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Review: Over-production of CDs

saulgoldie 12 Sep 05 - 08:39 PM
Joe Offer 12 Sep 05 - 09:04 PM
DebC 12 Sep 05 - 09:31 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 12 Sep 05 - 10:20 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 12 Sep 05 - 10:34 PM
Clinton Hammond 12 Sep 05 - 10:56 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 12 Sep 05 - 11:53 PM
Goose Gander 13 Sep 05 - 12:26 AM
Cluin 13 Sep 05 - 12:27 AM
Joe Offer 13 Sep 05 - 02:55 AM
alanabit 13 Sep 05 - 03:26 AM
GUEST,Noddy 13 Sep 05 - 04:40 AM
treewind 13 Sep 05 - 05:08 AM
greg stephens 13 Sep 05 - 08:17 AM
GUEST,Whistle Stop 13 Sep 05 - 08:51 AM
mooman 13 Sep 05 - 08:57 AM
stormalong 13 Sep 05 - 09:11 AM
GLoux 13 Sep 05 - 09:19 AM
Clinton Hammond 13 Sep 05 - 03:32 PM
GUEST,Russ 13 Sep 05 - 05:29 PM
Rapparee 13 Sep 05 - 05:45 PM
Stephen L. Rich 13 Sep 05 - 06:26 PM
PennyBlack 13 Sep 05 - 07:51 PM
Goose Gander 13 Sep 05 - 09:37 PM
GUEST,Stephen L. Rich 14 Sep 05 - 01:11 AM
PennyBlack 14 Sep 05 - 05:51 AM
Goose Gander 14 Sep 05 - 10:24 AM
hesperis 14 Sep 05 - 11:15 AM
treewind 14 Sep 05 - 01:22 PM
Judge Mental 14 Sep 05 - 01:46 PM
Wesley S 14 Sep 05 - 02:02 PM
Mark Ross 14 Sep 05 - 02:55 PM
michaelr 14 Sep 05 - 07:04 PM
Seamus Kennedy 14 Sep 05 - 11:59 PM
mg 15 Sep 05 - 12:57 AM
MMario 15 Sep 05 - 08:32 AM
saulgoldie 03 Aug 11 - 06:24 PM
saulgoldie 03 Aug 11 - 06:26 PM
Charley Noble 03 Aug 11 - 07:56 PM
dick greenhaus 03 Aug 11 - 08:03 PM
GUEST,doc.tom 04 Aug 11 - 03:36 AM
GUEST,matt milton 04 Aug 11 - 04:54 AM
GUEST,matt milton 04 Aug 11 - 05:04 AM
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Subject: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: saulgoldie
Date: 12 Sep 05 - 08:39 PM

I just got a CD by a musician whose act I liked very much (and whom I will not out, here). However, when I listened to it, there was a lot more music than there was when he was on the stage by himself. His voice and guitar was lost in the cacaphony of drums and other instruments, and it was NOT what I wanted to hear. This same phenomenon has happened for me on more than one occasion.

I am wondering if there is some irresistible force compelling musicians to over-produce when they are in the studio, surrounded by all the equipment. Why can't I just buy their CD and get what I heard on the stage?!! Does anyone else share this frustration?

I feel this especially strongly since this is folk music. And for me, folk music is necessarily more simple and approachable. It is about the voice, the instrument, and the story. It is NOT about the razzle-dazzle of studio effects and a back-up band that was nowhere to be seen when I saw the performer.

Comments, please.


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: Joe Offer
Date: 12 Sep 05 - 09:04 PM

I don't know if this is still the case, but Rounder seemed to have a reputation for overproducing CD's. I noticed it especially on some of John McCutcheon's recordings. He started out doing a lot of traditional stuff, accompanied by acoustic instruments that he played himself. In the early 1990's, his Rounder albums had amplified instruments, including a Kenny G type electronic saxophone on one album.

In recent years, his albums have had simpler accompaniments, although his music seems to be chiefly his own compositions and not very much traditional music.

I think "folk" musicians would be well-served to stick to simple, acoustic accompaniments and tried-and-true traditional songs, including songs of their own or other songwriters only when those songs are especially good.

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: DebC
Date: 12 Sep 05 - 09:31 PM

Hear Hear, Joe!!

Deb Cowan


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 12 Sep 05 - 10:20 PM

See the thread on space in music....

