· By Grover Biery
Paul Cole - "This Fire" - First Time On Vinyl - The Story -27 Years Later
27 years is a long time, especially when you are involved with thousands of records over those years. Therefore I may unintentionally be wrong on a few details along this story. So I apologize in advance...
I was an executive at Warner Bros. Records when this album came out nearly 27 years ago. It’s an incredible twist of fate that the first vinyl release of this album is now on my label. Paula has mixed feelings about this release because of whatever her situation is with Imago / Warner but my memories are full of wonderful stories about a team of passionate music lovers championing an important release – although I did not grasp just how important it was at the time. Only in hindsight of 25+ years do I now understand the significance of this iconic record.
Everything about “This Fire” was an artistic statement. And sometimes those records don’t connect with a mass audience – but this one certainly did. It’s easy to hear “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone” or “I Don’t Want To Wait” today and think those are obvious hits… but in the post grunge, pre Lilith Fair world of the time – trust me – this was not the case. What did become obvious to us at Warner is just how great the album was.
I am not sure of the back story but Paula’s manager at the time, John Carter (Carter) somehow had the belief with Paula that she should produce this album – control the vision and sound. Very few women produced their own albums at that time so that fact this happened, is, in itself, pretty amazing. Just being nominated for a Grammy for Producer of the Year was a massive achievement. In fact Paula was the first woman solely nominated for that award! She was nominated in several major categories and won for Best New Artist. It is the Producer nomination that holds up all these years later.
When you look at the album credits it is a stunning group of musicians, engineers, and others who came together to execute Paula's vision. Jay Bellerose is now considered one of the truly great drummers - 27 years ago he was just getting started. Tony Levin on bass, Greg Leisz on guitars, Peter Gabriel doing back up vocals on "Hush, Hush, Hush". Recorded and mixed by Roger Mountenot (Yo La Tengo, Sleater Kinney + so many more) and recorded at the legendary Magic Shop studios. (Lou Reed, David Bowie, Norah Jones) If that wasn't enough, "Carmen" was recorded in Paula's apartment - think about that when you listen to it on this vinyl pressing. Stunning! Paula was home recording decades before that trend emerged. Oh - and the whole damn record took about 2 weeks to record!
Why you had to wait all these years to hear this incredible recording on vinyl is somewhat of a mystery - considering Kevin Gray recalls actually cutting lacquers for it in 1996. He was so pleased to get another shot at it - he captured all the original intent of the recording. For a digital recording this sure sounds warm and analog to my ears.
My role at Warner Bros. all those years ago was running the Alternative radio promotion department – the focus was helping choose singles and then getting them played on the radio. Sounds easy – it wasn’t and still isn’t!
My next post will start to recall the people who helped build the energy around "This Fire" - some of the reasons it became so successful and how such a creative record wound up with legendary hits!