gfxgfx
 
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
logo
 
gfx gfx
gfx
671832 Posts in 27041 Topics by 3971 Members - Latest Member: kindofgreen September 20, 2021, 07:58:55 AM
*
gfx*HomeHelpSearchCalendarLoginRegistergfx
gfxgfx
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.       « previous next »
Pages: [1] 2 Go Down Print
Author Topic: Production quality of the Sunflower/Surf's Up era  (Read 3105 times)
bonnevillemariner
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 459



View Profile
« on: August 17, 2021, 08:01:42 AM »

I'm going to preface this post, in part to innoculate myself from the scathing responses that will undoubtedly ensue. I am not a musician, engineer, or any other recording industry professional. I teach high school IT classes. So I don't know all the music lingo and am incredibly naive about things like arrangement, instruments, mastering, etc. I understand that production quality and sound can be subjective. Some things sound awesome to some people and awful to others.

Ok, then.

I've been revisiting the Sunflower/Surf's Up era lately and trying to appreciate the music more. And I'm sorry, but to my ears, the various released versions of these albums sound like they were recorded on subpar equipment by amateurs. They're muddy, thin, and lo-fi (not in a good way). This is maddening since so much of the earlier material sounds so much better.

And I need to know why, because a lot of this stuff is so good.

Let's look at This Whole World, one of the most beautiful tracks of this era. The versions of this track, prior to the recently released vocals-only and alternative ending tracks, are a mixed bag. To me, the backing track sounds crisp, clear and rich. The vocals are exactly the opposite.  Carl's lead is so-so, lower fidelity than it seems like it should be. The harmonies are incredibly thin and even very tinny in some spots-- particularly Brian's soaring falsetto on the second bridge(?). That could have been divine. The harmonies in this track sound like cartoons.

This begs the question: why?

Why does, say, Pet Sounds sound so much better? The recently released vocals-only and the Bruce alt ending of TWW sound so much better to me. If it's just a matter of how it was put together back in the day, and Boyd and Linett have good quality original source recordings, why hasn't anybody considered putting together a clean version of this track? How did someone along the production path not listen to this stuff earlier in the process and say, "Guys, we gotta do something about this. It sucks"?

This same sound permeates these two albums. I love Long Promised Road, but it's painful to listen to because I imagine how good it could sound.

Help me out here, guys.
Logged
Greg Parry
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 108



View Profile
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2021, 09:47:32 AM »

Please be more specific. When you say you are listening to earlier releases, are these CD, LP, MP3 releases?


Perhaps Stephen Desper can chime in with information about the original mastering matrix, because there is some controversy regarding the  digital remastering of these post Capitol albums going back to the original set of Joe Gastwirt remastered CD's in 1990. I've always found there to be a world of difference between the 1990 CD and the original LP pressing that goes way beyond analogue 'warmth'. It wasn't until I heard about the mastering matrix that this made sense. So perhaps it is the lack of the correct mastering matrix which is impairing your listening experience? Try the original LP if that is the case.

It may also be a change in production techniques between the Pet Sounds era and your two contested albums, particularly in relation to spatiality.  Remember that instrumentally, Sunflower and (I think) Surf's Up were recorded in stereo at the source, i.e. each instrument was multi-miked. Pet Sounds, even in stereo, consists of two or three tracks containing all of the instruments captured monaurally. Spatially recorded music does tend to sound thinner, because the sound is being stretched over a stereo field, whereas mono will sound more dense simply because it is. This may account for the difference you are hearing.

A third issue may be changing mixing techniques. With Pat Sounds, the tracks were mixed before vocals were added due to track number limitations. With the luxury of 16 tracks, the vocals and instruments could be mixed concurrently so there is a much different vocal /track balance ratio  when comparing Pet Sounds to Sunflower. Does this account for the 'tinny' sounding vocals?