I don't really have a problem with additional instruments added on folk albums, as long as they compliment the singer and guitar (or whatever instrument the singer plays.) It's impractical (and financially impossible) to travel to folk clubs bring three or four musicians along, so most folk club performances are going to of necessity be a singer and whatever instruments they play. If I gave an example, I sure wouldn't mind hearing Clarence Ashley in his day if he had Doc Watson, Gaither Carlton and the rest with him on stage.
A live performance is a different medium than a recording, because you lose the whole dimension of the person (usually) when it's squeezed through speaker wires. For me, adding some additional instruments or harmonies can enrich the music. It depends (just talking about myself, as we all do in here) it depends completely on whether the essence of the performance is still there. Done right, additional instruments and voices can enahnce and enrich a performer on CD.

All that said, I too often find that the additional instrumentation seems to be more of a lack of trust that the singer and the song can sell the record. Got to gussy it up for the buying public...

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 12 Sep 05 - 10:34 PM

.. there'll always a lot to be said for good quality live and demo recorded bootlegs..


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 12 Sep 05 - 10:56 PM

In my collection of huge ammounts of MP3s, I find myself more and more deleting live and bootleg versions in favour of studio quality recordings...

If I want live music, I go see live music...

If I want recorded music, well, that's why I have so many mp3s...


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 12 Sep 05 - 11:53 PM

Except for Cindy Mangsen singing harmony on one cut on my second LP, everything I ever put out was just me and my guitar or banjo.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: Goose Gander
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 12:26 AM

I think the state of recording technology might have something to do with this. With 32 and even 64 track digital recording accessible to just about any musician, there is the accompanying temptation to add layer upon layer of additional tracks. With midi, anyone possessing a guitar, a voice, and reasonable command of technology can add literally dozens of instruments to what otherwise might have been a basic recording. You really don't even have to sing in key anymore, just run the vocal through a harmonizer.

I remain impressed with the quality of recordings from the 1920s through the 1950s. Without multi-track capabilities, without outboard effects of any kind save for tape reverb and acoustic echo, some incredible recordings were made that compare favorably with anything recorded in recent years. Why? Simple, singers had to sing, musicians had to know their instruments and sound engineers had to be able to get it down without recourse to fancy tricks or shortcuts.

So I think modern recording technology is of dubious benefit. There is a certain convenience to it all, but I think the wider effect on recorded music is negative.


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: Cluin
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 12:27 AM

Got to have something on the tracks to justify that fancy EQ.


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 02:55 AM

Which track was that, Art? You're OK, but I love Cindy Mangsen....
[grin]
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: alanabit
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 03:26 AM

I am with Clinton here. Listening to recordings and listening to a live gig are two different experiences. In front of a audience, you can hope to exude some physical presence and spontanaiety. You can use your face and body language to enhance the music and you can make asides or add inflections to the songs, which might sound tedious, if heard repeatedly on a recording. There's the rub, you hear a live performance once and carry home a memory of it. Recordings are a different animal. They still have to sound good when you hear them after playing them many times. I have tried recording a whole album with only voice and guitar, but you would not be able to listen to more than ten minutes of it.
Ther are artists whom I can enjoy listening to very simple versions of. I would also rather hear simpler recordings than over produced ones. However, being able to make a whole album, which stands up with only voice and one instrument is a talent not given to many.


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: GUEST,Noddy
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 04:40 AM

I take your initial point about OVER production is not what is wanted, and that what you get on a CD is not what you get live. But is that not the idea of going into a studio, that it is NOT live and it gives the artist the opportunity to show his creativity with a BIT of production effects and extra musicians etc.

In contrast one act I know recorded a CD as a Demo with almost no production effects and were critised that it sounded like them giving a live performance!
Their peformance on the CD was very good and it was eventualy released for sale.
So what do you do.


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: treewind
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 05:08 AM

What Alan said...
Adding a little extra flavour to compensate for the lack of visual and audience-interactive interest is often desirable. Similarly, the lack of verbal introductions on a recording is one reason why we make a point of writing a fair amount of booklet notes, a detail that has been appreciated by some reviewers.

Extra bits like that are a very different thing from over-production though. I think the key is to have some or most tracks in the same unadulterated arrangement as the live performance. If they seem inadequate next to the reinforced ones, you've overdone it!

