Monday, March 24, 2014

The Byrds’ First Four Albums Remastered on CD in 1996: A Re-Assessment and Analysis of Remixed Tracks - SECOND ALBUM: TURN TURN TURN by MARK TEEHAN

Album: Turn! Turn! Turn!
·         Original Stereo LP (vinyl): Columbia CS 9254 (Released 12/6/1965)
·         Original Stereo CD: Columbia CK 9254 (1987; hereafter referred to as ‘Columbia’)
·         Remixed (partially) and Remastered CD: Columbia/Legacy CK 64846 (4/30/1996; hereafter referred to as ‘Legacy.’)
·         “Original Album Mono Version” with “Mono Bonus Tracks” (4) and “Original Album Stereo Version” with “Stereo Bonus Track.” Sony Music Japan International Inc. SICP 20373 (Blu-Spec CD. Made In Japan. 2012)

Number of Remixed Tracks on the Legacy CD, CK 64846: 6 (out of 11 total; 9 actual total-see below)
Remixed Track Numbers: #2, #3, #4, #6, #8, and #9.


As the title track (Track #1) used a monaural mix, and “He Was A      Friend Of Mine” (Track #5) utilized a very narrow stereo (virtual mono) mix on the original stereo album, these two songs will be discussed separately, under the “Notes” section.

After careful listening comparisons between the vinyl LP and the Columbia CD, it was determined that the latter was sourced from a rather worn safety copy of the master tape- most likely a 3rd/4th-generation copy. In this writer’s opinion, the Turn! Turn! Turn!    album was deliberately mixed for stereo with less lower bass output than its predecessor, with the electric 12-string lead and rhythm guitars and vocals emphasized, giving it a pronounced trebly, mid-range sound. Thus, a 2nd-generation cutting master probably was never made- it would have been unnecessary. As a result, the monaural mix of this album- with the drums riding higher and with stronger bass output- offered a relatively more focused, energetic sonic presentation. In addition, the mono mixes from this album were quite consistent and well executed, unlike those from the first album, which had noticeable variability and uneven, questionable results. Nevertheless, the original 1965 stereo mix of this album offered revealing delineation between the guitars.

Whereas the Mr. Tambourine Man album had a fair amount of unpredictability with the original stereo mix, in terms of where instruments were located across the soundstage, this album had less variety with the 1965 stereo mix. On eight songs, the Rickenbacker was paired up with the drums in the RC, while Crosby’s Gretsch and Hillman’s bass guitar were mixed hard left (LC). It was almost as if this album’s stereo mixing engineer had a deliberate, convenient approach, and stuck to it.

Remixed Tracks

·         It Won’t Be Wrong (Track #2)- The original stereo mix of this excellent, well-recorded up-tempo tune, written earlier by McGuinn and his friend Harvey Gerst, featured an arresting dual guitar intro (Rickenbacker, RC; Gretsch, LC), with a prominent 12-string lead line (00:05) that exuded a distinctive, almost piercing siren-like tone. Then the bass guitar (LC) and drums (RC) entered (00:06), followed by the superb vocals (00:10). On the other hand, the Legacy remix was more restrained with less edge on the Rick. It sounded as if the EQ on the Rickenbacker was different and lower on the Legacy; even the mono mix had the timbre of the Rick pitched higher, similar to the original stereo mix.

Another notable difference with the Legacy occurred with the vocals: they seemed recessed on it, while on the classic mix, they were more open and seemed to ride on top of the instruments. There was a unique ambience to the vintage mix that was missing from the Legacy. Otherwise, the band track, led by the drums (RC), sounded stronger on the remix; the upper range percussive parts displayed better definition. (This song, originally titled ”Don’t Be Long,” had been recorded in 1964 under the Beefeaters pseudonym and released as the B-side to an Elektra single. Rogan 2012,44;225).