A fourth possibility, perhaps most importantly, is your listening equipment / environment. Sunflower was an early pioneer in the 'audiophile' field, and  a good listening environment, good reproduction equipment and a correct listening position is vital for full appreciation of the stereo field to occur. Pet Sounds by comparison was created for mono reproduction on AM radio or a teenager's Dansette player. Pet Sounds is going to translate better to modern listening habits which often involve phones, tablets or single speaker devices like the Amazon Echo. Sunflower and Surfs Up are not. If this is the problem, perhaps treat yourself to a good quality second hand hi-fi system to enjoy the new boxed set on!
« Last Edit: August 17, 2021, 09:52:44 AM by Greg Parry » Logged
bonnevillemariner
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 459



View Profile
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2021, 10:17:24 AM »

I appreciate the response, Greg. I don't totally get what you're saying about the change in production technique, but it makes sense that a change in recording/production technique correlates with reduced quality listening experience.

FWIW, I own these albums on CD and mp3, but my primary way of consuming music is Spotify. I understand mp3/streaming is lossy, but my ears can't distinguish between them and CD.  Whether I'm in my living room listening on my decent system, in my car listening on my good stereo, or in my classroom listening on my state of the art sound system-- it's all the same. I once heard the Surf's Up LP playing in a record store and paid close attention. It's all still tinny, thin, cartoony, cold. How do other people not hear this? I'm quite certain the poor quality of these albums has little, if anything, to do with listening format or equipment.
Logged
rab2591
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Online Online

Gender: Male
Posts: 5501


"My God. It's full of stars."


View Profile
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2021, 10:27:08 AM »

The "remasters" of Surf's Up and Sunflower that have been available for download and streaming for the last 5+ years are atrocious. Every other song has a hiss present in it, making the recording sound muddy, even if it's actually not. I was actually pretty annoyed when I bought the remastered albums from iTunes many years back...This problem wasn't present on previous versions of the albums that I own.

That being said, I see what you mean in terms of what I hear on Surf's Up...take Carl's lead on 'Long Promised Road' - its not at all near as crisp and clear as say Brian's lead on 'Caroline, No', but then again, that could be the effect they wanted to use for that song. But Sunflower is about the most crisp and clear album I've ever heard.

Great response, Greg.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2021, 10:27:37 AM by rab2591 » Logged

Bill Tobelman's SMiLE site

God mustíve smiled the day Brian Wilson was born!
HeyJude
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 9401



View Profile WWW
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2021, 12:25:40 PM »

I think what some people hear, particularly on "Sunflower", doesn't have anything to do with the various mastering jobs over the years, nor playback equipment or other issues.

Some of the tracks were recorded and/or mixed in a very sort of ethereal, sort of echoey/reverb-laden fashion. In particular, tracks like "All I Wanna Do" or "Deirdre", and to some degree "This Whole World", don't sound like, say, the more dry, upfront sound of something like "Got To Know the Woman." I think it's perfectly reasonable for some to interpret this as sounding kind of muddy or unclear or low-fi.

The same thing is true of some of the "Smile" tracks for instance. "Do You Like Worms" sounds like it was recorded inside of a can covered in mud with a pillow wrapped around it.

I *think* in most cases these are all things Brian and/or the band and/or the engineers were going for.

Some of this stuff is printed onto the multitracks and there's nothing that can be done, and in other cases more dry, pristine tracks exist on the multis.

I bow to nobody in my love of a track like "All I Wanna Do." "All I Wanna Do" is great in part because of that ethereal sound. But one thing I've *never* said to myself when listening to it is "man, that is the most crisp and clear track I've ever heard!"
« Last Edit: August 17, 2021, 12:26:29 PM by HeyJude » Logged

THE BEACH BOYS OPINION PAGE IS ON FACEBOOK!!! http://www.facebook.com/beachboysopinion - Check out the original "BEACH BOYS OPINION PAGE" Blog - http://beachboysopinion.blogspot.com/
Wirestone
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 5917



View Profile
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2021, 12:31:03 PM »

There's no question that Sunflower sounds different than earlier BB/BW records. But it's beautifully recorded and intentionally mixed.

I don't think it sounds worse by any definition, but the sound world is distinct. The matrix plays a role, but the vocals are processed differently and sound a bit thinner at times. But again, this seemed to be part of the plan, and nearly everyone in the group was singing and harmonizing differently. (The This Whole World backing vocals, for instance, sound a lot like the mid-90s wall of Brians from the Paley sessions and elsewhere.)

Surf's Up, on the other hand, has always had some acknowledged sonic issues.
Logged
rab2591
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Online Online

Gender: Male
Posts: 5501


"My God. It's full of stars."


