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Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?

GUEST,JJ 09 Jul 02 - 06:21 AM
GUEST,maryrrf 09 Jul 02 - 09:47 AM
GUEST,Bill Kennedy 09 Jul 02 - 10:14 AM
alanabit 09 Jul 02 - 01:24 PM
Wesley S 09 Jul 02 - 01:33 PM
Mudlark 09 Jul 02 - 01:44 PM
greg stephens 09 Jul 02 - 01:45 PM
Bev and Jerry 09 Jul 02 - 02:05 PM
Joe Offer 09 Jul 02 - 02:15 PM
Jim Dixon 09 Jul 02 - 02:36 PM
Phil Cooper 09 Jul 02 - 04:18 PM
RolyH 09 Jul 02 - 04:39 PM
beadie 09 Jul 02 - 04:49 PM
greg stephens 09 Jul 02 - 04:50 PM
GUEST 09 Jul 02 - 06:22 PM
Herga Kitty 09 Jul 02 - 06:27 PM
McGrath of Harlow 09 Jul 02 - 06:59 PM
michaelr 09 Jul 02 - 07:17 PM
khandu 09 Jul 02 - 07:59 PM
Celtic Soul 09 Jul 02 - 08:06 PM
Stephen L. Rich 09 Jul 02 - 11:00 PM
wysiwyg 10 Jul 02 - 12:46 AM
beadie 10 Jul 02 - 09:55 AM
Art Thieme 10 Jul 02 - 02:24 PM
McGrath of Harlow 10 Jul 02 - 02:58 PM
greg stephens 10 Jul 02 - 03:12 PM
McGrath of Harlow 10 Jul 02 - 06:15 PM
greg stephens 10 Jul 02 - 07:47 PM
Bob Bolton 10 Jul 02 - 08:10 PM
mack/misophist 10 Jul 02 - 08:54 PM
GUEST,oj 10 Jul 02 - 09:24 PM
Art Thieme 10 Jul 02 - 09:35 PM
Steve Parkes 11 Jul 02 - 03:54 AM
GUEST,greg stephens 11 Jul 02 - 04:59 AM
alanabit 11 Jul 02 - 06:00 PM
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Subject: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: GUEST,JJ
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 06:21 AM

I go to a lot of folk club gigs.

If I've liked what I've heard, I often like to buy a CD or tape.

9 times out of 10, however, the CD doesn't resemble what I've heard. If I've enjoyed a solo singer with guitar, that's what I want to listen to at home, not something with added bass, drum machines, synth pads etc!

Why do solo artists insist on putting a whole 'band' on their CD?

JJ


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: GUEST,maryrrf
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 09:47 AM

I think the answer is that most people (the listeners) want the extra instrumentation. In general people just aren't used to "simple" anymore. I put out two CD's of traditional ballads with just me and guitar (yep, what you hear is what you get) because that was the kind of CD I wanted to hear. They aren't flying off the charts, but they've done fairly well here locally.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: GUEST,Bill Kennedy
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 10:14 AM

sometimes the full arrangement is what they are after, but they can't afford to tour or appear with the full band, or they do all the instruments themselves and mix them to cd, but can't reproduce that in person. Simpler is better, as far as I'm concerned.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: alanabit
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 01:24 PM

It's a fair enough question. I think the answer lies in the fact that you are listening to the performer in a different setting. At the gig, I can tell stories, put in little jokes in between and use eye contact and body language to try and enhance the effect of my modest musical ability. My first attempt at recording the album used very sparse instrumentation, but after three or four tracks it was unlistenable. We can't all project like a Martin Carthy or a Bert Jansch in the recording studio. I have heard very few people who have Bob Dylan's ability to sound messsmeric for track after track using only the guitar and voice. Instruments were added to my songs in the hope that it would help them to stand up to repeated listening. There's no attempt to con anyone. I just wanted something that folks can enjoy hearing while they are peeling the spuds or doing the ironing. I think the same is true for a lot of performers.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: Wesley S
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 01:33 PM

