Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - Famous Record by an Ultra Famous Band (Remix): Observations

Friday, September 8, 2017

Famous Record by an Ultra Famous Band (Remix): Observations

 (This is the expurgated version.  I was hoping I would like the rest of the remix of this Famous Album as much as I liked the sound of the first song I heard, so I though "hey, I can write a positive observational run down of this".  Unfortunately it turned out not as positive as I had hoped, so it's now up to You, Intangible Reader, to figure out what group and album I'm referencing. 

  Which record it is should be pretty easy to identify, despite renaming said persons involved. )

 I'm going to listen to the Martin Brundle remix version of Famous Album (Special Edition) for the first time as I write this.

 SONG 1: "Eponymous"

 Immediately I notice the "Famous Album's harmonic coloration" as I think of it missing, just on the crowd noises on the intro.

 That's pretty profound right there.  One of my earliest memories is of playing _Psychedelic Cool Key Changing Progression Song_ on a 45 found on the floor of the garage, on an ancient record player also in said garage. It's a curious memory, because my parents did not listen to pop music of the time (they were somewhat throwbacks, caught in between being Boomers and the Greatest Generation).  I was probably around 4 or 5 (yes, I was very precocious) and it would have been exactly that many years since the record was made.

 What I remember, even now from then, was the narrow bandwidth.  How "small" and specifically distant all of the sounds were.  The crackly, primitive record itself added to this effect.  Combined with the music itself, it yielded something I perceived at the time as "spooky", actually.  I don't think ghosts should have full bandwidth voices.

 The "smallness" of the sounds I've always equated to that album, and in a sense "that era of the Ultra Famous Music Group".  I attribute that effect to bouncing 4 track recordings, that wasn't done on this project.  As holy as tape saturation has been elevated to these days, I think this is going to be a flag for NOT having tape saturation/harmonic distortion.

SORRY FOR THE DETOUR.... back to our regularly scheduled program.

SONG 1 "Eponymous"

 Woah, drastic bass guitar extension!  Almost comes off like modern metal guitar effect.

 Much more clarity!  I would say that the "spooky, mysterious" coloration is completely gone.  I prefer that, but at the same time I would same that specific effect is part of the record's history.  I'll have to (and will) mull over that later.

 (Having to back it up a few times... very interesting!!!!)

 I like Brundle's conservative eq decisions.  The staccatto guitar is much nicer sounding, not just over the top ice-picky.  Nice toms, much more depth and weight.

 Hmm... vocal compression yields "this is a modern "transparent" compressor" vibe, almost too slick and controlled.  Sounds like maybe eq compression. But very well done.

 Chorus sounds like more "transparent" compression but now on the mix bus, low end shuts down in favor of level. Mid/side going on I believe. Hmm.  I do like the how loud the guitars are.

 If feels like bass is being left out of the right channel, save below maybe 98hz?  Interesting and bold.

SONG 2 "Locating Assistance from My Compatriots"

  Ah, now the bass is in the center>right channel.

 Interesting tom attack.  Mix bus compression has a nice rhythmically slow release time.  I wish it'd had a bit less ratio.  Overall - in all of the new crazy "remastered" releases I wish they'd use digital dynamic range for LESS compression.  They never do, though.  I know this is not the same thing, but, I would like to have heard the front end of the snare more, and the vocals a bit less clamped.  Regardless, it's nicely done, it's not "crushed" like a lot of "modern" recordings are.

 Interesting, I do miss "small" tape distortion harmonic color on the "do you need anybody" part.  The BV's need to be distant sounding to invoke the "this is the mind asking the question" effect.  Sorry, I know that seems crazy, I'm an artist, not a scientician.

 Also occurs to me it's drier, from less hard compression?  Tape distortion on reverb is now a concept to me because of this.  "That" sound is "old, 60's" to me.  It also makes reverb an effect, instead of a "natural part" of the sound.  $.10.  Yeah, I want to hear more reverb tail on the BVs.  And I'm also missing the tape distortion sound on the reverb, but it still sounds nice.

 Hmm.  Timing.  "....anyboDY......" - the reverb tail is part of the rhythm IMO.  Whether it was compression serendipity or not I don't know.

SONG 3: "Psychedelic Cool Key Changing Progression Song"

I don't like the speed of the panning on the Lowrey organ. It's distracting and fast, I'd prefer languid, less drastic, and a polyrhythm 4 against 3 timing.  "Chip, you're too critical!".  I know.  Sorry.