A careful analysis of the track’s meter chart data confirmed the above comments regarding the restrained sound of the 12-string lead on the Legacy during the tune’s opening: at the 00:09 mark, right before the vocals dropped in, the RC of the Legacy was 2db down compared to the original stereo mix. As well, the LC also ran –2dB lower. It was noteworthy that the output levels on the remix caught up quickly, registering peaks of +1dB greater in both channels by the end of the first line of lyrics, versus the 1965 mix. It should be mentioned that the meter data revealed that the Legacy was a very clever remix, quite faithful to the original mix, as its output levels were generally within 1dB of the original mix. Interestingly, the mono album mix’s opening (00:09) had levels that matched (LC) or were within –1dB (RC) of the 1965 stereo mix.

           Fortunately, the Legacy remix was clearly superior to that done
for the 1990 box set. Despite the latter also being remixed from the 3-track reduction master tape, it sounded even more muffled, with the guitars masked, while the Rickenbacker lacked sparkle and the drums had no bite. It was interesting to note that the 45 single mix-produced by the group, not Terry Melcher, who had been sacked-featured Clarke’s drums much more prominently, even more so than the mono album mix. Initially relegated to the B-side of the Byrds’ fourth single release before being flipped, this more commercially appealing tune should have been the A-side from the start, and would have had a reasonable chance of reaching the Top Twenty of the U.S. charts, despite the musical acclaim of the following song, which initially was the A-side.
·         Set You Free This Time (Track #3)- The Gene Clark Echoes CD, along with the vinyl LP, proved invaluable as benchmarks for comparison purposes for this outstanding track, which inexplicably was left off the 1990 Box set. The Echoes disc was clearly sourced from a better quality tape than the Columbia CD. From the start, it became apparent that the Legacy version was a remix: the opening 25 seconds sounded lower in level, almost muted, as borne out by the lower meter output levels (-2dB down compared to the vintage mix, using matched input levels on the intro). After that point, Clark’s heartfelt lead vocal   ramped up louder for each verse on the Legacy, albeit with less depth and a thinner tone, while the hi-hat was brighter and had better definition. The bass guitar from the LC also sounded louder on the remix, especially as each verse crested.

Undoubtedly, the Legacy offered better articulation on both guitars- the Gretsch in the LC, the 12-string from the RC. While tastefully implemented and faithful to the original mix, the Legacy was still a remix. The most noticeable difference was on Clark’s vocal, which sounded fuller, with a thicker texture on the 1965 mix.

·         Lay Down Your Weary Tune (Track #4)- On this underrated Dylan cover, the original mix was well-balanced across the soundstage, with the vocals centered, the bass and rhythm guitars anchoring the LC while the 12-string and drums fired   out of the RC. McGuinn’s Rickenbacker and Crosby’s Gretsch had a chime-like sound, with good presence. Although the harmony vocals on the Columbia CD were distorted, sounding fatigued at least for the first 27 seconds of the song- especially when listening on headphones- they sounded fine on the vinyl LP.

In contrast, the vocals were boosted on the Legacy remix, while the bass and rhythm guitars from the LC were louder, although presented in superior detail. As well, the harmony vocals were clear throughout the remix, in marked difference from the Columbia CD. Further indication that the Legacy version was a remix has been furnished by closely analyzed meter data from the matched peak output levels, for both channels, between the Columbia and Legacy CD’s. While the former had a consistent 0-2dB differential between channels, the latter registered a wider range of 2-4dB, with the LC dominant in output level.
         This song was originally remixed also from the 3-track reduction
         master for the 1990 box set, in a manner similar to that of the
         Legacy remix.

·         The World Turns All Around Her (Track #6)- On this superb up-tempo tune written by Gene Clark, the original stereo mix had a nifty dual guitar intro and outro, with Crosby’s rhythm guitar located in the LC and McGuinn’s 12-string firing out of the RC. Both guitars had excellent presence and tone, and were joined, respectively, by Hillman’s bass (LC) and Clarke’s drums (RC). The song had a rising intensity, with nice dynamics, and was one of the album’s highlights; the harmony vocals were highly effective.

