Album: Mr. Tambourine Man
· Original Stereo LP (vinyl): Columbia CS 9172 (Released 6/21/1965; 1A pressing)
· Original Stereo Mix on CD: Columbia CK 9172 (1987; hereafter referred to as ‘Columbia’)
· Original Box Set: The Byrds. 4 CD Boxed Set. Columbia/Legacy C4K 46773 (10/19/1990; Digitally remastered and remixed by Tim Geelan and Vic Anesini; We Have Ignition disc; hereafter referred to as ‘box set’)
· 20 Essential Tracks from The Boxed Set: 1965-1990. Columbia/Legacy CK 47884 (1992; hereafter referred to as ‘Essentials’)
· Remixed (partially) and Remastered CD: Columbia/Legacy CK 64845 (4/30/1996; hereafter referred to as ‘Legacy’)
· Original Mono Mix on CD: Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, Inc. UDSACD 2014 (Mono Album Mix + Bonus Tracks from Legacy CK 64845; 2005; Mastered by Shawn R. Britton; SACD playback; hereafter referred to as ‘MFSL SACD’)
· “Original Album Mono Version” with “Mono Bonus Tracks” (2) and “Original Album Stereo Version” with “Stereo Bonus Track”. Sony Music Japan International Inc. SICP 20372 (Blu-Spec CD. Made In Japan. 2012; hereafter referred to as ‘Blu-Spec CD’)
· Gene Clark, Echoes. Columbia/Legacy CK 48523 (1991; Digitally remixed and remastered by Vic Anesini)
· The Columbia Singles ’65-’67. Sundazed LP 5130 (2002; hereafter referred to as ‘Sundazed LP set’ )
Number of Remixed Tracks on the Legacy CD, CK 64845: 9 (out of 12)
Remixed Track Numbers: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, and #10.
After detailed listening comparisons, it was determined that the 1987 Columbia CD had been sourced from an EQ’ed, second-generation ‘cutting master’ copy tape. Otherwise known as a ‘production master’ used to cut records from, this tape would have been derived from the ‘flat’ original 2-track stereo mixdown master tape, but with the bass output reduced while the treble frequencies were boosted. Without this special equalizing compensation, especially regarding the low bass frequencies, the stereo disc-cutting heads used in the manufacture of vinyl records would have distorted on the front end, while a consumer’s phono cartridge stylus from that era would have mis-tracked a stereo LP’s grooves, potentially jumping from the vinyl surface (for insightful discussions of this topic, see both Roger Ford’s essay at
http://www.rdf.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/MonoStereo/MonoStereo.htm and John Bauldie’s interview with Steve Hoffman at http://www.edlis.org/twice/threads/hwy61_DCC.html ).
The above deduction explained why the 1987 Columbia CD lacked the lower bass output of the other sources, and generally displayed a shriller, excessive top-end and a predominantly mid-range sound. Such a conclusion has been corroborated by Steve Hoffman, who has observed that this CD was “ … probably made from a cutting master.” (http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/archive/index.php/t-168784-p2.html; 8/7/2011). Co-incidentally, Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited album, also released on CD by Columbia earlier (1984), was also sourced from a ‘cutting master’ copy tape with similar sonic shortcomings (http://www.rdf.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/H61Part2/H61Part2.htm; Dylan’s album was originally released as a stereo vinyl LP on 8/30/1965 by Columbia Records, just over two months after the Byrds’ Mr. Tambourine Man).
It should be noted that if a safety copy of the Mr. Tambourine Man master tape had been used instead of a cutting master copy for the Columbia disc- even a higher generation (3rd-4th) safety copy- the sonic results would have been better, and the original stereo mixes would have been preserved digitally in a more accurate manner. Nevertheless, the tape from which the Columbia CD was sourced from- likely several generations down from the initial cutting master, which was already one step down from the original master tape- was in reasonably good shape. Unlike the next two Byrds’ studio albums released on CD by Columbia in 1987 and 1989, fortunately this Columbia disc did not have any audible tape hiss or flaws- even when listened to on headphones.
Notwithstanding the sonic limitations discussed above, the Columbia CD was still useful in corroborating the location of instruments across the soundstage. It of course could not be used to compare the sound, tone, and EQ of instruments, or the overall frequency balance of a track. The original vinyl LP and the relevant tracks from the box set disc served as the benchmarks for the 1965 stereo mix in the following detailed listening comparisons with the Legacy CD.
· Mr. Tambourine Man (Track #1)- By far the most obviously remixed song from this album, this wide stereo remix first appeared on the 1992 Essentials CD. Digitally remixed and remastered at that time by Vic Anesini and Tim Geelan “from the original eight-track master” (liner notes), the same remix was used for the 1996 Legacy CD, albeit with slight EQ and mastering differences, running about 2.5dB ‘hotter’ than the 1992 version on average. As well, the Legacy version utilized the newer 20-Bit mastering and ‘Super Bit Mapping’ technologies, which in this writer’s opinion made minimal audible difference to the sound.
My conclusion regarding the similarity of this remix presented on the two CD’s is based on careful listening comparisons and calibrated meter data. After compensating for the higher mastering level of the Legacy CD, I was struck by the corresponding consistency in channel output levels between the two discs, merged from three separate sessions: out of 24 musical cue points throughout the song, 22 (92%) of them matched exactly for both channels. These numbers included the first three spots at the song’s start, through the vocals dropping in (at 00:08), as well as five points during the fade-out, which were all synchronized precisely. Even for one independent measuring session (conducted on 6/29/2013), 88% (21) of the points registered within 1dB for both channels-meaning one channel matched exactly while the other was off just 1dB-while 58% (14) lined up exactly, including the start (3) and fade-out (5) spots. The three spots where discrepancies were observed deviated by 2dB in one channel.
