Greg Ladanyi: Grammy-winning record producer noted for his work with Jackson Browne and Toto
Monday 07 December 2009
The American recording engineer and producer Greg Ladanyi helped make some of the biggest records of the Seventies and Eighties, by such California-based acts as Jackson Browne, Don Henley and Toto, the group of top Los Angeles session players turned performers. Indeed, his excellence as an engineer was recognised when the multi-million selling Toto IV, including the transatlantic hits "Africa" and "Rosanna", won the Best Engineered Recording – (Non Classical) Grammy in 1982, and Toto received a further seven Grammies individually and collectively for the album.
"Toto IV was by far the most extensive mixdown I had been involved with," Ladanyi recalled. "The band had three 24-track machines on some songs – up to 72 tracks. I thought, 'My God, how do I make all this fit in two speakers?' 'Rosanna' and 'Africa' took three days each to complete. These songs were mixed in sections and then cut together. I balanced the track with EQ, compressors and effects, then we all made the fader rides together. No automation, and pairs of hands moving faders – Steve Lukather, David Paich, Steve Porcaro, Jeff Porcaro and me."
In a career spanning over three decades, Ladanyi also worked on The Jacksons' Victory album in 1984, with Clannad on their Sirius album in 1987, co-produced See the Light, the 1988 debut by the blind Canadian guitar virtuoso and vocalist Jeff Healey, Starfish, the 1988 album by the Australian alternative group The Church which spawned the US hit "Under the Milky Way" – later revived to great effect in the cult film Donnie Darko – and Behind the Mask, a UK chart- topper in 1990 for Fleetwood Mac. In 2004, he helmed The Crickets & Their Buddies, a collection featuring Buddy Holly's group with guests of the calibre of Eric Clapton and Waylon Jennings, and mixed Joe Cocker's Heart & Soul album.
Born in the Midwest in 1952, Ladanyi grew up in Los Angeles. He had accordion lessons and gravitated towards the city's music scene as a keyboard-player in the late 1960s. He was a doorman at Gazzari's, a rock club on the Sunset Strip, and mixed live sound for various groups before landing a job at Stronghold Studio, where he bluffed his way through Captain Beefheart's Bluejeans & Moonbeams alongside producer Andy DiMartino in 1974. "By the time I was done, I was thoroughly in love with the idea of engineering records," he told Sound on Sound magazine in 2005. Moving on to a runner and tape operator gig at the Sound Factory, one of the busiest studios in Hollywood, he was mentored by the producers David Hassinger, Val Garay and Peter Asher, as they recorded Linda Ronstadt, J.D. Souther and Andrew Gold.
In 1976, Ladanyi got his big break when Garay was not available to mix Browne's The Pretender album. "When I came back and played my mixes for him, he said 'You've got the gig'. I was elated. This was the moment when I had connected one-on-one with the artist," he said about his lengthy collaboration with Browne, which took in a further four albums, the high watermarks of Running on Empty (recorded live, on the tour bus and in hotel rooms in 1977, and reconfigured in 5.1 surround sound by Ladanyi in 2005), Hold Out (1980), Lawyers in Love (1983) and Lives in the Balance (1986), as well as El Rayo-X, the 1981 album by Browne associate David Lindley. Ladanyi excelled at capturing Lindley's biting guitar tone and became known for the bright, warm sound of his recordings.
Passionate and dedicated, with a great ear for detail, Ladanyi was a consummate engineer who easily made the transition to a producer role during a creative period in American music. "The song was the centre of every project, the jumping-off point for every record and session. That was the genius of Southern California rock at the time – it was all about the song. The sound built itself up around the song," he explained.
Ladanyi worked best in partnership with a name artist like Browne or Warren Zevon, often with a musician/co-producer like "Waddy" Wachtel or Danny Kortchmar also on the team, as in the case of the Henley solo albums I Can't Stand Still (1982) and Building the Perfect Beast (1984). Ladanyi succeeded in creating a distinctive sound for the Eagles drummer and vocalist by using drum loops, sequencers and synthesizers, most famously on the evocative hit "The Boys of Summer", which earned him another Grammy nomination for Producer of the Year.
Ladanyi died after sustaining head injuries when he fell off a ramp leading up to the stage at the GSP stadium in Nicosia while attending a concert by the Cypriot-Greek singer Anna Vissi, whose Apagorevmeno album he had co-produced for his Maple Jam Music Group.
Greg Ladanyi, engineer, producer, manager: born Elkhart, Indiana 9 October 1952; died Nicosia, Cyprus 28 September 2009.
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