Other Players

2nd Gen Remix & Outtakes Make the White Album New All Over Again

51

I have to say I’m with Tim on this one. I find it ever harder to be protective of the sanctity of recordings from the early days of recording technology. To me, the value of any one song is the song, not the captured performance they happened to play that way that one time. I love hearing Paul sing a song now as much as when he sang it in Abby Road in the 60s. I think of the recordings as a by product of the real thing, the song.

I think it has something to do with my feelings about art in general. To me, the important part of art is as a verb more than as a noun. The doing is the thing rather than the having. The doing is for the artist, the having is for the gallery owner, the middle man who wants to monetize it. The seeing or hearing is for the audience.

Also, We don’t have the same ears as we had when we heard it in the 60s. I’m sure many of us are wearing hearing aids to try to recover some of this fidelity but it will be different than when we first listened. Some of us, way different. I lost all hearing in my right ear to a brain tumor. I have been hearing only mono since 2004 with no hope of ever hearing stereo again. The only way I can be at peace with this is that I have to remember that all things are temporary, all things are always in a state of change and All Things Must Pass. I’m happy to be living in the chapter in which I am living.

Also, it sounds better.

52

Now, if they could only clean up that sax solo on "Angel Baby"...............

53

Now, if they could only clean up that sax solo on "Angel Baby"

Now that WOULD ruin that song.

55

The Beatles' later recordings have particular importance because the recording process had completely shifted from performance capture (acme examples are those Robert Johnson records) to realising the potential of the studio itself as an instrument. Fifty years later, we have more power to manipulate sound. The marvel is not in how capably these songs can be revised with today's tools, but in what was achieved at the time with the resources available. The results remain astonishing.

There are few sonic rules that were strictly adhered to on later Beatles records, but one stands out-

I could not help but observe on these remixes the noticeable spatial ambience applied to the bass throughout. It's a long-established method used to add weight and presence to a bass- you just add a pinch of room or a very short delay and ka-boom, instant massive bass. McCartney was opposed to reverb being added to his bass, highly adept at spotting any attempt to do so and emphatic in his insistence that it remain dry. Yet there it is, reverberated. So what? What's a little bit of reverb between friends? I posit that it's important. The young Paul McCartney certainly thought so. It's a point well illustrated if one asks the question in reverse. How about taking reverb off say, Duane Eddy's guitar on a specially curated remix of Have Twangy Guitar, Will Travel? Could that perhaps be seen by some as taking a liberty, a De-Verberate too far?

These all seem like small petty points, I get that. I'm not going to change people's opinions, I get that. I don't want to ruin anybody's enjoyment of the music. I don't want to ruin anyone's enjoyment of their Gretsch Pages experience. I do quietly ask the question and invite others to do so too, the fundamental question of revisionism- is it wise to alter an extant work of art at all?

56

Makes sense to me Ade. We're not talking about rescuing recordings that we couldn't hear properly, like Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives.

This is a very important subject in every facet of 21st century life: what's real? I think it's important that we do have access to original artworks (also news reports and many other things).

However, didn't Paul sign off on these?

57

May I interject into the discussion a very simple technicality re modernising the re-recording process of TWA? The click track. If it existed back in ’68, it certainly didn’t exist in the mind of Ringo. He’s on record as saying “I AM the click track.”. This gave him, in the context of all Beatles recording sessions he was involved in, relative freedom over taking expressive liberties with the beat - varying timing on-the-fly, bringing it back into line (e.g. commanding the return from the Rocky 'middle-eight' of “Yer Blues” back to the blues beat; also coming in late at times because of his left-handedness). To this day, as I understand it, he finds it hard to work in the studio with Jeff Lynne because of that guy’s slavish adherence to the strictness of the click track as is the way in popular music today, the rhythm being sacrosanct. Opinions on this small but important detail?

58

Paul absolutely signed off on these. Martin was clear that the remaining Beatles and widows are his employers. Said they (he and the interviewer) “wouldn’t be having this conversation” about the project if all four hadn’t approved.

I suspect modern Paul both appreciates hearing his bass better - and endorses the concept of “modernizing” the sonic surface of TWA. He’s always kept up; his contemporary recordings owe nothing to nostalgia.

59

Jeffed, WAS a click track imposed on this project? Were the performances time-shifted and quantized? I didn’t note that detail, if so.