The above results provide conclusive proof that the remixes were identical and derived from the same eight-track master. The fact that there were minor irregularities can be explained by the likelihood that different equipment was utilized, aside from the newer digital technologies used in mastering the1996 Legacy CD (20-Bit digital filtering, developed in1993; Super Bit Mapping circuitry, 1994).
Sonically, besides the dramatic intro, when Roger McGuinn’s iconic Rickenbacker 360/12 opened in the right channel (RC) followed by Larry Knechtel’s memorable bass line from the left channel (LC), this wide stereo remix was notable by including Leon Russell’s electric piano (LC), which essentially had been deleted from the vintage 1965 mixes (mono and stereo). Nevertheless, aside from the sweeping presentation of instruments, led by the Rickenbacker and the bass guitar, this wide stereo remix minimized Hal Blaine’s powerful drums (RC) and the bass guitar output, which in turn diminished the focused impact of the song as heard on the original mixes.
These were the inevitable tradeoffs resulting from certain decisions made in the remixing process. McGuinn’s superbly-crafted lead vocal on the remix was noticeably flat and ‘dry,’ with no depth to it- in sharp contrast to the 1965 mixes (especially stereo). As well, both the aforementioned 1992 and 1996 discs featured the same extended fade, adding eleven seconds to the track’s length (2:29). It was interesting to notice that the bass guitar rose in level twice during the fade out.
Another salient aspect of the wide stereo remix that merits discussion is the level and EQ of the 12-string. As John Nork of the Tracking Angle observed in an interview with Roger McGuinn, the Rickenbacker “… was mixed way too low….” Alternately, McGuinn “… didn’t mind the level on it so much as the EQ. I think the EQ was a little too treble for my tastes. I don’t know if they were going for the original or what, but I don’t like it that thin.” (http://www.analogplanet.com/content/roger-mcguinn-speaks-john-norkpart-1-0). Separately, McGuinn explained to Andy Ellis in Guitar Player that the iconic jingle-jangle sound of his 12-string was caused by engineer Ray Gerhardt’s use of two tube compressors on the Rickenbacker’s output, in series, and then fed directly into the recording console- all as a measure of protection (Ellis, 2004). As well, the utilization of an Epiphone amplifier contributed to this unique tone of the 12-string (Hjort 2008, 24).
In this writer’s opinion, it sounded like a bit of both factors- the mix level and the EQ applied- that affected the sound of the Rickenbacker on the remix.
It is this writer’s contention that the existence of the 1992 wide stereo remix influenced Bob Irwin’s decision to use it instead of the original mixes-either mono or narrow stereo. To be fair, the latter understandably may not have been available, or was probably in substandard shape. Perhaps Irwin felt that the admittedly wide separation and enhanced detail of the remix, despite its revisionist nature and complete dissimilarity from the original mixes, was preferable sonically.
Then there is the fascinating matter of the mix used on the original 1965 stereo LP. As presented there, the stereo separation between the Rickenbacker, the other instruments, and the vocals was negligible, to the point where it might as well have been in mono. When listening through headphones, the Rick entered to the left of center, from the left gap (LG), followed by the bass guitar; McGuinn’s vocal was virtually centered. On the song’s ending, the Rickenbacker and bass guitar exited from the LG. On speakers, the effect was similar: the centered vocal had considerable natural echo, while the tambourine from the LG had noticeable sparkle, and at times seemed to resonate from the RG. At about the 1:31 point, Hal Blaine’s powerful drumming extended slightly further to the left (almost to the LC), another example of a sense of space absent from the mono mix. The natural echo on the vocals- McGuinn’s lead vocal, David Crosby’s high harmony part, and Gene Clark’s doubling of the lead- was due to the cavernous size of Columbia Records Studio A in Hollywood. It was noteworthy that all the available sources used for listening to the original narrow stereo mix consistently shared these sonic characteristics (1965 stereo vinyl LP; Columbia CD, with the bass predictably 2-3dB down in level; and the Blu-Spec disc, track #15-easily the best digital version of this mix).
Ultimately, this narrow stereo mix had more of a sense of ambience and air than the mono mix, which was tighter and more ‘in your face’. Certainly, this writer can understand why some fans have advanced the case that the mix on the original stereo LP was monaural, having been on both sides of this situation for many years myself. Nevertheless, there were additional critical aspects of this topic that I uncovered in my research that convinced me that this was indeed a unique narrow stereo mix- not a mono mix that had been transferred with a stereo tape head with resulting phasing issues. There simply were too many differences to support the ‘mono mix’ theory, in my view.
First of all, the excellent mono hit single (‘45’) ran slightly shorter (barely 2:16; against a listed time of 2:18), had slightly less natural echo on the vocals, and sounded relatively dry and compressed. The mono album version, as presented on both the MFSL SACD and the Blu-Spec CD, ran a bit longer ((barely 2:17), had more echo on the vocals than the single, while the tambourine sounded louder- closer overall to the narrow stereo mix. Admittedly, most of these differences could be attributed to the different media sources- SACD versus vinyl LP; of course there was only one mono mix. Additionally, as one would have expected, the mono mix (single and album) had everything centered from the song’s start, including its fade out- there was no panning away towards the LG. On all three sources for the narrow stereo mix (1965 vinyl LP; Columbia CD; and Blu-Spec disc) the track timed out to 2:18 (versus a listed length of 2:20).
Furthermore, meter observations revealed that the mono mix naturally had a 0dB output differential between channels as McGuinn’s Rickenbacker opened at the song’s start, whereas the stereo mix had an 8dB channel differential on all three sources used, with the LC dominant (stereo vinyl LP; Columbia CD; and Blu-Spec CD, track #15). Likewise, the two versions of the mono mix (Sundazed LP for the single; MFSL SACD and the Blu-Spec disc for the album version) all increased 9dB in level from the opening to the point where the harmony vocals and drums entered (00:08), while the stereo mix showed gains of 6dB (LC) and 12dB (RC).
