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The piano may do for lovesick girls who lace themselves to skeletons, and lunch on chalk, pickles, and slate pencils. But give me the banjo... When you want genuine music - music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whiskey . . . ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pin-feather pimples on a picked goose - when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo! - Mark Twain, Early Tales and Sketches, Vol 2 (1864-65)

Author Topic: Andrew Rose working on Charley Patton  (Read 4642 times)

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Online Johnm

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Re: Andrew Rose working on Charley Patton
« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2008, 02:27:44 PM »
Hi all,
I may be the only person who feels this way, but I can't imagine anything being done along these lines that would make a bit of difference to me.  Unless the technological treatments change the performances themselves, it's not going to make a speck of difference in how I hear the music.  I admit to being the opposite of an audiophile, but I feel if you know the player, know the performance and how the player makes his sounds with the instrument and the voice, you've got the music, and the rest is straining at gnats.  I feel like I can hear this music well with what's already out there.  I value one newly discovered performance like "Clarksdale Moan" more than the sum of audio improvements that will ever be made over what we've had in the past.  Like I said, I'm probably in the minority.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Montgomery

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Re: Andrew Rose working on Charley Patton
« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2008, 03:12:38 PM »
And by extension those of us who like the sound are idiots too?

I wasn't calling him an idiot because of his work--although I do think he's a fraud--but because he's making wildly inaccurate statements about blues labels that he knows nothing about.  He's made it pretty clear (by his own admission) that he doesn't know too much about pre-war blues, and most of it that he hears (and "restores") comes from emusic mp3 downloads.  So for him to say that he's "100% accurate" that all pre-war reissue labels are working from a mysterious "digital" file that has been sold to each company displays ignorance--and idiocy.


No, it doesn't sound like a 78  :-\. That's the whole point. Reacting emotively negatively suggests being in love with the sound of 78s, or otherwise invested in that medium somehow. I notice in one of your other posts Montgomery that you collect 78s. I rest my case.

Personally I don't possess any 78s, or transcription devices. I want to hear the music as it was played, not the wax, the wonky lathe, shellac and the whole rest of the primitive mechanical / audio chain. That has nothing to do with music, though many people have a sentimental attachment to it, fine but dig the difference.

Although I have a very small collection of 78s, my negative reaction has nothing to do with a sentimental attachment to the 78 "sound."  Nothing whatsoever.  I think his work fails because it sounds totally unnatural and marred by digital artifacts (it sounds to me like RealPlayer files, or the audio equivalent of a YouTube video) and because it has less MUSICAL information than any other transfers I've heard.

If you want me to write a detailed comparison of one of his "remasters" to another, I would do that, but for now, taking, for example, the Patton "remaster," in the first verse alone I can find a ton of problems with it.  I can get more detailed if you want, but there are several bass notes that are completely eradicated in Rose's version, and there's a digital warble that blends many of his notes together (the digital warble is on all his remasters, and is sometimes so bad that it turns the vocal "S" sounds into "Sh" sounds.)  There is far less musical information in Rose's version than in any other version I've heard.  At the same time, he does bring out certain frequencies that make the music appear (in some cases) more "clear" but ALWAYS at the expense of a lot of the music.  There is no music I can hear in Rose's versions that I can't hear in others, though some sounds may be more up-front, but there is music that is totally lost in his remasters.

Anyway, I have reacted pretty negatively towards his work, but only after he desecrated by favorite blues recording.  I tried to stay out of it, because people can like whatever they want.  But I thought his work was awful, and to see him post a version of "Pony Blues" that sounds like a 26k mp3 with no bass, and then see posts that essentially say "wow!  best remaster I've ever heard! Clearer than ever!  Keep up the good work!," it just started to get to me.  But to each his own, so I'll stay out of it from now on. 
« Last Edit: February 04, 2008, 03:14:45 PM by Montgomery »

Offline dj

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Re: Andrew Rose working on Charley Patton
« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2008, 04:30:11 PM »
Quote
I can't imagine anything being done along these lines that would make a bit of difference to me

Theoretically, I come down on Johnm's side of the discussion.  But...  Then I'll hear something - the Bluebird reissue of Sonny Boy Williamson's "Good Morning Schoolgirl" or the Revenant reissue of Charley Patton's "Green River Blues" or John Tefteller's reissue of Rube Lacey's "Mississippi Jail House Groan" - that will make me sit up and wish that ALL my early blues CDs could sound like that.
   
