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Tribute to a musical connection

For Barry Rivman, working for Musician's Friend at its headquarters in Medford was his dream job.

"Prior to Musician's Friend, I was good for about two years in a corporate-type job before I was scratching on the door to get out," he says.

"I was finally content to stay put, and would have done so until health services came to remove me in Hefty bags."

When the company announced in January 2011 that it was moving to Westlake Village in Southern California, it left about 300 employees apprehensive and looking for new jobs — but it also motivated Rivman and his colleagues in the company's editorial department to make a CD to showcase their musical talents.

It was an idea they had been kicking around for years.

"Initially, the purpose of the CD was to reinforce our musical identities while we all toiled away in the corporate world," Rivman says, adding that the project gained urgency and new meaning as the Medford headquarters "came close to 'the end of days.' "

Rivman and his co-workers realized that a CD "would be a great way to keep the memory of our unique band of brothers and sisters alive after we parted company," he says.

Rivman volunteered to master the CD — a process he describes as adding "audio polish" to final mixes — in his home studio.

Just before the company shut down its Medford operation in December of last year, department director Bob Weibel came to work with 100 copies of the long-awaited CD — complete with cover art and song credits — to distribute around the office.

Titled "Edit Be" (both a pun on the Beatles' "Let It Be" and a tribute to the editorial department), it features a department employee performing individually or as a band member on each of its 14 tracks.

"The talented team in Editorial gave it one last gasp to create something memorable for each other," says Weibel, who demonstrates his guitarist chops on the CD.

The recordings move seamlessly from driving rock and bawdy acoustic blues to smooth bossa nova and brash jazz-rock fusion.

"A number of individuals are currently gigging or soon will be," Rivman notes.

Adding to the CD's musical diversity are a high-octane bluegrass jam and a rendition of Frank Loesser's golden standard, "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Several of the songs are original compositions, including a ballad in Spanish by Bryan Holley.

"I kept the CD in my truck's player, commuting back and forth to Medford for the very unusual last week of my job at Musician's Friend," Holley recalls. "It offered me moral support hearing my mates play so many different styles of music so well."

The editorial department — made up of writers, proofreaders and content researchers — helped produce the Musician's Friend product catalogs. A passion for music wasn't necessarily a requirement for a job in the company's ranks, though it did seem that the department became a refuge for musical types.

Rivman knew that he was working side by side with some talented musicians. However, he had no idea of the depth and scope of that talent until he started working on the CD.

"In some cases, I was actually stunned by the level of talent and ability, and any contributing artist could have easily functioned on a professional level in music, should they have chosen to — some at the highest levels of music," Rivman says.

Rivman's role, as he explains it, "was to take a number of recordings made over the years on disparate equipment, ranging from handheld recorders and home multitrack recorders to computer workstations and professional recording studios, and make them sound as though they all came from the same source." Two of the songs actually were recorded from scratch in his studio.

One of these is his collaboration with singer Stacy Haddorff on Nellie McKay's tune "Bruise on the Sky." The three recording sessions it took to record her vocal parts helped Haddorff grow musically at a time when her job at Musician's Friend was waning.

"I've recorded informally with friends in the past, but recording in Barry's studio was completely different," she says, adding that she enjoyed experimenting with different microphones to make her performance as "emotionally expressive" as possible.

Haddorff says it was "tremendously rewarding" to hear the final track and to contribute to the CD project.

"To me, the compilation commemorates friendship and acknowledges a transition in our lives."

Life after Musician's Friend will not be a sure bet for Rivman or many others who are still trying to cope with the shutdown. He hopes to turn his studio expertise into a profitable business, applying the recording and production skills he learned from multi-platinum producer Michael Wagener (whose credits include Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Queen, Alice Cooper and many other big names).

"To me, 'Edit Be' will always be a physical reminder that people of all types, from all over the country, somehow found their way to Musician's Friend and became a family," Rivman says.

Anyone interested in obtaining a copy of the CD may contact Rivman at barry@backhouseproductions.com.

Paul Hadella is a freelance writer living in Talent. His song "Our Love Wasn't Really Love" is one of the songs on the CD, with guitar work by Bob Weibel. Reach him at talenthouse@charter.net.

This is the cover of the “Edit Be” CD put out by the Musician's Friend Editorial Department, which disbanded when the company closed its Medford headquarters operation.