Thursday, August 5, 2010

"She's Leaving Home" Dissected Track

Back to The Beatles and a great track dissection, this time with "She's Leaving Home" from the Sgt. Pepper album. This is a fairly simple track in that it's just orchestra and vocals, but there's a lot more to the recording, as you'll hear.

1) The orchestra was recorded beautifully, but as the commentator points out, a lot has to do with the fact that the studio was based around 1inch 4 track tape machines. This means that the signal to noise ratio was better than most other machines because of the tape width used. As a result, these 4 tracks sounded much better than the 24 track tape machines that we revere so much these days.

2) Paul's vocal performance is great. It sounds like a complete performance without any punches (I don't hear any), but there's no way to be sure.

3) John's vocal was printed with reverb, which is what needed to be done in order to print both vocals on the same track. That's the way it used to be in recording once upon a time. You had to make a decision while you where recording instead of waiting until the mix.



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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

James Jamerson Isolated Bass

Yesterday I talked about how Paul McCartney was, in my opinion, the most innovative bass player in rock besides James Jamerson. It wouldn't be fair not to listen to Jamerson after listening to Paul, so here are a number of Motown hits featuring Jamerson's signature bass playing. Of course, Jamerson was one of the mainstays of the Motown house band known as the Funk Brothers.

Here are a couple of his greatest parts including Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On, and The Four Tops' Bernadette.

1) On What's Goin' On, listen to how Jamerson builds the intensity of the track as it goes on. You can just  feel him pushing the track as his line gets more and more complex and he digs in harder.

2) Jamerson's bass has a distorted edge to it. He supposedly went direct while recording and used an Ampeg B-15 when playing live, but the tone on this song sure sounds like a B-15 to me.

3) Bernadette may be Jamerson's masterpiece. He's playing a fairly busy part yet it's always in the pocket and always seems effortless.

) Bernadette is also a really good example of how a Motown track is put together when you hear all the instruments fall in with the bass.





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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Paul McCartney Bass Lines

Paul McCartney has never gotten nearly enough credit for his innovations as a bass player. I personally believe that he's the most influential bass player of the rock age besides Motown's James Jamerson.

Like Jamerson, McCartney playing evolved into mini-melodies, being part hook and part counterpoint to the rest of the instruments in the band. As a result, the band always sounds full even with a minimum of overdubs.

I believe this was because the bass became an overdub that happened in the late stages of Beatle tracks, instead of being recorded the traditional way during tracking of the basics. This allowed Paul the freedom to come up with a line that fit better with the final track.

Here's an interesting video that showcases McCartney at his best (except for the last track). Have a listen to A Little Help From My Friends, Come Together, and Band On The Run.



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Monday, August 2, 2010

"Come Together" Track Dissection

Here's a great track dissection from a BBC documentary on The Beatles that features Come Together from their Abbey Road album. It does a pretty good job of describing how the song was put together track-wise, although I wish we could've heard more of each track.

A few things I noticed:
1) Listen how out of tune George's guitar is.

2) I always thought that the electric piano was a Wurlitzer and played by Billy Preston (it's a Rhodes played by Paul). Just goes to show what I know.

3) The missing guitar lick is very cool but I can see why they didn't include it in the final mix. Sometimes the space is more powerful than anything that fills it. I think it might've stepped on the vocal as well.

4) Listen to the harmony vocal in the verse. After hearing a number of Beatle's vocal tracks and dissecting how they put their harmonies together, I'm always amazed that Paul usually takes the lowest part, considering his great vocal range. George is frequently the one on the top vocal (although not on this track).



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Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Lady Madonna" Backing Track Take 3

After all the response to last week's post of a partial take of "Day Tripper," this will be Beatle's week on The Big Picture. Today we'll start with take #3 of "Lady Madonna."

This is the take that ended up being the master, but it's mostly Paul on piano and vocal and Ringo playing brushes.

According the Mark Lewisohn's The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, a number of tracks were added at another session later that evening including Paul's bass, John and George on fuzz guitar (through the same amp no less), Ringo's drums and another vocal by Paul.

The song was finished a few days later with John and Paul backing vocals and a sax section.

1) Paul is a really good rock piano player. Even though a second piano was supposedly recorded later, you have to wonder exactly what was added since this track is very solid already. If anything, I suspect that the part between the bridges might've been fixed, since he plays it a bit differently from the main part.

2) Notice the handclaps in the background at about 1;37. According to Lewisohn, there were more added  at a later date.



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