My complaint about the Pristine Classical remasterings - even those they do of classical music - is a bit different from any of the arguments I've seen advanced here so far.  It's this:  It's my understanding that Mr. Rose's process involves using a modern recording as a baseline and tweaking the old recording so that it sounds more or less "modern".  But, gosh darn it, these are historical recordings.  The concept of what a recording should sound like, the idea of "aural space" was different 80 years ago.  While the Pristine Classical recordings may be easier on the modern ear, I suspect that if you took one of the modern recordings that Rose uses for a baseline back in time to a recording engineer from 1928, one of his reactions would be "That just doesn't sound right".  It's not the sound of a 78 per se that I'm interested in, but the sound that recording engineers strove to put on a 78, the sound that the contemporary audience thought pleasant and proper to hear coming off of a 78 (or over the radio).  That's an important part of the music to me, and I don't want to lose it.         

Offline Stuart

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Re: Andrew Rose working on Charley Patton
« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2008, 04:36:15 PM »
I'm in the same camp as Johnm, BUT at the same time I'm open minded (or at least I try to be) and strongly encourage Andrew Rose to pursue this. IMHO it's important that we look at and listen to this with both eyes and both ears open. This process is something that is in it's infancy--and probably only time will tell. A 78 may be the earliest recording of a performance, but when it is played it is a reproduction, not the performance itself. There will certainly be a lot of debate with respect to what is reproduction and what is enhancement. Obviously the removal of surface noise inherent in the medium for recording is fair game as it was not part of the performance. It is the enhancement, how it is done, and what the final result is--if there ever is a "final" result--is where the debate will center. I'm all for a spirited debate, but let's try to keep it civil.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2008, 04:42:41 PM by Stuart »

Offline rjtwangs

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Re: Andrew Rose working on Charley Patton
« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2008, 06:04:50 PM »
 
Quote
but the sound that recording engineers strove to put on a 78, the sound that the contemporary audience thought pleasant and proper to hear coming off of a 78 (or over the radio).
 

  My guess is that the 'contemporary' audience in 1928 liked what they heard because it was what they were used to. I guess I'm more with Rivers in that I want to really be able to hear what that engineer in the room at that moment heard. Now I know that will never happen but I would like to get as close to there as possible. It would be great if Mr. Rose had access to the cleanest 78's possible, better yet it would be great if some of the collector's would allow Mr. Rose access to some of their collection(there must be wonderful collection's in Europe and the UK). Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, but I believe Mr. Rose is doing the best he can with the source's he has. And I also agree that calling him "a con man or an idiot' is a really stupid and childish thing to do! Instead we should all be happy that someone is trying to improve our listening and learning experience. Merely my opinion...

RJ

and hey, I can't wait for Port Townsend!! I am PSYCHED!!!
« Last Edit: February 04, 2008, 06:06:02 PM by rjtwangs »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Andrew Rose working on Charley Patton
« Reply #20 on: February 04, 2008, 07:38:35 PM »
Can I agree with everyone? ;D

I was posting last night here and backed out, and I'm glad I did. A numbers of other opinions and points have come up.

I'm glad Johnm posted what he did here. Ultimately, I think what he's said constitutes the bottom line for those of us interested in figuring out this music to play it for ourselves or others. For the most part, I think this attitude serves us better in trying to play the music.