Significantly, on the outro after the vocals had ended and a few notes were played by McGuinn on the Rickenbacker, the bass guitar (after 2:05) increased by 2dB once on the original stereo mix before fading, whereas the mono mix did not register any such gain- the bass held steady, and then naturally dropped in volume throughout the quicker fade-out. It was also interesting to note that the mono single mix presented on the Sundazed LP had matched channel output levels on 75% of twenty musical cue points. The corresponding numbers for the mono album mix as presented on the Blu-Spec disc were 50%, while the MFSL SACD registered exact channel matches at a 40% rate among the selected sample spots.
On the other hand, it was quite noteworthy that on the stereo mix, during the main section of the song (00:25-2:01) encompassing 14 cue points, the Columbia CD had exact channel (LC and RC) matches on 93% (13) of them, while the Blu-Spec disc (Track #15) was close behind, with 86% (12). As has been pointed out, there naturally were significant normal channel level mismatches on the intro-until the vocals entered- as well as on the fade-out.
Undeniably, the mono mix (single and album) of this classic song offered an even more profound, quite powerful sonic experience than the narrow stereo mix: McGuinn’s opening crystalline riffs on the Rickenbacker served as an arresting clarion call, followed by Knechtel’s dominant ascending bass line, and then Blaine’s monster drums with their deep impact. The original stereo mix, despite its lack of separation, nonetheless offered a reasonable alternative way of hearing this great song, with a touch more detail on the vocals and higher frequencies.
For these reasons, it is this writer’s view that the 1965 stereo LP featured a very narrow stereo mix, which was different than the dedicated mono mixdown master. One can logically deduce that the mono single mix was naturally prepared first (single released 4/12/1965), followed by the mono album version of the same mix, and finally the song’s narrow stereo mix for the stereo album (the last two were both released 6/21/1965).
On the stereo front, that leaves the rather strange stereo remix done by James Dickson, the group’s first manager, and Lawrence Wendelken, that first appeared in 1987 on the vinyl LP Never Before (Murray Hill/CBS Special Products A 21143), then in 1989 on an expanded CD with the same title (D 22808), and finally on the box set. This remix had the Rickenbacker centered on the intro, sounding solid, but then when the bass guitar entered slightly to the left, it sounded quite thin and hollow, aside from being severely under-mixed. In addition, the vocals and tambourine sounded recessed, while the drums lacked resonance-all panned slightly to the left of the center; the remix had a mechanical air to it with ample reverb added. Overall, one can tell that an attempt was made to make this early remix faithful to the original mono mix with slightly more separation, but the weak manner in which the vocals and bass guitar were handled gave it an odd feel. In this listener’s view, the original narrow stereo mix was clearly superior to this remix, which sounded rushed and superficial.
· I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better (Track #2)- This memorable, riveting Gene Clark rocker that was influenced musically by the Searchers’ “Needles And Pins” (written by Sonny Bono and Jack Nitzsche) and was the nominal B-side of the group’s second single, opened up so effectively on the original 1965 stereo mix, with the guitars possessing superb tone and presence. Crosby’s solid Gretsch intro (LC) was answered deftly by McGuinn’s shimmering Rickenbacker from the RC, right after which Clark’s impassioned lead vocal, the pounding rhythm section, and tambourine entered in impressive fashion from the left side. Not surprisingly, the original vinyl LP showcased this track best, possessing an energetic, live feel; the Rickenbacker sounded superb on the break, with a piercing quality, while the drums and bass had a relentless, attacking characteristic. The box set still sounded very good, coming quite close to the LP’s sound.
Early on, it became clear that the Legacy was a remix from the sound of the guitars on the intro: compared to the original mix, they were shelved down in tone and EQ. Crosby’s Gretsch Tennessean opened up muted from the LC, while McGuinn’s Rickenbacker from the RC had markedly less sparkle and sounded subdued. Another anomaly was that the vocals were boosted on the Legacy. Significantly, the bass and drums on the Legacy sounded somewhat restrained compared to the original mix from both the vinyl LP and box set; this difference was apparent during the break. Overall, the Legacy remix had a sanitized, controlled aura to it, compared to the 1965 mix, which exuded a notably more aggressive, spontaneous feel to it.
These observations were fully confirmed by metering data, using the same input level for both the box set disc and Legacy CD. Although the Legacy was mastered generally 2-3dB hotter than the box set, the intro on it was a full 4dB lower in the LC, and 3dB down in the RC- a telltale sign of a remix. Additionally, once the 12-string lead entered (00:03) from the RC, the LC of the Legacy was still 2dB lower than the original mix. The differential in level between both channels at this spot was a sizeable 6dB for the remix (RC dominant), whereas the original mix had a much lower 2dB variation. This corroborated the ‘sunken’ sound heard on the Legacy at the track’s start. Furthermore, at about a half a minute into the song (00:28), the Legacy recovered, to the extent where it was up 4dB in the LC, +3dB in the RC compared to the box set disc. Finally, as the track ended, the Legacy sported a hefty 4dB channel differential, in sharp contrast to the zero dB reading for the original mix.
It was noteworthy that on the highly touted mono album mix, which the Legacy remix seemed to have been patterned after, Crosby’s opening Gretsch sounded muffled in tone-as if it had been recorded in a swamp- and then became virtually inaudible. As well, McGuinn’s answering Rickenbacker, which also sounded stifled, shifted towards the background until the break and the song’s end, when it was shifted way forward, center stage, finally emerging in its ringing glory. The mono mix definitely emphasized the vocals and rhythm section (mid-bass and drums), along with the tambourine, unfortunately at the expense of the guitars. Although its tight focus was undeniable, the tradeoff was that the Byrds’ classic jingle-jangle guitar sound was marginalized, and the ‘live’ aura of the original stereo mix-which effectively showcased both guitars throughout the entire song-was absent. Although the weak-sounding intro and suspect mixing strategy of the monaural mix probably did not matter much on 1965 AM radio as heard on mono car and transistor radios, it surely bore all the hallmark’s of Terry Melcher’s mixing approach as developed over the previous two years.