I agree JJ - why can't folk singers be folk singers ? So often the band arrangements sound forced and inappropriate. A lot of my favorite recordings are the simplest. Try "Dust Bowl Children" by Peter Rowan sometime to see what I mean. Good topic.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: Mudlark
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 01:44 PM

I vote the simple ticket too...any more, I mainly buy a CD at local gigs to support the singer/group, but no longer expect to necessarily enjoy the CD one tenth as much as the live performance. I agree that live is best, if the musicianship is good. There is no substitute for that energy. But "live" also insures spontaneity, a freshness than can be lost as when multiple takes get it "just right"...aside from all the additional background that can be added.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: greg stephens
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 01:45 PM

Agree with Alanabit. Folk music is, of all forms of music, the most function and context dependent.I like best to hear old songs sung by old codgers in caps drinking pints in a pub, because that feels right to me. It doesnt necessarily mean I want to hear the same type ofperformance all the time, when I'm bunging on a CD in the morning with my first cup of coffee.A performer may sound great at a gig on his own with a guitar, but back home listening to his CD you may well appreciate that he got his mates in on didge, djembe and border pipes. Doesnt it all just depend on how well it's done?


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: Bev and Jerry
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 02:05 PM

Ah, one of our pet peeves.

We have always thought it has to do with the "because I can" syndrome. When you get into a recording studio you suddenly have at your fingertips (or at least the engineer's fingertips) awesome power to do things you could never do before. So, you sometimes can't resist the urge to try some of them. The result is often an overproduced CD which is not as enjoyable as a live recording would have been. As often as not, this is caused by the engineer encouraging you to do this so he can show off his talents and newest equipment.

Case in point. A couple of weeks ago we were in a studio reading a sixty second radio spot. We read it fine but we were three seconds over. The engineer said not to worry because he could "splice and dice" it down to the required sixty seconds. Rather than do that, we simply read it again a little faster. It might be a low tech solution but it worked fine. No need for computers and other high tech equipment. Yet, this simple approach didn't occur to the engineer.

We have always done our albums live. No gimmicks, no tricks unless you count multiple takes to get it perfect. In our biased opinion, we think all artists in the folk idiom should do the same.

Bev and Jerry


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 02:15 PM

Well, "Dust Bowl Children" is one of my favorite CD's and the accompaniment doen't distract me - but I haven't heard Peter Rowan do those songs live. To me, it's an almost perfect recording, bringing out all the power of those powerful songs.
I really like John McCutcheon's live performances. He'll play 8 different instruments in an evening, and he sounds wonderful. His recordings from the early 1990's were a disappointment, because they always seemed to have a heavy accompaniment, sometimes with electronic instrumments. One song even had an electronic soprano sax that sounded like Kenny G. I heard from somebody that Rounder tended to push for heavy accompaniment, and that the label had forced the arrangements on McCutcheon. In the last few years, McCutcheon's recording arrangements have been much more sparse, and much more satisfying.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 02:36 PM

Well, I don't think I'd like the idea of using electric instruments on a CD if the performers only use acoustic instruments when they perform live gigs, but then I don't know anyone who has done this.

For some performers, though, half the fun of making a CD is in trying out things they can't do in real life. My wife, for instance, plays hammered dulcimer and flute, although (obviously) not at the same time. With overdubbing, however, she is able to lay down multiple tracks so that you can hear the dulcimer and the flute simultaneously. And in other places, you can hear two flutes playing in harmony. I rather liked the effect.

Click to play the medley: "Six City Blocks" and "Turtle Reel" (It's a 3:54 .ram file.)

In the same medley, you can also hear her partner playing guitar and fiddle simultaneously, or guitar and mandolin—more real-life impossibilities.

The only drawback I can see is that it might make the CD less effective as a demo. Theoretically, some venues could complain that the CD doesn't represent them as they really sound. I don't know that this problem has ever come up in real life, however.