Nonetheless, there is always going to be debate about what transfer/remaster/release offers better sound. The Penguin Guide to Blues goes into these kinds of differences between various releases, as do we here on Weenie and other sites. Some of these releases are truly bad. Others are mostly in the same ball park, so, as John says, come down to "straining at gnats", unless a significantly better copy of a 78 comes along. My own example of the latter point are two of Blind Blake's tunes on the latest Blues Images calendar CD, Low Down Jailhouse and I Ain't Gonna Do That No More. For "Low Down Jailhouse," my ears had already been opened to that song by an impromptu performance from Ari Eisinger at Port Townsend. When I went back and listened to the version of it on Document, I thought, no wonder I never noticed this song, I can barely hear it. JSP is the same. The Blues Images version is by far the better version and brings an obscure and amusing song to life (though it's still fairly beat up). The same is true of one of the other Blake tunes on the Blues Images disc, Ain't Gonna Do That No More, a song that just comes alive for me with this better quality 78 and transfer.

I've just spent the last while listening to the version of Pony Blues available on Yazoo's Best of Charlie Patton, The version on the Blues Images Vol II (sent to me in high quality .m4a by a generous Weenie), the JSP boxed set version, and the version available through the link at the top of this thread. I think the Yazoo and Blues Images version are the same 78, with possibly slightly different EQ. The swishes from the 78 are noticeably the same. The only difference to me is that the Yazoo version has a bit more of the lower frequencies, creating a bit of a bass "hum" throughout parts of the song. The JSP version could ultimately be from the same 78 but I am less sure. It's certainly not as good. And the generally view of JSP's set is that they took it from Revenant and EQ'd it a bit. I don't know, since I don't have the Revenant set. Nonetheless, it's possible all of these came from the same 78, with better remastering from Yazoo and Blues Images than from JSP (and possibly by extension Revenant, which indeed is the generally held view). One thing I know is that the version from Andrew Rose in the link at the top of this thread is the worst of the bunch. Too many digital artifacts, too little music, as Montgomery has said.

I for one am glad Montgomery posted as bluntly as he did, because he brings up several points in doing so. There has been a lot of praise of Andrew Rose's work, perhaps motivated largely by the fact that those of us who love this music are happy anyone is doing any experiments to improve the recordings. I can't write off the entirety of Rose's work, since I haven't examined all of it closely. My initial comparison of the John Hurt material suggests he's achieved some measure of success there, but most of the rest of the material I've heard seems questionable at best. These are early days, still, so I hope he continues to experiment.

The other point Montgomery makes that really resonates with me is Rose's lack of experience with this music, the fact that his modern recording reference points don't have anything to do with an appreciation of the music or any understanding of how it is played, how an artist's tone is produced, but is more of an algorithmic approach that could apply to any old recordings, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

Awhile ago, I interviewed a respected classical engineer/producer, Martha de Francisco, who's produced many major classical performers, ensembles, operas, and orchestras, for labels like Philips, Decca, Deutsche Grammaphon et al, working with the like of Alfred Brendel, the Philadelphia Orchestra, etc. She does serious recording, high def, surround sound etc etc. I couldn't resist mentioning that (while I had listened to and studied a lot of classical music) the music I listened to these days most of the time was pretty much diametrically opposed to everything she was working on (i.e. I listened to bad historic recordings, documents of folk traditions, etc). Her response surprised me. She said there are lots of classical musicians who maintain that "some of those old recordings of the 1930s musically have a very high content of something we have lost". She said it was something she was very interested in. She went on to say that old recordings have a wonderful warmth that seems to be lost in modern times when everything is trying to be transparent, have an expanded frequency range and so on. The old recordings do not have that and are not very clean, have lots of distortion and hiss, but that somehow adds to the charm. She said that "recording is nothing but a simplification. We try to imitate the sound that happens in the concert hall, but the means we use are not perfect. So it?s a choice of which imperfect means do we want to choose." (She's also one of the nicest and smartest people I've had the pleasure of talking to. :)

Anyways, Rivers. maybe you're right, that there are two different listening experiences at work here, but I've never actually heard a country blues 78 played live in front of me, and I'm just going by what I hear on CDs (not even vinyl!). But I wouldn't write off the 78 collectors. Much of what we have available to us is thanks to poor transfers done some time ago (for which I'm very grateful). While there are some blues records that are extraordinarily rare, there are obviously others where better condition records exist, or better transfers are possible. When people like John Tefteller seek to put out transfers from better condition 78s, they make me a happy man.
 