However, as in the case of “It Won’t Be Wrong,” it became obvious right from the song’s start that the Legacy was a remix: the vocals were lower in the mix, almost muffled, the EQ/timbre on the guitars was down, with noticeably less sparkle on the 12-string, while the bass (LC) and drums were boosted compared to the original mix. Once again, these observations were confirmed by calibrated meter test results, with matched input levels on the intro. Whereas on the original mix the RC ran 2dB higher than the LC about 40% of the time, on the remix there was not any similar consistency. Instead, the Legacy had the LC higher about 50% throughout the song- at one point 2dB hotter.

In addition, shortly after the rhythm section and vocals entered (00:07), the remix was up 2dB higher than the 1965 mix. Similar telltale indications that the Legacy was a remix occurred during the following sections of the song: the second verse (the LC of the Legacy ran 2-4dB louder than the original mix); the break (again, the LC of the remix registered peaks 2-3dB higher); and the third verse (the Legacy sported crests 3-4dB hotter in the LC   than the 1965 mix).
Incidentally, the box set 8-track remix of this superb song   included bongos that had been removed from the 1965 mix. Once again like the Legacy, the former had a subdued intro and whose vocals sounded shelved. Despite some superficial similarities, the Legacy remix had a more robust rhythm section and was plainly superior. The alternate ‘bongo’ mix was included on the Legacy disc as a bonus track (#17).

·         If You’re Gone (Track #8)- By far the most challenging track from this album to determine whether or not it had been remixed was this melancholic, overlooked ballad written by Gene Clark. Initially, I had pegged it as not being a remix, although there clearly was something different between the sound of the Legacy and the 1965 mix- it was quite demanding to identify. After numerous listening sessions through both headphones and speakers, and multiple meter plots that covered 28 carefully chosen musical cue points, this writer finally was finally able to conclude that the Legacy was in fact a remix- an extremely clever one!

Undoubtedly, the most notable difference with the Legacy remix occurred with Clark’s impassioned lead vocal: it was boosted, rode higher, and had more air and depth on the remix. Conversely, on the original mix it was relatively restrained, somewhat thinner and balanced with the instrumental tracks. The other variation that became more noticeable after repeated listening was that the drums from the right channel were mixed louder and sounded more forward on the Legacy, whereas on the 1965 mix they seemed recessed. One might assume that Vic Anesini had used the mono mix as a guide regarding the drums. In addition, the rhythm guitar (LC) sounded lower in level during the two instrumental breaks. The original mix was noteworthy for the guitar interplay, led by the sustained, bugler-like tone of the Rickenbacker from the RC, as well as the floating haze of harmony vocals (LC) that reinforced the song’s sad spirit.

These observations were fully supported by extensive meter charting from three separate sessions, as always with matched input levels for the song’s opening. It was interesting to note that for the first part of the track, up to 00:40, there was good correlation on the levels of both channels between the original mix and the remix (matched or within 1dB). However, as Clark sang “now” at the end of the fifth line of lyrics (“If I stand alone understanding now”, at the 00:41 point), the Legacy began to register channel differential readings of 3-4dB quite often for the remainder of the tune (ten out of nineteen cue points), with the RC dominant. In contrast, the original mix sported level variations between channels of 0 to 2dB, with one 3dB difference at the 2:25 spot. Alternately, on the first instrumental break, starting at 1:12, the LC on the Legacy started out 3-4dB lower compared to the LC of the 1965 mix; this anomaly was virtually replicated on the second break, starting at 2:06 (2-3dB lower).

