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The music industry is not all Grammy smiles and glitter; its closet is a veritable graveyard of skeletons, and when record companies point their collective finger at dot.coms like Napster and yell "Foul!" a hollow ring is heard by the thousands of artists who for decades have been unscrupulously short-changed by some of these very same finger-pointers - Chris Albertson, author's note in Bessie, 2nd ed.

Author Topic: Yazoo: Sales, Service, and Sound Quality  (Read 8913 times)

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Offline jpeters609

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Re: Yazoo: Sales, Service, and Sound Quality
« Reply #45 on: September 15, 2008, 06:56:37 AM »
I haven't heard the JSP set, but I have the Yazoo CD and can tell you this: though it sounds very fine, I prefer (and find myself listening a lot more to) a CD called "Memphis Blues Singers, Vol. 1" on the Frog (UK) label. This may be out of print, but it has 12 Stokes songs which benefit greatly from John R.T. Davies' masterful re-mastering. The guitar simply has better presence on the Frog CD (a problem which Richard Nevins acknowledges in his Yazoo liner notes). You get more songs with the Yazoo set, but the Frog CD also gives you 4 of Tommy Johnson's Victor recordings, 2 of Ishman Bracey's, and all 4 of Rosie Mae Moore's. (If you want the rest of Tommy's and Ishman's Victor sides, simply look for Volume 2 -- which also has several Robert Wilkins and Furry Lewis recordings. Can't beat that -- especially when it was John R.T. doing the re-mastering. He was by far the best, in my book, though you certainly can't sneeze at Nevins.)
« Last Edit: September 16, 2008, 08:23:24 AM by jpeters609 »

J. Baxter

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Re: Yazoo: Sales, Service, and Sound Quality
« Reply #46 on: September 16, 2008, 08:55:09 AM »
Does anyone know if they're coming out with anything new at some point?

Offline jostber

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Re: Yazoo: Sales, Service, and Sound Quality
« Reply #47 on: September 17, 2008, 12:05:45 PM »
Hi all,
I was wondering if any of you had purchased the fairly recent Yazoo reissue, "The Best of Frank Stokes", and if so, whether you felt it was enough of a sound improvement of the JSP Memphis Blues set to justify its purchase.  I'd be glad to hear what folks think who have heard both sets.
All best,

Hi John - I have both sets, and I think it's worth it, but I'm a bit of a Stokes nut. There's a fair amount of speed correction, and the overall sound is clearer, more depth for sure compared to the JSP set, though if you have some of the Stokes tracks on other Yazoo releases, you may notice they are similar (e.g., Memphis Rounders sounds very similar or the same as the version on the Creator of the Memphis Blues disc). I A/B'd a bunch of the tracks and the new Yazoo is significantly better than the JSP, in my opinion. That said, it's worth quoting Rich Nevins' explanation of the remastering process for this disc in the notes:

"Of all the releases we've ever done at Yazoo, this Frank Stokes project has been by far the most difficult to remaster and this has, unfortunately, led to the presence of much more background noise than we'd like. This noise, which sounds like bacon frying, is caused by grainy surfaces with thousands of extremely small protrusions. Usually this problem can be dealt with by searching around amongst collectors for better copies which are more free of grain - for some inexplicable reason, however, ALL the Frank Stokes records we accessed from ALL collections had this same deadly problem, even discs in perfect condition otherwise. We have somewhat subdued this noise without destroying the quality of the music as well. Another problem specific to most of these Stokes recordings also presented difficulties in attaining the usual high standards of sound we strive for. The majority of these selections were recorded in a large auditorium in Memphis and the guitars, not being mike close enough, have a dull reverb quality, totally lacking in punch or body. We have improved on that original shortcoming to some degree, but the grain problem necessitated stopping short of going further as that would have made the CD unbearably noisy. Adding to the sound problems, six of the tracks used here were issued by a company more adept at making rocking chairs than records - indeed some of their releases sound like they may have been pressed from ground up rocking chairs! Happily there was one major problem that we were able to successfully overcome. Stokes sings with extreme fluctuations of volume - he shouts one of two words then almost whispers the next one or two. We were able to balance out these peaks and valleys to present his great vocals in all the quality they deserve. Wish we could have done as much to improve the wonderful guitar playing, but there just wasn't enough sound integrity on the original guitar signal to enhance much. For those of you bothered by the background noise still present, try the following: slightly reduce both your treble and bass and increase the volume - this will reduce the noise somewhat, but will also lessen the music's dynamics a bit."

Hope that helps, but I'd pick it up.