View Profile
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2021, 01:31:27 PM »

"All I Wanna Do" is great in part because of that ethereal sound. But one thing I've *never* said to myself when listening to it is "man, that is the most crisp and clear track I've ever heard!"

I donít think anyone was singling that one track out as evidence of a muddy sounding track, clearly of all the tracks that one is intentionally dreamy in its production. And even then Iíd argue that it is crisp and clear in its own way - yes there is reverb/echo going on, but Mike sounds like heís right there singing to you, the lead guitar is slightly buried behind the mix but it is prominently distinct.

Outside of the intentional production decisions to make certain tracks or certain parts of tracks more ethereal (Deidre, for instance), I think the mixing on Sunflower is outstanding in how each voice and instrument can be easily picked out from different places in the mix so clearly. I know that is the obvious nature of stereo, but for whatever reason Sunflower does it so fluidly, so naturally. Itís not using stereo solely as a means of separating instruments, but rather using the mix as its own canvas - kinda like Dark Side of the Moon, only a much more down-to-earth version.

The same thing is true of some of the "Smile" tracks for instance. "Do You Like Worms" sounds like it was recorded inside of a can covered in mud with a pillow wrapped around it.

Youíve successfully put into words what Iíve been thinking all these years LOL I am still floored that Brian went from creating the sonic masterpiece that is Pet Sounds to recording this. I love the BWPS version not only because it actually has vocals, but because it doesnít sound at all ragged like the original does.
Logged

Bill Tobelman's SMiLE site

God mustíve smiled the day Brian Wilson was born!
thetojo
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 461



View Profile
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2021, 03:28:17 PM »

I bow to nobody in my love of a track like "All I Wanna Do." "All I Wanna Do" is great in part because of that ethereal sound. But one thing I've *never* said to myself when listening to it is "man, that is the most crisp and clear track I've ever heard!"

+1

I really used to have a strong distaste for this track, until I listened to it properly one day and the fact that the doubled (tripled?) leads combined to bring out the vocals in an overlapping, slow evocation (so hard to describe - one channel starts, then the other, then the dance between the two leads) - in some ways it almost achieves what is later done better with the 'reverse echoed' parts on "Feel Flows".
Logged
Greg Parry
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 108



View Profile
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2021, 11:42:35 PM »

I think what some people hear, particularly on "Sunflower", doesn't have anything to do with the various mastering jobs over the years, nor playback equipment or other issues.

Some of the tracks were recorded and/or mixed in a very sort of ethereal, sort of echoey/reverb-laden fashion. In particular, tracks like "All I Wanna Do" or "Deirdre", and to some degree "This Whole World", don't sound like, say, the more dry, upfront sound of something like "Got To Know the Woman." I think it's perfectly reasonable for some to interpret this as sounding kind of muddy or unclear or low-fi.


Remember that Pet Sounds is also 'echoey/reverb-laden', so something else is clearly acting on the reverb to create that difference in sound the OP is describing. That 'something' is the spatial recording and mixing techniques carefully employed by Stephen and Carl during the creation of Sunflower, which give these recordings their depth and space. Correctly transcribing and accessing these recordings in the way Stephen and Carl intended is very much a matrix issue I'm afraid to say. This is well demonstrated by Stephen's wonderful study videos, which also give instruction as to the correct way to place your speakers relative to your seating position in order to best appreciate a true panoramic stereo recording. That the CD remasters going back to Gastwirt neglected to use the matrix led to a large disparity between what was originally intended and what has subsequently been presented. I cannot recommend the study videos enough as a way to open up your ears to how this record is supposed to sound.

Whilst there is very much a correct way to access these recordings, there is no wrong way to derive emotional enjoyment from them, even on an Amazon Echo LOL. Just remember that many of the mixing choices were made to create a panoramic scene which is very much dependent on the correct matrix, seating position and playback equipment.
Logged
Greg Parry
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 108



View Profile
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2021, 12:08:19 AM »

I appreciate the response, Greg. I don't totally get what you're saying about the change in production technique, but it makes sense that a change in recording/production technique correlates with reduced quality listening experience.