· Spanish Harlem Incident (Track #3)- This song proved to be relatively challenging in detecting mix differences. Nevertheless, it became apparent that the vocals, led by McGuinn’s lead, were boosted on the Legacy, and the rhythm guitar with Chris Hillman’s Fender P-Bass (Precision Bass) in the RC sounded louder, while the timbre of the Rickenbacker from the LC sounded less trebly. These aural observations were confirmed by charting the output levels of both channels from the box set and Legacy CD’s on peak-reading meters. As expected, the Legacy disc was mastered hotter than that from the box set- on average, +5dB in the LC, +2/+3dB in the RC. Despite this, the Legacy surprisingly started 2-3dB lower in output level at the song’s start.
Notably, at the onset of the harmony vocals near the end of the first verse, the Legacy showed a sizeable gain of +3dB in both channels. In contrast, the box set displayed no such increase in output level, maintaining a virtually constant volume at this spot and throughout almost the entire song. Another sign that the Legacy was a remix: its average level differential between channels was only 1-2dB, whereas the box set sported a wider 4dB range for the majority of the track.
As a corroborating side note, the output levels of the Columbia and box set discs were compared. After adjusting the record level setting to compensate for the Columbia’s lower mastering level, it was found that the Columbia’s metered output levels were identical to those of the box set disc: -4dB LC, 0dB RC, for the vast majority of the song.
The original stereo mix, as presented on the 1965 vinyl LP, featured a rhythm section that simply rocked, as well as superb-sounding guitars and well-balanced vocals. It possessed a warmth and strong low-end that surpassed that of the box set, while easily outpacing the unimpressive mono mix. The latter predictably pushed the vocals way out front, while inexplicably emphasizing the rhythm section at the expense of the Rickenbacker. It was interesting to note that Hillman’s brief bass flub (at the 1:19 spot) was less audible on the monaural mix, suggesting that some doctoring had been done with it.
· You Won’t Have To Cry (Track #4)- The original stereo mix on vinyl showcased an effective dual guitar intro, with a bit of reverb, featuring a sparkling Rickenbacker from the LC, while Crosby’s Gretsch from the RC had a bright tone and good presence. Hillman’s solid Fender P-Bass guitar and the tambourine were also located in the RC, while the drums and vocals- with echo- were centered and in the LG, respectively; the vocals rode on top of the mix. On the Legacy, the guitars on the intro were noticeably less bright and sounded depressed in tone, while the vocals had a hollow sense to them, devoid of any echo. Furthermore, Chris Hillman’s bass guitar was boosted markedly, unlike the original mix.
The last observation was verified by meter readings of the RC: whereas the original stereo mix had a nominal 3dB gain from the guitar intro to when the vocals started at 00:07, the Legacy registered a higher comparative gain of almost 5dB in the RC. The other compelling indication that the Legacy was a remix was the output differential between channels. The original stereo mix on both the vinyl LP and the Columbia CD was consistently within 1-2dB, whereas on the Legacy it varied between even (0dB differential) and a 3dB variation in spots.
It should be noted that the mono mix of this track was excellent, with realistic balance between the solid-sounding rhythm section, guitars, and vocals. Fortunately, there were no questionable mixing decisions made here, nor any gimmicks- a refreshing change from the mono mixes of the previous two tracks.
· Here Without You (Track #5)- This excellent, haunting ballad written by Gene Clark that was inexcusably left off the 1990 box set appeared in its original mix on the Gene Clark Echoes CD, and along with the original vinyl LP, provided a good basis of comparison. The original 1965 stereo mix presented a rich tapestry of sound, with Michael Clarke’s solid drumming spread across the center area (LG- center- RG), Hillman’s bass guitar generally centered, all effectively flanked by the 12-string electric lead (LC) and rhythm (RC) guitars.
It became apparent that the Legacy version was a remix from the 3-track reduction master after listening comparisons. There were several instances where a faint pumping sound could be detected early in the song (00:23-00:25; 00:34-00:35) on headphones that was not present on the original stereo mix. From the start of the second verse onward, both the vocals and the rhythm section were boosted noticeably on the Legacy, while the 12-string had a darker, lower tone. Whereas the original mix maintained a fairly consistent volume level throughout, on the Legacy there were conspicuous fluctuations at the start of the third and fourth verses, when the overall volume dropped and then increased.
These impressions were fully confirmed by meter chart data that was plotted over 22 points in the track, with matched input levels. Whereas the Legacy started out with levels equivalent to the original mix, from the second verse forward, its RC levels were consistently 2-3dB hotter; the LC was generally closer (within 1-2dB higher), except on the third verse, when they were elevated 2-3dB compared to the 1965 mix. Corroborating the audible variations in loudness detected above, the Legacy lost 1-2dB in output level at the start of the third verse, and a significant amount (-3dB in the LC; -2dB RC) as the fourth verse began. Of course these losses were quickly made up as each verse ramped back up in volume. It should be noted that, in comparison, the vintage mix showed only a minimal reduction in level at the beginning of the final verse (-1dB, LC).
Once again, the monaural mix of this track sounded effective, with good balance between the guitars, rhythm section, and vocals.
· The Bells Of Rhymney (Track #6)- Arguably the highlight from the album, aside from the title track, this song exuded a sharp contrast between its dense, grave sound, the effective ride cymbal work, and the ethereal harmonies as heard on the original stereo mix. The striking, sustained sound of the Rickenbacker on the intro (RC) was quickly answered by the dramatic, crashing impact of the bass, rhythm guitar, drums and tambourine: the effect was truly stunning. Throughout the song, the deeper bass frequencies from Hillman’s Fender came through strongly, giving it a darker, almost medieval aura that was unmatched in pop music at that time.