« Last Edit: February 04, 2008, 07:46:52 PM by andrew »

Offline unezrider

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Re: Andrew Rose working on Charley Patton
« Reply #21 on: February 04, 2008, 10:55:32 PM »
well said, andrew.
as i have stated before on this website, i am a big fan of richard neven's work on yazoo (& county records, too). a big part of that is the 'warmth' in the recordings he is able to retain. it makes it seem more 'real'. & listening to the best of's of patton, lemon, mctell, stokes, etc.. i can't count the times i was hearing things in these recordings i had never heard before. we'll call that 'musical information'. & any remastering that compensates 'musical information' for a 'cleaner' sound, is doing the music a disservice, in my estimation. maybe i'm wrong, but i think that is why so many people hate the aforementioned, by montgomery, cedar no-noise.
i gave these songs rose has 'remastered' a listen, & some sounded good. but generally, i don't hear what's being 'wowed' over. & for what its worth, i have never heard a 78 in person either. it's nice to see there are efforts being made to preserve this music by others - but if the musical information from the recording is being compensated in the remastering process, isn't it fair to believe these recordings will lose some of their 'power'?
chris
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Offline Eldergreene

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Re: Andrew Rose working on Charley Patton
« Reply #22 on: February 05, 2008, 01:12:34 AM »
But ultimately, this discussion is not resolvable - since none of us can actually KNOW what the in-the-room-at-the-time sound was (or how sympatico the engineers back then were),  it can only come down to a subjective matter of preferred listening mode; what works for me may not work for you, & that's not a matter of either of us being right or wrong, it's just what we each like - in that context, those who are enthusiastic about friend Rose's offerings can be 'right', & so also can those who disagree - IMO, what MATTERS is that there's another, different, option...I'm just mystified by the degree of negative response & distrust generally - more choice = GOOD, no?

Offline bnemerov

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Re: Andrew Rose working on Charley Patton
« Reply #23 on: February 05, 2008, 07:14:43 AM »
Interesting discussion, Weenies. A little different POV: During a 15 year tenure running the Audio Restoration Laboratory at an archive here in Tennessee, I had occasion to transfer thousands of 78s----labels major & minor; pre-war & post-war; ragged-out & pristine---and my experience convinced me that the audio engineers of the 1920s & 30s were very good and understood all forms of music.
Early Deccas, say around 1935 for example, are extremely hi-fi. There is much more information in the groove than a 1935-era record player/reproducer would extract. But played on the Audio Lab's (very expensive) modern turntable through high-end preamps, amps and monitors, the music holds up well by any modern standard. Intrusive noise is, naturally, a condition-of-the-disc issue.
I also recall working with a Bluebird from an Eli Oberstein session in New Orleans from the early 1930s where one could hear, in the background, trucks driving by on the street outside the building used as a temporary field-recording "studio." Again, the engineer's skill and recording equipment far surpassed the ability of the consumer to reproduce the music in the disc.
As it does with linear-moving tape, speed of a disc cutter's angular velocity matters. 78 revolutions-per-minute can sound great.
My experience; my opinion only.
Bruce

Offline dj

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Re: Andrew Rose working on Charley Patton
« Reply #24 on: February 05, 2008, 08:09:30 AM »
Thanks for the input, Bruce.  It confirms some of my assumptions, but even if it didn't it's interesting to hear how much is in the grooves of those old records.

Quote
I also recall working with a Bluebird from an Eli Oberstein session in New Orleans from the early 1930s where one could hear, in the background, trucks driving by on the street outside the building used as a temporary field-recording "studio."

Cool!

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Andrew Rose working on Charley Patton
« Reply #25 on: February 05, 2008, 11:38:36 AM »
But ultimately, this discussion is not resolvable - since none of us can actually KNOW what the in-the-room-at-the-time sound was (or how sympatico the engineers back then were),  it can only come down to a subjective matter of preferred listening mode; what works for me may not work for you, & that's not a matter of either of us being right or wrong, it's just what we each like - in that context, those who are enthusiastic about friend Rose's offerings can be 'right', & so also can those who disagree - IMO, what MATTERS is that there's another, different, option...I'm just mystified by the degree of negative response & distrust generally - more choice = GOOD, no?