On the few tracks we've enhanced with other musicians, the result is still performable live with those musicians (except where I double tracked myself...) and we've occasionally done that.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: greg stephens
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 08:17 AM

If I went to hear Bach doing a solo organ recital, I wouldn't object if I bought a CD off him of a Brandenberg concerto and found he'd beefed things up with a bloody great orchestra. Same applies to folkies, I reckon. Surely the criterion is the quality of the CD as a stand-alone object, whether it's just a singer and a guitar or a band or whatever.
   There is an effect that works the other way involved in this, however. The srtart of this discussion was the performer who does tour solo, but has a CD out hugely beefed up with Phil Cunningham accordeon soloes, Ladysmith Black Mombazo backing singers and a bit of Eminem rapping thrown in. Trouble is, if you've heard this track on the radio and think "Wow, I must go and see this live", you may be a little disappointed(or even annoyed) when you just see a little person strumming n acoustic guitar.


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: GUEST,Whistle Stop
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 08:51 AM

To some extent this is an occupational hazard. I have been guilty of too much layering in my own recordings, in an often futile effort to make up for a certain lifelessness that is a product of the studio environment.

Like many of the people who posted to this thread, I tend to prefer recordings that aren't overly dressed up. But I have found that the hardest type of recording to do is solo one-guitar-and-voice recordings. On stage, that works great; in the studio, it can be very tough to make them come alive.


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: mooman
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 08:57 AM

Put me down as one of those who favours a more minimalist approach. I still use a 20 year old 4-track for recording and it tends to push one into honing things down into that which is really important.

Peace

moo


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: stormalong
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 09:11 AM

And it's not just CDs...I recently witnessed a live performance by a duo doing Irish material which was accompanied by pre-recorded backing tapes. They'd have been much better - to my taste - without that. I suppose they felt compelled by a certain perception of popular taste, but I was surprised to encounter this at a folk festival.


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: GLoux
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 09:19 AM

To Joe's point about John McCutcheon...his early recordings were not over-produced, but he seemed to "get weird" on some clearly over-produced recordings, but I wouldn't blame that on Rounder.

In my opinion, there is a huge difference between "well-produced" and "over-produced".

Being into old-time music, I've come to appreciate live studio recordings of this acoustic music with minimal editing and over-dubbing. Live concert performances of the same material is very representative of the recordings, with the live accentuations adding to it...

-Greg


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 03:32 PM

"you hear a live performance once and carry home a memory of it."

And a recording of that live show would NEVER do it justice....

Two very different beasts....


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 05:29 PM

My main problem with "over-produced" recordings is a bit different.

To my ears, the more "over-produced" the track is the more generic it sounds.

As you add layers you lose individuality. You cease to hear all the things that attracted you to the singer in the first place.

Happened to a friend of mine. Never had the heart to tell her.


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: Rapparee
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 05:45 PM

My problem is that the words to the songs get lost amid the drums and things. I do not object at all to enhancing a CD, but when it is overproduced to the point that the songs and music suffers then yes, I object.


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: Stephen L. Rich
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 06:26 PM

Could we keep one thing in mind here, people. An audio recording is not a live performance. It is different medium. It requires, as a result, a different approach to the music.

    That having been said, I have to agree that it is quite frustrating and sometimes downright annoying when the production is so heavy as to obscure the song. This is not a phenomenon unique to digital recording. It started with the invention of mutitracking decades ago. it is also an evolution that nearly every folkie goes through.

    Tom Paxton spent years just recording his voice and his guitar. His last three albums for Electra had a few more backup instrument. Even the few cut which were "heavily" produce ("A Thousand Years" comes to mind) were done quite well. They were done compliment and support the song. The same can be said of his first two releases on Reprise records in the 1970's. After that his producers at Reprise started doing full production for its own sake. Those albums stink. It's impossible to tell whether the songs are any good or not because you can't hear them through the "backup band". It wasn't until the 1980's that he finally regained control and found a balance between the minimulist recordings of the 1960's and the production of the early 70's.

    The point is that the studio is just another instrument. The best musicians are the ones who know when NOT to play.


Stephen Lee


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: PennyBlack
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 07:51 PM

I take the point on watching and act then buying a CD and finding its not what you heard live - what's maybe worse is buying a cd and loving the arrangements harmonies etc. and on the strength of these recordings, either booking or paying to see the artist to find a totally different sound.

We along with most other recording artists are guilty of adding to the basic sound, of a recording, extra instruments double tracking vocal et al, I don't think it's done to mislead, but because you can hear what you'd like the arrangement to be, and as said before you can't always afford the extra musicians/singers for live gigs.

Not sure what the answer is, maybe having two mixes of each song on a CD?