During the track’s memorable break on the vintage mix, the cascading 12-string electric guitar-played effectively by McGuinn in a banjo style- surged forward in level, matched by the riveting drums, bass, and rhythm guitar- a transcendent explosion of sound. The song’s majestic ending had the thick, creamy-sounding Rick from the RC, neatly complemented by Michael Clarke’s well-executed ride cymbal detail -quite audible on the original stereo mix- with the group’s soaring harmony vocals floating off into the stratosphere, a truly exhilarating performance!
Although this track proved challenging to evaluate, it became apparent that it was remixed for the Legacy, which failed to match the opening intensity of the intro heard on the 1965 mix; it came reasonably close, but was not the same. This difference between mixes became rather evident on the song’s dramatic break: there was a slight drop in the volume of the band track at the break’s start, and more significantly, no climactic surge on the Legacy as occurred on the 1965 mix. In other words, the instruments essentially flat-lined in level on the Legacy.
Furthermore, whereas the classic (1965) mix had the vocals trapped in the middle, clear and balanced with the instruments, the Legacy remix had them mixed higher and louder, while the rhythm guitar and bass were boosted slightly. Although the Legacy provided more instrumental detail, and imparted more overall ‘air’ and ambience to the sound, it lacked the dense, heavy complexion of the original mix. Ultimately, the Legacy remix sounded different, and was missing that air of driven desperation, ‘trapped in a dungeon’ feel that made the vintage mix so memorable. Still, the Legacy represented a cleverly executed, quality remix that remained faithful to the original mix.
The above observations were fully supported by meter data, using equalized input levels to account for the general +3dB hotter mastering level of the Legacy compared to that of the box set. The Legacy’s output level in the LC was 2-4dB lower than the box set when the bass guitar, rhythm guitar, and drums entered. Yet when the vocals dropped in (00:07), the Legacy’s LC level ran 2-3dB higher. Whereas the 1965 mix started the break (1:41) at the same 0dB output level as at the end of the 2nd verse (1:35), the Legacy’s levels surprisingly were depressed to –2dB for both channels at the break’s start. Significantly, while the original mix (vinyl LP, box set disc, and even Columbia) clearly showed a gain of +1dB for both channels during the peak of the song’s break, the Legacy’s output levels remained static at the height of the break. Further evidence that the Legacy was a remix came near the song’s end (after 3:00) during the soaring harmony vocals, when its levels registered peaks 2dB higher than that of the original mix.
It warrants pointing out that the mono album mix of this great song was well done: the rhythm section was solid and tight, the vocals in proportion, while the Rickenbacker really shined. Nevertheless, this mono mix lacked the deep bass of the original stereo mix and virtually buried Crosby’s Gretsch. In addition, while it had more explosiveness on the break than the Legacy, the mono mix still did not match the stereo mix in this area. In an interesting development, the song was remixed with beefed-up, punchier bass than the original mono album mix, in preparation for a British single release that was ultimately cancelled (Sundazed LP set; remixed 8/16/1965, Legacy liner notes, 10). This fact lends further support to my general view that the mono album mix had the deeper bass frequencies rolled off, compared to the original stereo mix.
· All I Really Want To Do (Track #7)- This was by far the hardest track to decipher: it required the most listening time and note taking, and had this listener going back and forth regarding its status. In the final analysis, my determination that the Legacy version was a remix was based on the observation that it had the vocals from the LG/LC- with McGuinn singing lead- and the guitars from the RC, boosted. The Rickenbacker from the right side audibly increased in volume after the rhythm section entered at 00:03 from the LC: in careful meter observations, the RC was either even or within 1 dB of the LC.
This stood in marked contrast to the 1965 mix, where the RC consistently stayed -4dB lower in level compared to the LC for the bulk of the song- there was never any level matching between channels, nor did the 12-string increase in volume. These characteristics were most apparent with the vinyl LP, but also manifested itself on the box set disc. As far as the vocals were concerned, they were elevated and louder on the Legacy, whereas on the original mix, they came across as more balanced with the backing track.
Then there was the confusing matter of the location of Hillman’s Fender P-Bass guitar. On the vinyl LP, the bass fired out of the LC for virtually the entire song, except for a few seconds in the mid-section (00:48-00:51) when it showed up in the RC, and for a few instances when it seemed to pulse from the center. The box set had it opening up in the LC, but contained more instances where the bass seemed to come from the RC (00:48-00:51; 1:01; 1:10; 1:21 onward). The Legacy also had the bass starting out from the LC, but then after the 00:20 point it shifted to a combination of the RC and center-very puzzling indeed.
Another anomaly that was most audible through headphones on the vinyl LP, box set, and the Columbia: a wavering, wow and flutter tape flaw for two seconds near the track’s end (1:59-2:00). One has to strain, with the volume turned up, to barely hear even a slight hint of this on the Legacy (at 2:00); on the Blu-Spec disc, there is absolutely no wavering.
It is worth noting that this was the first song the group recorded at Columbia Recording Studios, Hollywood, CA, in Studio A without any session musicians (3/8/1965). While competent, their playing here lacked the confidence, polish, and intensity displayed in later recording sessions (4/14/1965; 4/22/1965) for the album- after their iconic concerts at Ciro’s Le Disc club in late-March, early April 1965. Likewise, the recording differed instrumentally from later sessions, with bleed-through of the Rickenbacker from the RC into the LC throughout the song, probably a result of microphone placement. Both the original stereo mix and the remix also had the tambourine practically buried compared to the mono mixes.