I think how you feel about this might depend in part on whether you prefer songs or tunes. With a song, additional instruments might muddy up the sound a bit and make it harder to understand the words; but again, it depends on how well it's done.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: Phil Cooper
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 04:18 PM

We've tried to keep the sound (2-3 voices and guitar) as a basic approach to our recordings, but we've added extra instruments to compliment the songs (fiddles, flutes, etc). I think people can get the basic idea of what we would sound like live. I, too, dislike recordings where it seems the worst aspects of rock production are thrown in for no good reason.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: RolyH
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 04:39 PM

Saw Martin Simpson at Colchester (UK) last night.Heard the performance,bought the CD,no differece both brilliant.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: beadie
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 04:49 PM

Not being a professional performer, myself, this is entirely speculative. . . . but, . . .

I have, on several occasions at live performances, heard artists complain of the difficulty in working with record company executives and "yes men" producers who think that they know what the audience wants (Translation: what the radio will play) far better than does the person in the spotlight in a different town every night. These board-room types are frequently of the opinion that more stuff on the CD is richer, better, fuller, . . . take your pick or add.

You're right, though, simple is better.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: greg stephens
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 04:50 PM

I always liked that record of Judy Collins singing along with a hump-backed whale.Did they ever gig live together?


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: GUEST
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 06:22 PM

or dead separately..........


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 06:27 PM

Mick and I went through all those arguments with our producer when we recorded. Live performances, even when apparently great live, are ephemeral, so the mistakes and lack of texture aren't so irritating as if they've been recorded for posterity. I'm not convinced that multiple takes to get it right are more in the folk idiom than splicing the chorus you got right. It was only on one track that I indulged in harmonising with myself ...


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 06:59 PM

There's a world of difference between "he got his mates in on didge, djembe and border pipes," and "something with added bass, drum machines, synth pads etc".

A bunch of people playing together can lift things and make you want to listen to it again after you know the songs. But drum machines and the rest of the devil's orchestra pit, God forbid.

The great thing with alanabit's CD which he sent me is that he keeps the arrangements in place - well into the song before new things start coming in, with a dramatuc purpose. And the words always stand out clear and strong.

"Old songs sung by old codgers in caps drinking pints in a pub" - I think that is a fair picture of a lot of these days, Greg...


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: michaelr
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 07:17 PM

Think of a live gig as a snapshot photograph, and of a studio recording as a painting.

For the performer of trad music (as opposed to the songwriter), the chances for creativity are limited. You can come up with innovative arrangements or new combinations of songs/tunes, but that's about it. The recording studio offers the opportunity to get very creative and paint a bigger picture, as it were. I love playing around with overdubs and different sounds, and I think it's perfectly legit to avail yourself of the technology to do so. I don't feel any obligation not to record things I can't replicate in concert -- it's a whole different kettle of fish.

Of course, one hopes to have the good taste not to overdo it!

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: khandu
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 07:59 PM

It is a difficult thing to decide, whether you want a plain bologna sandwich or it you want the cheese, mayo, tomato, lettuce, etc. piled up on it. I guess it depends on how good a particular brand of bologna is.

I would love to hear Ian Anderson doing an unaccompanied CD. I would hate to hear MJH with a full production. I love Dick Gaughan with or without accompaniment.

However, when I record, I use embellishments, (usually in the form of my friend, David A), because I think the song(s) sound better with sounds I cannot create alone. But, on the rare occasions that I do perform publically, I am usually alone, usually for logistical reasons...my fellow musicians live far from me.

Perhaps artists should produce two Cd's; one solo and one with accompaniment, to give the buyer a choice! :-)

khandu


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: Celtic Soul
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 08:06 PM

Well, that *is* a good question!

Canna answer for the rest of the world, but for my little corner of the world...