I'm a Stokes nut too.  :)

Offline oddenda

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Re: Yazoo: Sales, Service, and Sound Quality
« Reply #48 on: October 03, 2008, 01:12:11 AM »
Hi. y'all -

The whole re-issue thing is fraught with difficulties, both sonic and otherwise. Remember that this stuff was recorded for an audience other than W.E. fanatics. Remember that there is the artificial performance constraint of the 3 min. 78 and that more "in context" performances often went on for a LONG time!. Remember that a performance often included speech and audience interaction "in context" - it was A&R men who made the performers focus solely on sung/played music (according to the late Kenny Goldstein, recounting conversations he had with Gary Davis). Remember that the original issues were TWO sides at a time and not large quantities of the same person as on LP or CD - some great performers do not hold up well under those circumstances! Remember that we are on the outside looking in! End of sermon.

From my standpoint, I appreciate hearing the stuff in as good sound as possible... cannot ask for more than that.

    Peter B.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Yazoo: Sales, Service, and Sound Quality
« Reply #49 on: October 03, 2008, 09:26:17 AM »
Sounds right Pete, except I'm wondering what you are implying about not hearing more than a song or two at one time by an artist. Does this mean at a fish fry or sitting around a brothel, first Peetie Wheatstraw would play a song or two, which might last a half hour, then, say Clifford Gibson would play a couple, then maybe Lemon for a short set followed by King Solomon Hill and then Blake. Sounds like a great night, but I was under the assumption, from quoted participants, that just one artist would be playing for quite an extended time, like "all night". Sure, perhaps he might be backed by another musician or two that might take a few vocals during his breaks, but it would be his night, as he was the top dog and what the A.A.s wanted. There even seems to be evidence that many artist played for W.E parties in the same context. Or are you just referring to the record listening context?

I think I'm hearing what you are saying about performance context in terms of vocals. It's not hard to imagine Peetie (just as an example) playing piano for dancing for hours without ever opening his mouth except maybe to shout out exhortations to the dancers, and, only now and then, when the dance floor empties out a bit, he may launch into a vocal arrangement. Makes perfect sense, even to a W.E. like me.

I guess that's why iPod shuffle was born.

All for now.
John C.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2008, 09:27:44 AM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22
CD on YT

Offline oddenda

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Re: Yazoo: Sales, Service, and Sound Quality
« Reply #50 on: October 04, 2008, 05:47:47 AM »
John -

          Of course I meant that a RECORD listening experience being two songs, max (save for the Monty Python 3-sided LP!). Not sure how you got to your question from what I wrote, but I am not implying such an all-star review (would be great, though, wouldn't it) as you suggest - does remind me of the AFBF tours a bit!?! My points being that the 78 or 45 is an artificial, mechanical construct/constraint and a format not necessarily followed in "real" "live" performances within the community of which the individual musician (or musicians) was a part. Songs there are often repeated by popular demand on a night (Snap Hill in Newton Co., GA mentioned "Atlanta Favorite Rag" as being so popular that it was repeated, often at great length at house parties) many times. In another time and place, I remember back in the day hearing "Stoop Down Baby" in each and every bar in Chicago from the juke box on "high rotation"... and I still went out and bought the single! 

          The possibility of more than one or two performers is not impossible - my "Detroit After Hours - Vol. 1" album showed that by being a representative sampling of who was there and what went down... limited in time on the final product (would that I had had the length of a CD back then! Would have crammed more performances in) only by by the LP length. I just taped what went on and folks had no pre-knowledge of my going to be there, so whoever showed up, showed up and essentially the same routine would have taken place had I not been on site. It is true that often songs would be around three minutes outside of the studio, either by accident or due to the impact of the recorded performance length on folks. People came and went, sang along, drank, flirted... all to the sounds of generally fine piano players. But one person was common at a house party or fish fry, but string bands were also around; the brothel would want quiet music, and Jelly Roll Morton made mention of that fact in N.O. - pianist or string quartet would do the trick (no pun intended).

          As for Black performers playing for White audiences, musicians played what their audience wanted; I'm convinced that if you went up to Blind Willie McTell on Ponce de Leon St. in Atlanta, gave him fifty cents and asked for "The Beer Barrel Polka", he'd probably play it... and damn well, too! I remember a time when Sam Chatmon played at Wolf Trap and left to his own devices slid into a delightfully salacious song, only to come to an abrupt halt and go immediately into "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain"!!! I'm sure someone official in the wings waved him to a stop. W.E. do know how to f**k it up, sometimes, don't we! Our context is NOT the same, no matter how much we try and get out freckles to migrate and procreate so that we are a darker hue.

          May the farce be with you.

     Peter B.


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