Rob Fraboni grew up in southern California in an Italian family that included some accomplished musicians. Beginning a musical career as a drummer in a local band at the age of 12, he hitchhiked to Hollywood just three years later at 15 with many home recordings under his belt. The future industry executive quietly observed recording sessions at the renowned Gold Star Studios, which involved key artists and producers of the time, including Phil Spector. He moved to New York City in 1971 and attended the Institute of Audio Research under the tutelage of educator Al Grundy. There, Fraboni fused a previous knowledge of electronics with recording and studio techniques, developing his unique engineering and production style.
While in New York City, he landed an engineering job with Herb Abramson at his A-1 Sound Studios and worked with the likes of Dave "Baby" Cortez and Michael Brown. Record Plant was his next gig with an engineering staff that boasted Chris Stone, Roy Cicala, Jack Adams, Shelly Yakus, and Tom Flye. Fraboni was in a group of second engineers that included Jack Douglas, Jimmy Iovine, and Dennis Ferrante, working with an impressive clientele during this period, including Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles, Eric Carmen's the Raspberries, and John Lennon.
In 1972, an opportunity presented itself at Village Recorderin Westwood, CA, through an old acquaintance from Gold Star Studios, Doc Siegel. Hired as a maintenance engineer, Fraboni was made chief engineer within three months at "the Village" by owner Geordie Hormel. Together with studio manager Dave LaPalm, the Village Recorder was quickly built into one of the top U.S. studios.
In the spring of 1972, Fraboni engineered Sail on Sailor for the Beach Boys and mixed half of the Holland album. This was his first charting record. He then worked for two weeks on friend Jimmy Miller's final full Rolling Stones album, Goats Head Soup — a sign of things to come, as Fraboni would eventually produce Keith Richards' material on Bridges to Babylon and in 2001 win a Grammy for his production of the track "You Win Again," performed by Richards for the Hank Williams tribute record Timeless.
From Goats Head Soup to the waters of Planet Waves, the Asylum debut of Bob Dylan with the Band formed another key relationship for Fraboni. Between Dylan and the Stones, the engineer had gained the respect of two of the biggest names in rock & roll, names which found Fraboni's personality and skills to their liking. Dylan then invited him to be the sound consultant for the Dylan/Band Tour 74. Fraboni's subsequent recordings were with Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Wayne Shorter, Milton Nascemiento, and Blondie Chaplin.
Using his knowledge and experience from different recording facilities, Fraboni designed and built Shangri-La Studios in Malibu, CA, to the precise specifications of Bob Dylan and the Band. As president and co-owner of the studio (1976-1985), he continued his work with that legendary ensemble, engineering and mixing Northern Lights-Southern Cross, considered a comeback and critically acclaimed as a disc that recaptured the Band's past glories.
From 1985-1990, Fraboni was the corporate vice president of Island Records in New York. Contracted by Chris Blackwell, Island Records' founder, in April 1985 as music director of the Good to Go film project, he worked closely with Blackwell in all creative aspects of the company, handling signings, A&R, product management, artist development, quality control, and remastering of artists' catalogs. During that tenure he was executive producer of Melissa Etheridge's first solo effort; worked with Robert Palmer; helped remaster U2's Joshua Tree; produced Buckwheat Zydeco, Nick Tremulis, and John Martyn; signed Etta James to Island; and remastered all of Bob Marley's catalog for CD on Tuff Gong in 1989.
Leaving Island just prior to its sale to Polygram, he worked with Phoebe Snow and Wendy Wall. Fraboni started Domino Records in the early '90s, which released recordings by Alvin Lee, John Mooney, Cowboy Mouth, and Rusty Kershaw. With new backing for Ardeo Recordsin the mid-'90s, he released Ivan Neville's Thanks, Gary Nicholson's The Sky's Not the Limit, and Bellevue Cadillac's Black and White. He produced John Mooney again for the House of Blues release Against the Wall and in landmark sessions at Keith Richards' home in Jamaica during Thanksgiving 1995, when he and Richards co-produced some of the only nyahbinghi recordings ever made outdoors. Mindless Records released these as The Wingless Angels. Fraboni's own QRS Entertainment label launched in 2003 with About Them Shoes, a recording by Hubert Sumlin which features appearances by Clapton, Keith Richards, and others. The label also has music by Nick Tremulis, Sir Mack Rice, Sean Walshe, and Blondie Chaplain.
Rob Fraboni was nominated for Producer of the Year at the New York Music Awards in 1989 for a Wendy Wall album on SBK which won Best Folk Album of the Year. He received a Grammy nomination in 1982 for a Bonnie Raitt record, Green Light, as well as a Grammy nomination in 1978 for the Last Waltz movie soundtrack. The Stones' Bridges to Babylon was nominated for Best Rock Album of 1997 (along with co-production, Fraboni was the consultant on that 1997-1998 tour) and as stated, he won a Grammy in 2002 for the Hank Williams tribute when Timeless got the award for Best Country Album.
- by Joe Viglione
All Music Group