Paul White's August 2016 editorial resonated with me bigtime. I agreed with everything he said. There's something about machine music that's somehow a bit soul-less compared to music played by musicians in the same room. (I still record to a click track these days, and I have a cunning plan to combine beatbox stuff with played instruments, but that's another story.) The nub of his piece was this, I think: "The tape recorder simply recorded what you played into it, so the music had to be largely thought out and crafted before you hit theRecord button." Bingo. Okay, hold that thought for a moment.
I listened to Steppin' Out the other day - it's a set of covers done by Fred Astaire in the early 50's. Great tunes, great musicianship, and very listenable deliveries by Mr Astaire, a dancer much more than a singer, but who sang the way he acted in the movies - charmingly. However, the mixes were way off base for my money, because the vocal level stood way too proud of the backing tracks. I get that he didn't have the strongest of voices, and I get that he was the obvious star of the show, so his voice had to be prominent. But the overall effect is a bit like the cover picture on a cheap romantic novel, where the heroine is out front full-scale with the supporting cast ranged behind her in degrees of diminution. "It's all about the star" is what that kind of imbalance says.
Okay, back to tape recorders and capturing the whole band all at the same time. I assume that's how they decided to record it, and because it was one take to mono, there was no playing with levels after the fact. But I 'd love to hear those tunes with the vocal pulled down a couple of dB. He had Oscar Peterson behind him. Barney Kessell. Ray Brown, too, I believe. The playing is marvellous.
So, they knew what they wanted, but there was no recovery from an error of judgement. And *that* is where the beauty of multitracking lies. Or am I wrong? Was multitracking available to them back then?
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