Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Kooky Revolver Conundrum

You may remember I told you we were going to talk about the Remasters some over the next couple of weeks; well, maybe you don't remember, as the rest of you have lives.
On the menu for this evening, we're serving up a great big ol' helping of Revolver, with a side of WOW, Those Remasters Sound Good, and a slice of Mono Comparison for afters.
You may wonder why it's been so long since the Remasters have made an appearance on this here chunk of the bloggy-verse. And I'm going to tell you.
When I promised that Revolver would be the next remaster on the agenda, I had actually started the comparisons on the flip side of the Magical Mystery Tour notes; I only made it to track five, "Here, There, and Everywhere", before I was somehow distracted by something shiny elsewhere (my guess is that I needed a break from the process... it's actually quite a lot of work to listen to these, but it's great fun, too). I pulled one of those 'I'll put this important thing somewhere safe, and I'll remember it's there for the later-times' things. Obviously, since the last Remaster related post was dated April 17, I lost it well and true. Knowing I'd find it eventually, I shelved the Revolver set, and continued on with my little piddly hobby elsewhere (that's where Past Masters comes in!). Fast forward to earlier this month; we're getting ready to head out to Colorado with Grandy, when I'm looking through some unaccounted for spirals. Lo! There, the very first page, were the Magical Mystery Tour/Revolver notes I had lost!
Naturally, when you're with family, you don't get much of a chance to play around with such things (we'll get into what I was up to in the back seat on that trip in another post, never fear... wait, that didn't come out right...), but I finally was able to finish the task on our Austin trip last week.
There, you see? Very simple!
Speaking of the notes, I would like to point out how my system of taking those notes has changed over time. I feel like it's gotten a little more organized, rather than just being excited for the remasters themselves.
Before, I would list each of the tracks in order (so as to make adjusting the iTunes placement easier), then make notes under the track listing. It looked a little something like this...

Now, however, I have taken to writing the track, then comparing mono and stereo beneath the title. It looks something like this...
Yes, it says 'Revolver, Part Deaux'. Sometimes, I like to count in French. I see nothing wrong with this.

A close up, merely to illustrate my point...
In case you can't read the monkey scribbles, it says:
Here, There, And Everywhere
Mono: It's got all the right bits. Stereo had better be stellar.
Stereo: OK, stereo is stellar.

Now that we've got the boring bits out of the way (regardless that I have found this part of the discussion incredibly interesting), we'll get down to talking about the music itself.
Of the fourteen tracks, I kept one lone mono in the playlist (I organize my iTunes by playlist, which really are just the contents of the album itself [or, on occasion, singles and bonus tracks that don't fit into another playlist], in alphabetical order. Usually I will only do this for the music I listen to all the time; folks like Donovan and Buddy Holly do have their own playlists that are merely categorized by artist, but that's another discussion entirely). We'll get to that in a moment, though.
If we look chronologically at The Beatles as artist - particularly revolutionaries in their field - and at the time frame during which this album was recorded and released, I think we'll get a better look at why the stereo tracks seem to dominate the mono.
With touring days in their rear view mirrors, they were allowed to get experimental; if they didn't have to reproduce the sound on stage, they could use different techniques with their material. Layered vocals, tape loops (involving such funsies as playing back an instrument backwards, or speeding them up [usually done on a four-track deck back in the good old days when they'd have to actually superimpose the sounds on tapes one at a time]; a process prominent on their next album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band), and strings on a couple of the tracks are just a few examples right off the top of yer head. When the time came to record the album in the summer of '66, their practically unlimited access to Abbey Road (I say practically because they never did get the key to the fridge in the canteen), coupled with their excitement to experiment with these different sounds and methods made for the album we ended up with.
That being said, with the all the layering and electricity going on, the stereo channels a little more evenly; the littlest sounds can finally be heard, rather than just a glob of sounds and vocals on a platter, like week-old shepherd's pie.
In favor of the stereo, you can really tell the difference with Paul's "For No One". Though the channeling is slightly uneven, I think it works for the song; pulling the vocal forward, almost to the point that it's acapella, and leaving the music as just a quiet din in the background (excluding the french horn solo... that was gear), the song packs a great punch in the stereo form...