FWIW, I own these albums on CD and mp3, but my primary way of consuming music is Spotify. I understand mp3/streaming is lossy, but my ears can't distinguish between them and CD.  Whether I'm in my living room listening on my decent system, in my car listening on my good stereo, or in my classroom listening on my state of the art sound system-- it's all the same. I once heard the Surf's Up LP playing in a record store and paid close attention. It's all still tinny, thin, cartoony, cold. How do other people not hear this? I'm quite certain the poor quality of these albums has little, if anything, to do with listening format or equipment.

Surf's Up's original pressing is a mixed bag I agree, but the experience may have been further impaired due to the shop environment. As I said in the previous post though, there is no wrong way to derive enjoyment, or non-enjoyment from a recording. It may just simply be that you don't like the sound of a particular album. I'm the same with Joe Thomas's Trinity of Atrocities. I don't think I got further than the fourth track on the 2012 album before switching it off in disgust. The ear likes what it likes.
Logged
phirnis
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Gender: Male
Posts: 2565



View Profile
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2021, 01:43:54 AM »

I like Sunflower and Surf's Up although I think they don't sound as interesting (to me personally) as the records that the band made when Brian was in charge. Their sound changed dramatically after Friends and while subsequent albums did still sound very creative there's a particular originality missing from most of the material. Wild Honey, for example, sounds pretty lo-fi as far as I'm concerned but it still has that sense of originality. It's hard to describe really; to me it feels like Carl's vision of the Beach Boys did not have the same level of energy as Brian's, although he did a tremendous job on those early-70s records, so please don't get me wrong.
Logged
thr33
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 73



View Profile
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2021, 04:12:12 AM »

I like Sunflower and Surf's Up although I think they don't sound as interesting (to me personally) as the records that the band made when Brian was in charge. Their sound changed dramatically after Friends and while subsequent albums did still sound very creative there's a particular originality missing from most of the material. Wild Honey, for example, sounds pretty lo-fi as far as I'm concerned but it still has that sense of originality. It's hard to describe really; to me it feels like Carl's vision of the Beach Boys did not have the same level of energy as Brian's, although he did a tremendous job on those early-70s records, so please don't get me wrong.
I feel the same way often, even if I love a lot of songs from 20/20 thru Holland. Do you feel the energy returned with 15 Big Ones/Love You?
Logged
phirnis
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Gender: Male
Posts: 2565



View Profile
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2021, 06:30:54 AM »

I like Sunflower and Surf's Up although I think they don't sound as interesting (to me personally) as the records that the band made when Brian was in charge. Their sound changed dramatically after Friends and while subsequent albums did still sound very creative there's a particular originality missing from most of the material. Wild Honey, for example, sounds pretty lo-fi as far as I'm concerned but it still has that sense of originality. It's hard to describe really; to me it feels like Carl's vision of the Beach Boys did not have the same level of energy as Brian's, although he did a tremendous job on those early-70s records, so please don't get me wrong.
I feel the same way often, even if I love a lot of songs from 20/20 thru Holland. Do you feel the energy returned with 15 Big Ones/Love You?

For the most part, yes. I think this is why I love to listen to 15 Big Ones although it is such a flawed record. They lost that energy for good with M.I.U. and the Light Album.
Logged
HeyJude
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 9401



View Profile WWW
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2021, 06:46:11 AM »

I think what some people hear, particularly on "Sunflower", doesn't have anything to do with the various mastering jobs over the years, nor playback equipment or other issues.

Some of the tracks were recorded and/or mixed in a very sort of ethereal, sort of echoey/reverb-laden fashion. In particular, tracks like "All I Wanna Do" or "Deirdre", and to some degree "This Whole World", don't sound like, say, the more dry, upfront sound of something like "Got To Know the Woman." I think it's perfectly reasonable for some to interpret this as sounding kind of muddy or unclear or low-fi.


Remember that Pet Sounds is also 'echoey/reverb-laden', so something else is clearly acting on the reverb to create that difference in sound the OP is describing. That 'something' is the spatial recording and mixing techniques carefully employed by Stephen and Carl during the creation of Sunflower, which give these recordings their depth and space. Correctly transcribing and accessing these recordings in the way Stephen and Carl intended is very much a matrix issue I'm afraid to say. This is well demonstrated by Stephen's wonderful study videos, which also give instruction as to the correct way to place your speakers relative to your seating position in order to best appreciate a true panoramic stereo recording. That the CD remasters going back to Gastwirt neglected to use the matrix led to a large disparity between what was originally intended and what has subsequently been presented. I cannot recommend the study videos enough as a way to open up your ears to how this record is supposed to sound.

