grand Funk, Grateful Dead, H-Town, Roy Halee, Bill Halverson, Emmylou Harris, Procol Harum, Richie Havens, Haddaway, Phyllis Hyman, John Lee Hooker, Whitney Houston, Julio Iglesias, The Ink Spots, Iron Butterfly, Michael Jackson, Ahmad Jamal, James Gang, Joan Jett, Doctor John, Jose Luis Rodriguez, Jimmy Johnson, Journey, Judas Priest, Pierre Jaubert, BB King, Freddie King, Gladys Knight, Kix, Lenny Kravitz, Nil Lara, Tracy Lawrence, Levert, Trigo Limpio, Little Richard, Kenny Loggins, Cheryl Lynn, Madness, Yngwie Malmsteen, Barry Manilow, Bob Marley, Rita Marley, Man o’ War, Marshall Tucker Band, Sam the Sham, Meatloaf, Melanie, Menudo, Metallica, Buddy Miles, Miami Sound Machine, Mitch Miller, Steve Miller Band, Eddie Money, Mother’s Finest, Mothers of Invention, Judy Mowet, Joey Murcia, Eddie Murphy, Markita, Billy Ray Martin, Mutiny, Graham Nash, Stevie Nicks, Niteflyte, Ted Nugent, Nuclear Valdez, Oingo Boingo, Ohio Players, The Outlaws, John Parr, Jimmy Page, Jaco Pastorius, Wilson Pickett, Esther Phillips, Henry Paul Band, Mike Pinera, The Police, Pure Prairie League, Queen Latifah, Rare Earth, The Rascals, Reo Speedwagon, Elio Roca, The Rolling Stones, Lulu, 2 Live Crew, Todd Rundgren, Leon Russell, Bobby Rydell, Mitch Ryder, Sam & Dave, David Sanborn, Michael Sardou, The Scorpions, John Secada, Bob Seger, Arturo Sandoval, Sieko, Slaughter, Grace Slick, Camilo Sesto, Soda Stereo, Spanky & Our Gang, Status Quo, Cat Stevens, Supremes, Rachel Sweet, Takanaka, Taj Mahal, Third World, George Thurston, Peter Tosh, Rick James, Robin Trower, Ike & Tina Turner, Ultravox, Vanilla Fudge, Bobby Vinton, Joe Walsh, The Wailers, Warrant, Was Not Was, Vanessa Williams, Jimmy Witherspoon, Bobby Whitlock, Bill Wyman, Johnny Winter, Wishbone Ash, Neil Young.
The Albert Brother's Discography at Audio Vision Recording Studios includes: Bad Boy Ent. DMX La Reese Teddy Riley Bam
Daz Dilinger Lil’ Jon Kelly Rowland
Bone Thugs N’
Dion Loon Ray Seay
Disco Rick Luke She-kspere
Deuce Pop Ludacris Sera
Drama Mike Lewis Grip Smith
Kiley Dean Dave Mason Robert Smith
Exhale Mystikal Stephen Stills
Faith Evans Mis-teeq Stryke Five
Fat Joe Made Men Sause Money
Felicia Ricky Martin Tyrese
Field Mob Red Man The Toadies
Ghostface Killa Method Man Carl Thomas
Hangmen 3 MJG Rob Thomas &
Tabitha’s Secret Tyra Banks
Whitney Houston JT Money
Ice-T Mo Thugs Family Trick Daddy
Iconz Angelo Morris Trina
Big Bert Prod.
Inner Circle No Good 2 Live Crew &
Ish Nate Dogg Motley Crue
KC Oliva 3re The Hard Way
Kane P. Diddy The Wailers
Sean Kane Pink Mario Winans
King Sporty Raekwon China White
Gary Katz Salaam Remi Betty Wright