It is worth mentioning that while Vic Anesini’s remix of this track for the 1991 Gene Clark Echoes disc was different from the Legacy remix- the former sounded as if it had been remixed from the 8-tracks- nonetheless there were similarities between the two. The Echoes remix also registered sizeable channel differentials of 2-5dB from the 00:41 point onward, especially at the start of both instrumental sections, when the LC was decreased by -4dB both times, compared to the original mix. The 1991 remix, while reasonably solid, had the droning harmony vocals sounding off (flat?) early in the song, at the 00:06-00:07 point.

·         The Times They Are A-Changin’ (Track #9)- While the output of the intro on the Legacy version was matched to the original mix of this Dylan cover, nevertheless there were detectable differences. On the Legacy, the centered vocals- with McGuinn singing lead- were markedly louder, along with the bass guitar in the LC. In addition, Crosby’s rhythm guitar fills in the center were more audible, while McGuinn’s Rick in the RC was consistently 2dB lower compared to the LC output on the Legacy remix. This disparity stood in marked contrast to the original stereo mix, where the channel output differential was 0dB for most of the song. Furthermore, the 1965 mix had reverb on the Rick during the intro while the remix did not. Even so, overall the Legacy remix sounded quite close to the original: the differences were well masked and only apparent upon close listening.

           On the 1990 box set, this track was remixed from the 8-track
master and paled in comparison to the Legacy remix: the electric 12-string lacked sparkle and was at a lower level, McGuinn’s opening vocal was noticeably down in volume, while the drums were mixed too loud. This remix frankly came across as artificial and unsuccessful.

If the Byrds sounded as if they were going through the motions on this track, which had a languid, flat feel, they could be partially excused, as this was the fourth time they had been in the studio recording it! In fact, this was the second time around for version III, which appeared on the album (10/27/65-10/28/65; Rogan 2012, 1018-1019). It is worth pointing out that the group had actually recorded version I of the song back on 28 June 1965, as it was given serious consideration for being their next single throughout that summer, and Columbia Records had gone as far as printing “thousands of sleeves” for it (ibid, 201; 178 ff; 1018). While this song was never released as a single- the band was dissatisfied with their various attempts- version I sported a more energetic arrangement and a rather derisive lead vocal from McGuinn compared to the eventual album version. With a running time of barely 1:52, version I was seemingly over before it started, and can be heard on the Blu-Spec disc (best overall sound; bonus track, #14), the Sundazed LP set, and as a bonus track on the Legacy (track #14; slightly slowed down in tempo).



The following tracks did not appear as true stereo mixes on the original Columbia stereo LP. While the title track was definitely monaural, there is some question about the second, which was probably in very narrow stereo (twin-track?). In any event, they will be discussed in detail here.

·         Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season) (Track #1)- It was noteworthy that while the mono single mix of the Byrds’ second Number One hit had a length of 3:34 and was slightly speeded up, it was extended 8 seconds to 3:42 on the original stereo album-as a mono mix-with a slightly slower tempo. As a result of the inferior quality of its source tape, the Columbia CD version had audible tape hiss in three spots (00:51-00:52; 1:29; and 3:21), along with a slight wavering in the sound at 2:37-2:38. The most significant difference in sound between the stereo vinyl LP and the Columbia CD occurred   with the instrumental backing track: on the former, it had more impact, especially on the break; the latter sounded fatigued and worn in comparison.

On the Legacy CD, this track had an extended fade, which added seven seconds to its running time (3:49). The sound on the Legacy was uniformly excellent, with no tape hiss or flaws; as in the case of the single mix, it was sped up a bit. Instrumentally, this version had real energy, with the guitars having more presence, while the vocals emerged with enhanced clarity, compared to the Columbia CD.