It was interesting that the Byrds did several takes of this song: one for the album (mixed for both mono and stereo) and one for their ill-fated second single (Rogan 2012, 126; 1017; Hjort 2008, 26). As leading Byrds’ historian Johnny Rogan has pointed out, the opening lyrics of the album version (“I ain’t lookin’ to compete with you”) differed from that used on the single (“I don’t want to compete with you”; ibid, 132). McGuinn’s lead vocal on the single version had a compelling, affected tone to them, unlike the straightforward album version (as a side note, Bob Dylan’s original song presented the lyrics as first listed previously).
A close listening comparison between the monaural album and single mixes revealed marked differences, and fully supported Rogan’s and Christopher Hjort’s claims that they were based on two different takes. The Blu-Spec disc proved invaluable in this regard (tracks #7 and #14). Whereas the album version had the bass mixed louder and the Rickenbacker masked in the background with a somewhat weak, ‘smeared’ quality to it-after featuring it for the first five seconds- the single version featured the 12-string much more prominently, with reverb, while the drums rode higher in the mix, with the bass less audible. Both mono mixes had the vocals way out front, along with the tambourine.
Further proof that there were in fact two different takes recorded of this song: the mono album version had the Rickenbacker outro starting at the 1:50 point, while the single version had it starting at the 1:52 spot and clearly sporting a more trebly tone. Exactly when the second, alternate take for the single version was recorded has been a matter of conjecture: Hjort has maintained the ‘traditional’ date of 8 March 1965 (ibid), while Rogan has indicated that it was not recorded until over a month later, on 14 April 1965 (ibid, 1017).
This writer fully agrees with Rogan’s view that the single version was certainly much more effective and appealing than the mono album version (ibid, 126; 132). The latter failed to display effectively one of the Byrds’ trademark strengths: McGuinn’s jingle-jangle 12-string guitar sound. These independent findings that there were two different recorded takes of this song, one for the album and the other for the single, effectively discredit the recent views posted by some at online forums that there was only one recorded take used for both the album and single. In other words, their theory was that the instrumental band track for both versions was the same, with just different vocal takes for the album and single (primarily: http://stevehoffman.tv/forums/ and http://www.rickresource.com/forum/ ).
· I Knew I’d Want You (Track #8)- As the B-side to the “Mr. Tambourine Man” single, this overlooked ballad written by Gene Clark was clearly remixed for the Legacy and also differed markedly from the 1965 stereo mix. This became noticeable at the start, when the Legacy opened up at a quieter output level, at a slower pace, and then gradually increased in volume as the song progressed- much like the mono mix. The remix came across as a lighter pop ballad, unlike the markedly heavier 1965 mix. Sonically, the vocals -Clark sang the lead, while Crosby soared on top with McGuinn’s harmonies in the middle- on the Legacy sounded louder, while the instrumental band tracks were attenuated: notably, Leon Russell’s scratchy electric piano and Larry Knechtel’s deep bass guitar from the LC, as well as Hal Blaine’s ‘monster’ drums (RC). Curiously, the latter had a relatively fuller sound on the monaural mix (single and album) than on the Legacy.
Conversely, the original stereo mix opened up at full throttle, with the electric piano and bass sounding much stronger, while Blaine’s centered/LG ‘monster’ drums were downright powerful. Their majestic, resounding impact had a profound quality that propelled the song forward, giving it a harder folk-rock edge. The Legacy remix marginalized them by compressing them into the RC with the guitars.
Supporting these observations are meter data for the start and end of the song, from the various sources. The original stereo mix had a zero (0dB) difference between the output levels at the track’s intro, prior to the vocals (00:09), whereas the Legacy sported a substantial 4-6dB variance. Likewise, at the song’s end, the Legacy’s degree of difference between channels was a hefty 6dB, while the original mix was 0-2dB. To place these numbers in perspective, for the majority of the song, both mixes registered channel variations between 0-2dB, making the Legacy’s start/end numbers even more imbalanced.
It should be noted that this moving Gene Clark tune was remixed twice before the 1996 Legacy remix. The first remix was created by Jim Dickson from the eight-track masters, appearing on the previously mentioned Never Before archival collections (1987, vinyl LP; 1989, CD). Unfortunately, this writer does not own that set and therefore cannot comment on the remix. Vic Anesini then digitally remixed and remastered the track for the Gene Clark Echoes disc (1991), following the highly influential singer-songwriter’s tragic and premature passing.
Anesini’s remix also was obviously derived from the 8-tracks, and differed radically from both the 1965 mix and the later Legacy remix. Starting off with a five count in by Hal Blaine, Anesini featured Jerry Cole’s rhythm guitar prominently in the LC, essentially burying Leon Russell’s electric piano from that channel. The most startling aspect of his remix was once again minimizing both McGuinn’s pulsing 12-string guitar and Blaine’s dominant drums from the RC. This is just speculation on my part, but perhaps Anesini’s understandable intention here was to have the track sound as if Gene Clark might have arranged it, or wanted it to come across, during his solo career.
· Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe (Track #10)- This was the easiest remix from the album to spot by virtue of its extended length (2:54) compared to the original mix’s length (2:45; actual times). As a result, the fade points were obviously different for each: about 2:32 for the original mix, 2:43 for the Legacy remix. It was interesting to observe that the Legacy remix’s length of 2:54 matched exactly that of the mono mix. As a side note, the Blu-Spec CD presented this track in its remixed form, with the same running time of 2:54 as the Legacy, which obviously was not the “original album stereo version” as claimed in its liner notes (track #24).
Sonically, the Legacy remix did not fully replicate the song’s dramatic intro as presented on the original mix, where the crystalline sounding 12-string guitar opened up in the LC, followed by Clarke’s boisterous drums, Hillman’s punchy Fender P-Bass, Crosby’s solid rhythm guitar, and the tambourine from the RC, with the vocals coming from the LC-LG (at 00:09). Another audible difference was that the vocals and bass were boosted in the remix. Despite these sonic variations, the Legacy was undoubtedly an effective remix. Manager Jim Dickson had wisely convinced the group to cover this fine Jackie DeShannon tune, as a measure of gratitude for her early, pivotal support of them (Unterberger, 2002, 137; Hjort, 2008, 31).