 Groucho's vocal needs flange or Leslie IMO.

Fascinating!  I think I can hear the sound of the vocal booth, or the gobos.  That early reflection sound was buried previously, much more low mid now again, bounced-generation loss did curious things. This is the kind of thing I'd hoped to be able to hear!

  Philosophy.  The new mix is much more "this is a rock band" than "this is a piece of art" IMO.  This is maybe my personal history with the song coming to bear on the subject, but the essence of this song is mystery, psychedelia - NOT normal experience.  It sounds great, but it doesn't sound like I'd want it.  $.10.  The chorus like this, as a contrast to a more effected/colored verse would probably have been my choice.

 I really miss the generation-loss reverb sound on the bent-note guitar hook on the verses.  It really yields the psychological impression of "far away".  Seems too dry.  

 Hmm.  Compression made Son of Horse Carriage's bass notes sustain into the & of the quarters, now it doesn't quite make it.  That's annoying. Compression attack clamping on the chorus; I would have preferred the 1/8th notes to poke out more.  Mix bus clamping as well, but not too much.

 Sounds great, but not the effect I'd want for the song.

SONG 4: "Abstracted Object's Improvement Over Nominal"

 Wow, bold guitar level.

 Bass clamped but loud. Interesting, almost over eq'ed narrowly right before "get no worse".  A bit too much, distracting, I'd want less level + wider q.

 Vocal doubling effect a bit thin.

 I love that so far the guitar parts really jump out, and are very transparent.  I also love that the lack of coloration is really drastic - some other weird coloration hasn't been substituted, which is what a lot of people do for "vintage, retro" effect.

 I like the lack of distortion on the vocal during the choruses.

SONG 5: "Repairing the Unwanted Absence of Substantiality" 

 AH, interesting.  Son of Horse Carriage's vocal has a bit of the "Famous Album coloration" on it.  Thinking about it, it's very drastic on the original.  Brundle, or someone, must have noticed it missing - as I have in places above.  This was their line in the sand.  I wish that where I noticed it missing it had been treated like his vocal here.  Or maybe it had been bounced this way on the original and they had no choice?

 Ironically the guitar hooks on the verse don't jump out as much, particularly given the intro.  Hmm.

 Hah, you can hear Flicka's pedal squeak now and then.

Loud BVs.  Sparser blend?  I like the mastering eq.

SONG 6: "Female's Nascent Departure Imminent"

 The clean/uncolored sound should work good on this.

 Yeah, it does.

  Missing the colored-reverb on the response parts of the call/response, again for the above artistic reasons; the voices are supposed to be memory, distant, not "here".  To restrained reverb.

 Lead vocal eq sounds almost perfect IMO. Delicate high end.  I want less compression, but oh well.

SONG 7: "Existence Is Conducive for the Wind Bearing Person's Wellness" 

 Most LCR mix so far?  Kinda clamped down 2 mix.  The "oompah-tuba" bass should poke out more.

 The trippy middle needs to sound more surreal IMO.  Hah, the piano sounds very harmonically colored.

  Again, a very nice "band performance" mix, but not as "psychedelic-carnival".  It sounds great, it's a great mix, but it's not philosophically integrated IMO.

SONG 8: "Inside Objective Pronoun While Lacking Possession" 

 Sounds great on the beginning.  Panning.

 Tabla sounds great.  I'd like more finger noise/slower compression attack.

 Hmm. Is this compression going to tape?  It sounds more dialed into to Harrison, as if the others had these parameters but were being hit too hard.

 Indian instruments sound great.  In fact, it's amazing they got this S/N to tape back then, I wonder if plug-in noise reduction was used on this?

SONG 9: "Future Subjectivity of Existence During Second Half of Life" 

 Again, the sparse band/ensemble arrangement is favored.

 I'm also again missing the coloration on the BVs.  Also maybe some bass length elongation by compression.

 While I'm thinking about it this is also the inspiration for Queen's _Seaside Rendevous_,  if it hasn't been thought of previously.

SONG 10: "Visibly or Metaphorically Attractive Italian Monikered Indicator Reader"

 Hmm. Missing compression/forward vocal.  Little white bOOK seems different?

 Slap on BV seems too subdued.

 Distortion on hats still, curious.

 Mix eq making shakers high end collide with hats?  Crunchy high end.  I would have liked some more bass guitar definition on the end bit.