For many years it had been assumed that this song had never been mixed in true stereo, and that the original multi-track studio tapes had been lost. While the latter is probably still true,    Johnny Rogan made the startling discovery that a true stereo mix “… existed in Dickson’s archives….” (Rogan 2012, 1038-1039; Jim Dickson was the Byrds’ first manager). Nevertheless, at the time the 1990 box set was being prepared, this vital information was unknown. Thus, Tim Geelan and Vic Anesini decided to offer a narrow ‘stereo’ remix for that set. Using the “original two-track tape”, they panned the vocals slightly to the left, with the instrumental backing track- and McGuinn’s Rickenbacker overdubs- to the right (box set liner notes, 3). They also gave the latter an extended fade, so their ‘remix’ ran 3:52 (actual time). The recent 2012 Blu-Spec CD of the Turn! Turn! Turn! album includes this narrow stereo remix as a bonus track (#27), while also including the mono album version of the song (track #1; 3:34) and the original stereo album version (track #16; 3:42) discussed earlier.

·         He Was A Friend Of Mine (Track #5)- Whether this traditional folk song updated by McGuinn was a dedicated mono mix or an extremely narrow stereo (twin-track?) mix on the original 1965 stereo LP has been a challenging puzzle. The aural evidence, in this listener’s opinion, points to the latter. In any event, it was a rather strange creation, with the acoustic guitar opening up just to the left of the center, while the vocals (00:09) were virtually centered; the bass guitar, organ, and tambourine joined the acoustic guitar to the left of the center (Producer Terry Melcher had added the last two instruments without the band’s knowledge or approval, much to David Crosby’s consternation; Rogan 2012, 228). Listening to this version through headphones, one finds the soundstage collapsed, with extremely limited stereo separation. On the Columbia CD, the vocals sounded somewhat coarse, while the bass guitar was distorted for much of the song.

Another indication that this version was not a monaural mix: the output levels of each channel were only matched about 50% of the time. At about the 1:00 minute point in the song, the RC increased +2db over the LC, as McGuinn sang, “He was in Dallas town.” In fact, much of the RC is plainly driven by the vocals. A true mono mix would not have had 1-2 dB variations between channels for a good portion of the song.

For the 1990 box set, this song was handled in a similar fashion as the title track. Using the “original two-track tape,” Geelan and Anesini created a ‘stereo’ mix by panning the instruments, led by the acoustic guitar, to the right, while the vocals were panned to the left- a wider reversal of what was presented on the original stereo LP. Curiously, the final fourth verse (“Leader of a nation, for such a precious time; He was a friend of mine”) was omitted, leaving the track with a shorter running time of 2:09.

In contrast, the version presented on the Sundazed LP set is indeed a dedicated mono mix that definitely sounded different than the one found on the original stereo album. Starting with the opening acoustic guitar, everything- including the vocals- was centered, at the same spot. Most telling, both channels were dead even in level for the entire song. Although there is some distortion on the bass guitar, it is less than that heard on the preceding version.

The version featured on the Legacy CD was also a dedicated mono mix, very similar to the one from the Sundazed LP set, with everything dead centered. However, the bass guitar sounded more distorted on the Legacy CD, and the channels were not as perfectly matched as heard on that fine vinyl set. Otherwise, the Legacy offered better overall clarity and detail. Surprisingly, both the Legacy’s liner notes and inside back cover erroneously list this song as being in stereo, when it clearly is not- an apparent oversight.

In the judgment of this listener, the very good quality sound of this song displayed on the Legacy CD was surpassed slightly by the import Blu-Spec CD, in its “Mono Album Version” (track #5). The clarity and dynamics were superb, there was less distortion on the bass guitar, and both channels were perfectly matched throughout. Perhaps a better source tape and transfer were used for the Blu-Spec disc. 

After “If You’re Gone,” the most difficult track to decipher from this album was “Wait And See,” the first Byrds’ song where McGuinn/Crosby received the songwriting credit (Track #10). While it initially had been classified as a remix, a more recent thorough listening review and detailed meter charting convinced me otherwise, that it was not a remix. The presence and tone of the guitars on the Legacy matched that of the original 1965 stereo mix, while the vocals had the same level and balance. The actual lengths (2:17), the cue spots on the break (1:33-1:45), and the location of the vibrant 12-string solo on the bridge matched exactly between the two sources.

