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Author Topic: 60's and 70's records whose sonics weren't as good...what happened?  (Read 19520 times)

WhyKooper

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Re: 60's and 70's records whose sonics weren't as good...what happened?
« Reply #15 on: February 19, 2005, 10:43:30 am »

I like the dry quality of the drums/strings etc on the "Still In Love With You" mix.  I wasn't really used to hearing strings and dry brass mixes that way at the time that recording came out.  Or hi-hats so far out front.  Everything seems close mic'd, no reverb..well I don't hear it anyway if it's there.  That mix certainly adds to a great vibe imo.
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compasspnt

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Re: 60's and 70's records whose sonics weren't as good...what happened?
« Reply #16 on: February 19, 2005, 11:35:11 am »

WhyKooper wrote on Sat, 19 February 2005 10:43

I like the dry quality of the drums/strings etc on the "Still In Love With You" mix.  I wasn't really used to hearing strings and dry brass mixes that way at the time that recording came out.  Or hi-hats so far out front.  Everything seems close mic'd, no reverb..well I don't hear it anyway if it's there.  That mix certainly adds to a great vibe imo.


Yes, there was some reverb, but not much was used by today's standards, or even by that day's standards!  The 'verb used was the ubiquitous EMT plate.  I found that the overdriven sounds from the multitracks were presented in a better light when not attempting to mask them with reverb.  One thing I've always believed in is that if you have something that has issues (a sound quality, a  performance, whatever) but is absolutely essential to the song, just put it right out there; don't try to hide it.  The importance of it will take precedence over any anomolies.  With the Al Green stuff, this meant almost everything in the track...it was either distorted, or the strings or horns were out of tune, or something;  but it was also all GREAT, and important to the final picture.

Terry
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Bob Olhsson

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Re: 60's and 70's records whose sonics weren't as good...what happened?
« Reply #17 on: February 19, 2005, 02:23:01 pm »

A perfect example of "what's right" overwhelming "what's wrong."

Every recording has plenty of both. Going for "nothing wrong" is just about the biggest production mistake there is.

J.J. Blair

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Re: 60's and 70's records whose sonics weren't as good...what happened?
« Reply #18 on: February 19, 2005, 02:24:27 pm »

Terry, struggle or no struggle, you did an unbelievable job mixing the Al Green stuff.  Even though the tracks lack clarity and have some distortion, the mixes do a great job of conveying the music.  I always say that Exile On Main Street may have horrible fidelity and sound terrible, but you don't miss a single nuance of what those songs are about because the mixes pull it togethehr.  I had always understood that the problem with Al's was his studio that they tracked the stuff in.  Is that correct?  I don't know if you worked on this record, but Al Green Is Love is among my favorite all time soul records.  "Take Me Higher" and "Rhymes" just fucking kill me every time I hear them.

But this always brings me back to the same point, I'd rather hear the 1972 Stones and Al Green in low fidelity recordings than Blink 182 or Evanessence (sic?) on the best sounding recording ever.
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stevieeastend

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Re: 60's and 70's records whose sonics weren't as good...what happened?
« Reply #19 on: February 20, 2005, 12:24:40 am »

@ bob

thanks for that very important statement which is, IMO, very underestimated.
I am discussing this issue with the artist I am actually producing and we agree that the most important thing is to figure out what to fix and what to leave alone as the artist?s "fingerprint". Actually I am convincing him all the time NOT to worry too much if his lines are exact, in tune, clean.... if they say something/got a personal expression.. this is what it makes different and interact with the public. Unfortunately he is a little paranoid that everybody might say he cannot sing the right notes. So more often than not he is afraid to put out the not so correct lines with lots of personal expression,...

I think the worst thing you can hear or say about a record is if the listener comments something like.... ".... its alright, sounds nice, there?s nothing wrong with that..."

cheers
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David Kulka

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Re: 60's and 70's records whose sonics weren't as good...what happened?
« Reply #20 on: February 21, 2005, 07:08:03 pm »

I appreciate all the interesting replies to this thread!  I hadn't looked in for a while and getting caught up now, I see several comments that are in sync with thoughts I'd had...