I agree, EG, more choice is ultimately good. I do think the positive responses to Rose's work overall outweigh the negative responses - that's in fact something a couple people have brought up and resulted in some detailed negative responses. But if it gives people options, and one person likes version A over version B, then that's indeed good. Who knows, it might even result in some competition. Also good.

Offline outfidel

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Re: Andrew Rose working on Charley Patton
« Reply #26 on: February 05, 2008, 12:07:18 PM »
Well, I'm not an audiophile, and I have the mediocre stereo equipment to prove it. ;)

And I'd rather have new recordings by the greats rather than sonically-improved versions of songs that we already know.

Still, I prefer clean-sounding music that sounds "live" (or as close to live as possible) rather than music that sounds like it's played on cheap Paramount platters. I've never collected 78s, so I have no connection to the pops & other imperfections that come with playing 78s. I like Mississippi John Hurt sounding like he's playing in my living room, and I'm hoping to hear Charley Patton doing the same.
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Offline Rivers

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Re: Andrew Rose working on Charley Patton
« Reply #27 on: February 08, 2008, 08:18:45 PM »
Andrew, I did not write-off 78 collectors. I did however write-off the discussion of current 78 remastering representing anything like the potential state of the art. All the naysayers talk mainly about the noise. Stop listening for the noise folks, it's been shifted into a tighter spectrum with the new technique, specifically so you can ignore it; it's not 'all over' the audio spectrum. That is my perception, and that is what I find exciting about the results so far. The harmonic analysis/pitch correction on Frankie is the icing on the cake.

The thing with software is you can just hit the delete key, recalibrate or do the mods, and process it again, as many times as it takes. The minute improvements we've seen in recent years will be left in the dust, mark my words! I have no fear of hearing what my heroes really sounded like... sounds like some of you are afraid they might be more human than you thought...
« Last Edit: February 08, 2008, 08:20:20 PM by Rivers »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Andrew Rose working on Charley Patton
« Reply #28 on: February 09, 2008, 10:49:23 AM »
You calling me chicken?  :P

FWIW, for my own part, I've expressed quite positive comments on Rose's work in the John Hurt thread. And somewhere else I did say I hope he keeps at the experiments.

I'm still waiting for someone to get one of those laser 78-reading thingies going on some old Paramounts though.  :D

Offline Richard

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Re: Andrew Rose working on Charley Patton
« Reply #29 on: February 10, 2008, 01:11:08 PM »
I have just plowed all the way through this thread and amazed at the depth of (sometimes ill) feeling towards Andrew Rose's efforts, so for what it's worth...

I have more than a few 78s myself, now other than the historical aspect plus the fact you can play 'em on wind up all they are is a medium which was usd to record various artists. I should add though it is an "experience" to hear a really good quality 78 on a wind up, but that's not the point I'm making here. To reiterate, the point is that 78s were merely a medium to a recording and importantly from the very first playing they started to wear out and quality was lost.

As I understand it, ideally Mr Rose should start with some perfect 78s and transfer them himself. However, due to a dearth of source material it would appear he is starting as a base with a known digitized track - but really so what if that digitized track happens to be as good as if were to transfer it himself?

So now he finds himself with a digitized 78 track and he can treat that as he will, anything can be achieved these days soundwise. He produces what he considers to be the ultimate copy... so why all the fuss, what's the problem?

Strikes me that because his work has had some good reports and it now concerns a few "greats" of CB it has been subjected to some undue scruitiny - and in fact, can you say that you subjected the last CD you bought to the same sort of analysis that these have received?

Personally, I like what he has done or I would not have bought the goods. It's subjective isn't it?

Beauty is perceived in the earhole you might say, rather like I totally dislike some of the guitars I hear yet thier owners think they are the bees knees.. what do bees knees have to do with it, ever thought of that? 
(That's enough of that. Ed)

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