Mastering Dylan's New Album

Kooper and Johnston add their special touch and remain hush

Bob Dylan
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Bob Dylan
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New York — Bob Dylan has finished recording a new album, and there are few if any rumors about it circulating in town. But Al Kooper, who has played an instrumental and technical role in the making of the album, says that "it's the best album Dylan has ever done. And all the people who have written him off will be very embarrassed. No one will know anything about the album until it comes out."

Kooper, producer Bob Johnston, and Dylan are keeping the press hounds at bay by completely controlling all aspects of production, mastering, and album design, with Columbia left to receive and put its insignia on the record.

Bob Dylan: The Rolling Stone Album Guide

Kooper, in conjunction with Johnston, will both mix and master the album. Kooper talked about his conception of mastering:

"An artist can sit and mix his album, then give it to the record company and find its sound is nothing like the way he meant it to sound. The secret is in the mastering. If you peak – that is, if the VU meter dial goes over the red line in sound level – these mastering machines are programmed to push down the level. The machine compensates by compressing the sound, which, of course, alters the sound. So you've got to be careful not to pass the red line when you record. That way, you can take the compressers off the machine that's cutting the master."

Aside from work on the Dylan LP and the release of his new Easy Does It double album on Columbia, Kooper will shortly be producing an album for a singer named Mike Gateley who has, beneath a hulking frame, a "sweet McCartney 'Let It Be' voice." He's also just finished recording material for a new album in L.A. with the Ikettes, Mirettes, and Rita Coolidge.

This story is from the October 15th, 1970 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 68: October 15, 1970