Country Blues > Super Electrical Recordings!

Dusty records or Dusty digital?

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Floridablues:
In these hi-tech days, New super software comes at us bigger better and bladder nearly every six months, and it's possible for the everyday man to remaster works of his or her favorite musician.  However, you also get the gimmicky trends where large groups yearn for the good old days and find bluetooth record players, and stacks of packaged classics resold to new audiences. Yes, those in time will crack pop, and sound like the real thing. Which do you choose though? Which is better. I've heard Robert johnson songs playing fast and slowed down versions. Do I want the music played after being sifted through filters all cleaned up and polished or heard the way when I fell in love with them. Crackling, hissing  and haunting, the bad quality was part of the allure. Charley Patton should be dirty audio in my opinion. Which scratches should you take out in his  songs? To me they are a part of them.  Any thoughts? 

Thomas8:
With respect, I whole heartily disagree, My favourite is Papa Charlie Jackson and would give my right leg to hear his recordings cleaned up to the level of an American Epic. Ma Rainey too, as well as Tampa Red, getting to hear his guitar playing crystal clear would be a gift from god. I've never understood that concept on wanting the scratch on the record there's always going to be an atmosphere to the recordings as they weren't recorded in some sound proof studio. There's so much life in them already, taking the scratches away only affords us more music and makes it sound like your in the room with the artist is that not what we all want?

The music and delivery is what makes it sound haunting, You can't say Skip James all cleaned up would sound any less haunting surely? Just my thoughts :D 

Rivers:
Well obviously we've trained ourselves to listen through the non-musical artifacts (noise) associated with ancient recordings or we wouldn't be here discussing this. We have, or had, no choice but to train our minds to identify and sideline the accompanying static if we wanted to get down to the real music.

Just my opinion. It's easy enough to drill down mentally to what it must have sounded like at the time it was recorded, but  motivation and imagination are required. The artifacts remain non-musical, physical, random noise, jumping up from imperfections in the original playback surface. That's a fact.

To suggest that surface noise is somehow part of the true essence is an audio Stockholm syndrome. "We are prisoners of where we find ourselves, so let's celebrate what we've got and thank Paramount for using cheap shellac". I don't think so...!

The challenge to remastering old recordings is just how much noise can you remove without breaking  the aesthetic connections in the mind of the listener, which is a complex topic. The goal should be to get it to how it actually sounded live at the time, BSN (before surface noise). Impossible probably.

Johnm:
Hi all,
I'm always happy when a cleaner copy turns up of a record which was previously available only in one extremely whupped copy.  I agree with Rivers that being able to edit out a reasonable/normal amount of surface noise is pretty much a prerequisite for any serious listener to this music, but when a record is so trashed that there are actual gaps in the sound, howling surface noise, etc. it is horribly frustrating to try and get at the details of the music that were made.  And there's no romance to the record being trashed, it's just happenstance that this particular surviving copy of the record was led a very hard life.  I would be elated to hear cleaner copies of Ishmon Bracey's "Suitcase Full Of Blues" and "Woman, Woman", as well as a couple of Ed Bell's titles which vie for the "Most Whupped" honors.
My pet peeve is people screwing with the speed and pitch on the old records, it drives me nuts.  To those people who are doing that, stop it!  They always have some specious reason for doing it, most of which centers around the notion that the player was actually tuned to present-day concert pitch and so the record must have been sped up to sound as high as it did.  Wrong!  There's no more reason to assume that someone tuned high did not actually do it or do it by design than there is reason to think that people have not occasionally chosen to tune low on purpose.  Thank goodness it hasn't occurred to these pitch control freaks to tune up players who purposely tuned drastically low, as in Josh White's early Gospel material in Vestapol or Rosa Lee Hill's and R. L. Burnside's recordings for George Mitchell.  Leave the pitch alone! 
All best,
Johnm 

oddenda:
Gayle Dean Wardlow was philosophical about old records when white from play: "Some one sure did enjoy that record!!".

pbl

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