We have embelished only a very few songs. We added a kind of reggae guitar track to a song that normally has only an acoustic guitar in it, but I do think it adds to the songs feel. We also completely re-recorded in studio at least one song from our most recent "live" album. I guess the lead singer thought it was not good enough for release.

Other than that, we're pretty much WYSIWYG (not to steal someone elses nom de plum).


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 09 Jul 02 - 11:00 PM

I can't speak for anyone else, but for my own work I record what I hear in my head. That is almost never just my voice and a guitar. I perform the songs as a solo act because I can't afford to pay a band.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 12:46 AM

That's OK, CS, I believe I may have a slightly celtic soul. *G*

~S~


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: beadie
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 09:55 AM

Wasn't this concept (simplicity) the reason for the MTV (sorry . . .) "Unplugged" series?

I still think the best thing to come out of that was Clapton's accoustic version of "Layla" . . . much more pleasing than Derek and the Dominoes electrified stuff.

Even the rockers seem to recognize the intrinsic value of pure musicianship as compared to engineering wizardry.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 02:24 PM

Over the years I've done 6 or 7 records and only on one track of one of those did I include just one other voice and no other instruments but me and mine. That's also, generally, what I prefer to hear----to listen to.

That other voice on that one track was my old friend Cindy Mangsen.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 02:58 PM

The crucial diffeence is between records that are recordings of the music actually being made at the time, which may in fact be more ornate and embellished than what would happen in the club or the pub, the ones that are stuck toigether with technical wizardry.

Technical wizardry can produce great records, so I'm not knocking it. But for folk music I don't think it's the way to go, except maybe occasionally. And, please, never ever make a record with a drum machine. I know people knock the bodhran players, but that really is a joke, though a joke that must get on people's nerves at times. But drum machines are no joke.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: greg stephens
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 03:12 PM

McGrath,I found an interesting bit of reminiscence in the BBC archives once.It was a farm labourer talking about dancing to the noise of a thrashing machine, when a fiddler was unavailable. Seeing your prejuduces against drum machines,what do you make of this unnatural practise?


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 06:15 PM

Threshing machines - they've got the inbuilt variability of mechanism made out of moving parts. Like the rattle of a train. Great rhythm.

It's the rigidity of the electronic programmes I object to. For practicing they can be just fine, but surely not for performing or recording.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: greg stephens
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 07:47 PM

You'ld be surprised how many records you quite like used a click track, metronome or similar back-up in the early stages. And I've danced many a time to a barrel-organ, no human parts but the spirit of the ages behind it. Mind you. totally agree, drum machines are shit.The spirit of New Labour, encoded in silicon.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 08:10 PM

G'day greg stephens,

A couple of years back, I was involved with recording The Heritage Ensemble ... a bunch of Sydney/ Newcastle/ Canberra regions musicians that get together to play acoustically for the Bush Music Club's annual Heritage Ball. Because of the lack of room in the (cheap) recording studio, we have to put some groups of musos into separate booths and hang it all together with a click track to headphones on one or more of the musos in each booth.

I've never been happy with the result ... and I'm sure it's because the click track has snapped evryone into a precise time that is not what happens in life. When we all play together in one space there is an edge that comes from walking the timing tightrope ... the chance of something going wrong puts in a spice that is sadly missing from the recording takes, which is why we never proceeeded to the planned CD release.

Anyway, the general answer to GUEST JJ's original question is that the music industry has become convinced (probably more so in the States ...) that every conceivable space must be filled - and there is no appreciation of the dramatic value of contrast ... and occasional silence!

