Thursday, August 12, 2010

Nirvana's "In Bloom" Dissection By Butch Vig

Here's a dissection of a big song Nirvana's massive Nevermind record called "In Bloom" by producer Butch Vig. I believe it's from their Behind The Music or VH1 Classics programs, but I like it because you hear about it from Butch's perspective.

The great unsung mixer Andy Wallace mixed the record, and reportedly the band hated it because he made it too polished, but to me it's a big reason for the band's initial success. Yes, they had some great songs and great tracks, but at the point of impact when a band just breaks, they can't be too raw or they'll be inaccessible. Regardless, this clip is short and is a lot of fun.



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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Heart's "Barracuda" Isolated Vocals

Here's an interesting mostly isolated vocal track from Heart's 1977 hit and album radio favorite "Barracuda." The track sounds like it was isolated via phase cancellation since there are elements of other tracks that jump in and out as the song goes along, but that's okay since they're actually helpful in hearing some of the other parts. Here are some things to listen for.

1) Listen to the majesty of Ann Wilson's voice. One of the best voices in rock.

2) As with most songs done in the analog age, there are a lot of lip smacks and breaths (thanks to the hard compression) that couldn't easily be cleaned up in those days.

3) It sounds like there's an 8th note delay with a fair amount of regeneration on the vocal that's timed to the track and printed. The reason why I think it's printed is that you can hear a punch at about 12 seconds where the delay cuts off and then back in again.

4) The production on this song is state-of-the-art not only for those days, but now as well. Listen to electric rhythm guitar and acoustic guitar during the guitar solo at around 2:00. They're really tightly played with each other where it almost sounds like they were fixed by moving sliding them in a DAW, which of course wasn't available for about another 20 years. Also, the layering of the outro is great.



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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Injustice Of The Beatle's Engineers

I had the pleasure of lunch today with engineer/producer Ken Scott, who in addition to being one of The Beatle's engineers, went on to produce some of the greatest albums ever for David Bowie, Supertramp, Missing Persons, Marivishnu Orchestra, Dixie Dregs, Jeff Beck and many others.

As we dined, Day Tripper came on the background music system and Ken began telling the stories about being there that so many of us Beatle's fans just can't get enough of (you'll read these stories in his upcoming book that I'm helping him write).

During the course of our conversation, he mentioned that none of The Beatles engineers ever received a gold record or any official recognition of any kind for their contributions to some of the greatest recordings in music history. Imagine that - over a billion records sold and Ken, Norman Smith, Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald, Glyn Johns et al never got an official award???!!!

The reason was that they didn't give awards to engineers in the days when the records were made, which is fair enough, but what about the diamond-selling reissues like "1" (the top selling album in the last decade)? And if the engineers who did the remastering of The Beatles catalog got awards, why shouldn't the original crew who made it all possible get them as well?

I think it's high time that we all say thanks to these great engineers, and the industry gets it together to recognize them for their groundbreaking achievements. After a billion sales (yes, billion with a "b"), they so richly deserve it.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

The Making Of "Strawberry Fields" Part 2

Here's Part 2 of The Making Of Strawberry Fields. It doesn't go into a lot of things I'd like to hear about like the double drum track on the record, but it does cover a few things that may be of interest to those of you into recording who weren't around back then.

1) Part 2 talks a lot about the use of the Mellotron (seen on the left), a keyboard instrument that used a tape of an orchestra or orchestral instrument under each key. We never think about it today because terrific orchestral samples abound, but back then a Mellotron was cutting-edge technology.

2) I love Sir George Martin's explanation of the outro of the song about how there were 11 people playing and it drifted out of time and Ringo eventually pulled it all back in. They just faded the track down until the rhythm straightened out, then faded it back up again. They were called geniuses for being so creative as a result. There's a good lesson here - from adversity comes creativity.



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Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Making Of "Strawberry Fields" Part 1

Continuing with The Beatles track dissections from last week, here's part 1 of a great look at how the song Strawberry Fields came together. This is part of an excellent documentary done by the BBC. What I like best about this is:

1) to hear slivers of John Lennon's early demos of the song.

2) Producer Sir George Martin's explanation of how two versions of the song were cut together even though they were in different keys with different tempos.



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Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

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