Whilst there is very much a correct way to access these recordings, there is no wrong way to derive emotional enjoyment from them, even on an Amazon Echo LOL. Just remember that many of the mixing choices were made to create a panoramic scene which is very much dependent on the correct matrix, seating position and playback equipment.

I'd also argue that as beautiful as "Pet Sounds" sounds, much of his peak 65-67 material, including "Pet Sounds", can tend to sound muddy to varying degrees. Brian's bouncing of tracks is a key element in that of course (I think even kids listening to the "Summer Days" album may have noticed how peculiarly pristine and crisp the instrumental "Summer Means New Love" sounded compared to a bunch of the other songs). There are also the myriad of mic-ing and recording techniques, and mixing of course. Which is why something like the stereo mix of "Pet Sounds" allows one to hear much more of those recordings, yet that stuff is never going to be bone-dry and crisp and clear and up-front the way something like the Beatles "Yellow Submarine Songtrack" remixes sound in many cases.

I think sometimes people get into the Beach Boys and Brian's work, the music speaks so intensely to them, that it takes a while to realize that maybe there are characteristics of how Brian and the band worked on the arrangement/recording/mixing side of things that they find to not be ideal. I think it's all about degrees. I enjoy and accept all of the work on its own terms. It doesn't mean I don't occasionally wish a thing here or there was more full-sounding or clear. You don't have to be a heavy metal or even hard rock fan to occasionally wish a BB track here and there had punched up the guitars, or had heavier, more prevalent drums instead of, say, just a snare with nothing else. Having that occasional thought is different than fundamentally just having an issue across the board with how the stuff sounds, in which case one has to start thinking about whether they really like this stuff if they have to complain about it all the time (which nobody in this thread is doing; I'm kind of creating a theoretical here of course).

As far as "Sunflower" and "Surf's Up", I'm aware of the discussion surrounding how it was mixed and the need for the matrix to listen to the stuff in the ideal fashion that was desired. But at the end of the day, like 99.9% of people listening to the stuff back then *AND* to this day are going to do so with some sort of standard set up to listen to stereo mixes. No, this stuff shouldn't be listened to (or at least analyzed) via smartphone speakers or something. But it also shouldn't require anything more than me putting a CD in and plugging some headphones in or listening on normal speakers. If something more than that is required, then that is, arguably, a flaw or at least "issue" with the original recording/mixing methods that is worth pointing out. I absolutely should *not* need a "study video" to hear this stuff as intended. I'm not saying such videos aren't highly interesting and welcomed. But I mean, quad was niche back in the 70s, and this matrix system Desper used is infinitely *more* niche than quad ever was. I'm not trying to be like anti-intellectual when it comes to this stuff; I bow to nobody in my willingness to immerse in the most intense minutiae of it all. But any playback method that requires close attention to "seating position" is and has always been fighting a losing battle when it comes to people needing to hear the stuff exactly as intended.  

And, I have to say, having had the opportunity to hear the stuff in the correct matrixed playback method, while it's a cool way to hear the stuff, the songs still sound *like that*. In other words, I don't think anybody *does* need a special set up if the issues they're having are along the lines of the original poster. I don't think *those* particular issues are stemming from playback method. If someone finds a few of the tracks a bit muddy or low-fi, they still sound that way using proper playback. The proper playback method will give that unique, sort of 3-D stereo spread that is cool to hear, and might side-step some weird sort of phasing issues that the material has when played back in a "normal" fashion.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2021, 06:48:48 AM by HeyJude » Logged

THE BEACH BOYS OPINION PAGE IS ON FACEBOOK!!! http://www.facebook.com/beachboysopinion - Check out the original "BEACH BOYS OPINION PAGE" Blog - http://beachboysopinion.blogspot.com/
bonnevillemariner
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 459



View Profile
« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2021, 10:40:45 AM »

As I've pored through these responses, I've re-listened to these two albums several times, and I'll refine my critique a bit. The backing tracks on most of them are great. I can tell they were recorded differently, and I like it. A notable exception is Long Promised Road. Interestingly, the best sounding track-- instrumentally-- to me is Take A Load Off Your Feet. So the instrumental aspect of these tracks is mostly great.

