Saturday, December 23, 2006

How many days until...

1. I am not ready for Christmas. Somebody else is.

2. Did I mention about The Beatles' LOVE thing? I can't stop listening to it.

I realized why it sounds as good as it does (then I went and verified by finding some interviews with George & Giles Martin...)

When this stuff was initially recorded, the technical limitations of the time meant that these songs were recorded to 4-track tape -- at least up through Sgt. Pepper's. By the White Album they were up to 8-track recording.

But the majority of this stuff is from 4-track masters. Since there are more than four things recorded, there was a lot of jockeying and jostling of sounds. Sometimes things were recorded at the same time though a mixer to one track on the tape. More often, The 4-tracks on one tape were mixed down to 1, 2, or 3 tracks of a fresh tape so that there was more room to put overdubs - like strings and vocals and other guitars.

All the past Beatles releases have been from the final 4-track master - after all the bouncing and combining had already been done. This tape could be three or four generations removed from the original tape. Meaning that whatever was recorded first -- likely drums, guitars and pianos and things -- has been COPIED three or four times.

How does it sound when you copy a tape on your stereo? How about when you copy a VCR tape? Then what happens when you copy it again? And again? At what point does it look too shitty to even watch?

Granted -- the equipment used at Abbey Road is a far cry from the home dual-cassette deck, but it's still a copy of a copy of a copy and by the nature of the medium it loses some gloss and sparkle with each copy.

NOT ONLY THAT -- but these final 4-track masters are what the original records were duplicated from, what the CD's were duplicated from... They have probably been played more times than any other tapes in the history of modern recording. Playing tape degrades tape -- plain and simple. It wears out.

So our good friends the Misters Martin went back to the ORIGINAL TAKES. Before the bouncing and combining.

They imported the four tracks from that first tape into ProTools. They went on to the next tape and added whatever overdubs it held. And the next tape. And the next tape.

This way, instead of only have four tracks to work with on say, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, now they have eight or ten, or more. And all the generation loss is gone. And it's very likely these tapes HAVE NOT EVEN BEEN PLAYED since the day they were recorded and then bounced to another tape. Sure, Mark Lewisohn may have played with some of them when he combinated all the Anthology stuff, but he tended to work with more completed things, so there's gotta be stuff that hasn't been touched since 1964 on there.

And it sounds AMAZING.

I want more.

Giles Martin's next task should be the creation of 5.1 mixes of the whole fucking catalog. Thanks. I'll be waiting for that right over here.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I'm stunned. Floored. Holy shit.

I must be living in a cave or something. Up until now I'd only heard a few rumblings about The Beatles: LOVE project.

This project somehow involves legendary Beatles producer George Martin, his son, Cirque du Soleil, and the original recordings made at Abbey Road Studios during the 8 year period the Beatles were active.

I had heard a small rumbling about somehow mish-mashing songs together and making a new album, and I really didn't think much of it. They're always trying to grab more money from Beatles fans around the holidays, so I pretty much dismissed it as another throw away.

But today I heard it.

And all I can really say is...


For real. I put the disc in the car while I was driving earlier today but I had someone else in the car, so I turned it down to just barely audible and didn't really note much detail on the first half of the thing.

But on my way home from work today, I was alone. I let it play from where it was and turned it up so I could really hear it. And at some point I looked at the CD player and noticed it was on track 11. It started playing John Lennon's demo recording of Strawberry Fields. At least I'm pretty sure it was the demo version featured on Anthology.

And the first thing I noticed was the fidelity. It was unreal, like I was totally immersed in the sound of this man and his guitar -- a sound which was recorded seven years before I was even born. This sound, as old as I know it is, sounded like it was recorded five minutes ago, it was so alive and real... but before I could marvel any more about the overall sonic quality of the thing, I realized the studio recording of Strawberry Fields was now playing. But it still had the vocals from the demo. Music from the studio version. Vocals from the demo - which was cut with one mic in a Spanish bedroom recording a voice and guitar. Over the studio music. And it fucking works. It's like magic. And it just keeps going, on and on. Songs seque into songs and parts from the wrong songs flow in and out of the thing and it's all in key and sounding... I dunno... RIGHT. It sounds right.

It sounds like what would have happened if these songs had been recorded now and The Beatles not only had full access, but the whole bag of skills, to twist and edit their music in a modern digital workstation.

BUT IT DOESN'T SOUND FUCKING DIGITAL. The sound of it utterly crushes me.

The songs here are presented in a more modern light. The odd stereo panning of the old songs -- which was never an artistic decision in the first place, it was purely commercial so that consumers with a mono record player could still listen to the Stereo version of the LP -- is tossed away. The songs are mixed with a modern stereo image in mind. Drums and vocals are firmly in the center of the image. Guitars, bass, pianos, and all kinds of shit flitters around on the outer edges of the speakers.

These songs done this way are powerful. They certainly don't sound 40 years old. The edits and layering are astounding. Not only is there more going on than you could ever absorb in a single listen, but it's also presenting things in a new light so you're hearing things which were buried way down in the original mixes shining through loud and clear.

Do yourself a favor (and contribute to Mr. McCartney's next tropical island) and go get a copy.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Going solo

I tried. I really, really tried.

But I think I found the key to the whole thing.

See -- last year when I did NaNoWriMo, I had other people in my immediate circle doing it, too. I could check their stats and see that they were creeping up on the big lead I created early on, so I would write more.

After week 2 when I hit the wall, I could check stats and see I was completely caught-up to and passed by friends. So I really had to write more.

This year it was just me. Only me. No other stats to check, no nagging voice in the back of my head saying, "open it. type. every little bit helps."

This year I was looking for big blocks of time to write big blocks of text.

I found one such block over Thansgiving -- I knocked out 5,000 words in just over two hours one evening. I did a thousand more the night before that.

But, when added to the 7,500 words I had prior to that, I only manged a total of 13,684 words for all of November.

So I've got the first quarter of a story here... I dunno when I'll finish it, but I need to figure something out before October of next year cuz I don't want this one to be on my mind when it comes time to start up a new one.

Hopefully next year my peeps will be back in action. I really hope so, cuz while I'm not really bummed out, I do miss the feeling I had last year when I actually managed to write a novel.