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"Arif Mardin anointed songs with sound. Mardin gave some of the greatest songs of the last century his own elegant setting. Of the many talents a producer can display, he specialized in the art of arranging, the task that gives songs their shape," notes Jim Farber in his four star Mojo review. Those rare talents are now available for music lovers to appreciate as the Father's Day tribute, June 15th release of All My Friends Are Here.
One of the most atmospheric, challenging and powerful projects of the legendary producer 's career, All My Friends Are Here, the final recording produced by the multi-Grammy winner who was responsible for well over 50 million-selling recordings throughout the world, and who is credited with creating sonic imprints for countless superstars including Bette Midler, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, The Bee Gees, The Young Rascals, Hall & Oates, Dusty Springfield, Norah Jones, Willie Nelson and Carly Simon to name just a few, has earned initial critical praise. Mardin celebrated his final months by assembling many of those very artists to record songs he'd written over the course of his 40-year career, as well as songs written specifically for this NuNoise Records album. Released this week as son and producer/musician Joe Mardin's tribute to his father, Mardin reflected in an interview with Billboard Magazine that, "... with all of his accomplishments, he was a great Dad."
Self-described as a collection of "weird songs and interesting lyrics," All My Friends Are Here is a testament to both the beloved producer's genius and to the many artists with whom he collaborated. Fueled by an encyclopedic musical knowledge and passion for film noir, Mardin had a knack for crafting profiles in sound and featuring the perfect voice to bring these images to life. Here, both music and lyrics, and the interpretations of this all-star assemblage, convey a precision that allows us to see the emotional underpinnings of each song with our eyes closed.
With the exception of the hilarious opening track, The Greatest Ears in Town, co-written and performed by Bette Midler and also featuring Barry Gibb, Mardin composed all of the music and wrote a large portion of the lyrics on the album. Norah Jones sings "Longing for You," which dates back to the producer's days in his native Turkey, long before he joined Atlantic Records as staff producer.
"Chez Twang's," recorded by Dr. John, was originally titled "Byarding," in tribute to multi-instrumentalist Jaki Byard, and was written while Mardin was a student at the then, Berklee School of Music. A young Willie Nelson is featured in an acoustic guitar solo on "Lonestar Blues," as is Doug Sahm on electric guitar and Mardin on piano, while Katreese Barnes provides the vocal some three decades later.
The title song was created by Mardin as recording neared completion as a vehicle for many of the artists he worked with over the years. The all-star lineup features members of the Average White Band, The Rascals, The Bee Gees, Hall & Oates, Phil Collins, Cissy Houston, Boy Meets Girl, David "Fathead" Newman and Lalah Hathaway, daughter of the late Donny Hathaway.
Other tracks include collaborations with Diane Reeves, Chaka Khan and Carly Simon, among others.
As Ahmet Ertegun, the late, legendary founder of Atlantic Records comments in the documentary, "Arif developed a sense of artist loyalty and friendship that few producers I know have ever done, because of his natural nobility. He was one of the greatest producers of the 20th Century."