I’m no fan of the rigid lockstep of too slavish attention to the click - though tons of good music is recorded with a click as general reference. It’s when a producer insists that every beat, every pulse, every detail fall on a quantized subdivision of the beat that things get robotic and, to my ear, miserably unmusical.

I guess my unconscious rule is that if I’m not bothered by a sense of rigid mechanization in a piece of music...then it doesn’t bother me. If it’s obvious, it bothers me.

While there have ALWAYS been metronomes, and they’ve been used to pace performances, I think very little (if any) music of the pre-click era would benefit from being forced to a rigid rhythm map. This isn’t sci-fi, but in my view messing with the timeline violates the “soul” and integrity of a recording more than remixing tracks for clarity, balance, or timbre.

Many elements of a mix are matters of judgment, decisions taken after the performance. The timeline, and how a group of performers related to it and each other, is fundamental to the expression and musical “meaning” of the work.

Not once have I enjoyed the results of laying an existing recording over a rigid EDM dance groove. I would still accept that such a “remix” might meet some listeners where they are, and help draw them into music new to them, but I wouldn’t listen to it. I’d consider it a travesty.

Notwithstanding the efforts of metronomic drummers to the contrary, I defend the right of musicians to play as loose as they want around the groove. That’s part of the groove.

60

Crowbone, you need to emboss "The BEATLES" on the front lower right corner of that.

– jeffed

I'm not that enterprising.

61

"Jeffed, WAS a click track imposed on this project?"

It was a question, not a statement, Tim. It's reasonable to assume that, as long as Ringo is alive at least, that that mechanisation of art will not happen.

62

I'm not that enterprising.

– crowbone

A light-hearted suggestion, Crow. Remember the original White Album with nothing, not even readable print, on the cover - only the embossed words "The BEATLES"? Manage to do that on a plain white T-shirt and you'll make a million bucks. Number a limited-release production run (as they did) and you'll make two million.

64

Jeffed, someone told me many years ago that The Byrds used to record to a metronome track. Thought nothing of it until you mentioned it today.

Just now picked out a random song to test the theory for you- What's Happening? from 1966. It sits right on 104bpm. Doesn't move an inch.

Colour me surprised!

65

Jeffed, someone told me many years ago that The Byrds used to record to a metronome track. Thought nothing of it until you mentioned it today.

Just now picked out a random song to test the theory for you- What's Happening? from 1966. It sits right on 104bpm. Doesn't move an inch.

Colour me surprised!

– ade

I believe that Michael Clarke (Byrds drummer) was originally hired because he looked like a member of the Rolling Stones (Brian Jones?) and not for his ability on the drums. Maybe a click track was required as he came up to speed.

66

How about taking reverb off say, Duane Eddy's guitar on a specially curated remix of Have Twangy Guitar, Will Travel? Could that perhaps be seen by some as taking a liberty, a De-Verberate too far?

I think it would obviously obviate and obfuscate an obviously essential component of Duane's sound. (Something Martin seemed careful to avoid on the WA project.) I can't imagine anyone would do it. But it would be interesting to hear, and, I think, add something to our understanding of Duane's tone. (One way to understand something is to break it down into its constituent parts - as has frequently been done with the opening chord of AHDN.)

I thought of Duane when I was compiling my list of examples: from what I'm able to find online (and I wouldn't call it authoritative), the material on the Twang Thang double-CD retrospective from 1993 was remastered from original sources. That's not a re-mix - but the tracks do sound cleaner and punchier than earlier versions, bringing the work into more vivid relief.

67

Taking the reverb off Duane's records would be completely cuckoo. But there are plugins that can do it, right now. It's a sobering thought, indeed.

The more I listen to the Giles Martin mixes, the more apparent it is that he has gone for the punch, frequency spectrum balance and feel of the Mono mixes but with his own Stereo spread. It's an interesting approach.

And mastering is still such a mysterious process with an Imperator's command to shape the final sound of a recording. It's perhaps the last black art in music production.

Yes Beatbyrd, initially Michael Clarke merely looked the part. But he put the hours in, for sure. The Byrds recorded their rehearsals in the early days, at Jim Dickson's insistence. Listening back might well have been nerve-wracking, but you sure learn fast how to play tightly as a unit.

68

But the White Album is too corny to worry about. BTW, I played a bunch of gigs with Rosie, back in the 70's. I had my sax there, but I always just played the Angle Baby solo on guitar, because I don't know how to play sax that badly.


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