synthesizers

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How two white synth geeks helped create Stevie Wonder’s best albums

You may not have heard of Malcolm Cecil or Robert Margouleff but you’ll certainly be familiar with their work. These two electronic music boffins helped transform Little Stevie Wonder in to one of the greatest songwriters in pop music. They produced and engineered four albums that are widely regarded as “Stevie’s classic period.” Four albums that featured his most enduring songs such as Living For the City, Superstition, Higher Ground and You Are the Sunshine of My Life. Stevie was at the height of his creative powers but Margouleff and Cecil were his sonic architects, steering him away from the bubble gum pop sound of Motown. 

Central to Margouleff and Cecil’s production style was their creation, TONTO. The Original New Timbral Orchestra was a huge, room-sized super-synthesiser developed with the express purpose of making this new, intimidating technology work together as a giant electronic ensemble. Margouleff and Cecil manipulated its futuristic controls, while Stevie played its keyboards. The results turned out to be timeless. Their pioneering electronic developments in sound and production proved hugely influential to black popular music in the 1970s.

Here’s an upload of the BBC radio documentary. Such good stuff in here:

And here’s some great footage of them recording “Living For The City”:

Filed under: recording

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Mr Rogers plays an ARP Soloist synthesizer
Mr Rogers Neighborhood

Silver Apples live in Los Angeles, 1968.

Simeon Coxe III: “In this shot you can see I have the oscillators mounted horizontally in plywood along with echo units, wah pedal, and so on. Here I am playing the ‘lead’ oscillator with my right hand, keying in rhythm oscillators with my elbow on the telegraph keys, changing the volume on an amp with my left hand, and singing. This was typical.”

… via an interview with Simeon at SoundOnSound.