It's the vocals. Not necessarily the leads, per se. It's the backing harmonies. Yes there's the distinct hiss that someone mentioned earlier, but that's not necessarily what I'm talking about. Words that come to mind are: thin, anemic, compressed, cartoony, shallow and distant.

In keeping with the track that I used as an example above, which best personifies what I'm talking about, listen to This Whole World, particularly at the 1:22 mark. Listen to Brian's falsetto there. If that nails-on-a-chalkboard sibilance was done deliberately, he's much less of a genius than I thought he was. It sounds like he drove straight under a low-clearance bridge. The rest of the harmonies on the track-- and pretty much everywhere else in material from that era-- dance right around that low clearance.

You don't have to be a heavy metal or even hard rock fan to occasionally wish a BB track here and there had punched up the guitars, or had heavier, more prevalent drums instead of, say, just a snare with nothing else. Having that occasional thought is different than fundamentally just having an issue across the board with how the stuff sounds...


Yep. I would give anything if somebody would rework This Whole World using a combination of existing recordings and newer harmonies. For fun, I'd add a "Star light, star bright" section featuring a newly recorded Al. I'd take a cleaned-up Carl lead on Long Promised Road with an entirely new backing track. Ideas aplenty that are only pipe dreams

But at the end of the day, like 99.9% of people listening to the stuff back then *AND* to this day are going to do so with some sort of standard set up to listen to stereo mixes. No, this stuff shouldn't be listened to (or at least analyzed) via smartphone speakers or something. But it also shouldn't require anything more than me putting a CD in and plugging some headphones in or listening on normal speakers. If something more than that is required, then that is, arguably, a flaw or at least "issue" with the original recording/mixing methods that is worth pointing out. I absolutely should *not* need a "study video" to hear this stuff as intended. I'm not saying such videos aren't highly interesting and welcomed.


Preach it, brother!
Logged
SMiLE-addict
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Gender: Male
Posts: 846



View Profile
« Reply #15 on: August 18, 2021, 04:35:44 PM »

I actually can see what the OP is talking about. There is a lot of stuff in the early 70's that has a similar low-fi sound to it. Carole King's Tapestry album and James Taylor's albums of the same era have a similar sound. It sounds like they were recorded in a studio that was covered with sound-dampening materials on the wall, or something.
Logged
SMiLE-addict
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Gender: Male
Posts: 846



View Profile
« Reply #16 on: August 18, 2021, 04:39:29 PM »

^Here we go:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3uaXCJcRrE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5yK1EpMV0U

Same kind of dampened sound as This Whole World:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPe78FgI9ro
Logged
SMiLE-addict
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Gender: Male
Posts: 846



View Profile
« Reply #17 on: August 18, 2021, 04:49:40 PM »

And come to think of it, JA's Volunteers album also has a similar muddled sound:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxA3Q96a8XE
« Last Edit: August 18, 2021, 04:56:41 PM by SMiLE-addict » Logged
thr33
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 73



View Profile
« Reply #18 on: August 18, 2021, 05:04:53 PM »

I like Sunflower and Surf's Up although I think they don't sound as interesting (to me personally) as the records that the band made when Brian was in charge. Their sound changed dramatically after Friends and while subsequent albums did still sound very creative there's a particular originality missing from most of the material. Wild Honey, for example, sounds pretty lo-fi as far as I'm concerned but it still has that sense of originality. It's hard to describe really; to me it feels like Carl's vision of the Beach Boys did not have the same level of energy as Brian's, although he did a tremendous job on those early-70s records, so please don't get me wrong.
I feel the same way often, even if I love a lot of songs from 20/20 thru Holland. Do you feel the energy returned with 15 Big Ones/Love You?

