BluesWax Sittin’ In With
Concord/Stax Remastering is his game
And He’s One of the Best in the Business
By Robert Putignano
Joe Tarantino is certainly not a household name, but should be. His twenty-five years at Fantasy Records (now Concord) has enhanced the sound of so many classic recordings on Stax, Fantasy, Milestone, Prestige, and other labels. Most of us grew up with many of this label’s albums, but until you’ve listened to the “Remasters” series engineered by Tarantino, you won’t believe what you missed. Tarantino manages to unearth sounds that I never knew existed; it’s a remarkable flashback experience that needs to be acknowledged.
Special thanks to a phone conversation I had with Blues Revue/BluesWax Publisher Chip Eagle where I mentioned that I asked a publicist if he could get me an interview with Tarantino that resulted with the publicist saying “Who’s Joe Tarantino?” Chip ignored that response and went the distance to track down Mr. Tarantino for me. Following is my discussion with the master of remastering, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I had chatting with the humble and gifted Joe Tarantino.
Robert Putignano for BluesWax: Let me start with the alternate take of Albert King’s I’ll Play the Blues For You on the new Stax Remasters is so very special. How you doing Joe?
Joe Tarantino: I’m doing good, thanks Bob.
BW: For those who don’t know, Tarantino does a lot of the remastering at Concord Records, which includes their own vast catalogs of Stax, Prestige, Milestone, and more.
JT: Pablo, Fantasy, Contemporary, Riverside, which includes many of my favorites like Sonny Rollins and Bill Evans recordings.
BW: You’ve been their go-to guy there for a long time?
JT: About twenty-five years now. But I was only supposed to be there for six weeks. That was at the time when CDs caught on really quick. And with the huge catalog they had they wanted someone to do the transfers from analog to digital. So I caught on.
BW: What was your background prior to this?
JT: I was an independent recording engineer doing sessions.
BW: And a music fan, too.
JT: Of course. A lot these albums that I get to remaster were albums I used to listen to as a kid.
BW: You’ve got to feel fortunate to being able to do this. Having the vast amounts of recordings you have at you disposal must feel like you’re a kid in a candy store.
JT: Definitely! Just walking the halls and looking at the names of the artists, album names, and dates of the recordings is pretty incredible.
BW: I’m jealous! That’s an amazing body of work. I feel that way about the Atlantic vaults (now at Rhino), too. Like I’d mentioned in my Albert King review at BluesWax, these remasters series sound like high-end (and far more expensive) audiophile recordings.
JT: I appreciate that.
BW: It’s the truth. The Isaac Hayes was also spectacular and the McLemore Avenue by Booker T. & the MG’s was amazing! I’ve never heard Duck Dunn’s bass roar out of my speakers like that before, and I was very familiar with that and many of these recording from back in the day
JT: McLemore Avenue is an incredible album. It’s funny when I was just finishing up working on that album, I saw Steve Cropper at a club that same evening, so I handed him a copy of the reference CD backstage. Cropper is one of my idols, I play guitar because of Steve Cropper.
BW: I can easily understand that, which leads me to a related item: If I could ever make a request for albums I’d like to see you remaster, one would be Cropper’s With a Little Help From My Friends and Steve Cropper, Albert King, and Pops Staples’ Jammed Together.
JT: Sheffield Records did a remaster of With a Little Help From My Friends. I think I actually sent them the master tapes.
BW: Too funny! Sheffield was one of the first audiophile companies that got me hooked on high-end audiophile recordings. Those Direct to Disks* records blew me away.
* Direct to Disk recording was a process where albums were made in real-time, live in the studio. The music was cut directly to the vinyl masters and bypassed the use of magnetic tape, meaning that no multi-tracking techniques and no overdubs could be employed. Tricky stuff, as corrections could not be made to the live and in-studio album.
To be continued…
Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax, a contributing writer at Blues Revue, and the the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.
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