Regards,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: mack/misophist
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 08:54 PM

Bev and Jerry mentioned commercial recording studios and sound engineers. I realize there's almost none of that inthis venue but this is still the time and place to say it: Do it yourself. Don't let professionals get involved unless you keep complete artistic control. It's incredible how many goor recordings have been screwed by an engineer who didn't like the 'live' sound.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: GUEST,oj
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 09:24 PM

just a brief note in defense of recording engineers, click tracks, drum machines, etc. the ability to play with a click and still have a sense of freedom and placement of the beat is a skill that can be learned, much like playing a musical instrument. the click track and drum programs are tools. if you can't play with them and have your music come out as you think it should be, it isn't necessarily the click tracks fault. and as far as engineers go, while there are many engineers who don't know what they're doing and think that just because they bought some gear they must be engineers now, there are at least an equal number of inexperienced,dogmatic, poorly prepared,lazy folkies who walk into a studio with no idea of what it takes to make a good recording. i personally know several engineers who, when faced with these types actually try to help them make a recording that sounds halfway decent. and these people don't always have the skills required to play something live and get a good take before they've screwed up enough times to drain their performance of any good energy they may have had to start with. the keys to good recording are very similar to the keys to good musicianship.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 10 Jul 02 - 09:35 PM

I'm reminded, for some reason but I'm not sure why, of what Frank Proffitt allegedly said when they asked him what he thought of Earl Scruggs and Earl's banjo style. He said, "I'd like to be able to do it, and then not do it."

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 11 Jul 02 - 03:54 AM

When I first discovered I could sing harmonies many years ago, I tried double-tracking myself with two tape recorders. This was purely for fun--domestic reel-to-reel machines were pretty ropy in those days; but the results were not bad. I've tried more recently on my 4-track, and the results were disappointing: I seemto have a lot of trouble keeping time with myself. This goes for playing different instruments, too. (I blame Bob Dylan, myself!)

When you play or sing live with others you all adjust your timing unconsciously (or if you don't, you can't work together), and when you're playing along with a recording, the adjustment has to be all on your side.

Maybe I should be more disciplined ... or maybe not; I'd have to ask for an outside opinion, I supose.

Steve


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: GUEST,greg stephens
Date: 11 Jul 02 - 04:59 AM

If you are going to add harmonies,or extra instruments, it's probably best that the first music recorded is done with a click track. Diifficult as it is to play fluently and freely with a clicktrack,it's even worse trying to add something to a live recording with its naturally varying tempo. In those circumstances, there's no natural spring in the rhythm,you're pushing or pulling at an immovable object, and it is a completely unnatural feeling to someone who is used to playing with other musicians. at least if a clicktrack was used to start with, the immovable object youre playing with at least has a regular tempo.
My own recording experience has been almost completely live playing, no click tracks.When I've had (or wanted) to do the overdubbing thing, it felt unnatural at first, and no fun atall. It's a completely new skill you have to learn, like anything else in life. i havent mastered it yet, but I'm going to carry on experimenting because it undoubtedly opens up intriguing possibilities. Like most folkies I suppose Im a natural Luddite, but the fact is there is a lot of fun to be had with technology if you're prepared to put in a bit of effort mastering the background skills. Let's face it, we'reall talking to each other here using wire and silicon and stuff.


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Subject: RE: Why do folkies rearrange it for the CD?
From: alanabit
Date: 11 Jul 02 - 06:00 PM

That's the problem isn't it? This stuff is here and now and it reflects the spirit of our age just as surely as the songs we make about it. I like old songs and simple arrangements but I have never been able to make the same thing happen on a recording as I can at a gig. So I don't even try. Once a live performance is finished, it only really lives in your memory - which is both subjective and selective in what it recalls. I find recording studios pretty unforgiving places because I can't win over Mrs.Wilson in the second row with a smile if I fluff my D ninth chord and sing my A at 436 whatever it is. I am after something which will stand up to repeated listening. This means building up (I hope) interesting arrangements and achieving a high level of performance. I like Michael R's very sensible analogy of the recording studio being a painting and the live gig a snapshot. Oddly enough, I really do like a lot of live recordings. The trouble is, I can rarely sit through one of my own for very long without acute embarrassment. Of course, my live gigs are very different to the studio recordings - but I want them to be. It's a different job.


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