It bears noting that the original stereo mix featured effective interplay between the bass guitar and drums from the RC. While the Fender bass did indeed take the lead for most of the song, sounding quite deep and powerful, the drums were increased in level from the start of the outro onward, essentially matching the bass. Along with the tambourine, which was loud but not overly so, this percussive combination was both striking and distinctive, adding a different sonic flavor to this incredible album. In addition, on the vinyl LP the guitars and vocals were vibrant and well textured; McGuinn’s Rickenbacker had a nifty tremolo tone to it that was also unique.
Nonetheless, it was puzzling that on the mono album mix the drums were minimized severely, a mixing decision that noticeably lessened the song’s impact, especially on the memorable outro. Instead, notably the Rickenbacker, bass guitar, and the tambourine were placed way out front on the mono mix, to the point where it sounded like a different song: the Fender bass was dominant. Remarkably, during the outro of the mono mix, the tambourine actually sounded louder than Clarke’s drums, which were practically buried! This questionable mixing decision robbed the song of its unique Bo Diddley feel, as presented on the superior vintage stereo mix- in this writer’s opinion. This track served as yet another clear example where the under valued original stereo album mix offered a better and more realistic sonic depiction of the group, compared to the over-rated monaural mix.
Another great Dylan cover that was also challenging to assess: “Chimes Of Freedom” (Track #11). The clincher turned out to be comprehensive listening comparisons between the vinyl LP, box set, and the Legacy CD. They turned out to sound virtually the same, especially when listening through speakers: they had the similar low bass notes and strong rhythm section anchored from the center, with reverb on the vocals (McGuinn sang the lead vocal). It was striking to observe, after making level adjustments, how close the peak levels of the LP and box set matched that of the Legacy’s- within 1-2 dB on the vocal surges, otherwise a perfect match on the 12-string guitar intro (LC). Significantly, all sources had a nominal channel differential of 0dB: the ultimate corroboration.
Undeniably, the Legacy offered additional detail on the bass guitar, although it lacked the warmth of the vinyl LP. While the box set came close to the Legacy, it could not quite match the finer articulation heard on the Legacy, due to the latter’s being mastered from a better source tape and use of superior analog-to-digital conversion technology. Contrary to online claims, this listener heard no indication that any liberties had been taken with the track on the Legacy disc.
Whereas the original stereo mix as presented on the above-named sources sounded like a full band playing in the studio, with McGuinn’s lead vocal and the harmony vocals in balanced proportion to the instruments, the same could not be said of the monaural mix. It opened up with the Rickenbacker sounding thin, subdued, and reedy-almost as if it was coming from a transistor radio-while the vocals were jacked up and the low end clipped. The overall effect was as if McGuinn was singing with a backup band behind him, as opposed to the unified approach of the stereo mix where he was singing within a group. The Rickenbacker clearly had a superior tone and presence on the stereo mix, while the rhythm section was deep and strong.
Finally, a discussion is warranted concerning the underrated original stereo mix of this great, timeless album, a mix that in this writer’s view has been unfairly disparaged. As an example of this negative view, John Nork, in his interview with Roger McGuinn, “…always wondered why with those first few albums, the stereo sounded worse than the mono.” (http://www.analogplanet.com/content/roger-mcguinn-speaks-john-norkpart-1-0 ). Likewise, noted music authority Michael Fremer (of Stereophile magazine and www.analogplanet.com ) has claimed that
“The interesting thing about Mr. Tambourine Man in mono is that you get to hear more of what’s going on in the mix. You’ll hear the harmonies better, McGuinn’s 12-string will hit your ears with more force and greater ‘jangle’ in mono.” ( http://www.analogplanet.com/content/sundazed-and-mobile-fidelity-make-case-mono-0 ).
Having studiously compared the original stereo and mono mixes from this great album, this writer must respectfully disagree with Fremer’s questionable assessment. Curiously, Fremer singled out the mono album mixes of three songs (“I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better,” “Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe,” and “Chimes Of Freedom”) as showcasing the jingle-jangle sound of McGuinn’s Rickenbacker. In this writer’s opinion, they were three of the weakest mono mixes from the album, while the first song listed was the worst at featuring the jingle-jangle sound of the 12-string. As has been discussed in detail, the original stereo mix of “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better,” as presented on 1A vinyl and the box set (and even the Columbia CD), was vastly superior in revealing the articulation and tone of both guitars- the 12-string lead and Crosby’s Gretsch-for the entire song. The strange mono mix, which made both guitars sound muddy and actually obscured the 12-string for most of the song, was patently inferior.
As well, the Rickenbacker’s sound on “Chimes Of Freedom” was thin and reedy during the mono mix, unlike its clear, full-textured presentation on the stereo mix. In addition, on the monaural mix of “Spanish Harlem Incident,” the 12-string’s sound was marginalized by the boosted rhythm section and the overly loud vocals. These were all highly questionable mixing decisions that minimized the Byrds’ musical strengths and undermined the sound quality of the tracks, in this writer’s view.
Furthermore, Fremer’s statement that the tambourine from the mono mix was “…pushed well forward on many tracks…” was true, but he conveniently ignored the epitome of such a questionable mixing strategy as heard on “Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe.” (ibid). When the tambourine was mixed louder than Clarke’s frenetic drums on the monaural mix of this track (!!), one could logically advance two theories for this ludicrousness: either Terry Melcher and the accompanying mixing engineer were being too ‘clever by half’ here, or they were intent on burying Clarke’s manic drumming. Fortunately, both the original stereo mix and the remix presented this song as most Byrds’ fans have treasured it over the years- memorable and unique to the album.
