In the late 1980s, Jack Petruzzelli and Joan Osborne first crossed paths when they both played the same circuit of blues and R&B clubs in and around New York.
Petruzzelli was working with Barbecue Bob and the Spare Ribs, while Osborne was fronting her own band. And after Osborne broke big as a solo artist with her 1995 big-label debut, Relish, Petruzzelli became a steady presence in Osborne’s career, touring, writing and recording with her while also pursuing his other projects.
Their musical partnership has come full circle, Petruzzelli says, with Osborne’s latest album, Bring It on Home (Time Life Music), which he co-produced.
“When I first met Joan, we were playing some of the music we had recorded for this [project],” Petruzzelli says. “So it was a lot of fun to revisit that aspect of our careers together, of our relationship together.”
Petruzzelli says he and Osborne were working on an original project called Love & Hate (which he describes as “a multi-media presentation — music with strings, film and dance”) when Time Life reached out to Osborne about putting together an R&B/blues tribute album.
Osborne and a Time Life employee put together a list of more than 20 potential songs, which she showed to Petruzzelli, whom Osborne tapped to co-produce with her as well as play guitar and percussion.
“We had to dwindle that down to what we thought was a good 14-ish tunes to go by,” Petruzzelli says, “and Joan kept saying all along, ‘If you have any suggestions, let me know.’ ”
And he did, recommending what became the first single: “Shake Your Hips,” an old Slim Harpo song Petruzzelli used to play with Barbecue Bob and the Spare Ribs.
“When I brought it in to rehearsal, Joan knew all of the lyrics,” Petruzzelli says. “And it’s such a familiar song, the band just flowed right into it. Once we played it, we just knew it had to be on the album.”
From the start, Petruzzelli says he and Osborne wanted to go the analog route.
“One thing’s for sure when you work with tape: You have to work within the limitations of a tape machine,” he explains. “What that means is, sure, you can go back and punch in something, but you can’t copy and paste like you can in the digital format.”
In addition to equipment limitations, there were self-imposed limitations: Petruzzelli’s plan was to record only one or two takes of each song.
“So the band had to be prepared, and she has a great band,” he says. “We put two weeks into rehearsing, so we knew what the arrangements were and what we were looking for.”
Bring It on Home was recorded in longtime Lenny Kravitz producer Henry Hirsch‘s new studio — a renovated church in Hudson, N.Y., outfitted with vintage (and well-maintained) analog equipment.
“Just because it’s older gear doesn’t mean it needs to break down,” says Petruzzelli, who’s a member of the acclaimed Beatles tribute band The Fab Faux. “If the gear is in good shape, you’re fine. I think that’s the biggest hang-up — that when you have older stuff, and it’s not looked after, you’re going to hear a lot of hiss and pops. You don’t want that. You’ve gotta make sure that the gear is well taken care of.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Photo by Michael Weintrob