Steve Berlin first got noticed on the music scene as a saxophonist for the Blasters, and later on Los Lobos, but in recent years he’s been known just as much for his producer credits, having helmed records by such diverse artists as Susan Tedeschi, Deer Tick, Leo Kottke, Buckwheat Zydeco, and Leftover Salmon.
Berlin’s latest production job was on Weightless, the new disc by New Brunswick bluesman Matt Andersen, who was surprised to learn that Berlin had also produced the Tragically Hip’s 1998 release, Phantom Power. Andersen’s current bio actually states that Phantom Power is his favourite Hip album.
While a fine album by any measure—boasting great tunes like “Bobcaygeon”, “Fireworks”, and “Poets”—some might argue that it’s no Day For Night. And no Road Apples. And definitely no Fully Completely.
Anderson would not agree.
“I’ve always loved all the Hip stuff,” he explained on the phone last week, “but sonically that was one of my favorite Hips albums for sure. I just thought that album always had a live-off-the-floor kinda vibe. I’m not sure if that’s how they did it or not, but I really liked the production a lot, it always stood out for me.”
Fair enough. Everybody’s entitled to their fave Hip album I suppose. Andersen is just happy that Berlin was able to bring the studio magic he’d heard on Phantom Power to bear on Weightless.
“He had great positive energy and really great arrangement ideas,” said Andersen, who plays Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre on February 1. “When I took him the tunes they were all pretty much bare-bone versions of the songs, and he came up with a lot of different ideas about bridges and stuff. He approached each song differently, and didn’t try to fit it into an album sound or anything like that, so it was really cool.”
For more from Andersen about Weightless, its various songwriting collaborations, and its distinct lack of extended guitar solos (aw, man!), see the story in this week's Straight. Read it on paper for that old-school Road Apples vibe.