...and mono...

I find it odd that there's a two second difference between the two tracks (though, on the videos, it's a three second difference), yet it's just dead space. Who knows, man, who knows.
Now, let's talk about Eleanor Rigby, AKA, the lone mono track.
As before described, with the vocal layering and use of strings (this is the only Beatles song that none of the Beatles played an instrument on... just Paulie's vocal), the stereo, although crisp on the bits where vocals were layered in, leaves the main vocal on the right ear, and practically nothing in the left. There was no punch to the stereo vocal, and the strings felt like they were tucked away in a little rosewood pencil box. Mono, on the other hand, though not as clear on the layered parts, channels the vocal and strings evenly, and gives the zing back to the lead vocal.
Compare, and see what I mean!
Mono (pay attention to the channeling, and lead vocal)...

Stereo (look out for the changes)...

You know, when I played these two songs on the full sized Bose, and then gave my mother the headphone Bose to further illustrate the 'I think it channels differently for the compact size' argument, I finally convinced her that Bose is the way to go, rather than a cheaper brand. I was actually afraid I wouldn't get my headphones back... perhaps I should hide them tonight.

And now, for the song I felt benefited most from the remastering process!
Revolver's winner has to be "Got To Get You Into My Life"; it's a stand out number live (Up and Coming Tour... what an event!), but this version is pretty damn good, too. I'm looking at my nerdy notes right now ('cause I'm really good, and can both type and read at the same time), and my stereo notes say, quote, "TALKING/INTRO COUNT? Instantly sold. Punch. Great layered lead, robust horns. Love, love the fade out!" Sounds a right sight better than the mono notes: "Nice intro, good vocals; chorus doesn't have much punch; longer fade out?"
So, in it's awesome stereo form, Got To Get You Into My Life (look out for the layered lead vocal... a Paul in each ear!)...

I love a horn arrangement in a pop song.

You may be asking where the conundrum comes into this whole album fangirling process, right?
Oh, Reginald Kitty, you already know!

Last night, when I went to arrange my playlist, I was rather rudely told that all of my Revolver songs, both remastered and German mono and stereo, were gone. The files could not be located. Vanished. I've got no idea what happened.
This, however, is a good lesson to us all; make sure you have a hard copy of ANYTHING you want saved. Luckily for me, I just went to the top of my closet, where I store all of my Beatles hard copies (Beatles, and solo material... the top of my closet is full of empty jewel cases, as I also categorize my hard copies into folders, according to release date/artist... it's a crazy little world in my brainbucket), and directly uploaded the content back into my iTunes library.
Today's lesson: COPY EVERYTHING IMPORTANT. You never know when Steve Jobs is going to take away your awesome albums.
Come on, Steve, it's not like we're in the Kremlin! (Kids living behind the Iron Curtain would risk their necks to smuggle in the original vinyl copy [mostly Beatles, but I suspect there were other artists, too], then burn additional copies for black market resale [again, risking their skins, here] on old x-rays. No one suspected anything, and if someone was around, they could easily slip the x-ray/album up a sleeve quickly, due to the flexibility.) Just 'cause they aren't on your beloved iTunes yet doesn't mean we can't have 'em at our disposal!

So, another remaster down. Revolver is now safely categorized in all of it's files according to my thinktank, and the blog to explain it all has been written, and, hopefully, read.
The next in the Remasters Series (well, it's kind of like a series, anyway) will be, most likely, the biggest remaster undertaking of the entire process. Bigger than the White Album, for certain. Not only did I compare the Mono Masters to the Stereo Masters (AKA, every single the boys officially put out), I was compelled to compare those to the Beatles 1 album (compilation of every number one), just because I heard that some folks liked the 1 remasters, done in 2000, better than the 2009 remasters.
The result may surprise us all. (Of course, I've already done it, so the results don't surprise me.)

Reginald Kitty is not surprised.

As an aside, and totally related to nothing here...
We're now on design 2.1 here at the Turret Full Of Ravens! The old header just wasn't punchy enough for me, so I had to go off and make a new one. We shall, however, remember our humble one fondly.

Off-Center Simple Header
April 8, 2010 - October 22, 2010

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