For the most part, yes. I think this is why I love to listen to 15 Big Ones although it is such a flawed record. They lost that energy for good with M.I.U. and the Light Album.
I'm really not a fan of Bruce's production on LA or KTSA. I have a love-hate relationship with MIU. This is probably a bad way of thinking about it, but when I'm convinced Brian played a bigger role on the album, I enjoy it more. When I'm convinced he was a bystander, I'm less of a fan. Reality isn't in absolutes and the quality of the music shouldn't be impacted by how involved Brian was, but it still kind of matters. As an aside, I have a (maybe twisted) obsession with the Brian's Back era live shows. They're really fun and I like when Brian had a lot of energy out there. 1977, or maybe early 1978 is the last time the Beach Boys feel fun to me. I do think that maybe in the very early KTSA sessions some of that magic might've been there too, I hope we get to see a copyright extension set on that era (the last time Brian and Mike collaborated in a major way, I believe).
Logged
guitarfool2002
Global Moderator
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 9604


"Barba non facit aliam historici"


View Profile WWW
« Reply #19 on: August 18, 2021, 06:05:03 PM »

I actually can see what the OP is talking about. There is a lot of stuff in the early 70's that has a similar low-fi sound to it. Carole King's Tapestry album and James Taylor's albums of the same era have a similar sound. It sounds like they were recorded in a studio that was covered with sound-dampening materials on the wall, or something.

Not speaking to the BB's albums, but those specific albums you mentioned were produced deliberately in similar ways in order to capture a more intimate and "close" sound. Very small groups of musicians when it wasn't a solo instrument and voice, and recorded more "dry" so it felt like you were listening to the performer sitting in the room with you. I don't hear those as lo-fi at all, so we'll agree to disagree on that. Tapestry in particular is one of the finest sounding albums of its kind in my opinion, and it was also being EQ'ed for radio airplay, which it obviously got and still gets.

The difference between going into a production with an intimate vibe versus a more spacious, fully-produced vibe can sometimes come down to the sonic illusion you'll create on the perceived size of the performance space where the music is captured. If you add reverb, echo, etc - any of the "space" effects that creates the illusion of depth - it will create sonic space between the listener and the performance, and the hallmarks of the production will come through. If you want to capture intimacy and immediacy, you'll keep the reverb and echo spatial effects to a minimum, keep the tracks dry rather than wet, and only use those effects for smoothing out the overall parts rather than trying to create the illusion of a large room or space overall.

That's why I think in some ways the musicians like Carole and JT and other singer-songwriters had so much success when they did. It went from huge studio sounds down to capturing that intimate personal vibe, and I think a lot of listeners heard it as an elixir of sorts versus some of the bombastic big-scale productions that had been on the radio in the previous 4-5 years.

And the more tracks that became available to use in terms of multitrack tape, the more "dry" and isolated producers and engineers started to record and mix tracks, going to ridiculous lengths such as recording each component of a drum kit on its own separate track. Bleed-through in a live room, which some wanted to avoid even though we now love it, was eliminated by those extreme separation techniques which was supposed to signify a more hi-fi sound overall on recordings. Separation was the key, and records that were hits sounded like that after time, so everyone followed suit.

I'd like to say that aesthetic choices aside, the availability of more tracks was what changed the standards in mixing and production throughout the 70's, and the bleed-through which some of us love that was a key element in a live-sounding studio room in the 60's and generated excitement on the record was eliminated in favor of the dry, isolated sounds.

Not saying that was across the board, but you can hear the sound of records change pretty obviously as the 60's turned into the 70's. The bleed-through used to be a headache, so a lot of times it was eliminated in favor of more control over individual tracks, as more tracks became available.

Just my take.
Logged

"All of us have the privilege of making music that helps and heals - to make music that makes people happier, stronger, and kinder. Don't forget: Music is God's voice." - Brian Wilson
SMiLE-addict
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Gender: Male
Posts: 846



View Profile
« Reply #20 on: August 18, 2021, 06:32:04 PM »

"Low-fi" may or may not be the best word, but in general I meant that sort-of muddled sound you hear on a lot of those albums of those days.

As an aside, because it's not quite the same thing, but even when I was a teenager I always noticed the huge sonic difference between Sgt Pepper and the White Album. It was like they got an entirely new set of recording equipment at Abbey Road studios between those albums. Clearly there was a lot of new recording engineering stuff that was going on back then.
Logged
guitarfool2002
Global Moderator
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 9604


"Barba non facit aliam historici"


View Profile WWW
« Reply #21 on: August 18, 2021, 08:08:55 PM »

"Low-fi" may or may not be the best word, but in general I meant that sort-of muddled sound you hear on a lot of those albums of those days.