SONG 11: "Better Than Nominal Post-Night Time of Day"

 So far on the beginning the most "integrated" mix.  Still missing slower release on the vocal, which was sort of off time on the original but made the end of lines jump out in a "Famous Album's" way I think.

 Highs colliding on the lead guitar; more clarity on the guitar means less low treble bring it forward.  It still sounds "small", but with less character.

 My dog still finds it entertaining.

 SONG 12: "Eponymous Redux"

 You can really hear the churn on the shaker. Drums farther back.

 Lack of the original compression makes the overall presentation less raucous.  On the other hand all of the bass parts are upfront.  Audience sounds farther back.

SONG 13: "A Singular Selection of Solar Illuminated Hours For Abstracted Person"

 One of my favorite songs, one of the best written IMO.

 Fade in different? Guitar too far back, compression release not bringing in the guitar after each vocal line. Bass notes short, and the compression has changed the emphasis on notes; "I just had to laugh", bass seems a little alone. 2 mix release seems way too slow, the bass was ducked massively on  "had", doesn't return.  Makes me think my memory of the (perfect) bass line is that the fader was rode to keep the high notes,

... hmm.

"out in a car", bass level really drops.  Now, I think the *RMS* level isn't fluctuating as much, or rather there is frequency dependent/crossover compression killing the bass.  "Crowd of people" it drops down..

 I find this highly distracting and not in keeping with the nature of the song.

 Yeah, the guitar gets really thin.

 I like the vocal eq again.  But I haven't noticed it much, because the bass guitar keeps going up and down.


  The count is farther back.  Orchestra blend seems different, horns forward?

 Son of Horse Carriage section: the original compression swung with the music.  Huh.

 Groucho's "ahhs".. volume clamped through mids.

 Well, I'm going to stop there, (wow, bass goes away, piano, bass... ) (build up is already full volume before the half way point?).  Nice C major piano ending, that's better.. LONGER, that's superb, love the fade, that almost makes up for things!

 I'd like the end on a separate track.

 Thing is, that was a hard thing to do: one of the top 10 all time classic recordings.  I didn't hate it like I thought I would (save maybe Song 13).  The clarity is wonderful.  I wish I could have been more positive, in fact now I'm thinking I need to re-title this and remove names.  Ahrgh.


 My thinking now is that serendipity, the Matrix, or whatever, intervened on the original mix.  The overly aggressive compression on the original, the more brash equalization in the low treble, and the distortion all fit the "wild carnival" vibe.  Both of the original mixes sounded more aggressive in approach, whereas this version sounds very refined.  "Refined" is maybe not the way I would have described "Famous Album".

 It's very well done, but with a different philosophy.  Because I actually found the tape distortion coloration annoying on the original, I do prefer listening to this version; but it's not definitive.

 While I know all of that sounds negative, it's in that context. I think Brundle's approach would be fantastic for the records _Manual Radially Loaded Hangun_ and _Vulcanized Intangible Essence of Person's Id_.  I would love that to happen.

 Conversely, I think a less reverent, aggressive approach would suit remixing it again.  The first person(s) that come to mind are Trent Reznor and Flood.

  I like the idea of remixing classics like this, it's fabulously interesting and revealing - in the early 2000's on an online forum I tossed this notion across the plate of a pair of Grammy Award winning audio engineers (this was before Napster/MP3s) but it was suggested to me that "that will never happen!". 

  I think this is going to happen again, it's a great way to get more mileage out of classic catalogs.  I hate all of the "digitally remastered" editions that really mean "we compressed it more and added a lot of high end, and maybe some distortion to boot".  In that sense Brundle is to be commended.  He didn't "crush it" as is the trend today.

   In fact, I would say in some respects what I didn't care for is the result of being too conservative with compression as a creative tool out of fear for getting labeled a Tool of the Volume Wars.  Some things I wanted to hear pump, while others escape the ADSR of "overly careful" compression.  Very tasteful eq overall, but again at the same time maybe some things I wanted to hear poke out some in certain bands.

 The biggest let down is that the production distracted me from noticing the musical revealing bits.  I noticed you could hear lead ins, different little nuance either buried in the mix or deliberately hidden on the original, but I was distracted by the "carefulness".

  Sorry for being overly critical.  If it had been _Manual Radially Loaded Handgun_ I probably would have loved this approach!  Ahrghh...