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Monday, July 19, 2010

"Black Hole Sun" - Soundgarden Isolated Vocal

There are not many songs that have the same standing in the music business as "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden, as is proven by the fact that the song has been covered by a wide variety of artists  (always a sign of a quality tune). Black Hole Sun was one of the biggest hits of the summer of 1994, won a Grammy for Best Rock Song, and was one of the hits from Soundgarden's Superunknown album. Here's what to listen for in the isolated vocal track:

1) Chris Cornell is truly one of the finest singers in the modern rock era. Not only is he pitch-perfect (which you'd expect from any modern production), but listen to how powerful his voice is even when he's not belting it out. Few vocalists are able to bring that kind of intensity while singing in their lower register. Also, listen to the control he has when he uses his vibrato. His is a truly special voice.

2) I just hate the distorted vocal sound. What was it with vocalists and distortion during the 90's? I remember having to fight with the lead singer on every project I did during this era because he wanted to put some kind of fuzz-tone or overdrive on his voice (it was only males singers). I hated it then and hate it even more now. Thankfully we're past all that today.

3) The vocal is very effectively doubled during the choruses. Chris is excellent at doubling as the 2nd vocal is very close to the first, yet different enough to add the girth that you'd expect from a double. He does vary a bit during the second and third choruses and breaks into a harmony for a few notes, but he hits the notes instead of searching for them so it's all good. His releases are also a little off at the end of the chorus but I bet no one's every heard that when the full song is played back.

4) The reverb is nothing special but it does sound pretty good for the situation. It has a medium decay and adds just a bit of depth to the track.

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brad said...

Holy lord, that is some gross, gross distortion. That's actually on the record? Sick.

M Pallante said...

I have said for years that Chris Cornell is among the greatest rock singers of all time- Its great to see it blogged so well and hearing an isolated vocal track is just great.

This may be my favorite Big Picture post yet!

Bob Buontempo said...

Bad punch, or tape machine, at :28 seconds. Probably a combination of the timing of the punch, the tape machine, itself, the distortion making it more noticeable, and the reverb tail being cut off.

There may be more during the vocal track, but it was too hard to listen to all the way through with that crummy sounding distortion.

I think the reason singers of that period wanted distortion on their vocals was to try and emulate the old tube preamp overload of 1950-60s vocal recordings, but, mistakenly, used fuzz pedals or digital "modeling" to achieve the effect, and it just DIDN'T WORK!!

Juha said...

Yea, that's pretty extreme distortion, but it never bothered me in the full mix. I really like Cornell's voice, instantly recognizable no matter what band he plays in. His vocal performance in You Know My Name is equally awesome, with perfect harmonies and excellent song writing!


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