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Monday, March 25, 2013

Queen "Somebody To Love" Isolated Vocals

Here's an interesting piece of history. It's the isolated vocal tracks from Queen's "Somebody To Love" off of their A Day At The Races album. You'll hear bits and pieces of the stacked background vocals as well as the complete lead vocal track of Freddie Mercury.

Take note of a few things while you're listening:

1. The distortion on the vocals. It's fairly distorted all the way through, although that personally never changed the enjoyment of the song for me and millions of others.

2. The compression. While the track is pretty compressed, especially on the louder sections, it's expertly done (I think by engineer/producer Mack). You hardly hear any compression artifacts, it's just one level throughout.

3. The reverb at the end. The lead vocal is dry until 2:41, when a nice long delayed plate is added.

4. Freddie's pitch. Unlike many hit songs of the period where vocal pitch problems were allowed to slide, this one is spot on for almost the entire vocal (he's just a hair flat at 3:50, which was after the fade on the record).

You also get to hear some ad libs at the end not heard on the original record.


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senormedia said...


Gian Nicola Beraldo said...

Hi Bobby,
please, can you explain me the fourth point:
Freddie's pitch. Unlike many hit songs of the period where vocal pitch problems were allowed to slide, this one is spot on for almost the entire vocal (he's just a hair flat at 3:50, which was after the fade on the record).

Thank you!
Gian Nicola

Bobby Owsinski said...

Back then people didn't listen as precisely and let a lot of things go that we wouldn't now. That was mostly because everything was done faster, and we hadn't developed many of the production techniques that we use today.

Gian Nicola Beraldo said...

Ok, thank you very much!

Rand Bliss said...

LOVE Queen, so special thanks for this one Bobby.

Roy Thomas Baker is credited for producing the first 5 Queen albums, but a little known fact is that Queen produced A Day At The Races themselves. This may explain why some of the 'polish' of previous vocal recordings was absent.

They've said they were proud of co-producing nearly every album anyway, as would be expected since each member was a perfectionist, as well as being immensely talented. And Freddie's sibilance on so many of his lead vocal tracks never bothered me.

And I agree with all comments about letting barely noticeable imperfections slide during the recording process, regardless of the era when the recording was made.

When anything becomes too analytical to the point of distraction from the true purpose of the SONG itself, I think everyone loses the plot. I'd personally rather listen to these great classic artist's recordings than most anything that's auto-tuned to death today anyway.

I think absolute mechanical perfection is sterile. One doesn't have to dot all their i's and cross all their t's to make a sentence meaningful. Every singer has their own unique voice, character and expression. Do you think Ray Davies or Roger Daltrey would be successful today in this overly technically minded recording industry?

In fact the great Roger Daltrey has said a few things that might put all this in perspective:

“In those days I don't' think they were even demos.”

"It was a period when the record industry was growing so fast and the business couldn't keep up. Bands were leading the way; it was driven by the art and not the business. Now it's driven by the business."

"I don't over-sing anymore, which I used to suffer from terribly because I couldn't hear myself."

“First of all, you have to understand that I'm like anybody else. When I hear my voice on a record I absolutely loathe my voice. I cannot stand my voice.”

KAM said...

Freddie was a passionate singer, but his intonation (pitch) is off in many places. Instrumentalists listen much more closely than most. His approach to pitches was generally from under, rather than above. For the period his vocal arrangements were very ambitious and obviously well received. He invested a lot of himself in his performances, as well.


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