Terry, thanks for your perspective on the Stax / Atlantic relationship, something I had long wondered about.  Even though Atlantic was big brother in a sense, the Stax records were the real standouts, sonically at least.

I want to "echo" WhyKooper's appreciation of the "dry" sound in some of these older redcordings.  In contrast to what many other labels were doing, a lot of the Stax (and other R&B label) hits really had air and space.  Arrangements were spare, echo wasn't overdone, and his/mids/lows kind of took turns, so the nuances, decays, and grooves were distinct and clear.  I guess this approach was the exact opposite of the "Wall of Sound", which I never liked.  The restrained use of echo was really a plus, it let you hear more of the natural decay of the instruments (and the studio itself, maybe).  Over use of echo gets in the way of music, let's remember that it is "added distortion" in a very real sense and usually takes away as much as it adds!

JJ and Terry wrote of the Al Green mixes, and indeed, I had those in mind when I started the thread.  I'd always wondered "what happened", especially with the drums.  Those songs were huge smashes but even back then, even over a 5 inch speaker in a car radio, you could tell that something had gone amiss.  Terry, thanks for helping to clear up an old mystery.

Bob Olhsson, you should indeed write a book.  Your post had a lot of valuable answers and really addressed some of the things that have mystified me about the Motown years.  Despite the almost crazy variations in overall sound and audio quality, Motown took chances, broke new ground, and got sounds that no one else dreamed of.  I know that Mike McLean is a gifted and brilliant engineer who really propelled the label forward, and developed a lot of inventive recording gear and techniques.  A few years ago I happened to walk the aisles of the vault where many of the old Motown tapes were kept -- boy, a lot of formats and an amazing amount of history, to be sure.

You wrote "Frankly the sound of AM radio in the '60s was frequently better than the sound of over processed FM is today" and I agree.  In the late 30's, several 20kHz "wideband" AM stations operated, and in the 60's it wasn't uncommon for AM stations to go out to 12 Khz. or more.  The limiting factor was usually the telco audio line from the studio to the transmitter site, which might have topped out anywhere between 5k and 15k.  Of course, stations with their studios and transmitter at the same site had a great advantage.  I think it was 15 or so years ago that the FCC mandated a fairly severe high frequency rolloff ("...emissions 10.2 kHz to 20 kHz removed from the carrier must be attenuated at least 25 dB below the unmodulated carrier level...") much to the detriment of AM.

Another interesting tidbit about AM is its "one-way" NRSC pre-emphasis curve.  The stations boost high frequencies with a gentle curve that starts at 1k, rising to +9db at 9k, then at 10k, there's a brick wall filter.  There is no complementary curve in the receiver, except in a few modern, high end sets. This was done to compensate for the poor HF response in most AM radios.

index.php/fa/702/0/

Well, getting back to the topic.  I guess there were a lot of different reasons for the less than stellar sound in some of the big 60's and 70's hits but I have the impression that by the late 1970's the bugs, whatever they were had been resolved and sonic quality -- on nearly all labels, and with nearly all studios -- was much more consistent.   Maybe better monitors (and Dolby, or at least the consciousness that Dobly brought to the industry) account for some of this.  When I was at United/Western back then I listened closely to the releases that we worked on, and I can't think of any that had the kind of problems we've been discussing.  Come to think of it though, it seems that none of the 60's and early 70's records out of United/Western, A&M, or Capital had these kinds of problems.  Maybe the L.A. studios had a bit of a technological edge?  Who knows.

Anyway, as JJ said, a little distortion didn't stopped those records from becoming beloved smash hits, proving once again that the music is what really matters.