Furthermore, the meter data results were generally consistent (matched, or within 1dB) between the Columbia and Legacy discs; the only brief discrepancy of note occurred during the break, when the LC of the Legacy ran 2dB lower than the Columbia. In the end, my determination was based on repeated listening comparisons on both headphones and speakers between these discs as well as the vinyl LP. The Legacy offered better articulation on the guitars, while the vocals had a bit more clarity- improvements due no doubt to the use of a better source tape compared to the Columbia. If this track really was a remix on the Legacy, then it would have to have been one the most realistic remixes ever made, and of course this writer would stand corrected.

Finally, for clarification, it should be noted that the vinyl LP is the best way to hear this album in stereo as it was originally mixed. Nevertheless, despite the flaws discussed earlier- quite apparent when listening through headphones- the Columbia CD sounds reasonably decent on full-range speakers.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Here are my notes on "He Was a Friend of Mine", comparing versions in audio editor software, with headphones.

1965 stereo LP track A5 (German pressing):

• Instruments (bass guitar, acoustic guitar, organ, tambourine) are panned slightly left. Vocals are panned very slightly right, nearer to center than the instruments.

• At the end of the vocals, a delay echo effect (probably a tape overdub, or maybe subtle use of an Echoplex) is used to repeat part of the guitar & tambourine slightly to the right of the vocals. The echo begins on the very last word of the vocals ("...mine") at 2:14 and continuing to 2:19. It is very easy to hear on the tambourine; the tambourine echo includes the entire tap (so it's like a tap on the left and then on the right, in quick succession); this strong echo is audible for 3 taps in a row, and then the last four taps are relatively dry.

• The fadeout is strong over the last few seconds, such that the very last tap of the tambourine (at 2:28) is almost inaudible.

1965 mono LP track A5 (US pressing), 1966 mono LP track A5 (UK pressing), and 2012 Blu-Spec CD (SICP 20373) track 05:

• This is the mono mix. It is a dynamically compressed mix than the stereo version. No echo effects anywhere.

• On CD but not LP, the fadeout is gentle until the last second, thus the last tambourine hit is relatively audible.

c. 1989 Columbia CD (CK 9254) track 05:

• A slightly narrower stereo mix. Although the fade and effects are identical to the LP, the instrument panning is different. Vocals and echoes are still in about the same spot, slightly right, but all instruments are now at about the equivalent position on the left, noticeably closer to the center than on the LP. AFAIK, this is not something that can be undone with simple EQ, levels, or other post-processing that was possible in the mid-'60s. IMHO it had to have been mixed down to stereo this way. This raises questions, then! How did it end up on this CD, when was it made, and was it ever used on any LPs?

1996 Legacy CD (also as in the 2011 "Complete Columbia Albums Collection" reissue) track 05 and 2012 Blu-Spec CD (SICP 20373) track 20:

• Despite being presented as a stereo version, this version is monophonic and seems to be the mono album mix in almost every respect, including the relatively loud last tambourine hit. However, it has the echo effect added from 2:18 thru 2:21, affecting two tambourine hits, thus it does not match the original LPs. The echo is in mono.

• This mix has clipping (flat tops & bottoms on the waveforms). The Blu-Spec CD is mastered with a rolloff of the uppermost ultrasonic frequencies, which makes the clipping appear less severe in an audio editor (flat peaks are replaced with diagonal lines), but it's not actually any better.

1990 box set disc 1 track 13:

• As we already know, this was a new stereo remix for this box. If you simply swap the channels, and ignore the fact that the last verse was shortened, it is pretty faithful to the stereo LP. Vocals are slightly further right than on the LP, and the other instruments are slightly more centered, but not as much as on the Columbia CD. The echo effect in the outro is close to correct, but sonically it's not exactly the same (different timing and duration), and it was applied to an extra tambourine hit. And then the next tambourine hit is accompanied by a quiet voice saying "bam"(?), which is not present on any other mix.