PB


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: Goose Gander
Date: 13 Sep 05 - 09:37 PM

Actually, PennyBlack's idea is completely impractical but artistically sound: Have two versions of a release, one unadorned and the other richly layered and produced. Has anyone ever done this?


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: GUEST,Stephen L. Rich
Date: 14 Sep 05 - 01:11 AM

That's an intriguing concept. It wouldn't even be that hard to achieve with digital technology. As long as each track is isolated it would simply be a matter of how one goes about mixing it.

Stephen Lee


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: PennyBlack
Date: 14 Sep 05 - 05:51 AM

Not really impractical, it would in fact be easy to do, as said, at the mixing stage just a matter of saving a copy once the main vocals and "Live" instrument backing were mixed and prior to the "Extras" were mixed in.

Might be easier to include two CDs one of each mix, you could even offer a discount of your next CD if one of them is traded in - in that way you could find out which of the mixes your listening public preferred and the cost would be negligible.

And if you're into vinyl what about a 3 sided LP? Monty Python did it with Matching Tie & Hank set - now there is a challenge ;-)

As a matter of interest we always use tracks from our CDs for the interval music, so at least potential buyers have a better idea of what they sound like in comparison to us live (we play tracks that aren't on the song list for that venue though)

PB

PB


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: Goose Gander
Date: 14 Sep 05 - 10:24 AM

I only meant that the marketing of the release could be impractical- it would double the mastering costs, increase pressing costs (unless you did half and half of your intended press run), and might confuse stores, CD-buying folks, etc. I still think its a great idea.


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: hesperis
Date: 14 Sep 05 - 11:15 AM

Actually, if you recorded different arrangements of the same songs, it's best to mix them up and use the web to deliver alternate content. In the 90's the "unplugged" albums were all over the place... but they worked.

Have one CD of medium to full arrangement, one CD of light to medium with a different overall tracklist and only a few overlaps, and then use your website to deliver the "extra" versions to your fans.


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: treewind
Date: 14 Sep 05 - 01:22 PM

Assorted comments:
  • Just removing some tracks from an existing mix is unlikely to leave the best arrangement of what's left. So different versions would have to be recorded separately.
  • straightforward "as performed live" recordings are much better for a convincing demo CD, so they're worth doing for that purpose anyway.
  • A single CD can combine audio tracks with a computer readable part containing alternate mixes as MP3 files. That will get it all into one package. A bit more production effort, but one glass master and set of pressings.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: Judge Mental
Date: 14 Sep 05 - 01:46 PM

I don't know if this is still the case, but Rounder seemed to have a reputation for overproducing CD's. I noticed it especially on some of John McCutcheon's recordings.

Joe, you're way off-base blaming Rounder for John McCutcheon's recording excesses. John always had complete artistic freedom on his Rounder recordings. If you've a musical bone to pick, it's with John himself.


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: Wesley S
Date: 14 Sep 05 - 02:02 PM

To paraphrase Shakespeare - "First lets kill all the producers"

The Beatles just re-released "Let It Be - Naked". Some of them hated the production job that Phil Spector did. So they removed it. It's a different release entirely.


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: Mark Ross
Date: 14 Sep 05 - 02:55 PM

Anyone remember Tex Koenig? 40 ago he said to me once, "Never record anything you can't take on the road with you." Since everything I've done for recording was just me, I just have to figure out how to play 3 or four instruments at once. Seriously, recording is a different medium, not better, or worse, just different. I like to do recordings that sound like they were done live, even if sweetened a little bit later. My favorites to listen to are still the old Moe Asch sessions. He would stick everyone in the studio, poisitioning them in relation to the mic to get the right balance, and then let the machines run. The energy that comes through after 60 years is still amazing.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: michaelr
Date: 14 Sep 05 - 07:04 PM

I'll restate what I've said in similar threads before:

A recording of a live performance (whether in public or in a recording studio) is like a snapshot photograph. It captures a moment in time. A studio recording with multitrack layering is like a painting.

I like layering in the studio. It's an entirely valid approach to creating art. What is essential is the producer's good taste and judgment.

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 14 Sep 05 - 11:59 PM

About 6 of my CDs were recorded live, just me and the guitar and the audience; and then I added a little, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, whistle in the studio.
Still sounds live.
In fact, I've had people who were in the audience tell me after the CD that they remember the other musicians playing with me at the live show! Oh well..
The folks who buy the Cds seem to like the backup instruments.