Terry, thanks again for taking the time to mod here this month.  I'll be sorry when March rolls around and this section shuts down.  And thanks for the wonderful recordings of people like the Dramatics, Eddie Floyd, Carla & Rufus Thomas, Fredrick Knight and Jean Knight (any relation?), Johnnie Taylor, The Sweet Inspirations, The Emotions, and so many more.  Twenty and thirty-somethings who aren't familiar with those tunes ought to seek them out; there's a gold mine of fabulous music from those great days.
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J.J. Blair

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Re: 60's and 70's records whose sonics weren't as good...what happened?
« Reply #21 on: February 21, 2005, 07:47:35 pm »

David, the point that you bring up about the monitors is something that I have always wondered myself.  And not just the monitors, but the rooms.  I have always wondered if the improvements in those areas has more to do with the improvements in sonic quality, because we still use much of the same gear, with infinitely better results.  In fact, most of us will say that the gear then sounds better than new gear, which once again leaves the possible answer to that equation as being the monitoring.
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

Bob Olhsson

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Re: 60's and 70's records whose sonics weren't as good...what happened?
« Reply #22 on: February 22, 2005, 09:33:02 am »

My understanding is that most of what was going on at Capital and United/Western were live recordings without nearly as much "help" for the artists as we were doing in Detroit. When I got to Wally Heider in San Francisco in 1972, I was utterly impressed with how much better equipped the studios were but shocked to find out how much less sophisticated the typical productions were. It's nice to put things in tune with Auto-tune but you pay a price in sound quality. The same is true to a lesser extent with all production manipulation.

A&M really came later. It was built by John Windt who had been the shop foreman at Motown under Mike McLean.

vernier

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Re: 60's and 70's records whose sonics weren't as good...what happened?
« Reply #23 on: February 28, 2005, 09:55:58 pm »

quote "I think most would agree that during the 60's and 70's, tremendous advances were made in recording technology."

You can't lump 60's and 70's together. And what kind of advances ..more tracks? ..solidstate? ..deadening the rooms? ..sonically, those were steps backwards. Sixties records are awesome though, can't think of one that isn't a blast to listen to (is there one?) ..Peter Paul & Mary, Beatles, Simon & Garfunkle, all the R&B stuff ..Stones, CSN&Y ..Byrds, Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, CCR, Steppenwolf, Byrds ..and a hundred more ..all hot. Seventies did start sounding weird though cuz of the switch to solidstate and ultra dead rooms etc. Exceptions in the seventies (albums that sound cool) were bands that hung on to older ways of doing things (we all know who they are). Basically, sixties used 50's technology ..analog recorders, Pultecs, valve-desks, tube limiters etc ..and it still works today. So, what I ask is .."what the heck happened *after* the sixties?"
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Bob Olhsson

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Re: 60's and 70's records whose sonics weren't as good...what happened?
« Reply #24 on: March 01, 2005, 08:31:45 pm »

I think the introduction of the 16 track machines in the late '60s was the beginning of making something out of nothing. Prior to that, performances needed to be pretty good to sound halfway decent. Achieving exceptional wasn't that much more of a stretch. The appeal of self-contained groups was that labels were no longer beholden to songwriters and really great musicians. It was the beginning of a slippery slope.

vernier

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Re: 60's and 70's records whose sonics weren't as good...what happened?
« Reply #25 on: March 03, 2005, 10:53:39 pm »

Yep, 16 track, and the proliferation of transisters ..the sound of records changed overnight.
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stevieeastend

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Re: 60's and 70's records whose sonics weren't as good...what happened?
« Reply #26 on: March 04, 2005, 04:32:49 am »

For the younger guys like me examples would be great as well...

thanks

steve

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Re: 60's and 70's records whose sonics weren't as good...what happened?
« Reply #27 on: March 04, 2005, 05:17:46 am »

Steve, here is a snip for educational purposes of what sound was like in 1959. I sure wish the industry would get back to this level of quality. I try...I really do.

Snip is a short portion from Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.

Notice the clarity and dynamics.

Throw some gain on it. It is not "compressed or smashed"..like the fast food of today. This is beef and potatos.

Yea!!!
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Re: 60's and 70's records whose sonics weren't as good...what happened?
« Reply #28 on: March 04, 2005, 06:01:01 am »

Here is 1968. Still sounding good!!

Snip for educational purposes:

Blood Sweat and Tears 2nd Album.

These productions were considered to be pretty decent for the time period. These also came from a very clean source. Smile

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Bob Olhsson

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Re: 60's and 70's records whose sonics weren't as good...what happened?
« Reply #29 on: March 04, 2005, 10:02:43 am »

That BS&T would have been 8-track, probably an AG-440.
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