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Author Topic: Two pop songs for your listening . . . pleasure  (Read 1536 times)

jimmyjazz

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Two pop songs for your listening . . . pleasure
« on: August 09, 2005, 03:06:20 pm »

<as posted on the MARSH Song Critique forum>

The following link points to 2 songs which are going to serve as gig demos for an Austin artist named Colin Leyden.  I have been working on his latest CD for some time now:

http://www.larrygoode.com/colin/colinsongs.html

Right-click and "save target as" . . . these are big files, too, so downloading may take a few minutes.

I am acting as the producer & engineer on this project, which is difficult to say the least.  I am also playing all keyboards as well as some guitars, and I sing some backing vocals.  Colin handles all the songwriting and lead vocals, and some of the guitar work, too.  We're not professional musicians by a long shot; fortunately, we have had some other wonderful players step up and contribute various parts.

I would appreciate any feedback anyone has, whether regarding the songs themselves, arrangements, performances, or recording quality.  Neither song has been edited or mastered; of course, we will do both before actually releasing a record.

Thanks!
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jimmyjazz

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Re: Two pop songs for your listening . . . pleasure
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2005, 01:26:11 am »

That bad, huh?   Very Happy
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CCC

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Re: Two pop songs for your listening . . . pleasure
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2005, 07:23:49 am »

jimmyjazz wrote on Fri, 12 August 2005 06:26

That bad, huh?   Very Happy


Well, no, not that bad. Sorry you got no feedback to date.

I'm a little confused about whether the recordings are a "start" or a "finish" so bear with me at first. You said these recordings are demos but that you're working on a CD. If it's a demo then any feedback would be intended to be taken with a grain of salt, and if it's a CD then maybe might be worth taking more seriously.

Here are some unvarnished comments that are meant to be constructive feedback. Being subjective comments only they may be totally useless or indefensible - such is the nature of subjective commentary....

It isn't that the songs are boring per se. I think they are "bored", and that's the crux of the matter. The performances are polite, the songs cruise along, then they end. I didn't much feel like getting down with my bad self while I was listening. So all the playing is 'good' and tight and pretty much in tune and in time, but it's not inspired or exciting. It sounds like you're trying not to hurt anyone. I'm not saying that you need to go 'speed metal' or anything, but more intensity would be good.

Related to the preceding point; there are no licks, fills, solos, call-answers, or anything. I can't remember - there might have been a drum fill or two? Long intros, reintros and instrumental sections where nothing of any import is happening need to either get chopped or get filled up with something.

The instrumentation is sparse. I think, in my eternally humble opinion, that the tunes could bear with having some more stuff slathered on them. Another guitar or two, maybe ancillary percussion, bigger BGs...I dunno...something more than what you have now, something less than Mahler, might get you going. I suppose/posit/imagine/speculate that the stylistic bent of the thing will hinge on the use of a lead instrument, as suggested above. I dunno - add a pedal steel and fiddle and the songs would bear that treatment and take on a character. Add tremolo guitar and a bit of slide, and the songs would also bear that, and take on a different character. Without anything leading the tune in opposition/alternation to the vocal there is a lack of character. My first blush impression was that it sounds like Blue Rodeo - or could if you wanted it to. In their current state the arrangements seem more like a story board than a story. Color in the pictures!

Production values; very dry. It doesn't want to be that dry. I liked the sounds well enough overall and the balance. Drums are underwhelming in my humble opinion. I think, personally, that the drums want to be hyped up a bit more with all the frightening tools that science has made available. The acoustic guitar - hmmm, I thought it sounded ok, just there was something that bugged me a little but I can't put a finger on it (no pun intended). Maybe the clackiness of the pick?

Well, I don't know if this helps at all. If so, great. If not, well, sorry Smile
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jimmyjazz

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Re: Two pop songs for your listening . . . pleasure
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2005, 09:43:04 am »

Thanks, John.  Those are very helpful thoughts.  Yes, these tracks are "demos" only in the sense that they are rough and/or incomplete mixes for songs that will ultimately end up on a CD, and in their current state they are only intended to be used as a means to get gigs.  I am confident they will suffice in that regard, but not so much as CD tracks.  You obviously agree.

Let me tell you about this project:  I am a huge fan of the artist, as well as a friend.  I engineered his first 2 releases, which sold very little, and mostly to family/friends.  I felt like those recordings were marginal at best, partially because of my skills (or lack thereof) at the time but mostly because we used his band, which just wasn't up to the task.  He asked me to engineer and produce a 3rd CD.  I agreed, but only on the condition that I got to pick the players.  He was fine with that -- it made me the "bad cop" to his "good cop", something I think he was looking for all along.

So, we found some "b-list" local players and signed them up.  I'm not trying to impugn their talent, but just point out that our budget didn't allow us to hire Double Trouble as a rhythm section (for instance).  We got good, young, hungry players, particularly on drums/bass/guitars.  Any problems in their performance are more attributable to my lack of experience as a producer as they are any problem with the players.  Sometimes, I just don't know when to push for more.