Seamus


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: mg
Date: 15 Sep 05 - 12:57 AM

but please don't sing with yourself. That is just plain wierd. mg


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: MMario
Date: 15 Sep 05 - 08:32 AM

*grin* I was going to point to Seamus as an example of recordings that sounded very similar to his "live" shows -- but since he did it himself...


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: saulgoldie
Date: 03 Aug 11 - 06:24 PM

Damn! It just happened AGIN!! Sweet voice, and nice guitar when I heard her onstage. Nice words that I could hear. Song I wanted to learn. But the one on the CD has loud and razzy twangy guitar, loud bass, and a rock'n'roll drum. Shitfuckhell!!

It was decidedly NOT "I added a little, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, whistle in the studio" That might have even been nice. But her voice and guitar are now lost in, as I said earlier, "the cacaphony." The song is barely listenable, now. Look what they've done to the song, ma...

Saul


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: saulgoldie
Date: 03 Aug 11 - 06:26 PM

I'm listening to the rest of the CD, and I think the big thing is the drums. They just add a whole new level of noise and drowning out.

Saul


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: Charley Noble
Date: 03 Aug 11 - 07:56 PM

Sad but true.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 03 Aug 11 - 08:03 PM

One of the things that Sandy Paton and I used to discuss was a hypothetical venture called Underproduced Records. A singer, with or without an instrument, and two mikes spaced about 8 feet apart. No mixing, no echo, no dubbing.Just music.


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: GUEST,doc.tom
Date: 04 Aug 11 - 03:36 AM

We're in danger of confusing 'over-produced' with 'over-arranged' here. Over-arranged is what it says, over-produced is things like faking quality by using pitch correction, or compress it to hell so we wind the volume up (yes that is also mastering/engineering - part of producing).

I agree that demos should be 'what you're going to here when you book them' - otherwise it's a con, and we've seen it happen, where the live performance is actually atrocious

BB and I have always avoided doing anything on our Wild Goose CDs that we could not reproduce on stage - that's not to say we havn't used the advantage of a studio to add friends on other intruments and choruses - but it could still all be reproduced on stage.

But even so you're concious that many purchasers are after a souvenir of the evening (people don't but our CDs just because we're famous - we're not). But it is a constant dilemma as to how much to arrange. 'Demo', 'live' and 'studio' are different beasts - and probably have different target markets! Horses for courses - but don't con the punters!

TomB


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 04 Aug 11 - 04:54 AM

"One of the things that Sandy Paton and I used to discuss was a hypothetical venture called Underproduced Records. A singer, with or without an instrument, and two mikes spaced about 8 feet apart. No mixing, no echo, no dubbing.Just music"

Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't the majority of the Folk Legacy albums recorded in much that way anyway? I recently bought a big swathe of them - Jim Ringer, Kendall Morse, Norman Kennedy, Golden Ring and others - and you can hear the voices move occasionally in the centre (a dead giveaway that it's a true stereo recording, which my ears always appreciate).

Anyone interested in the "Underproduced Records" aesthetic should definitely check out Mapleshade Records, and the fascinating interviews with Pierre Sprey on his website. He is the most single-minded record producer I've ever heard of - he uses nothing but two Boundary Mics affixed to his own binaural wedge - and mixes direct to tape using his own self-made cables. The results speak volumes. The Mapleshade albums by Archie Edwards, Harvey Thomas Young, Tony Williamson and Danny Nicely are the most "so real you can touch it" folk recordings I've ever heard.


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Subject: RE: Review: Over-production of CDs
From: GUEST,matt milton
Date: 04 Aug 11 - 05:04 AM

"We're in danger of confusing 'over-produced' with 'over-arranged' here. Over-arranged is what it says, over-produced is things like faking quality by using pitch correction, or compress it to hell so we wind the volume up (yes that is also mastering/engineering - part of producing)"

I beg to differ on this. There's no hard and fast rule about what a producer is/does. Typically a producer is the person responsible for the sound of an album. That can mean pretty much anything, depending on the producer in question.

That can include ideas about arrangements. It can even mean song-structure input ("the intro's too long", "lose the middle 8", "don't bore us, get to the chorus!" etc etc), it can mean telling the drummer not to play and getting him to just play tambourine.

Equally, it can be a very hands-on mixing engineer type role. Or it could just be providing a kind of vibe. All manner of things.

Personally, if I were in the producer's chair, arrangements are probably the first thing I'd stick my beak in over if I thought they sucked.


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