Additionally, other so-called virtues of the mono mix zealously trumpeted by Fremer- the vocal harmonies and the “… bass line and kick drum… presented in greater relief…”- were in fact sometimes overdone in the case of the former, at the expense of the instrumentation (ibid). As has just been pointed out, the drums were a virtual non-factor in “Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe,” while otherwise, the deeper bass frequencies were filtered out on the mono mixes of many tracks. How else does one explain the fact that “The Bells Of Rhymney” and “Chimes Of Freedom” had to be remixed with deeper bass levels for a cancelled British single? The obvious answer was that they were rolled off on the over-rated original monaural mix, unlike the fuller-bodied, under-valued original stereo mixes.
Nork’s and Fremer’s comments touting the quality of the monaural mixes certainly had validity for the succeeding albums- particularly Turn!Turn!Turn! and Younger Than Yesterday. Those albums likely did not have a ‘cutting master’ used and thus had to be severely equalized and compressed on the front end for vinyl LP production with the two-track stereo mixdown master, with less deep bass output as a result of the bass filter engaged. However, their views were extremely questionable concerning the Mr. Tambourine Man stereo album. The latter in all likelihood had a ‘cutting master’ prepared for vinyl production, which meant that consumer vinyl playback could be optimized through the RIAA equalization curve- standardized in 1965 by the National Association of Broadcasters- and with the proper hi-fidelity gear (granted, a few years away in terms of affordability for the average consumer). It also meant that the album’s two-track stereo mixdown master tape did not have to be compromised with equalization that would have rolled off the low bass frequencies and attenuated the highs, as was the case with its successors.
Undoubtedly, the focus of record producers and mixing engineers throughout most of the 60’s was understandably the monaural mixes. The pop music industry then was built around hit mono 45 singles played on AM pop radio stations, listened to by the public on tiny transistor radios, clock radios, mono car radios, or low-fidelity, pseudo home stereo systems. Many stereo mixes from this era were done quickly, often with the instruments panned hard to one channel, with the vocals split to the other, and nothing in the center. Quite often, the record producer who had supervised the original studio recordings (multi-track masters) and the group/artist were not involved in the preparation of the stereo mixes during this era. As a result, they were generally inferior to their monaural counterparts.
Nevertheless, the 1965 stereo mix of this album- unlike its stereo successors- displayed excellent sound. It possessed relatively deeper bass, a fuller-bodied texture, as well as audibly higher frequencies- upper percussive instruments such as the tambourine as well as the ride cymbal, crash cymbal, and hi-hat from the drums. The separation of instruments between channels was noticeable, and the resulting soundstage was reasonably realistic, especially when judged by 1965 standards. It is this writer’s contention that the stereo mix of this landmark album was advanced for its time, and vastly superior compared to many contemporary stereo mixes- it clearly was not a throwaway rush job. As noted pop music writer Domenic Priore observed, the Mr. Tambourine Man album was “… an effort to replicate the sound heard live at Ciro’s LeDisc.” (2007, 78).
In this listener’s view, the original stereo album mix provided a relatively better, more realistic representation of the group’s mythical live shows at the aforementioned Hollywood club during late March-April 1965 than the calculated, occasionally ‘canned’ sounding mono album mix. Undoubtedly, that mix was carefully crafted by Producer Terry Melcher and a mixing engineer of his choice- Columbia Records operated a union studio at that time, much to the Byrds’ chagrin- and deliberately featured the group’s standout vocals, McGuinn’s 12-string electric lead, the upper percussive detail of the drums, and the middle frequencies of the bass guitar, along with the tambourine. The monaural mixes were focused and bright, and- with several exceptions previously noted- generally were effective.
One of the best mono mixes on this album was the closer, “We’ll Meet Again” (Track #12), which possessed a solid low end, a good bass guitar level, excellent articulation and tone with the guitars, and overall effective balance between the instruments and vocals. When listening to the monaural mix of this track after hearing the original stereo mixes of other songs from the album, it fit right in and held its own sonically, and was superior to its stereo counterpart.
Nevertheless, as has been discussed, a number of other tracks from the mono album did have their sonic deficiencies: the lower bass output was rolled off, the vocals and tambourine rode excessively high and loud in the mix, and Crosby’s Gretsch sometimes was buried. Even worse, the level of the 12-string lead guitar was minimized and manipulated in several cases. Still, one can argue that considering the care and attention given to the preparation of the mono mixes, as well as the state of listening equipment from that era, they were the definitive studio release and artifact.
Nonetheless, as this writer has contended, the original stereo mixes from this album offered a panoramic sonic vista, with much better, consistent articulation of both guitars while also having a deeper low end. They had a natural live band feel, devoid of studio mixing gimmicks, and still hold up well today- 49 years later! The stereo mix was relatively straightforward, with no punches pulled; it was authentic and merits serious consideration- not knee-jerk dismissal. Whichever Columbia mixing engineer handled this album’s stereo mix must have had a reasonable understanding of a realistic stereo soundstage for that time, and may have had knowledge, direct or indirect, of the Byrds’ shows at Ciro’s LeDisc. The 1A stereo pressing of this album was mastered hot with a realistic mix and rocked!
In the final analysis, just because more time and attention was devoted to the monaural mixes did not necessarily ensure that they were sonically superior to their stereo counterparts- far from it. Nor did it give license to ignoring and dismissing out of hand the original stereo mix of the Mr. Tambourine Man album. As well, one can confidently assume that this album’s original producer, Terry Melcher, played absolutely no role in the preparation of this album’s stereo mixes. For one, standard industry practice at this time was to have them prepared separately by a different mixing engineer; the producer was usually not involved during this time. As has been noted, the priority then was the monaural mixes. Furthermore, as Roger McGuinn recalled, “ Melcher didn’t believe in stereo.” (http://www.analogplanet.com/content/roger-mcguinn-speaks-john-norkpart-1-0).
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