This series looks at the writing and recording of some of the greatest albums of our era. Musicians, producers, and engineers are interviewed in the studio, and the master tapes are played, sometimes isolating particular channels, to highlight certain instrumental sounds or voices. Many of the musicians play live along with the tracks, demonstrating how they played the parts. In some cases, group members are reuniting after considerable time as they reminisce together. This is usually interspersed with some vintage clips and photos of concert performances.
The BBC produced series began in 1997, with Ringo Starr as narrator. Later episodes have no narrator. The first seven episodes were licensed to VH1 for showing in the US, then periodically more were released, one at a time. Some have been shown on A&E, PBS, and Biography Channel. One or two were repackaged by VH1 as 'Ultimate Albums'. In April 2006, 26 DVD's were released as 'VH1's Classic Albums', with additional footage and bonus features. In October 2006, the show began a weekly airing on VH1 Classic on Tuesday evenings. The original airdates in some cases are sketchy, as VH1 are rather tight-lipped about past programming, preferring to focus on upcoming 'premieres'.
This premiere episode spotlights Paul's 1986 Grammy-winning 'comeback' album. Introduced by Ringo Starr, each song is examined from the studio perspective. Paul considers the title track to be "The best I ever did". He describes how he came up with the musical and lyrical ideas, and we hear comments from the engineers and from prominent critics, and some of the South African musicians who contributed.
This 1970 release was an important step in the rise of the Grateful Dead to legend status. Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, along with some interviews with Jerry Garcia, discuss what went into the writing and recording.
Stevie's 1976 double album is looked at here. Stevie had already released the smash album, Innervisions, but as Berry Gordy explains, he took the experimentation to a new level. Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock are in the studio with Stevie, along with some other top musicians who contributed, as we examine the creation and recording process, of what many consider Stevie Wonder's finest hour.
Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, and Garth Hudson discuss the making of their classic 1969 release. Each member explains how they achieved their distinct sound, with all of them often switching instruments. We hear from Eric Clapton and George Harrison on the influence the record had. Also included is a tribute to suicide victim Richard Manuel.
Jimi is recalled here with archival footage, and current interviews with Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell, and engineer Eddie Kramer, explain the creative processes that went into the 1968 album. Jimi's manager, Chas Chandler, contributes some details, in what was to be his final interview.
The band's Grammy-winning 1977 album is given the Classic Albums treatment. We hear from all the band members, and technicians who worked on the project. Each track is examined and the master tapes are analysed. Included is some archival performance footage, along with some home movies.