Anyway, I wanted this album to feature Colin's words and melodies, but still have some polish and sheen underneath.  You are indeed hearing less-than-complete mixes, but I don't have the means to edit and mix those "sheen" tracks into something that augments the music rather than distracts from the primary focus -- words and melody.  We were under the gun timewise due to the fact that I am selling my house and studio and won't have a new space for almost a year.  So, we did what we could.

That having been said, you nailed my main problem with these performances -- there seems to be a certain lack of conviction going on.  I wanted to know if anyone else hears it, and you obviously do.  I think the lead vocal tracks are as much to blame as any, and I think that's my fault.  I am constantly hammering on Colin to get his pitch in line, and I think I may have beaten the life out of his performances.  Do you hear pitch and timing problems?  I still do.  Is it just me?

Anyway, thank you so much for your very reasonable and on-point reply.
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NelsonL

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Re: Two pop songs for your listening . . . pleasure
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2005, 11:05:33 am »

I think his pitch and timing are perfectly acceptable, but I suppose it depends on your goals somewhat. Definitely close enough for getting gigs.

I was about to post this yesterday and got side-tracked. But what I was going to say is similar to John's comment-- I didn't think the singer was "feelin' it." Which I agree is pretty subjective.

I can see how the band might be holding back a little, perhaps because they're worrying about their burgeoning rep as a pro or session dude. Maybe part of the beauty of an "A" list player, is there ability to take risks and pull it off most of the time.

Was the session pretty laid back? Was there beer? What, no beer? I thought you were in Texas?

Anyway all this is very subjective-- the measure of what I have left to learn vastly eclipses what I know now. My own work can be found around here--so you'll know how many grains of salt to take!
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jimmyjazz

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Re: Two pop songs for your listening . . . pleasure
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2005, 11:14:05 am »

Oh, there was beer.  There is always beer.  It's my studio, and me likey the beer.

Unfortunately, I don't think any of the players on this record (besides myself) partake.  Eureka!  You found the problem!

In hindsight, I can see that there is fairly common set of personality traits among the players involved.  They are all precise, modest musicians . . . and maybe that's "stacking up" in the same way too much use of a single piece of gear "stacks up".

If the singer's pitch and timing don't strike anyone as being a problem, I may ask him to retrack a couple of songs quickly and see if we get anything more vibrant.  I could probably comp individual lines from existing tracks to fix the most egregious of errors.

Thanks for your thoughts, rattleyour.
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drumsound

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Re: Two pop songs for your listening . . . pleasure
« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2005, 11:29:35 am »

I agree with the fellas.  The songs are nice but don't grab me.  I'd really like to hear some ear candy on this record.  John mentioned steel guitar, and I was thinking the same thing.  I'm sure there's a few cats in Austin who could handle the part.  Find somebody good and direct him or her in the general direction you want the tune to go.  A good player will be able to do a few different things to any given song.  

The drums sound a bit roomy, which I like, but...the rest of the band sounds really dry.  So I believe the drums need to dry up a bit or the guitars need some ambience.  If you could run a speaker into the same space the drums were tracked in that might tie things together a bit.

I like the singer's tone and the recorded tone of the singer.  He's very inviting and up front.  I like the dryness on the vocal.  He kind of reminds me of Jon Brion tonally speaking.

Did the players record together?  If not they should.  Get the drummer and bass player looking right at each other.

Get some solos and ear candy in there.  There's two obvious breaks in Private Conversation for instance.
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brandondrury

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Re: Two pop songs for your listening . . . pleasure
« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2005, 12:21:10 am »

I really dig the vocal sound.  What mic and preamp are you using?

I don't know if I would call it ear candy because I personally am seldom impressed by just adding extra junk.  However, I think the song needs "elevation".  While flying to Denver may help, I mean that the song doesn't seam to rise in any way, almost as if it's been cut and pasted.

I realize that the songs are laid back, but doing anything to create some sort of rising action would certainly help in my expert opinion.  ("expert" as in a person who has no real business posting).

Brandon

jimmyjazz

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Re: Two pop songs for your listening . . . pleasure
« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2005, 01:54:19 pm »

Thanks.  I agree with you -- I like the term "elevation".  We're still messing with the songs, so we'll see if we get anywhere.

By the way, that's a Neumann TLM103 through an original Great River preamp.
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drumsound

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Re: Two pop songs for your listening . . . pleasure
« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2005, 09:47:26 pm »

jimmyjazz wrote on Tue, 23 August 2005 12:54

an original Great River preamp.



A much overlooked jem.
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jimmyjazz

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Re: Two pop songs for your listening . . . pleasure
« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2005, 11:01:05 pm »

drumsound wrote on Tue, 23 August 2005 21:47

jimmyjazz wrote on Tue, 23 August 2005 12:54

an original Great River preamp.



A much overlooked jem.


It's absolutely my go-to preamp.  I use it on vocals, drum overheads, acoustic guitar, you name it.  It's just a wonderful piece of gear.
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