As an aside, because it's not quite the same thing, but even when I was a teenager I always noticed the huge sonic difference between Sgt Pepper and the White Album. It was like they got an entirely new set of recording equipment at Abbey Road studios between those albums. Clearly there was a lot of new recording engineering stuff that was going on back then.

What you heard is probably the change from 4-track tape machines being standard at Abbey Road to 8-track machines first being used widely on the White Album, apart from the independent studios the band would book outside Abbey Road. The simple fact of having more free tracks to overdub and not have to "bounce" sub-mixes to free up more tracks, or what they called "reduction mixes" in the UK, made the fidelity increase immediately. The more bounces that needed to be done, the worse the sound quality would get as each bounce or reduction mix was done. Every time you mix down and copy three or four tracks over to one, you lose fidelity and control over the overall mix. Whatever you're bouncing down becomes locked in - You have no more control over individual tracks. Even going from 4 to 8 tracks made a difference.

An even more startling change happened with "Abbey Road" when they changed gear and started using solid-state boards and preamps versus the older tube equipment. Listen to the White Album, then put on "Abbey Road". It's a drastic change in fidelity and overall sound.

And there's the conundrum.

Many fans and musicians love-love-love the sounds on the "old" 3 and 4 track sessions, like those for Pet Sounds, the classic Beatles tracks from Rubber Soul-Revolver-Pepper era, etc. The energy and vibe is there to spare, and honestly when you can hear the rough unmixed multitracks, the fidelity is there too, along with leakage between instruments and tracks. Engineers hated that, yet we love hearing it and consider those sounds and records classics.

And as good as Abbey Road sounds, I'd wager most musicians and engineers would automatically choose the old tube gear versus the solid state if given the choice. Yet, you can't deny how fantastic a track like "Here Comes The Sun" sounds...it still sounds somewhat modern and new records can still sound like that, 50+ years later.

When Abbey Road came out originally, 50 year old recordings were records made before Louis Armstrong with or without his Hot 5's and 7's even made his *first recording*. That, to me, is mind-blowing.
Logged

"All of us have the privilege of making music that helps and heals - to make music that makes people happier, stronger, and kinder. Don't forget: Music is God's voice." - Brian Wilson
Joshilyn Hoisington
Honored Guest
******
Offline Offline

Gender: Female
Posts: 3147


Aeijtzsche


View Profile
« Reply #22 on: August 18, 2021, 08:32:13 PM »

Engineers hated that

Did they?  I'm not comfortable going that far and that universally.
Logged
guitarfool2002
Global Moderator
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 9604


"Barba non facit aliam historici"


View Profile WWW
« Reply #23 on: August 18, 2021, 09:40:10 PM »

Nothing is universal with these things, but I think we can see photo evidence of sessions from the early 60s compared to the later 60s and early 70s where the later ones after 8 and 16 track machines started showing up are showing much more baffling and more gobos on the studio floor, and more attempts to isolate individual instruments. The engineers wanted more control over individual instruments and tracks especially in the mixing, and isolating the players more if not tracking individually versus as a group gave them that control, aided by more tracks to work with. Drum tracking and drum sounds especially changed drastically too as the 60s turned into the 70s.
Logged

"All of us have the privilege of making music that helps and heals - to make music that makes people happier, stronger, and kinder. Don't forget: Music is God's voice." - Brian Wilson
jwoverho
Smiley Smile Associate
*
Offline Offline

Posts: 22


View Profile
« Reply #24 on: August 18, 2021, 11:03:14 PM »

Listening to SUNFLOWER and SURFíS UP from the study videos resolved through Desperís matrix is a whole other listening experience. It opens up the mixes and allows the separation between the vocals and the instruments to really shine.

I also have Artisan Recorders first pressings of both albums and theyíre better than any other mastering out there.  I know theyíre Mr. Desperís preferred format as well.
Logged
gfx
Pages: [1] 2 Go Up Print 
gfx
Jump to:  
gfx
Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines Page created in 1.068 seconds with 21 queries.
Helios Multi design by Bloc
gfx
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!